Penticton

Penticton (The 'Peach City') is a beautiful spot in the south Okanagan nestled between two lakes: The 155km long Okanagan Lake to the north, and the smaller Skaha Lake to the south. Tourism in Penticton is largely seasonal. In the summer tourists double Penticton's population to 60,000. Historically, in the winter things were very quiet, but now that World Cup Freestyle Skiing stops at local Apex Mountain every winter, the winter scene is picking up.

A view of Penticton from the south

Understand

This area has been inhabited for thousands of years by the Salish group of First Nations people. They called their settlement in this area Snpinkten which translates as 'a place to stay forever' and gives Penticton its name. The first non-native settler Thomas Ellis preempted land in Penticton in 1869 and started a very successful cattle ranch. With the arrival of engineering marvel Kettle Valley Railway the boom in Penticton had begun. Penticton was officially given life as a municipality in 1908, and received 'city' status in 1948.

Since the beginning Penticton's climate was well suited for agriculture, and thousands of fruit trees were planted all along the west and east bench areas overlooking Okanagan Lake. From cherries in early July to apples and pears in early September, Penticton has always been a large producer and exporter of non-citrus tree fruit. Many local oldtimers decry the trend of ripping out perfectly healthy and productive orchards for the more lucrative vineyards which supply grapes for the regions more than thirty boutique wineries. Today Penticton's two largest industries are tourism and the growing wine industry, which threatens to eclipse the fruit production industry.

Penticton's climate and geography is a northern, four-seasons version of what some call mediterranean. Large clay banks, benches, and scrubland skirt the mid-level mountains that frame the valley on the east and west sides. Summers are hot with an average temperature of 27C, and peaks of 35-40C are not unheard of. The large size of Okanagan Lake tempers the climate in winter which sees an average high of 0.9C in January. It can and does snow occasionally, but generally only during December and January will it accumulate in modest quantities. You can check the snow level with a quick glance to the mountains, which will have a white apron about half to three-quarters of the way up. Penticton sees about 2000 hours of sun per year, which is a higher average than Rio de Janeiro.

Get in

By car

Most travelers will arrive in Penticton by automobile. Highway 97 is the major north-south route through the city. Travel times are about 4 hours from Vancouver, 8 hours from Calgary and 5 hours from Seattle or Spokane. Penticton is a 40 minute drive south from Kelowna. The US/Canada border crossing to the south on Highway 97 is open 24 hours a day; other border crossings in this region are closed overnight.

By bus

  Greyhound operates coach service with connections from all other British Columbia cities. The local depot is at 307 Ellis St, +1 250 493-4101.

By plane

  Penticton Regional Airport (IATA: YYF) is a small airport with domestic flights from Vancouver. It is located at the south end of town off Hwy 97. U.S. and some international flights will land in Kelowna, 60 kilometers to the north. Most international flights will land in Vancouver where an alternate mode of transportation will be needed to reach Penticton. There are no scheduled commercial flights between Kelowna and Penticton; however, you may charter a flight with Carson Air or Southern Skies.

Get around

Map of Penticton

By car

This is your best bet if you wish to visit the area's many wineries, which are generally out of town a ways. Car rentals:

By bus

BC Transit operates a local bus service in Penticton with five regular routes and a night route. Service ends at 7PM for regular routes and 10PM for the night route. There is no service on Sundays except for the Lake-to-lake shuttle. Fares are $1.75 which includes a 90 minute transfer. Ask the operator, as they generally will not offer one.

By taxi

Penticton has two cab companies, Courtesy ( 250-492-7777) and Klassic Taxi ( 250-492-6666), who run computerized dispatch. Both companies provide luxury cars and six passenger vans. They also recently introduced the wheelchair vans.

On foot and bike

Penticton's compact size lends itself to biking or even just walking around. It will take about 15 minutes to bike from lake to lake, and just over an hour for the same journey on foot. There are walking/biking trails on both sides of the River Channel, and a painted bike lane on a major north-south corridor of the city.

Bike rentals:

See

View from Munson Mountain

Wineries and Viticulture

Lake Okanagan and benchland

The immediate Penticton area has many wineries, and indeed more seem to spring up everyday. The terroir of the Naramata Bench is considered the premier wine growing region of British Columbia for its climate and geography (though growers in the Golden Mile region of Oliver to the south may disagree). The popularity of this relatively new industry has driven the price of local products well over the price of a comparable French or Italian bottle. Most wineries offer free tastings and tours, and will almost certainly sell their products directly. To be sure of the best quality look for bottles that sport the VQA designation, which ensures authenticity of origin, and a minimum standard of quality during grape growth, harvest, and production.

Do

Outdoors

Perhaps the best thing to do in Penticton is to join the locals at the beach, and enjoy the blisteringly hot summer sun.   Okanagan Beach follows pretty much the entirety of Lakeshore Drive on Okanagan Lake, and is generally the more family oriented beach.   Skaha Beach to the south on Skaha Lake is where Penticton's younger crowd go to see and be seen.   Sudbury Beach and   Airport Beach are also on Skaha Lake, located west of Skaha Beach on the south side of Highway 97 (Caution: Sudbury is used as a kitesurf launch during the off-season.).   Three Mile Beach is a good bet when the crowds at the other beaches are getting you down. Located just north of town, follow Naramata Road north, turn left at Three Mile Road, and follow down to the lake. If you walk along the beach to the north you will find an unofficial nudist area.

Golfers will find themselves at home, with four golf courses in the city limits, and several more just beyond:

Rock climbers will want to check out the renowned Skaha Climbing Bluffs located in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park. Skaha.org has more information on climbing in the Penticton area.

Cyclists and hikers will want to visit the stunning Kettle Valley Trail which follows the old railway grade from Penticton through Naramata's bench wineries, and farther along, a system of tunnels and trestles leading all the way to Castlegar and beyond, some several hundreds of kilometers. Part of the Trans-Canada Trail which bills itself as the longest recreational trail in the world. You can also travel the railway grade on the opposite side of the lake 10km to Summerland which is gatewayed by the dramatic Trout Creek Railway Trestle, the highest in British Columbia.

Another traditional pastime in Penticton is floating down the River Channel, which is a small shallow river that flows south from Okanagan Lake to Skaha Lake. This leisurely trip takes from 2 to 3.5 hours depending on water levels in the channel. Be sure to bring sunscreen or you will burn up! If you have your own flotation device and can work out the logistics of getting a ride and keeping your valuables dry, you can do the full channel for free.

Festivals

Penticton is also a city of events and festivals. Indeed, in the summer there is rarely a time when there isn't some sort of festival going on. Dates and venues can change from year to year, check the websites for current information. A brief survey of the major festivals includes:

Sailboats on Okanagan Lake

Boating, sailing and watersports

With two lakes ten minutes apart, Penticton is a great place to bring your boat if you have one. While you cannot boat from lake to lake, they both have launches and marinas for fuel and supplies.

Winter

In winter, your best bet is to spend some time up at the local ski hill Apex Alpine. Apex is about a 45 minute drive from town west on Green Mountain Road. You can also come cheer on the Penticton Vees BCHL hockey team at the South Okanagen Events Centre , go for a skate or play some pick-up at the indoor McLaren Park Arena, or if the weather is cooperative, play a round of golf right through the year.

Buy

There is no shortage of stands along the beaches to sell tourists swimwear, sunglasses and other assorted knick-knacks. Main Street features a wide variety of shops and galleries. Cherry Lane Mall has pretty much everything tourists and locals need for their day to day; national upscale retailer The Bay is here. Penticton also has a few big-block stores such as Walmart, Zellers, London Drugs, Staples, etc. These can all be found by driving along Main Street. If you reach the other lake, you've gone too far!

For the literary crowd, Penticton features the 5000 square foot Book Shop (242 Main Street, 492-6661 ). This massive store stocks new, used and out of print/rare books on any conceivable topic, including a large section on local interest.

For traditional local gifts/souvenirs you can visit:

For a more meaningful, intoxicating, or just plain tastier souvenir visit one of the area's many wineries, and one of the many fruit stands dotted along the highway and backroads that sell local products.

Eat

There are over one-hundred places to eat in Penticton, servicing pretty much any taste or budget. In the summer you will do well to ensure reservations, or else you may have to wait until well after 10:00PM to get your dinner when restaurants start to slow down. Many places cut back hours or close entirely in the winter.

Penticton also has all day breakfast chains: The Pantry, Denny's, and Rickys; large chain restaurants Boston Pizza, Earls, and Joeys Only; and every fast-food place you could ever want McDonald's x2, Burger King, Wendys, A&W x2, Subway x3, Taco Time, Quiznos Subs, Canada's favorite: Tim Hortons x3!

Drink

Legal drinking age in British Columbia is 19. The government store (Penticton Plaza, 1301 Main Street) sells beer, wine and spirits until 9:00pm. Cold beer and wine stores (6 in town) are open until 11:00pm, with modest selection of spirits. Nightclubs serve until 2:00am, but won't kick you out until 3:00am.

Pubs and lounges

Nightclubs

There are only three in town and they are all pretty much the same. Loud top-40 music and the occasional live show. Covers are reasonable: $2-$7, more if there is a special event. Smoking is prohibited in all bars, but the three nightclubs have separate smoking rooms. The clubs start to get busy between 11PM and midnight in the summer. You may want to show up early to avoid the queue. If one is empty, try another, as all three are within walking distance of each other, and business generally depends on the nightly drink special. This doesn't apply as much in the summer when all three are generally packed. At 2:30AM hundreds of drunken revelers pour out into the streets, causing a large police presence to keep the peace. Do not taunt the police unless you want to spend a night in the drunk tank! (Hint: you don't).

Sleep

As with restaurants, the amount of accommodations available in Penticton is disproportionate compared to the size of the city. Still, Penticton is very popular in the summer and the area hotels can and will be fully booked, especially on long weekends and Ironman weekend. Prices listed here are high season, as this is when most visitors come. Low and shoulder season rates may be drastically lower depending on the facility. The listings here are but a mere smattering of what's available.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

There is not much to worry about in Penticton. The streets are generally safe after dark and the huge amount of tourists on the streets ensures you are never alone. The biggest safety issue may be the occasional bar brawl that occurs when the clubs close. Make sure you do not get involved or you will end up spending the night in jail.

If you are hiking or biking in the surrounding hills be aware the area is home to rattlesnakes and bears. The snakes, easily detected by their distinctive rattle, do not attack humans unless you enter their space and/or startle them — such as abruptly walking into one along a trail. If you hear the rattle, understand it as a warning and keep your distance; the snake's bite can be fatal. Similarly, black bears inhabit the region surrounding Penticton and are happy to avoid humans unless surprised, cornered, and/or their cubs are threatened. Bear attacks are extremely rare but if you spot a bear in the area, it is best to steer clear. Cougars are being spotted by the locals more.

Go next

Routes through Penticton

Kelowna Summerland  N  S  Okanagan Falls Osoyoos
ENDS  N  S  Keremeos Hope (via )


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 23, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.