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Driving through British Columbia is a fantastic way to enjoy all the amazing scenery and beauty this province has to offer. A quick and easy road trip is the drive from Kelowna to Vernon. It’s only 50 kilometers (31 miles) and should take about 45 minutes, without stopping.
But this is an incredibly beautiful part of British Columbia, so there are so many great places to stop! I’ll take you through the 12 best places on the drive from Kelowna to Vernon and some of my favorite things to do along the way – from brunch spots and wine tours to beautiful beaches and lakes!
Note: This road trip also works in reverse if you plan to drive from Vernon to Kelowna.
About the Drive from Kelowna to Vernon
The drive from Kelowna to Vernon covers 50 kilometers (31 miles) along Highway 97. This route is breathtaking as the road follows the shores of Okanagan Lake! This is one of those drives where you have to plan to stop to enjoy the scenery – don’t rush!
Because of the short distance, this is an easy road trip to turn into a day trip and return to Kelowna on the same day. Or, plan to stay a night or two in Vernon and take your time on the drive.
As Kelowna and Vernon are so close, you could also take the bus. This is an excellent option if you don’t want to rent a car or pay for gas for the trip. It’s only $5 each way. Plan to catch a bus at the UBCO Exchange, which is a bus terminal on the UBC Okanagan campus, or downtown Kelowna. Buses typically run every hour during the week and every two or three hours on the weekend.
If you’re visiting Kelowna in the winter and planning to drive in the cooler and snowier months (typically from November to March), make sure your car has winter tires. The tires have extra grip for the ice and snow that could be on the road. Winter tires are mandatory on most B.C. highways from October 1 until March 31, and you risk a fine if you don’t have them.
Always check a road report before you head out. Winters in British Columbia can present a variety of conditions from icy roads to avalanches and snowstorms. In the summer, there’s also the risk of wildfires and summer storms, make sure driving conditions are safe before you hit the road.
This is definitely a road trip to do during the day! Set off early from Kelowna to allow yourself plenty of time to fit in activities like a round of golf, brunch, or a beach day.
12 BEST Stops on the Drive from Kelowna to Vernon
First off, before you leave Kelowna, 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 – one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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 of activities to try:
- Take a walk – It sounds simple, but one of our favorite things to do in the Okanagan Valley is walking the Kelowna waterfront. 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. Wander around downtown to check out some of the best boutique stores and coffee shops in Kelowna.
- Go skiing – If you’re here 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. Ski season here goes from November to April, but I particularly like late February for warmer temperatures and good snow cover.
- 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 (not counting the ones I ate that didn’t make it into my bucket.)
If you’re in Kelowna for a while, check out my recommendations for where to stay – there are a few different areas to choose from.
2. Knox Mountain Park
Knox Mountain Park is the largest natural area park north of downtown Kelowna. It’s a fantastic escape from the city and a popular spot for locals and tourists. The park is open every day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and offers some spectacular views!
There are so many trails here, and you can visit a few times to try out different ones or plan to walk a couple if you can stay longer. Most of the trails are accessible from the Ellis Street entrance and nearly all of them have a steep incline but are still considered doable for less experienced hikers. Once you reach the top, you’re treated to a spectacular view of Kelowna, the surrounding valley, and Okanagan Lake.
You’re also likely to see some wildlife like chipmunks or deer – occasionally, you might spot a moose or bear, but those are less common. When hiking here in the summer, make sure to bring water as it gets pretty hot and there’s no water source along the trails.
3. The Okanagan Golf Club
If you have time for a round of golf, make a stop at The Okanagan Golf Club. It has two 18-hole golf courses in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains nestled among ponderosa pine forests and open meadows. A round of golf here gives you time to appreciate the scenery!
The two courses to choose from are the Bear Course and the Quail Course. The Bear is a unique course that can be ferocious like a grizzly or gentle like a teddy bear … it depends on what set of tees you choose. The course climbs through treed hills, has a section right near the waters of Lake McIvor and a plateau overlooking the Okanagan Valley. The Quail Course has more dramatic elevation changes, multi-tiered fairways, and stunning views. It requires accurate shooting and has a challenging 18th hole where shots can often end up near the lake’s edge (or in it!).
It will cost $160 CAD to play one of the courses during the high season from May until September. However, there are cheaper rates for tee times in the afternoon and evening.
4. Stephens Coyote Ridge Regional Park
This rustic park is a lesser-known park that is a nice quiet escape from the bustle of Kelowna. A hike here will take you through the wilderness of the Okanagan Valley with forested trails, past some hidden ponds and grasslands, and you may even catch a glimpse of a coyote!
If you can find it, Little Blue Lake is hidden in this park among the Glenmore Hills. A narrow trail goes past the north side of the dog park that leads here. It’s not a marked path, but the lake here is beautiful and you can swim in it. There’s even a rope swing for extra fun!
The park can be accessed from the entrance along north Glenmore Road and Werger Road. It’s open from dawn until dusk, so the hours vary depending on the time of year you go.
5. The Jammery
In my opinion, the is THE best brunch in Lake Country. The Jammery is a restaurant and gift shop and also a little jam factory – hence the name. You can even watch them make jam from a viewing window in the gift shop. All the fruit jams here are made from local B.C. fruit!
The Jammery is famous for the light, fluffy “All You Can Eat Waffles” served with whipped cream and homemade four-berry or strawberry sauce. There’s also amazing Eggs Benedict, French Toast, and a variety of sandwiches and wraps.
They specialize in breakfast and lunch and are only open every day, but only until 3 p.m. This is a really busy place on weekends, so make reservations to ensure you don’t miss out!
6. Lake Country
This picture-perfect spot is at about the halfway point of the drive from Kelowna to Vernon. Lake Country is a community nestled in the Okanagan Valley and surrounded by three different lakes. They’re famous for their scenery as well as fresh fruit – stop at a local fruit stand if you can!
Lake Country is well-known for its superb wineries. One of our favorites is Grey Monk Estate Winery. You can book a tasting in the Estate Room here for $20 CAD, enjoy panoramic views of the vineyard, and try all the wines they are famous for. The restaurant at Grey Monk is called The Lookout and has a stellar patio that overlooks Lake Okanagan.
Another favorite winery is Arrowleaf Cellars, named after a flower known as the Okanagan Sunflower that grows on the hillsides here. This winery produces 16,000 cases of wine a year and takes advantage of the warmer climate, letting grapes mature on the vines until late October. Try the Riesling 2020 with its fresh acidity and citrus notes that won a Gold Medal at the National Wine Awards of Canada!
7. Raven Ridge Trailhead – Spion Kop Hiking Trails
Take a detour and go for a hike with some incredible views of Lake Country. The Spion Kop Hiking Trails are a massive network of trails in the area. We like starting at the Raven Ridge Trailhead – although there are three other trailheads to start at for different hikes.
The Raven Ridge Trailhead has two trails that are good options to take. The first is the Paint Brush Trail (2 kms/1.2 miles) which is relatively shaded and leads through the forest. It connects up to the Grand Overlook and eventually the Spion Kop Summit with some spectacular views of five different lakes at the top!
The other trail from this trailhead is the Ridgeline Trail (1.5 km/0.9 miles), a more secluded loop. Taking this trail will lead you up an old glacier ridge with stunning views of Terrace Mountain and Okanagan Lake.
8. Okanagan Rail Trail
This trail is 50 km long (31 miles) – which is actually the same distance as Kelowna to Vernon! The Okanagan Rail Trail does almost connect the two cities – but parts of the trail are under construction, so it isn’t continuous. When it’s finished, the trail will lead from Downtown Kelowna all the way to Kal Beach.
There is a section of the trail that is beautiful and easily accessible not far from Kayoya Regional Park (next on this list.) From this particular point, you can park your car and enjoy as much of the Okanagan Ril Trail as you want. This particular section of the trail is along the edge of Wood Lake, so it is beautiful.
Of course, there are lots of other places where you can access the trail including a popular point in Myra Canyon (pictured above) as well as near Kal Lake.
9. Kaloya Regional Park
This park is set on a peninsula that extends out into Kalamalka Lake and makes it feel like you’re on a little island! It’s a quiet oasis with a sandy beach on one side and a Lilypad pond as part of the wetland habitat on the other.
There are spots here to swim, picnic, or walk along the beach. There’s a big gazebo, playground, washrooms, and large weeping willow trees that provide lots of shade.
The scenery here is so beautiful with the striking backdrop of the lake that this is a popular spot for weddings! Any special events can be booked by calling the Regional Parks office.
10. Kekuli Bay Provincial Park
This park is located on a beautiful bay that shimmers with the turquoise waters of Kalamalka Lake. It’s a popular destination on the lake’s western shore for water activities like swimming, waterskiing, and boating. There are several beaches in the park and a small rental place in the summer for kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards so you can enjoy getting out on the water.
Kekuli Bay Provincial Park also has a newly-developed campground with 81 sites. All the campsites have a great view of the lake, and if you come in the spring, you’ll see wild rose bushes and sunflowers in full bloom. It costs $32 CAD per night to camp here and you can reserve online ahead of time for the summer months (or hope for an overflow site) or take a walk-up site in the spring and fall.
11. Kal Beach
With crystal-clear waters that look like they should be somewhere tropical, Kalamalka Beach (or “Kal Beach”) is a little slice of paradise on a Kelowna to Vernon road trip.
The lake here is known for water that actually changes colors throughout the year from cyan to indigo to turquoise. The vibrant hues come from limestone deposits left behind from the glaciers, and when the lake warms up, crystals form and reflect the sunlight.
Kal Beach has a huge stretch (almost 1,000 feet) of soft sand with a view looking right down the middle of the lake towards Kelowna. There’s also a large pier called Rotary Pier where you can fish, swim or sunbathe.
Grab something to eat from the concession or Alexander’s Beach Pub on the east side with a fantastic patio overlooking the lake. Or have a picnic with the nearby picnic tables or under the large poplar trees that provide some nice shade on a hot summer day.
Vernon is a great 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, 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. Plus, this small city has plenty of delicious cafes and restaurants to satisfy any craving while you’re there!
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 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!
- 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) 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.
Essential Tips for Driving from Kelowna to Vernon
- The drive from Kelowna to Vernon is only 50 kilometers (31 miles) along the very scenic Highway 97. Without stopping, it will take about 45 minutes. This is an easy day trip or plan to stay in Vernon to explore all the amazing things to do there!
- Leave early in the day. This will get you the best spot on the beaches, quiet hiking trails, an amazing brunch or a scenic round of golf. It also makes navigating the road easier if you haven’t driven this route before.
- If you’re doing the drive during the winter, check road conditions before you go. Also, ensure your car has winter tires as those are mandatory on most B.C. highways from October 1 to March 31.
- Bring a camera along! This is one of the most beautiful parts of Canada surrounded by mountains, lakes, forests and beaches.
- Consider keeping the road trip going! There are some incredible stops if you head to Alberta and make the drive from Kelowna to Banff.
Where to Stay in Vernon, BC
If you’re visiting Vernon you’ll need somewhere to stay! Below are some of our personal best recommendations of hotels in the area to suit all budgets!
Canadas Best Value Inn – If you want a central location then Canadas Best Value Inn is a good option. Their rooms are nice but a little outdated. Still, for under $100 a night including breakfast, it’s good value!
Fairfield Inn Suites – I would say this is the best value hotel in Vernon! It has a pool and a hot tub. It also includes breakfast and the reviews are awesome. At around $150 a night, this is the place I’d stay!
Prestige Vernon Lodge – The Prestige Lodge is your most luxurious hotel in Vernon. It features a pool, hot tub, and glass-enclosed atrium! They have so many rooms but there are usually only a few left so you know it’s good!
Didn’t find what you’re after? Click here to view all available hotels in Vernon, BC.
Before you go…
Kelowna and Vernon are close cities with some epic stops in-between. This is a stunning part of Canada in all seasons that is worth exploring. Because of the short distance between them, you get a whole new set of activities in each place as well as some incredible stops on the drive there.
I hope you now have lots of ideas to plan your own amazing Okanagan road trip from Kelowna to Vernon! If you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out some others including: