Explore BC: Kelowna

When Mack and I decided on a trip to the Okanagan in October, one of the main draws for us was the wine. Earlier in the year, we took a day trip out of Toronto to visit the Niagara wine region. We learned a lot, but it seemed time to do more exploring closer to home.

We flew into Kelowna, but made our way down to Penticton, Oliver, and Osoyoos over the course of a week with the help of a car. While the distance between Kelowna and Osoyoos is only about two hours, the following series of posts are grouped around towns, and focuses on our favourite experiences. Most of our food-related choices were guided by Jennifer Cockrall-King’s excellent book, Food Artisans of the Okanagan.

Pumpkins!

A sea of pumpkins at Don-O-Ray Vegetables in Kelowna

Myra Canyon Trestles

While I typically do quite a bit of planning in advance of our trips, I didn’t have a chance to do so on this occasion. So Trip Advisor was a great last minute tool, and ultimately pointed us to the Myra Canyon Trestles. We discovered first hand why this is Kelowna’s number one tourist attraction, though the signage to the road leading up to the trestles could have been better. Once parked, we rented bikes from Myra Canyon Rentals for $40 (don’t expect anything more than a truck-pulled rack). The half-day rental was plenty to complete the 23km round trip, even for irregular cyclists like us.

Myra Canyon Trestles

Ready to ride

The mostly flat trail takes visitors to 18 trestles, many of them spanning across deep valleys. The trail follows what was once part of the historic Kettle Valley Railway. I’m sure the views are stunning any time of year, but in the fall, they seemed particularly spectacular.

Myra Canyon Trestles

Trestle

We learned later that many of the trestles had to be rebuilt after the devastating 2003 fire – I can’t imagine the work that went into restoring such a treasure, but I sure can appreciate it.

There are also other sights to see – two tunnels, blasted through rock, and if you’re lucky, wildlife. We encountered a lynx that was making its way down a cliff with freshly caught prey.

Untitled

Tunnel

Even if you choose not to rent bikes, you can still make your way to several of the trestles and both tunnels with a brief hike, but I’d recommend cycling for the fullest experience.

Myra Canyon

Beautiful trails

Tree Brewing Beer Institute

The Tree Brewing Beer Institute is located right downtown, and was the perfect place to grab a drink and a bite to eat after cycling the Myra Canyon trail. It’s a low-key place with no table service (you order from the counter), but in addition to the monitors, you have the choice of dozens of boards games to entertain your party. I enjoyed their version of a grapefruit radler, while Mack thought their light brew was refreshing. Their pretzels and pizza (served lightning fast) also hit the spot.

Tree Brewing Co

Pretzels, pizza and beer

On a side note, the Institute also happens to be right across the street from the Kelowna Art Gallery. Check the calendar – if you’re lucky (as we were), you can check out the shows inside for free every Thursday. During our visit, we had the pleasure of taking in a thought-provoking exhibit focusing on the seasonal agricultural workers that populate the region many months of the year.

Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm

We wrongly expected that the fields at the Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm would be purple all year round, so the visit was educational. We learned that lavender peaks in July, so those hoping for those lush colours should visit in the summer. That said, we still found the views picture perfect, especially with the lake views in the distance.

Kelowna

Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm

The gift shop is also a great place to pick up something for home, with lavender showing up in reasonably priced bath and beauty products.

Paynter’s Fruit Stand

What’s more quintessential to a trip to the Okanagan than picking fresh fruit? As we pulled up to Paynter’s Fruit Stand, we realized we’d already been there before.

Paynter's Fruit Market

Paynter’s Fruit Stand

A few years back, we visited Kelowna in late October, and stopped at Paynter’s to buy some fruit. This time, there was still the opportunity to pick pears and apples.

Paynter's Fruit Market

An apple a day

We relished in the chance to partake in the you-pick; the most surprising were perhaps the red delicious apples, which were deep purple in colour on the branches. And yes, the fruit were all great to eat, especially the crisp pink lady apples.

Paynter's Fruit Stand

Purple Red delicious

Micro Bar Bites

On that same visit a few years ago, we ate at RauDZ, launched by Chef Rod Butters, widely considered to be one of the pioneers of the farm-to-table movement in Kelowna. We had high expectations that weren’t met at the time, but Micro Bar Bites, a second restaurant by Chef Butters, had opened more recently and piqued our interest.

Micro Bar Bites

Micro Bar Bites

We were instantly charmed by the warm interior and great service. Don’t be fooled by the name – it refers to the size of the room as opposed to the portions. The beef croquettes actually would have been more successful as two-bite appetizers, but we appreciated their generosity. I also liked the cornmeal gnocchi with citrus marmalade.

Micro Bar Bites

Beef croquettes with patatas bravas

Micro Bar Bites

Cornmeal gnocchi with citrus marmalade

Mad Mango Cafe

Mad Mango Cafe, opened up by an Edmonton ex-pat, has a following that reminds me of Chicken for Lunch. Proprietor Pat (like Amy) even fires up customers’ orders before they’ve sat down.

Mad Mango has a film chronicling Kelowna’s love of the restaurant, and a steady stream of regulars of all ages. The laksa soup may not have been authentic (adapted with locally available produce), but the creamy, spicy soup hit the spot.

Mad Mango

Laksa soup

After a whirlwind two nights in Kelowna, we were off to Penticton!

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