When I was in my twenties, my mom inexplicably developed a desire to change careers: “I think I could’ve been a truck driver,” she’d say, happily ensconced behind the wheel, chauffering the family on a long drive to wherever. I never understood her strange love of the long-haul, always preferring the passenger seat myself, where I could sit and stare out at the scenery or just, you know, fall asleep.
So naturally the girls and I packed ourselves up and hit the road. Desitnation: Kelowna.
But then something funny happened, and I found myself inexplicably relishing a good long drive instead of cringing at the thought of hitting the road for longer than twenty minutes. Combine this with the transformation of my children from loud and restless rascals who need constant entertainment and frequent pee breaks into independent kids with iPhones, good taste in music and large bladders, and you have the perfect recipe for road trips.
From Calgary it’s a solid seven-hour drive to Kelowna, and that’s with hardly any stopping. We took only two short breaks on our trip: a quick visit to the facilities at the Rogers Pass Interpretive Centre (and a hasty spin around the interesting museum exhibits, free to National Park pass holders) and then a fill-up (gas for the car, Tim Horton’s coffee for the driver) in Revelstoke.
If you’ve got less hardcore car kids than me, or if you feel the need to stretch your legs every so often, there are lots of things to do and see between Calgary and Kelowna. From the spiral tunnels near Field, BC to the Rogers Pass Interpretive Centre to the Last Spike at Craigallachie, BC, you can trace the history of the CPR and the “ribbon of steel” that united our fine country from sea to sea, or you can take in any of the incredible natural wonders along the way: Lake Louise, Takkakaw Falls, Mount Revelstoke, the Columbia River gorge…the list is long. But we’ve done this ride before and we’ve seen the sights, and this road trip was, for us, all about the destination, so we powered through, enjoying the mountain scenery through the windshield and cranking the tunes until we pulled up at Manteo Resort, our home for the next two days.
After the long drive, our comfortable and spacious one-bedroom suite was just what we needed – more than enough space for us to kick back and relax without being in each other’s hair. The kids quickly located the TV, and I unpacked a few things in the kitchen before checking out the room service menu. We enjoyed a tasty bite from the in-house SmackDAB restaurant before heading out on a quick stroll to acquaint ourselves with the resort’s amenities: indoor and outdoor pools, waterslide, recreation and fitness centre, boardwalk, playground and even a mini putting green. My favourite spot, though, was the private beach, a sandy crescent tucked under the leaves of a stately old weeping willow, conveniently located adjacent to the boardwalk and amply supplied with colourful Adirondack chairs overlooking the lake. So peaceful.
The girls were partial to the pools, with my tween getting her kicks cavorting in the swimming pool while her older teen sister relaxed in the hot tub. I loved that there was something for everyone to do, all within a stone’s throw of each other and close to our suite in the main building.
But since we don’t get over to this beautiful part of the world all that often, we did want to spend as much time as we could out exploring what Kelowna and the surrounding area has to offer. Our goals: adventure, food, fun. Not necessarily in that order! A little pre-trip research helped us put together an itinerary that fit the bill. Day one called for ziplining, followed by locally-sourced dinner downtown. On our second day, we’d hit the countryside again and visit a few local farms and markets and stock up on fresh fruit, veggies and other local fare before heading back to Calgary.
Despite overcast skies and a few showers, our experience at Oyama Zipline was incredible. Ziplining was a first for all three of us gals, and totally a bucket list activity to boot. Our guides Tam and Bollywood ferried us along the seven different lines with a calm competence that inspired confidence, while mixing in just the right amount of humour and friendly competition. Oyama Zipline is set up to progress from shorter, easier lines through a series of different challenges and races (one featuring a heart-stopping trapdoor!) to the final head-to-head race on the longest and fastest zipline (most riders will reach speeds in excess of 70km/h). I highly recommend this activity for anyone – no experience is required and even the nervous nellies will be coaxed along by the excellent guides until they’re zipping by upside-down at 70 clicks. There is no minimum age, but be aware that there is a strict weight range – only riders between 50 and 250 pounds can participate.
Ziplining really helped us work up an appetite, so we headed downtown for a late dinner. We enjoyed some fun on the lakeshore where a street performer was juggling fiery torches, and then headed up Bernard Street to check out the restaurants, shops and cafés. Spoiled for choice, we were enticed by the smell of freshly-made waffle cones and opted for dessert before dinner, indulging in a cup of ice cream at Moo-Lix Ice Cream shop. After that treat, we still had a hankering for more and we didn’t have to look far.
Right next door we found Sliderz Community House, likewise beckoning with an enticing aroma; this time of juicy cheeseburgers. I ordered a pair of Alberta beef sliders with cheddar and bacon, a side of hand-cut fries and watched as the cook lovingly prepared both from scratch, with much encouragement and a great deal of passion from the owner, who also happened to be there. The finished product…ooohh, mercy. It only took five bites to polish off each slider, but they may just have been the five best-tasting burger bites I’ve ever had. If you’re an aficionado of the humble hamburger, make sure Sliderz is on your list of places to eat in Kelowna.
After a sound (read: exhausted) slumber, we woke early with plans to head out to the beach at Bertram Creek Regional Park on our way to visit a most interesting farm: Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan. The weather gods smiled on us and the skies cleared in time for the girls to ditch their flip-flops in the lush grass and race down to dip their toes in the clear water at this pebbly beach. After exploring Bertram Creek Regional Park for a while, we headed a bit farther up the hill to the amazing Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan. This place was hopping with visitors but the friendly staff and self-directed layout made for a relaxing and interesting stop. We tasted the wares (delicious) in the gift shop, and then spent some time at the “goat viewing area” before taking a stroll around the grounds and heading back to the car with our purchases. Don’t miss the gelato here, they make a literal rainbow of flavours and it’s outstanding.
Stuffed with gelato, we made our way to our last stop of the day: Hillcrest Farm Market. Hillcrest Farm has been in the Singh family for a century, since founder Bhagu Singh walked – yes, you read that right: WALKED – from Vancouver to Kelowna looking for a piece of land to call his own. A truly amazing story and a truly amazing market. We tried bites of fresh produce (the honeydew melon was especially divine) and sampled the best apple juice I’ve ever had. From melons to peppers, summer squash to cherries, Hillcrest delivers the most tasty and juicy fresh-grown local ingredients for any recipe.
And speaking of recipes, DO NOT miss the café when you visit Hillcrest Market. With a menu ranging from home-baked pie to traditional samosas and east-meets-west fusion dishes like the butter chicken pizza (this is not to be missed), Hillcrest delivers on the farm to table concept in spades, with many of their ingredients grown mere steps away in their fields.
But alas, all good things must come to an end and we sadly bade farewell to Kelowna…for now. But look out, Okanagan…these road-tripping gals will be back for more…and soon!