Canada’s Desert Par­adise (BC)

The sun­baked town of Osoy­oos

Snowbirds & RV Travelers - - Contents -

With its lush vine­yards and dry sum­mer weather, the Okana­gan Val­ley in Bri­tish Columbia, is fa­mous for its RVing op­por­tu­ni­ties. At the south­ern tip of this great val­ley is Canada’s pocket desert and the small sun-baked and town of Osoy­oos.

Nes­tled at the base of steep moun­tains and only min­utes from the Canada-US bor­der, Osoy­oos is known for its re­mark­able ge­o­graphic sur­round­ings. Sage­brush, sparse forests and craggy hill­sides co­ex­ist along­side sweep­ing vine­yards and or­chards. The warm, dry cli­mate, that makes the Osoy­oos desert set­ting pos­si­ble (a north­ern ex­ten­sion of Mex­ico’s hot Sono­ran Desert) mixes with the cool evening breezes of the North­west to pro­vide an ideal set­ting for sum­mer va­ca­tions.

Thou­sands of years be­fore the town of Osoy­oos was estab­lished, First Na­tions peo­ples called this val­ley their home. They wrested their liv­ing from the earth and learned to adapt to the area’s arid cli­mate. They drew heal­ing from the desert’s spe­cial waters and found a home along the re­gion’s many lakes.

To­day Osoy­oos, which is home to the warm­est fresh water lake in Canada, is a reg­u­lar sum­mer des­ti­na­tion for trav­ellers from all over North Amer­ica. Well-paved roads from four dif­fer­ent routes in­ter­sect the town and well-marked in­ter­sec­tions and good sig­nage help new­com­ers find the town’s at­trac­tions and ac­com­mo­da­tion lo­ca­tions.

There are at least 700 sites in and around the town. Some RV parks have year-round fa­cil­i­ties and many have sum­mer ameni­ties tai­lored to short-term fam­ily va­ca­tions.

Most RV parks ac­com­mo­date large rigs, al­though there are a few that are uniquely suited to smaller units. Ameni­ties vary from wa­ter­slide at­trac­tions and swim­ming pools to pri­vate beaches. The town has an over­flow lot for boats at the east end of town.

Even though there are a lot of sites, RVers will want to book their site with as much ad­vance no­tice as pos­si­ble, as sum­mer is a busy time for most parks. Due to the de­mand, Nk’Mip RV Park, which is owned and man­aged by the Osoy­oos In­dian Band, has opened an over­flow lot for drop-ins when the park is full. It’s strictly dry camping (mean­ing no elec­tric­ity and water) but you do have ac­cess to wash­rooms, swim­ming pool and laun­dry fa­cil­i­ties, and can use a gen­er­a­tor in that sec­tion of the park The band also man­ages the Sẁiẁs Pro­vin­cial Park, which has con­ven­tional camping sites and also takes reser­va­tions.

One of Osoy­oos’ big­gest draws is its size. You won’t find big-box stores in the Okana­gan’s desert get­away. In­stead, gift shops, gal­leries and cof­fee shops dot the main thor­ough­fare, with free park­ing on Main Street. Two gro­cery stores are lo­cated at the east and west end of the town and phar­ma­cies are con­ve­niently lo­cated at the town’s cen­tre. Liquor stores are lo­cated at the east end of town cen­tre and ad­ja­cent to pubs.

Okana­gan artists are well-fea­tured around town, with lo­cal dis­plays cater­ing to lo­cal artists. The town has two gal­leries, both lo­cated on Main Street with ex­hibits that change fre­quently.

It also has sev­eral un­usual cul­tural at­trac­tions. The Nk’mip Desert and Cul­tural Cen­tre, at the Nk’mip Re­sort, of­fers a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into Osoy­oos’ First Na­tions his­tory through ex­hibits, trails and awe-in­spir­ing vis­tas. Spot­ted Lake, 10 min­utes west on High­way 3, is a place of spir­i­tual im­por­tance to the Osoy­oos In­dian Band and worth a view. Lo­cal his­tory is also show­cased at the Osoy­oos & District Mu­seum. The Osoy­oos Desert Cen­tre fea­tures ex­hibits about the lo­cal ef­forts to pre­serve the pocket desert ecol­ogy.

Golfers will en­joy the arid cli­mate and scenic cour­ses, which are lo­cated over­look­ing Osoy­oos’ lake­side vis­tas. Choices in­clude an 18-hole at Nk’mip and a 9-hole set in the hill­side above the west end of the lake.

Still, many will tell you the best time to visit Osoy­oos is dur­ing the Cherry Fes­ti­val, on the Canada Day long week­end. The July 1st fire­works dis­play at 10 pm at Gyro Beach is one of the big­gest in Canada, sec­ond only to Ot­tawa’s. The fes­ti­val also kicks off the cherry har­vest with a pa­rade and lo­cal events.

From left: Osoy­oos is wine coun­try and and of­fers nu­mer­ous wine fes­ti­vals, tast­ings and events, the foun­tain at Gyro Park, which over­looks Canada’s

Laken. warm­est fresh­wa­ter lake and the Osoy­oos In­dian Band’s sa­cred Spot­ted

It’s easy to find a restau­rant, which are scat­tered through­out town and range from bistros to eth­nic cui­sine. Main Street is dot­ted with the ma­jor­ity of eater­ies. Favourite stops in­clude JoJo’s Cof­fee, A New Leaf Tea House and Smitty’s - all on Main Street. JoJo’s is also a hub for live mu­sic dur­ing sum­mer week­ends.

The Golden Chopsticks, also down­town, and Nk’mip Re­sort’s are pop­u­lar choices for din­ner. Greek and Ital­ian din­ner spots in­clude Di­a­mond Steak­house that fea­tures shell­fish and Campo Ma­rina, a bois­ter­ous pasta restau­rant that’s al­ways packed.

Ar­ti­san breads and pas­tries are a hit at the small Lake Vil­lage Bak­ery, which is of­ten sold out by af­ter­noon. The bak­ery is open Wed-Sat and will pre­pare bulk orders for the road with ad­vance no­tice. Most Osoy­oos’ restau­rants of­fer gluten, dairy and nut-free choices and try to cater to food sen­si­tiv­i­ties.

A stay in Osoy­oos wouldn’t be com­plete with­out a tour of some of the re­gion’s winer­ies and fruit stands. Most are lo­cated north and west of the town on High­way 97 and High­way 3, but there are also a num­ber of in­ter­est­ing winer­ies and fruit stands in town.

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