The South Okanagan has been a popular getaway destination for decades now, and with their bountiful orchards and ever-growing roster of incredible wineries, it’s becoming a haven for food and wine lovers.
If you are thinking about making a trip to the dynamic Resort Municipality of Osoyoos and its northerly neighbour, Oliver, and you happen to be a food enthusiast, take note: Here are 17 things for food lovers to do in the South Okanagan.
Well, duh. This one is pretty obvious. There are 39 wineries in the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association, and each one has something different to offer visitors, from tastings and tours to restaurants, special events, and of course all of their wines. The wineries alone are reason enough to visit the South Okanagan time after time, to explore new places and revisit old favourites, but of course, there’s so much more than just what’s in the bottle or glass.
You’re going to pass stand after stand, and particularly if you’ve made the trip by car, you’re going to want to save time, budget, and space in your trunk for some farm-fresh fruits, veggies, and snacks.
Many of the farms offer “u-pick” options, which means you provide the labour and save on the bottom line, but you also get up close and personal with your food. From peach trees to berry fields, there is much to harvest and get your hands on in this fertile region.
To get some fish on your table, you can always opt to go the catch-it-yourself route. There is fishing to be had on Okanagan Lake (just make sure you’re all in the clear when it comes to laws and regulations), or keep an eye out for “U-catch” opportunities at businesses along the highway in the Oliver and Osoyoos area.
There’s been a shift in demographics over the last couple of decades in Oliver and Osoyoos, and that means visitors can taste authentic Mexican and Indian food, prepared fresh and served up at humble roadside stands. Keep your eyes out for signs boasting about handmade samosas or fresh tacos.
It’s not that this is a big secret, but it’s almost impossible to get a table at Backyard Farm…unless you gather a group and do some advance planning. Chef Chris Van Hooydonk has created a magical space inside a custom-converted home on a small Oliver farm where he holds private dinners for up to 20 guests. The meal is prepared in an open kitchen set almost like a stage–elevated just a couple of steps, and the ingredients are ethically and locally sourced. Van Hooydonk is passionate about food and cooking, and about the rich history of the land, and the value of treating what comes from the land with care. You may catch him around the region doing special winery dinners and events, but this dedicated renaissance man of food, farm, and table is doing wonders in his very thoughtful space.
An by elevated, we also mean perched with a killer view. One of the first big winery restaurants to lead the pack when it comes to taking eating in the South Okanagan to a new level, Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek has a beautiful menu of Italian fare, from fresh pastas with seasonal ingredients to robust pizzas.
Did you know that there is a winery in the South Okanagan that happens to also specialize in making beautiful bread? Hit up Platinum Bench not only to enjoy their portfolio of wines, but also to get some fantastic fresh bread you’ll be raving about.
If you’re settling in for a weekend or more in the Osoyoos area, you definitely have lots of options for where to stay, from “motel row,” to campgrounds, to RV parks, traditional hotels, rental homes, and resorts. If you are a fan of doing your own cooking, a resort like Walnut Beach is ideal. Each suite has its own fully-equipped kitchen, and they have a bunch of BBQs available for use on the outdoor patio by the pool, so it’s basically like having your prime backyard set up away from home. Fire up the grill, get some of that farm fresh produce prepped, and uncork your wine. Chill at Walnut Beach’s private beach, too. That’s a vacay!
If you aren’t up for DIY meals, the restaurant at Walnut Beach, Pointe 49, is a great lunch, snack, or dinner option. There, Chef Natasha Schooten is serving up all manner of fresh fare, from palate-pleasers like burgers and ribs to beautiful dishes making the most of the bounty of the season. It’s a great option for anyone, not just hotel guests, for a relaxed dinner in Osoyoos.
Whether you need a snack or to stock the larder for your stay, hit up Lake Village Bakery for their fresh-baked sourdough and yeasted breads, along with daily specials and pastries (like sourdough croissants and butter tarts).
Settle into the charming backyard patio space of DoLci SociaLhaus and enjoy fare from a menu of European-inspired eats, from pastas to heartier German fare like Schnitzel with creamy potato salad. They also have a great cocktail menu if you need to take a break from the vino.
If you’re headed west from Osoyoos on Highway 3, you’ll hit Cawston, which is home to Harker’s Organics. They operate a farm stand with a cafe that sells fresh sandwiches, hot buttered corn on the cob, baked goods, and organic fruit slushies–perfect for cooling down on a hot day. They also operate Rustic Roots Winery, which produces beautiful fruit wines, and there’s a tasting room onsite, too.
Hop in the back of a restored red ’52 Chevy pick up and trundle around the impressive family-run Covert Farms on a personal tour. Feed the llamas, greet the cows, get up close with the grapes, roam the orchards and fields and pick a peach or two, then cozy up on their patio for a wine tasting and a stunning charcuterie board showcasing many local delights. Kids will love bouncing on the big bouncy pad, and grown ups will love pretty much everything else. Get to know their beautiful organic wines like their dangerously drinkable Pinot Blanc, and their exciting sparkling Zinfandel.
There’s a lot going on in Osoyoos (and Oliver) all the time, from larger-scale events like the annual Oysterfest and the Devour! Food Film Festival, to things happening at the wineries and venues around town–all year ’round! Longtable dinners, special running events, fundraisers, seminars, and more are on the books and easy excuses for your next trip.
Take a taste of the South Okanagan home with you–only this kind of stuff won’t spoil in your veggie crisper after a few days! Instead, opt to pick up some foodstuffs made from local produce and resources, like preserves, syrups, vinegars, honey, mustards, and more.
If your palate needs a switch-up from all the grape, try something made with apples, like hard cider. Spots like Faustino Estate Cidery and Orchard Hill Estate Cidery are turning apples into…cider, and they have tasting rooms.
Okay, this has nothing to do with food, but if you are in Osoyoos and you are in need of something a little more off the beaten path and totally awe-inspiring, kids and kids at heart will love the Desert Model Railroad Museum. This elaborate, detailed landscape crisscrossed by trains is populated with tiny hand-painted pieces–many of which launch into motion with the press of a button at your fingertips. Every so often it goes dark so you can watch the glittering magical world humming at nighttime. You’ll never see it all in one visit, so make plans to go there between wine tastings and peach picking and experience the wonder. Even die-hard foodies need a break!