Kelowna is a city in south central British Columbia, about 2 hours north of the Washington, U.S. border. Situated amidst lakes, mountains, beaches, orchards, and forests, Kelowna is a gateway to many excursions and adventures.
The City of Kelowna has a population of 115,000 (as of 2011), making it the largest city in BC's Okanagan Valley. Its popularity as a destination for visitors and as a retirement spot has surged since the 1980s and 90s and Kelowna is doing its best to keep up with both visitors and residents.
The urban center betrays a city that grew too quickly. Wide streets built to accommodate multiple lanes of cars and host big-box stores and parking lots dominate the core. The exception is the pleasant waterside community where you will find a variety of restaurants and shops.
Kelowna nevertheless is a perfect base from which to explore the region. It has a range of hotels, an airport, and other services not to mention a beautiful natural backdrop.
Where is Kelowna?
The city of Kelowna is located about mid-way on Lake Okanagan in south central British Columbia's Okanagan Valley, one of Canada's driest and warmest spots. The largest and most bustling city in the region, Kelowna is about a 4-hour drive from Vancouver and a three and a half hour drive from the Washington state border (see getting to Kelowna).
Kelowna - Things To Do, Attractions
Just imagine a day where you go for a nice, vigorous hike in the morning and top it off with wine tasting and fine dining in a pristine setting.
If that itinerary appeals to you, Kelowna may be a vacation spot to consider.
One of Kelowna's biggest advantages is the fact that sporty travelers will love the wide array of outdoor activities, like hiking, golfing, boating and more, but the region can still offer excellent wine tasting and culinary experiences.
In addition, Kelowna is a year-round destination, with easy access to ski hills in the winter, including Big White, one of Canada's best ski resorts. Kelowna's mild winters allow for many activities to go on year round, including wine-tasting as most wineries stay open in winter with abbreviated hours.
As the largest city in the Okanagan Valley, Kelowna is a natural starting point for visiting the region's various wine trails. Kelowna itself is one wine sub-region of several wine regions located around Okanagan Lake. Kelowna wineries number more than 20, but wineries in the Okanagan Valley as a whole total more than 120.
If your time is limited to two or three days, stay put in Kelowna and venture out to local wineries, which can easily fill your time and give you a nice cross-section of wineries from the elaborate and traditional Mission Hill to funkier, boutique establishments or even an organic meadery producing honey wine.
The long warm summers (summer weather lasts 5 months) and short mild winters draw tourists year-round.
Summer days are long and can be quite hot with cool evenings.
Like in the Napa Valley in the U.S., fall in Kelowna (generally October and November) means the harvest of the many fruits and vegetables grown here.
Winters bring skiers in from all over. Big White, one of Canada's best ski resorts is 40 mins from Kelowna. An average temperature of 0 degrees Celsius makes winter sports a pleasure.
March and April - the Okanagan Spring - bring fragrant blossoms and weather suitable for hiking, fishing, and other activities.
Where to Stay in Kelowna - Kelowna Hotels
Kelowna has some familiar, big-chain hotels, but - as of 2015 - the majority are mid-range - not many luxury or boutique hotels. The city attracts a more casual, adventurous tourist as well as groups and conferences. Maybe a Four Seasons or Ritz is somewhere down the road, but for now, here are several options:
- The deluxe hotel in town is the waterfront Delta Grand Okanagan Resort & Conference Centre.
- The BEST WESTERN PLUS Kelowna Hotel & Suites offers spacious rooms, a complimentary hot breakfast buffet and heated indoor pool and prides itself on being a leader in environmental sustainability.
- The Travelodge Kelowna on the Lake is advantageously located within walking distance of the restaurants and shops of Kelowna's waterfront area.
- The Holiday Inn Express Kelowna.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Kelowna by Marriott has free breakfast, free WiFi, outdoor pool with Waterslide.
- Playa Del Sol Resort is a vacation rental spot outside of downtown Kelowna.
Getting to Kelowna, BC
The drive to Kelowna is scenic, yet the highways are for the most part well maintained and four lanes.
From Vancouver: Hwy 1 East to Hope. Follow either Hwy 5 or Hwy 3 to Kelowna. Via Highway 5, the Coquihalla Highway connects to Highway 97C - the Coquihalla Connector - and then on to Highway 97 North to Kelowna. (395 km 237 miles)
Via Highway 3, the Hope-Princeton Highway connects to Highway 97 North to Kelowna (471 km 283 miles)
From Northern BC: Via Hwy 97 South & the Coquihalla Connector: South on Hwy 97 to Kamloops; then take Hwy 5 south to Merrit and connect at Highway 97C - the Coquihalla Connector to Kelowna.
From Spokane: Via Highway 395: connect to Highway 3 West and Highway 33 (408 km 245 miles)
Greyhound Lines of Canada offers regularly scheduled service across Canada and the United States to Kelowna.
Kelowna International Airport (YLW) is the 10th busiest in Canada and located along Hwy 97, just north of downtown Kelowna. Several air carriers offer regularly scheduled service into Kelowna, BC. Daily, non-stop, direct flights are available from Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Seattle.
Kelowna International Airport (YLW)
The Kelowna International Airport (YLW) is the major airport serving the Okanagan Valley and B.C.’s southern interior. It is the 10th busiest airport in Canada (as of 2011) and in 1998 received a 20 million dollar makeover to accommodate the growing number of visitors to the region.
- Long-term and short-term parking
- Baggage carts are available
- Food and beverage services, including a White Spot restaurant, lounge, and snack bar
Gift shop, including wine shop selling local vintages (at regular prices)Getting to and from the Kelowna Airport:
- Several car rental companies have terminal kiosks
- Public transit between downtown Kelowna and the Kelowna Airport is straightforward. Use Google Maps to get public transit directions or go to BC Transit.
- Several shuttles service the Kelowna Airport. Ask your hotel about shuttle service.
Taxis and limousines also service the airport. Taxi fare to downtown Kelowna should cost about $35 (as of 2011)Contact Kelowna International Airport:
- Kelowna Airport, Kelowna British Columbia
Suite 1, 5533 Airport Way Kelowna V1V 1S1
Airport Administration 1-250-765-5125