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So you’re considering a road trip between two of my favorite cities in Canada – Calgary and Kelowna. That’s awesome! Luckily for you, I’ve driven this scenic route countless times over the years and consider myself a sort-of expert on the best stops between the two cities. I also have lots of tips to share on how to make this drive as easy as possible.
This drive from Calgary to Kelowna is easily doable in one day (it will take 7.5 hours without stops) but in my opinion, it would be a shame to rush this gorgeous drive. There are a surprising amount of beautiful sights worthy of a stop along this drive on Highway 1, including the big tourist hotspots of Banff, Lake Louise, and Emerald Lake. But, I’ve also included some lesser-known stops on this list like Sicamous (the houseboat capital of Canada) and the naturally beautiful small city of Vernon.
It doesn’t matter if you start this road trip in Calgary or Kelowna, it’s the same trip both ways and includes all the same stops. In this blog post, I’ve started the road trip in Calgary, but you can also do it in reverse from Kelowna to Calgary!
About the Drive from Calgary to Kelowna
The drive from Calgary to Kelowna is 605 kilometers (375 miles) and will take a minimum of 7.5 hours, without stops. The route follows the Trans-Canada Highway (also known as Highway 1) the whole way. This is the most scenic and direct route between Calgary and Kelowna, and as mentioned earlier, it passes through some of the most popular destinations in Western Canada including Banff, Lake Louise, and Canmore! Therefore, I highly recommend allowing at least two full days to complete this drive!
Because you are driving on the Trans-Canada Highway for the whole journey, I would rate this drive as a very easy one. But it’s important to note that you are likely to encounter traffic congestion on the approach to Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise, particularly at weekends and in the summer. If you’re driving this route in the summer you need to watch out for wildlife like deer, elk, and moose who may suddenly appear on the highway.
In the winter, it’s important to have your car fitted with either winter tires or all-season tires as this will give you more traction on the sometimes icy roads. Any snow or ice does get cleared regularly, but during periods of high snowfall, you may be driving in pretty dangerous conditions, especially when driving through the National Parks – Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, and Glacier National Park.
It’s important to note that until winter 2024, there are significant roadworks on a section of the road east of Golden. It is called the Kicking Horse Canyon Project, and delays can be up to 30 minutes during the day, and this 5 km (3.1 mi) section is closed at night so you will need to take an alternative route via Radium Hot Springs. You can read all about the roadworks here.
Note: If you plan on stopping in any of the national parks you’ll need to purchase a Parks Canada Pass. There are various types of passes you can buy that range from $10 to $145 CAD depending on the number of parks, people, and amount of time the pass covers.
Related Read: Leaving from Edmonton instead? This is the route you’ll take from Edmonton to Kelowna!
12 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Kelowna
First off, don’t forget to explore Calgary before you leave on your road trip to Kelowna!
Calgary is great because it has the bustling feel of a big city with more than 1.4 million people here and lots going on. It’s the largest city in Alberta, so there’s plenty to keep you busy including some epic tours in Calgary – many of them explore the Rocky Mountains!
What’s nice is even though the winters can get cold, it’s still likely to be sunny here. Calgary has the most days of sunshine of any other Canadian city – about 333 days a year! That makes all seasons a great time to visit. But even if you have a rainy or chilly day, Calgary has plenty of fun indoor activities as well!
While here, get the best view of the city from the highest 360-degree observation deck on the globe at the Calgary Tower. Take in the views of downtown and the Rocky Mountains in the distance and step onto the glass floor if you’re brave. You can even eat here at the revolving restaurant Sky 360.
If you want to see the top sights of the city efficiently I recommend this 2-hour city scooter tour. The best part is that it only costs $55 CAD per person which is significantly cheaper than other Calgary city tours. At each stop, you’ll learn some history from your guide.
If you’re into street art and beer you could instead opt for this 3-hour craft beer and street art tour. You will hit the streets and learn the stories behind the artist and art you are seeing while making stops for some local beer samples! What a great way to do two things at once!
Of course, a stop in Calgary wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Calgary Zoo. It’s open all year and has almost 1,000 different animals and exhibits including giraffes, tigers, lemurs, and more. Make sure to visit in the mornings to catch my favorite attraction – the penguin walk! Every morning at 10 a.m., the penguins take a 15-minute walk through the zoo for their exercise – it’s adorable and a perfect time for pictures.
If you’re here in July, grab a cowboy hat and take in the Calgary Stampede! The 10-day event features one of the largest rodeos in the world, a parade, a midway, shows, concerts, chuckwagon racing, and more – it’s easily one of the best things to do in Calgary!
If you find yourself in Calgary in winter, I love skating at the Olympic Plaza skating rink right downtown. It was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics hosted in Calgary and this is where the medal presentations took place.
It is the only refrigerated outdoor rink in the city, so the ice is always ready to skate on – even on a warmer day. Bring your own skates or rent a pair for $12 CAD.
Where to Stay in Calgary:
Wicked Hostels is a good choice for budget travelers. The hostel is clean, comfortable, and located in a good area. What’s nice is you can also book on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com to find the best deal.
If you can spend a bit more, the Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites is perfect. The rooms are beautiful, breakfast is included, and the location is ideal.
For luxury travelers, check out the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire. This hotel overlooks the river valley, comes with an indoor pool (with waterslide), hot tub, fitness center, hair salon, and gift shop.
Canmore is the next must-visit place on your road trip from Calgary to Kelowna. This small, but vibrant, mountain town is a popular tourist destination for both locals and international visitors. once you see it for yourself, you’ll understand why.
Canmore is a less expensive and more accessible choice than Banff because it is not located within one of Canada’s National Parks. Canmore, located on the outskirts of Banff National Park, is an outdoor playground for visitors and has some of Canada’s most magnificent mountain peaks. The Three Sisters mountain range (pictured above) is iconic here.
Right from town in the summertime you can hop in a raft and gently float down the Bow River. Your eyes will be glued to epic views of the Rocky Mountains, forests, and valleys while keeping watch for some native wildlife. Tours are a steal at only $45 CAD and last an hour long!
One of the coolest things you can do in Canmore is explore the caves! This Canmore caving adventure tour takes you through the beautiful yet mysteriously named Rat’s Nest Cave.
You’ll rappel down 18 meters (59 feet) and spend several hours navigating challenging passageways and learning about how these caves were formed. It is pricier at $180 CAD but it is an experience you can’t replicate.
Grassi Lakes is perhaps the most popular hike in Canmore, and as such, it is one of the town’s key attractions for hikers. You’ll be parked at the trailhead in less than 5 minutes from Canmore town, ready to explore some of the most vibrantly colored lakes you’ve ever seen!
This 4 km (2.5 mi) trail only gains 230 meters (750 feet) in elevation and takes most people roughly 2 hours to complete there and back. It’s a family-friendly path that’s excellent for people of all athletic levels. It’s also open all year round!
After you’re done exploring, kick back a relax with a nice cold brew. There are some excellent breweries in Canmore that you really need to check out – they serve good food too!
One of my favorites is The Grizzly Paw. They have a bar on 8 St and their brewery is located on Old Canmore Road on the outskirts of town (called Tank 310). You can also join this e-bike and brew tour for even more fun! You get to bike 15 kilometers (9 miles) through the mountains and then be rewarded with a beer flight for $122 CAD.
Or for coffee lovers, there are plenty of amazing cafes in Canmore that serve strong coffee and delicious snacks.
Besides all of that, there are tons of fun things to do in Canmore to keep you busy for even a few days. We actually lived in Canmore for a while, so we can confidently say it is a really special place.
Where to Stay in Canmore
In case you want to spend a couple of nights in Canmore (and you should!) there are plenty of hotels to choose from.
For budget travelers, I love the Canmore Rocky Mountain Inn. If you don’t mind spending a little more you can certainly get a nice hotel closer to town. The Grande Rockies Resort-Bellstar Hotels & Resorts is still a short walk from town (but it only takes 5 minutes) and the hotel itself is beautiful complete with a pool, hot tub, fitness center, and restaurant and bar.
From Canmore, you only have a short 25-minute drive to Banff town. In Banff town, book yourself a hotel for a few nights as you’ll definitely need time to explore this vibrant mountain town!
The downtown area is very quaint and there are many awesome options for places to eat, drink, and shop. With the mountains as the backdrop to Banff Ave, it’s a beautiful place to base yourself in Banff National Park.
The views from Mt Norquay are unlike any other. In the summer, ride the sightseeing gondola and visit the restaurant at the top for a beer with a view. If you visit Banff in the winter, you can’t miss hitting the slopes or testing out their famous tube park (fun for the whole family!) If you buy the SkiBig3 Lift Ticket Mt Norquay is the third ski resort you’ll have access to.
Banff is more than just a ski town though, and regardless of the season you visit, Banff town is an amazing place with plenty to do. Some of the best things to do in Banff include:
- Banff Upper Hot Springs – You can relax in Banff’s very own hot springs with mountain views. These are among the top hot springs in Alberta, meaning they can get pretty busy so it’s best to go first thing in the morning or the last hour before they close.
- Take the gondola up Sulphur Mountain – Ride the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain to experience panoramic views of Banff National Park. If you want to skip paying for the ride, hike up instead!
- Indulge in food and drinks – Banff has tons of tasty restaurants and bars. For beer, head to Banff Brewing Co. For a delicious meal with crafted cocktails, head to Parks Distillery. Did you know that you can also join this food tour that explores the many different rooms inside the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel? Food and drink pairings are included from 4 of the property’s high-end restaurants for $206 CAD. What a unique activity for foodies!
- Go hiking – The hiking trails in and around Banff are almost endless. In the summer in Banff, conquer difficult summits. But even in the winter, there are tons of epic hikes to challenge you. Hiking is one of the best free things to do in Banff.
- Check out the Bow Falls Lookout – The Bow River is a stunning river that runs through the heart of Banff. Turquoise in color, it is nothing short of picture-perfect. A short 1.5 km (0.9 mi) scenic walk from Banff town (or drive) you’ll come to the Bow Falls viewpoint on the river’s edge. Here, not only will you see the river, but also the Bow River Waterfall!
- Cave and Basin National Historic Site – Another great place to visit in Banff is Cave and Basin Historic Site. Here you can see some historic hot springs that are home to a rare species of snail. The museum is the main attraction in my eyes and it is very interactive and fun, especially for kids. You’ll find lots of information about Banff and the surrounding area.
Where to stay in Banff:
There are lots of hotels to choose from in downtown Banff. My personal favorite is Moose Hotel & Suites which has a great location, is reasonably priced, and has all the amenities you could want including two rooftop hot tubs.
If you’re on a tight budget, consider checking out High Country Inn. It quite possibly could be the most affordable place to stay. Plus, it is located right in town on Banff Ave!
And for a little luxury, the Rimrock Resort Hotel is a must! With an onsite spa, balconies with amazing views, as well as a restaurant and bar this hotel is a must! Plus, it is located a couple of minutes from town in a quieter location.
Alternatively, there are a few other areas to stay around Banff National Park that offer a more remote wilderness escape.
Related Read: Visiting Banff on a tight budget? Check out our blog about the best free things to do in Banff!
4. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is one of my favorite places in the whole country! The turquoise lakes, mountain views, and incredible skiing and hiking make this small village in the Rocky Mountains one you absolutely can’t drive by.
The best way to see Lake Louise itself is at the waterfront. As soon as you pull up, you can get out of the car and be in awe of the mountains and the incredibly blue lake. It’s paved, so it’s easy to get to and you’ll want to grab some photos here for sure! If you visit Lake Louise in the winter, the lake completely freezes over and becomes the ultimate skating rink. It’s free to skate on, so make sure to bring your skates or rent a pair.
Of course, if you’re here in the winter the Lake Louise Ski Resort is absolutely top-notch for winter sports fun. It’s one of the largest ski resorts in North America with 4,200 acres on four mountains. There’s something for everyone from beginners to experts with gentle slopes and wide-open bowls. Regardless of what season you visit, there is plenty to see and do in Lake Louise!
The only lake here that rivals the beauty of Lake Louise is the amazing Moraine Lake! It holds a special place in my heart because Dan proposed to me here. The backdrop of this lake is the famous 10 Peaks – these mountains soar high above the lake creating a stunning backdrop. The best view is from the Rockpile (literally a huge pile of rocks) which creates a viewing platform of the lake.
If you are visiting Banff National Park in the winter and would like to go skiing, I highly recommend purchasing a SkiBig3 Lift Ticket. This pass allows you to ski on three different days at three different ski resorts nearby: Lake Louise, Mt Norquay, and Sunshine Village!
On the other hand, if you do this road trip during the summer, you just must hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House! This popular trail is a 7 km (4.3 mi) round-trip and will take most people 3 hours to complete. It’s rated as moderate due to the steep elevation gain of 400 meters (1,313 feet), so a reasonable level of fitness is advised!
The views along the way of Lake Louise are astounding but the best part of this hike is the historic Tea House, which was built way back in 1901. Refuel here with tea, coffee, sandwiches, and other baked goods. As mentioned, the Tea House is only open in the summer, from June to September.
Some other awesome activities available in Lake Louise in the summer are going canoeing on the lake, hiking the lakefront trail, and cycling one of the many biking trails in the area! These are just a few of the best things to do in Lake Louise.
As for food in Lake Louise, you must visit The Station which is a restaurant within a historic train museum. Another recommendation is to splurge at the luxurious Fairview Bar and Restaurant within the Fairmont Lake Louise. These are just some of the delicious restaurants in Lake Louise that you can choose from.
Note: From May until October, you’ll be required to pay $21.00 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise lakefront (2023 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise
There are lots of different places to choose from when it comes to accommodation in Lake Louise.
If you decide you want to stay in Lake Louise, the Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center is the best budget option in Lake Louise Village. The location is right in town, they have a shared kitchen, basic but comfortable rooms, and friendly staff. You can also easily book a room on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.
For those with a bigger budget, you can’t look past the Fairmont Château Lake Louise. The hotel sits on the shoreline of Lake Louise with epic views in the most stunning of locations. I’ve added spending a night or two here to my personal bucket list!
5. Yoho National Park/Field
Yoho National Park is the smallest National Park within the Canadian Rockies (it’s 1,313 kilometers squared) but despite its compact size it’s filled with incredible beauty – think huge waterfalls, bright blue lakes, and unique rock formations.
The most famous resident in Yoho National Park is Emerald Lake, which gets its name thanks to its dark blue/green-ish water. This unique color is caused by sunlight reflecting on the lake’s surface.
One of my favorite things to do at Emerald Lake in the summer is to go canoeing on the lake, or if you’re keen on some exercise why not walk the easy one-hour loop trail around the lake. On this trail, you may be lucky enough to see wildlife like bald eagles, bears, moose, and elk.
If you’re visiting the lake in the winter you can hire snowshoes from Emerald Lake Lodge and go snowshoeing on the lake. Pretty cool!
In fact, if time allows I highly recommend spending the night at the luxurious Emerald Lake Lodge situated right on the edge of the lake.
Another cool spot within Yoho National Park is the Natural Bridge which goes over the Kicking Horse River. This historic rock formation was once a waterfall but due to the erosive effects of the fast-moving water over time, it has been formed into what you see today.
You can easily walk to the Natural Bridge from the car park on Emerald Lake Road, it’s a 3 km (1.5 mi) trail and will take most people 30 minutes to complete. If you have the time it’s well worth booking a guided tour of the 500 million-year-old fossil beds here!
The closest town to Yoho National Park is Field. Here, you can fuel up, grab groceries, or even base yourself in a hotel for a night or two.
Related Read: Emerald Lake is also one of the best stops on the drive from Calgary to Golden – find out more about this epic road trip!
Golden, British Columbia is a small town of just around 4,000 people in the Canadian Rockies. But what it lacks by way of population, it absolutely makes up for in terms of epic things to do! This small town is surrounded by a bunch of national parks and mountain ranges, so there are endless outdoor activities to enjoy.
The town of Golden also has some amazing restaurants, shops, bars, and cultural attractions to offer.
- Walk the Golden Skybridge – Why not start off with Golden’s newest attraction? The Golden Skybridge is Canada’s highest suspension bridge and it only just opened in the summer of 2021! At 130 meters (426 feet) above the canyon, you’ll experience such a thrill walking over it and taking in all the amazing views of the Columbia Valley. If walking along a suspension bridge is not enough for you, there is also a zipline experience, ropes course, and a super-cool canyon swing that fits two people!
- Explore downtown Golden – You’ll be pretty busy with all the different outdoor recreation activities around Golden, but don’t forget the town itself! Downtown Golden is a quaint, historic-looking town with a bunch of things to do! A good place to start your exploration is 9th Avenue, which has a lot of shops, cafes, and restaurants to explore. You can learn more about the city at the Visitor Centre or Golden Museum.
- Visit the Wolf Centre – Wolves are only one of the many magnificent creatures that may be found in the Canadian Rockies. While you probably don’t want to run into any in the wild, the Northern Lights Wolf Centre in Golden is an excellent location to learn about wolves and even see them.
- Go whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse – The best way to experience the river is to go whitewater rafting! Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River is such an adrenaline rush. With grade 3-4 rapids, it’s one of the best rivers in Canada to go rafting. There are a number of tour groups that you can join, such as this full-day tour. For $109 CAD, you will get a 5-hour experience out on the river. All equipment is included, along with a buffet lunch! You will also have an expert guide leading the way and keeping you safe.
- Hit the slopes at Kicking Horse Resort – Golden’s Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a very popular ski resort in Canada, and for good reason! It’s known for the huge amounts of annual snowfall and expert terrain that will challenge even the most experienced riders. It’s a must-visit if you’re in Golden in the winter months.
Where to stay in Golden
So now that you know about all of the amazing things to do in Golden, you’re going to need somewhere to stay a few nights. There’s just so much to explore in the area you might as well book a great hotel and enjoy a few days in one of Canada’s most underrated mountain towns.
Best Western Mountainview Inn is a great choice if you’re looking for something in town. This hotel is clean and comfortable and has everything you could want including an indoor pool and an included breakfast. The reviews are great and the price is modest.
For a more private stay that is only half a mile from town and a rate that won’t break the bank look into Glenogle Mountain Lodge and Spa. Not only does it have exceptional views of the mountains, a hot tub, and a billiard table but it is also quiet – except for the stream that flows past the property.
Related Read: If you aren’t quite ready to leave Golden just yet, check out the best places to stay in Golden.
7. Glacier National Park
This road trip takes you right through the middle of Glacier National Park as you drive out of Golden and make your way toward Revelstoke. The road through Glacier National Park is called “Rogers Pass” as you climb through the mountain pass. on this stretch of road you may observe plenty of wildlife including bears and mountain goats in beautiful ancient forests with old cedars and alpine meadows which really set the scene.
Make a point of visiting the park’s Rogers Pass National Historic Site. Hike along Canada’s first coast-to-coast railway route, which is now decommissioned. The visitor center has a plethora of historical information about the area as well as the wildlife you can find in the area.
You’ll also have the opportunity to check out some amazing hikes like the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk, which is a series of boardwalks through the forest. Or, visit Bear Creek Falls which provides lovely waterfall views. Bear Creek Falls only takes around 15-20 minutes so it’s the perfect short hike on your road trip from Calgary to Kelowna!
This mountain town is one of my favorite stops on the drive from Calgary to Kelowna. Revelstoke, BC is one of the most beautiful places to visit in British Columbia. It has everything you could want! Mountains, lakes, glaciers, vast forests, and friendly people!
It’s all about the outdoors here. For my nature lovers out there, Revelstoke is a paradise waiting to be explored. From hiking trails to beautiful scenery, it can be a little overwhelming when deciding what to do. Here are some of the best things to do in Revelstoke:
- Whitewater rafting – If you want to enjoy the cool glacier water of the Illecillewaet River there is an opportunity to book a whitewater rafting adventure for $141 CAD. Or opt for a more gentle river float tour for $77 CAD on the Colombia River – one of Canada’s most famous rivers! Either way, the abundance of natural scenery in either location is sure to make you feel alive!
- Explore Mount Revelstoke National Park – Just outside of Revelstoke is a beautiful national park full of fun hikes. Be sure to drive the Meadows in the Sky Parkway for epic views, and then do one of the trails from the parking lot at the top. My favorite is the hike to Edith Lake.
- In the summer ride the Revelstoke Mountain Resort gondola – It’s easily one of the best views in Revelstoke with the added bonus of not having to walk up! The gondola costs just $35 CAD. Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking but sometimes you just want to take it easy. There are two gondolas at the resort. The first takes you to the top of the mountain coaster. This second gondola is a good 10-minute ride, and at the top, you have breathtaking panoramic views of the valley!
- Ride the Pipe Mountain Coaster – This cool gravity-fed roller coaster is one of the top attractions in Revelstoke. If you want to, this coaster can fly down the hill, and it’s actually super fun and gets the adrenaline going. Of course, you can go as fast or slow as you want and the coaster actually has brakes – so it’s great for kids too. The Pipe Mountain Coaster is located at the top of the first gondola at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
- Hit the slopes in winter – Revelstoke, BC is famous for the number of awesome things to do in the winter. It’s not hard to see that this small mountain town is a winter paradise! Revelstoke Mountain Resort is famous for huge yearly snowfalls and steep mountainous terrain that could challenge even the most skilled. But, if you’re like me and are more suited to green or blue runs then they have that too!
Where to stay in Revelstoke
Stoke Hotel is a very good budget option that includes breakfast. It’s located right in town and has really good reviews!
Another option is Coast Hillcrest Hotel is a highly rated hotel that offers guests a comfortable stay at a reasonable price. They have an onsite fitness center, sauna, and hot tub, as well as a restaurant. The location is central and the large selection of room types means there is something suitable for everyone including families.
For more ideas check our guide to the best places to stay in Revelstoke.
On your way from Revelstoke, you can find the The Enchanted Forest before reaching Sicamous. It is home to the tallest treehouse in B.C. as well as the chance to paddle a rowboat through beaver ponds.
There’s also a castle as well as fairytale figurines dotted throughout the park that the kids can take photos with. Right next door is the Skytrek Adventure Park which has zip lines, a treetop obstacle course, climbing walls, and a jungle gym. Both these attractions are only open in the summer months!
This little town of Sicamous is the houseboat capital of Canada with people coming from all over to the beautiful lakes in the area. Houseboating on Shuswap Lake is a unique way to spend a few nights out on the water enjoying this area.
Houseboating season goes from June until October. While there will be lots of houseboats, especially in July and August, this is a big lake with 1,000 kilometers (over 600 miles) of shoreline, so there’s lots of room.
But house boating isn’t the only fun thing to do in Sicamous, if you’re here in the winter, the community borders four mountain ranges and has been voted as having the best snowmobiling in Western Canada. There are also some nice local trails for snowshoeing.
Stop by for fresh milk, ice cream, and cheese from D Dutchmen Dairy where everything is produced on-site. It’s a small family-owned farm in Sicamous that focuses on high-quality ingredients.
The milk is sold in glass containers to keep it cold for longer and you can even buy egg nog here at Christmas! They also have 62 different flavors of ice cream which have been called BC’s Best Ice Cream – making this a must-visit if you have kids (or adults!) who love a treat.
Vernon is a smaller city that we often visit because of family here. We last visited during a hot Okanagan summer, which was the perfect time to see the splendor of this area. Vernon is bordered by three different lakes and has impressive mountains as a backdrop and rolling grassland hills. It’s not as touristy as Kelowna can be but there are still plenty of fun things to do in Vernon.
While you’re in Vernon, these are a few of our favorite stops:
- Davison Orchards – This is one of my favorite places to visit in Vernon, so plan to spend at least an afternoon here! The café at Davison Orchards has outstanding homemade sandwiches (try the grilled cheese!), ice cream made with real fruit, and 100% pure apple juice from apples picked in their orchards. There’s also an animal barn here and tractor rides for kids.
- Downtown Vernon – There are some unique shops and restaurants along 30th avenue to wander around. Everything from toy stores to a great little fish and chips shop. During the summer, you might also find an outdoor market here!
- Visit an Okanagan Valley winery – There are over 100 different wineries in this area so there is no shortage of options! We always prefer going on an organized tour instead of driving ourselves. We can never agree on who will be the designated driver and we love having an expert on hand! There are several different wine tours that have the option to depart from Vernon. Some of the top ones though are the West Kelowna Tour and the East Kelowna Tour. They both visit 4 different wineries, last around 5 hours, and include lots of samples!
- Silver Star Mountain Resort – This is a great destination in all seasons. In the winter, hit the slopes here for skiing and snowboarding fun. Then in the summer, take the gondola up to the top of the mountain for stellar views of Vernon and Kalamalka Lake (pictured above).
- BX Falls – Follow the short trail (400 meters/1,312 feet) through the forest and down the stairs to see BX Falls. The waterfall is the most spectacular from April to June when snowmelt roars down from SilverStar Mountain. On a summer day, take the chance to dip your toes in the waterfall pool to cool off. In the winter, the waterfall freezes, and the cascading ice is spectacular.
- O’Keefe Ranch – Founded in 1867, this historic ranch was the end of the wagon road into the Okanagan Valley and a stagecoach depot. Now, tourists can travel back in time to learn about the history of the area in this self-contained historic community complete with a blacksmith, church, and post office.
- Hike Rattlesnake Point – this is one of my favorite hikes in the area. It’s a pretty easy one and good for all skill levels. You can reach the viewpoint from a few different connecting trails, but the best place to start is at the Jade and Juniper parking lots, off of Kidston Road, leaving Vernon. This will take you on a 4 km trail (2.5 mi), climbing just 70 meters (230 feet) to reach the view from Rattlesnake Point at the tip of Kalamalka Lake – absolutely stunning! It’s worth bringing a picnic lunch or some snacks to sit up here and take it all in!
Related Read: Check out the best cafes in Vernon while you’re in town!
11. Lake Country
Once you’re done exploring all the amazing things to do in Vernon, it’s time to hit the road on your way to Kelowna. Less than a half-hour from Vernon is Lake Country, a picturesque community in the heart of the Okanagan Valley. It is surrounded by three lakes, orchards, farmland, lakeside scenery, and wineries.
Stop for lunch at Grey Monk Estate Winery for a great meal with a view. Try the Baked Brie BLT paired with a glass of sparkling wine. To really enjoy their award-winning wines, book a wine tasting in the Estate Room for $20 CAD per person. You’ll have panoramic views of the lake and vineyard and try all the whites, rosés, and red wines they are famous for.
You can also book this Lake Country Wine Tour that stops at Gray Monk Estate Winery and 4 other unique wineries nearby that also have scenic views from their properties. It costs $239 CAD, lasts 5 hours, and includes and wine expert and plenty of samples! It’s really a great price and eliminates the need for a designated driver!
If you plan on drinking wine, be sure to book a nice hotel for the night. There are a few great places to stay in Lake Country and you won’t regret waking up with lake views!
While in Lake Country, you can also shop at local fruit stands for freshly-picked produce, go to the Farmers’ Market on Friday afternoon, try out one of the local beaches, hike one of the many trails in the area, or rent a boat and go out on Wood Lake.
One of the best beach parks to hang out at is Kaloya Park on Kalamalka Lake. It’s so green and there is a ton of open space, trees, picnic tables, and a playground so it’s a very versatile stop if you’re traveling with kids or a dog.
The are also a few nice beach access points to take a cool dip in the clear, clean water!
Related Read: While you’re in the area, check out some activities on our list of Fun things to do in the Okanagan Valley!
You have arrived at your final destination! The beautiful city of Kelowna! Now that you’re here, take the time to explore this city with so much to do. It’s located in the heart of British Columbia and is the gateway to the Okanagan Valley.
This region is full of outdoor areas to explore that are stunning in the summer (think lakes, beaches, and wineries). Kelowna is also the perfect winter adventure full of epic things to do when the snow falls.
While you’re in Kelowna, here are a few ideas for activities to try:
- Take a walk – It sounds simple, but walking the Kelowna waterfront is a lot of fun. You can visit the marina, waterpark, playground, Hot Sands Beach, and see the famous statue of Ogopogo! There’s also a Waterfront Boardwalk that’s especially nice at sunset. Downtown Kelowna is full of beautiful cafes and stores to wander into as well.
- Go biking – For the size of Kelowna, the network of bike-friendly trails is the most extensive anywhere in Canada! If you aren’t traveling with your own bikes then you can rent these e-bikes from Lakeside-Eco Sport. They will let you pick from many different GPS itineraries that you can follow from the app. The price starts at $39 CAD for 2 hours and you can also rent them for 4 or 8 hours. If you don’t want to self-explore check out this Bicycle Tour on Historical Kettle Valley Railway. It stretches from the Myra Canyon to Penticton and the beautiful route passes Okanagan Lake and Chute Lake. You’ll see wildlife and wildflowers, cross bridges, go through tunnels, and learn about the history of the railway. End the 24 km (15 mi) cycle with a winery tour of 3-4 boutique wineries! I really think the value of this 9-hour tour matches the $259 CAD price tag.
- Go skiing – If you’re in Kelowna in the winter, the local ski resort is Big White and I love it there. It has 119 trails all with great views of the panoramic snow-topped peaks. The ski season here goes from November to April, but I particularly like late February for warmer temperatures and good snow cover.
- Sailing Cruise on Okanagan Lake – One of the most fun ways to get enjoy the beauty of the lake is to go out on a boat! Booking this private cruise means that you can enjoy the peace and calm of this setting without interruption. You’ll let the wind carry you past downtown Kelowna, City Park, Hot Sands Beach, and the Floating Bridge. Your captain will also teach you how to sail the boat if you wish to learn. The price for two people begins at $320 CAD and the cost goes down with the more people you bring.
- Skate at an outdoor rink – Kelowna has a waterfront rink in Stuart Park that makes for a picture-perfect way to spend a wintery afternoon. There’s free public skating here from December until the end of February, depending on the weather.
- Take a wine tour – With the warm climate and vineyards galore in this area, it’s no surprise this is one of the best things to do in Kelowna! I’ve done wine tours through West Kelowna and East Kelowna and every winery is special. The wine region here is famous for Riesling and Gewürztraminer, but there’s also some amazing Pinot Noir and Rosé that you can find at most of the wineries in and around Kelowna. If you’re more of a beer fan, check out the many different craft breweries in Kelowna too!
- Pick fruit – There’s nothing quite like fruit ripened by the sun and eaten fresh! There are a bunch of U-pick farms around Kelowna to pick fruit and berries at a discounted rate. We picked three pounds of raspberries for about $7 CAD (not counting the ones I ate that didn’t make it into my bucket.)
Where to Stay in Kelowna
The truth is that there are so many hotels in Kelowna that it can be hard to know which one to choose for your stay. Well luckily for you, Dan and I have stayed in a lot of different hotels in Kelowna and have been able to narrow it down to our absolute favorites!
Here are the best places to stay in Kelowna including our personal top choice, a few budget options, mid-range options, as well as some luxury options for those of you looking to spoil yourselves!
Coast Capri Hotel Kelowna – Our Top Choice
We’ve stayed at our fair share of hotels in Kelowna, but last time we stayed at the Coast Capri Hotel and loved it! Our pool-view room was perfect with a huge balcony, two large queen beds, and even a desk area so that we could get some work done (when we weren’t busy down by the pool, of course!)
One of the best things about the Coast Capri Hotel is that it’s affordable without sacrificing any of the comforts you’ll need for a relaxing and enjoyable stay – suitable for almost all travelers and budgets. The location is central and the amenities are top-notch.
If you’re visiting in the summer be sure to go to the pool where you can order food and drinks to enjoy poolside – we even had cocktails in the pool one night!
You can book this hotel on Booking.com. Be sure to book as far in advance as possible because these guys are often fully booked!
Low Budget Hostels in Kelowna
Samesun Kelowna – This is easily your best budget option and one of the only options for backpackers. A dorm bed in a mixed room costs $41 CAD whereas a private room with a shared bathroom costs $108 CAD. The reviews are really good and the property is quite modern, plus, there is a large common kitchen and indoor and outdoor lounge spaces. The location is perfect if you want to be close to downtown and they include a free breakfast that includes fruit and pancake mix. You can book a room on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.
Medium Budget Hotels in Kelowna
Days Inn by Wyndham Kelowna – This hotel is located a few minutes from town and although it’s not fancy it was just renovated and costs $152 CAD for a queen room with a sofa. The property also provides toiletries and a complimentary continental breakfast each morning. Outside there is a pool to enjoy in the summer and it’s also reviewed as a clean hotel with friendly staff.
Dilworth Inn – I’ve personally stayed at the Dilworth Inn. This place is a great medium-budget option that’s a little out of the city center but very close to the farmers market and other great amenities. They also have an indoor pool, spa, and sauna! Some of the queen rooms even have kitchenettes and cost $175 CAD a night so you can save more money and eat in your room.
Hillcrest Farm Market B&B – If you don’t mind staying a little out of the city then you may just fall in love with the family-run Hillcrest. It’s located 8 km (26 mi) from the city center but is beautifully located. It’s around $250 CAD per night but includes an awesome breakfast downstairs at the cafe! Most of the rooms have private balconies, a fireplace, and mountain views. There is also a cherry farm on the property which has a unique story behind it.
Delta Hotels – This is the best high-budget hotel in Kelowna. It does come at a hefty price of $420 CAD a night but it’s superbly located. It has both an indoor and outdoor pool as well as an onsite casino! If you can afford it, treat yourself!
Renting a Car in Alberta
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.
Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass”Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.
- Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
- Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD
Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!
Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $37 CAD and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $28 CAD and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Thanks for reading!
As you can see there are plenty of awesome stops on the short-ish drive from Calgary to Kelowna, and despite it only taking 7.5 hours I hope you can understand my reasoning as to why it’s so important to stop along the way. I mean, you’re passing through some of the most beautiful parts of the country like Banff, Lake Louise, and Vernon!
I hope you will love the drive from Calgary to Kelowna as much as I do, I can’t wait to drive this scenic route again soon!
If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also enjoy some of my other posts about Canada road trips. Some of my favorites include: