Five ways you can enjoy B.C.'s Thompson Okanagan
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Hedley-Osoyoos-Greenwood historic tour
History buffs may want to consider a two-day tour starting with the Mascot Gold Mine in Hedley, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Vancouver on Highway 3. Built one kilometre up on the cliffs overlooking the Similkameen Valley, this is a uniquely situated mine. It stopped operations in the late 1940s.
On the way to Osoyoos, a stop at the restored grist mill outside Keremeos is recommended by TOTA. The mill was built in 1877 so that pioneers didn’t have to make a long trip across the U.S. border for their flour.
Day 1 ends in Osoyoos. The southernmost town in the region, it was the home of the Okanagan Nation before it came to the attention of fur traders in the early 1800s. The local museum boasts one of the best small-town collections of exhibits on natural history, First Nations, and pioneer life in the province.
Before you leave Osoyoos on the second day, TOTA suggests a visit to the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, which offers a tour of a traditional native village.
Next stop is Greenwood, which used to have one of the largest copper mines in the world. It also served as an internment area for Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. Visitors can go on self-guided tours of what remains of the camp.
This two-day tour starts in Vernon, where visitors can spend the morning at Davison Orchards Country Village. This three-generation family farm grows 20 varieties of apples. Wagon rides are available, and fresh vegetables like corn and tomatoes are for sale. Visitors can also sample old-fashioned pies, jams, and preserves.
Next to the orchard is Planet Bee Honey Farm. Here, you can observe thousands of honeybees in an apiary. There’s a gift shop, and honey samples are available.
TOTA recommends having lunch at Gray Monk Estate Winery in Okanagan Centre, describing it as the “perfect setting for discovering fine vintage wines and”¦a great place to relax and enjoy wine country cuisine with an uninterrupted view of the vineyards, lake, and mountains”.
From there, travellers can drive down to Kelowna for an afternoon in the city’s downtown cultural district, which has three museums.
For the second day, the tourism association suggests a number of places to visit. One is Summerhill Pyramid Winery, the country’s largest organic vineyard. It is also the most visited winery in Canada, according to the association.
Another stop is Okanagan Lavender Herb Farm. The half-hectare property has 18 varieties of lavender, promising a fragrant experience overlooking Okanagan Lake.
First Nations Tour
TOTA has a three-day itinerary for learning about the rich aboriginal heritage of the Thompson Okanagan.
Highlights include a visit to the Quaaout Resort & Conference Centre in Chase. The tourism association recommends an overnight stay in this peaceful area owned by the Little Shuswap Indian Band. Travellers can go on a “self-directed native nature walk” and participate in other outdoor activities offered at the resort. Foodies will have the opportunity to sample traditional First Nations preparations of venison and buffalo. Those who want to try chicken or salmon cooked in a clay pot will need to inform staff a day ahead.
In Kamloops, the Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park has an outdoor exhibit of the archaeological remains of a 2,000-year-old Secwepemc winter village site, four reconstructed winter pit houses, and a summer village.
Hat Creek Ranch is a provincial heritage site located 10 kilometres north of Cache Creek. Guided tours dealing with the history and culture of the Shuswap Nation offer a number of surprises. There’s an option to spend the night in a pit house—a traditional winter home whose bottom half is built below the ground. A pit house can accommodate up to 20 adults and has outdoor washrooms and a sweat lodge.