Story by Jody Robbins
PENTICTON, BRITISH COLUMBIA — It’s hardly surprising that Penticton, with its peaches, beaches, and semi-arid climate, is one of the hottest summer destinations in Canada. Wedged between two lakes (Okanagan and Skaha) and surrounded by orchards and vineyards, the small city has come a long way from its once wild reputation of being party central every long weekend. The MC Hammer Riot of 1991 put a stop to all that tomfoolery, and the focus is now firmly on family and lazy lakeside activities.
Fabulous Famers’ Market
Head to Joy Road Catering for organic galette fruit tarts ($4.25/small, $18/large) that could be strawberry-rhubarb, apricot, cherry, or apple, depending on the season. Then satisfy your sweet tooth with a few macarons ($2/each) made with locally grown lavender from Swimming Dragon.
Staying true to the area’s hippy reputation, you’ll also find veggies that many have never heard of, such as Greenhills Farm’s quinoa greens ($3/bag) and tah-tsai ($3/bag) and Oxbow Flats’ wasabi greens ($3/bag).
Known as Napa of the North, the town is the gateway to many Naramata Bench wineries. Take a leisurely tour of of some of BC’s best-kept secrets such as recently opened Upper Bench, a delicious combo of creamery and winery or Moraine Estate Winery, a promising, smaller vineyard named after the sediment bench it sits upon.
Those who like to wine and dine should make for the P.Ink patio at Red Rooster Winery. After years spent cooking for the Saudi royal family, chef Darin Paterson has composed a menu filled with Middle Eastern delights and local produce. Try the organic one-mile soup ($8) where every item has been plucked out of the chef’s garden, or a grilled plate ($14-$16) comprised of skewered meats, savoury dips and flatbread that complement the estate’s Cabernet Merlot ($9).
So Much to Do, So Little Time
Penticton is as much about the water as it is the fruit, and there’s unlimited lake options for all age groups and abilities. Splash about on the shores of the sandy lakes, or rent a paddle board right on the beach from Penticton Paddle Surf. To kick it up a notch, and try one of their yoga or cross-fit classes on the board.
Those who prefer to take things easy, can have the paddling done for them with a voyage on Casabella Princess. The 48-passenger paddle boat provides narrated tours of Lake Okanagan. While they can’t guarantee Ogopogo sightings, they do their best to track the infamous sea-monster down.
Younger landlubbers will love LocoLanding Adventure Park. This clean, central spot has go-carts, bumper boats and climbing walls for older kids, with mini-golf and bouncy castle options for ankle-biters.
Noshing in New Napa
Penticton is laden with top-notch restaurants hitting every price point. Near the Marina is The Bench Artisan Food Market, full to bursting with an assortment of freshly prepared specialty products you can either take away or enjoy on their patio.
Elite Restaurant is a retro diner that saw its last renovation in 1964. “We don’t pretend to be anything other than an old-school diner,” says owner Brent Madsen. Their homemade Flapper Pie ($5.50), real roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings ($10.95) and a decor that’s evolved through the decades all prove his point.
Boasting juicy, hand shaped one-third-pound patties from inside an old tire shop, Burger 55 lets you choose everything from bun to beef and all things between them. There are loads of options, creating unlimited combinations, all presented on clipboards making you feel like one of the mechanics that once worked where you stand.
Inside a whitewashed building lies Theo’s Greek Restaurant — relatively unchanged since the ’70s, including its classic dishes like souvlaki ($15.95) and sauteed amaranth greens that grow wild in both the Valley and Greece.
Penticton Lakeside Resort is by far he poshest accommodation. It hosts an attached casino plus Hooded Merganser, an architecturally impressive restaurant that serves locally inspired cuisine and stunning views of the Okanagan Valley.
Families do well at the many motels bordering the beach along Lakeshore Drive, and Golden Sands Resort, has an outdoor pool and recently renovated suites. The Sandman Hotel is also a good choice, with amenities that those with large broods look for: an indoor pool, kitchenettes, and a Denny’s 24-hour restaurant.
Penticton means “place to stay forever” in native Sylix. The number of transplants who arrive and never leave are living proof. After a few days here, you just might consider becoming one of them.
MORE BC TRAVEL TIPS IN PENTICTON
Visit the town’s website.