With sparkling lakes, sweeping mountain views, a thriving culinary scene and an abundance of vineyards nestled into the rolling hills, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley has earned a reputation as Canada’s playground, making it the perfect place for a girls’ getaway. While many groups head to Kelowna which is nestled in the heart of the region, there’s a hidden gem just a stone’s throw away: Vernon.
The city tends to be overshadowed by its popular neighbour, which means those who plan a getaway to Vernon are in for a treat. Think world-class golf courses, luxurious accommodation and wineries galore, which can all be experienced without being overrun by crowds. Here are some fantastic options in and around Vernon which are sure to make your next girls’ getaway one to remember.
Wine Tasting along the Scenic Sip route
It wouldn’t be a trip to the Okanagan without sampling what the region is most famous for: its wine production. There are half a dozen vineyards about 20 minutes from Vernon in Lake Country, along what’s called the Scenic Sip route.
The most established operation in the area is Gray Monk Estate Winery, whose founders were actually the first people to plant Pinot Gris in Canada (hence their name, as “Gray Monk” is the English translation of Pinot Gris). After the first vines were planted back in the ‘70s, Pinot Gris quickly became the Okanagan’s signature grape. Today, the family-run winery has an enviable perch on a hill overlooking Okanagan Lake, a massive tasting room and the fantastic Grapevine Restaurant. Be sure to grab a spot on the expansive patio, with sweeping views of the vineyards framed by the sparkling water.
Another notable spot for wine tasting is Arrowleaf, which does an award-winning Pinot Gris along with their First Crush blends which make for easy summer sips. The 16-acre property has a bright, airy tasting room where visitors can sample the different varietals. There is a $5 tasting fee which Arrowleaf donates to local charities, or waives with the purchase of a bottle
Finally, stop in at Ex Nihilo (Latin for “out of nothing”) which was named after a sculpture carved into the Washington National Cathedral. The artsy vibe is present throughout the winery, which includes a gallery featuring local artists and wine bottle labels based off artwork done by the founders’ children.
Soak up the sun on Kalamalka Lake
A trip to Kalamalka Lake is the perfect way to beat the heat, so slip on your suit and head to its pristine shores. The sprawling glacial lake features ever-changing hues that range from emerald green to indigo, depending on the temperature and the crystallization of dissolved limestones.
There are tons of activities to enjoy around “Kal Lake” as the locals call it, including SUP, kayaking and waterskiing. Alternatively, grab a towel and hit the beach—chances are you’ll find a private stretch of sand, as some of the best spots can only be accessed by foot.
Golf at Predator Ridge
Dust off your clubs and head to gorgeous Predator Ridge resort. The championship golf course has 36 holes which wind through the Okanagan Valley, and their Ridge Course offers unobstructed views of the glittering lake below.
Those who aren’t confident with their clubs should sign up for the fantastic Swing Like a Girl program. The completely customizable clinic is ideal for groups of all skill levels, and sees former LPGA pro A.J. Eathorne coach you through fundamentals including form, club selection and the all-important swing. Her easy-going style is guaranteed to transform your game, and better yet you’ll get to hit the links in style, thanks to the program’s signature bright pink golf carts.
Clinics last anywhere from a few hours to a full day, and Predator Ridge can also help organize lunch, yoga sessions and wine tasting.
Relax in the Sparkling Hills Resort spa
Spa sessions are a given during a girls’ getaway, and there’s no better place to unwind than swanky Sparkling Hills Resort. The hotel lives up to its name with more than 3.5 million crystals scattered throughout the property, in everything from the dazzling chandelier that drips from the vaulted ceiling in the spacious front entrance, to the Swarovski crystal “night sky” that decorates the spa.
European-inspired KurSpa has several aromatherapy, steam and sauna rooms perfect for luxuriating in, a gorgeous outdoor pool overlooking the lake, and over a hundred treatments including massages, facials and body wraps. It’s also the only spa in North America offering cyro treatments, where guests spend three minutes in a cold chamber which is said to benefit the circulatory and immune systems.
If your group is made up of adventurous types, then you’ve come to the right place. Vernon is on the doorstep of Kalamalka Provincial Park, which has a maze of trails for hikers and mountain bikers alike. Rent a bicycle and cruise along Rattlesnake Trail, or get a cardio hit by tackling the more advanced Lookout Trail which offers incredible views of Kalamalka Lake—particularly around Rattlesnake Ridge. There are also great routes along Predator Ridge, throughout the SilverStar Bike Park, and along the Okanagan Rail Trail which charts the path of an abandoned rail track between Vernon and Kelowna.
For an adventure that will get the whole group involved, book a canoeing expedition through Element Adventures. The experienced owner Charles will guide you 10 kilometres along the Lower Shuswap River, where you can enjoy views of the Monashee Mountains while keeping an eye out for eagles swooping by.
IF YOU GO:
How to get there: Fly into Kelowna Airport, which is a 30 minute drive to downtown Vernon or Predator Ridge.
Where to stay: The most luxe options for a girls’ getaway are found in Predator Ridge. The Predator Ridge Resort offers a wide variety of options, including villas and cottages which are perfect for a girls’ getaway. Alternatively, splurge for a stay at Sparkling Hill Resort just up the road, and soak in the incredible views of Okanagan Lake and the surrounding valley from the comfort of your Swarovski-crystal infused room.
Eat at: Vernon has nailed the farm-to-table concept, with many local restaurants sourcing their fresh ingredients from producers in the area. Standouts include Phoenix Steakhouse which grills their seasoned steaks to perfection, Midtown Bistro where owner Kelly lovingly bases the ever-changing menu off of what she can curate from the farmers’ market, and Ratio Coffee & Pastry which serves up fresh-baked treats alongside vegan and gluten-free options.
Have a kitchen at your disposal? Then head over to the Vernon Farmers’ Market, which runs year round and hosts up to 150 vendors at a time. Safe to say you’ve never seen such large veggies before!
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Globe Guide explored Vernon in collaboration with Tourism Vernon. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles