Located in the Okanagan Valley, Penticton is one of our favorite places to spend a long weekend during the summer. Penticton is a small city situated between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake and is also home to a number of wineries, restaurants and hotels. More accessible due to the airport and larger than Oliver-Osoyoos but smaller than Kelowna, Penticton offers visitors wining and dining as well as outdoor recreation on the lake, and on the trails in the quaint setting of a small village.
In this post, we will tell you more about the Okanagan Valley and surrounding areas, including tips to plan a long weekend getaway to Penticton.
If you are driving from Vancouver, it takes about 4 hours to get to Penticton depending on traffic and road conditions. The drive from Vancouver is actually quite beautiful and you’ll see dramatic mountain landscapes, rivers, lakes, and drive through small towns that have fruit stands and other food products.
If you are flying from Vancouver, it takes about 1 hour to fly to YYF – Penticton Airport. Currently, West Jet and Pacific Coastal offer service between Vancouver and cities in Alberta and it is expected that Air Canada will resume service for the summer.
Tip: Make sure to visit Tourism Penticton’s “Book Now, Travel Later” website for deals for summer 2021!
When to Visit:
You can visit year-round but many things like wineries close from December to March.
The two main considerations for when to visit are: the weather and high season. If you can, you will want to visit during high season when the weather is the best and most things are open but not when it is at its busiest. From our experience, the weekend before the Canada Day Long weekend in early July is a good choice; the weather is usually sunny and warm +25-33 Celsius, the traffic not as heavy as the long weekend, and hotels are reasonably priced. During July and August, rates spike for accommodations. Unfortunately, the area is prone to smoke due to forest fires in the summer which can really affect your enjoyment of the place.
If you come too early in the season, the area is prone to flooding and the weather can be cold and wet and it’s similar in the fall/winter. In addition, some places close or have limited operating hours between December to April. If weather is not the most important thing to you then visiting between mid-to-the-end of May and in October will offer up the best deals.
According to Tourism Penticton, there are “over 80 wineries in the Penticton metropolitan area, 7 craft breweries, 2 cideries and 3 distilleries all within easy walking or biking distance of the downtown core”, which means that having a designated driver is important.
We usually drive from Vancouver and have our car and so since Jason doesn’t like wine, he is the designated driver for the wine touring. There are numerous companies like Grape Escapes that offer tours too; you can choose their standard tour or create your own itinerary.
If you are adventurous, you can also bike to wineries, especially those located on the Naramata Bench. There are companies that rent bikes and offer tours as well. A friend of ours did a tour with Epic Cycling and highly recommends it.
Once you are in Penticton, it is really easy to walk around. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn last summer and found it very convenient to park the car and enjoyed being able to walk to downtown Penticton and the lake.
Where to Stay:
Accommodations in the area range from Air BnB to branded chain hotels and small local boutique hotels. Compared the Oliver-Osoyoos, there is definitely a higher inventory of rooms here to give visitors more options at various price points.
- Those looking for a historic bed and breakfast experience may enjoy staying at the Naramata Heritage Inn and Spa, an adult’s only hotel that offers free breakfast and bike rentals, access to lake for water activities, and has a restaurant and spa on site.
- Those looking for a winery stay with amazing views may enjoying staying at the Inn at Therapy Vineyards due to how nice the suites are, the views offered and the close proximity to the Naramata Bench.
- Those who want to stay at a guesthouse at a prime location on the Naramata Bench will love staying at Villa Magnolia. Villa Magnolia is a 3 room guest house with stunning views, access to e-bike rentals, as well as wine tours organized by the owner.
- Those looking for basic hotel accommodations may enjoy staying at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Penticton due to price and convenience but the rooms don’t have balconies which was a major drawback for (read our TripAdvisor review here for Pros and Cons of staying here.
What to Do:
In addition to sampling wine, craft beer, and eating, here are some ideas for other things to do.
- River Tubing: One unique outdoor activity is to take a leisurely float down the 7km long river channel between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake in a tube.
- Kettle Valley Trail: Walk or bike sections of the Kettle Valley Trail.
- Munson Mountain: Hike to the top of Mount Munson for views of the lake and the PENTICTON sign.
- Visit the Similkameen Valley: Take a road trip to the Similkameen Valley to visit their produce stands and visit their wineries.
- Visit other areas: Our Destination Guide: Okanagan Valley and Similkameen Valley in British Columbia has information about Summerland, Oliver, Osoyoos and more.
Where to Eat:
Here are a few of our favorite places to eat in Penticton:
- Cannery Brewing Company is located in downtown Penticton and a good place to grab a beer on the patio because drinking wine makes you thirsty for a beer, especially on a warm sunny day! They also really good nachos (ok, that’s an understatement…they have THE BEST NACHOS SO DON’T COME TO PENTICTON WITHOUT HAVING THEM!) and we appreciate how they serve a small bowl of popcorn every visit. This is our favorite brewery in the area and easy to visit after you’ve been to the Penticton Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning.
- Elma: Elma is a newer restaurant in Penticton by the lake and while it seems out of place near the old-school motels, it has found its place by offering unique and delicious food in a casual but upscale space. Inspired by Turkish cuisine and design, the majority of the menu is family-style. We wouldn’t say it is authentic Turkish food but captures the flavours and spices for sure. If you’ve been to Turkey, you will feel kinship to some of the art in the restaurant and the tiles (they came from Turkey!). We highly recommend the meatballs, eggplant, flatbread, and zucchini fritters. We hope to try the Tomahawk steak that needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance next time! It is nice to be able to enjoy food like this with local beer, wines, and cocktails away from the wineries for a more relaxed experience. Note: Walk-ins are accepted but it does get very busy and so reservations are required. A happy hour is offered on some days between 15:00-17:00 but other than the drinks, the food specials are confusing and not the best value. Some items are crossed out as unavailable on the menu but are available sometimes so ask your server.
- Tratto Pizzeria: We fell in love with Tratto’s pizzas at Joie and now just come to Tratto to enjoy their pizza on their outdoor patio. Every pizza we have had here has been delicious but the Bee Sting is our favorite.
- Tacos del Norte: It can be hard to find cheap and good eats in Penticton but Tacos del Norte did not disappoint; everything was made fresh to order and the sauces were perfect. The quality has improved after it came under new ownership.
- Wayne and Freda: We love having coffee and breakfast and Wayne and Freda! They have ample outdoor seating, strong coffee, and their breakfast toast is always a healthy treat!
Where to Drink – The Wineries, The Breweries and Cider:
There are so many wineries to visit and so many are great for different reasons. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Cannery Brewing Company is located in downtown Penticton and a good place to grab a beer on the patio because drinking wine makes you thirsty for a beer, especially on a warm sunny day!
- La Petite Abeille: La Petite Abeille makes off-dry sparkling cider which offers the best of cider and sparkling wine in one unique product. The tasting was super fun and the grounds were nice to enjoy a chilled bottle on their patio with a nice view of the lake.
- Deep Roots Winery on the Naramata is newer and worth a visit if you’re looking for unoaked Chardonnay and white wine to pair with Asian food, get their Parentage White. Barry swears that their Parentage is the only wine that can handle cilantro in Asian dishes and he is right!
- Bella Wines is exclusively dedicated to making sparkling wines. As per their website “Bella produces natural sparkling wines of exceptional quality using the traditional and ancestrale methods”. During the summer of 2020, Bella stopped offering regular tastings ad instead offered tours of the farm with a tasting for about $15 (no information has been posted about their plans for summer 2021). We really enjoyed everything we sampled and appreciate how skilled they are at making wine here.
- Highway 97 Brewery is one of a few craft breweries in the Okanagan Valley and a good place to enjoy a nice cold beer on their patio. In addition to draft beer, they also sell canned beer and provide growler fills.
- La Frenz on the Naramata Bench is a great place to enjoy an outdoor seated wine tasting with a view. With Portfolio and Reserve tasting flights, you will get to try a lot of their wines in a really nice setting. I usually buy a few bottles of their Viognier and Pinot Noir.
- Lock & Worth is a small low-key winery focused on high-quality low production wines. Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of them because they spend all their money making the wine, not marketing them. Lock & Worth shares a space with Poplar Grove cheese and the tasting features their wines paired with Poplar Grove cheeses. Most of the wines are unfined and unfiltered which makes them interesting, especially for those of us who are becoming a bit bored of more conventional wines. I highly recommend their Merlot but don’t expect the usual Merlot. At 12.7% alcohol and a light color, this Merlot is best served chilled, making it the perfect red wine for summer.
We are so excited about (hopefully) getting to visit Penticton again this summer and already have an Airbnb booked because so many things are already sold out! We look forward to visiting familiar favourites and also finding new places to add to our every growing list of places we like.
Have you been to Penticton? Do you have any favorites to add to the list? Where is your favorite spot in the Okanagan to visit?
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