I led with a wild arm motion swept out and pointed toward the
wild blue yonder. I then told her that I was off to Thompson
She tilted her head to one side and said, “That sounds like a
really chunky cookie.”
I said, “No, Canada!”
She shrugged, “Pepperidge Farm?”
I laughed, but was she wrong? I had not heard much of Thompson
I soon found out “the Okanagan,” as locals call it, is a
lake-speckled region in Central British Columbia with plenty of
green rolling hills and nearby mountains. It’s also one of main
stopping points for those touring between Vancouver and Calgary.
The Okanagan is a well-kept secret for vacationing Canadians with
attractions like a wine country, skiing, golf and wildlife.
While there are numerous quaint towns, Kelowna and Kamloops are
the largest and most recognizable cities in the region. Both have
airports, quality amenities and attractions with direct flights out
of Seattle (alternating seasons) via Horizon Airlines in the U.S.,
as well as daily flights from Vancouver. Either Kelowna or Kamloops
can work as a hub for day-tripping clients.
Kelowna feels like a city until travelers get off the main road
following well-placed wine route signs. Off the main thoroughfare,
winding roads lead visitors to numerous wineries worth exploring.
My favorite is Summerhill Pyramid Vineyards. Yes, there is a giant
pyramid on the grounds that serves as both a wine cellar and local
curiosity with proponents swearing that the exacting geometry
actually makes the wine taste better. Visitors will find free
tours, good food and some of the best wine in the area.
Two notable lakeside hotels sit just down the road from
Summerhill. Both properties are comfortable with Mateo Resort being
more business oriented and Hotel Eldorado more for families.
(Agents should ask about the heritage lodgings with antique
furnishings at Eldorado.)
While there are festivals year-round celebrating the local vino,
the Annual Okanagan Fall Wine Festival is best known and most
widely attended. It is also one of the few North American wine
festivals to take place during the grape harvest. The celebration
touts 165 events featuring wine and food with this year’s event
pouring Sept. 29-Oct. 8. (For clients making a winter trip, the
Icewine Festival is set for Jan. 19-21.)
Kamloops, established in 1812, is surrounded by mountains, more
lakes and a small-town vibe at its core. With ample natural beauty,
Kamloops is an ideal destination for most outdoor activities and
offers an excellent golf destination with 10 different courses and
seven championship-quality facilities, like the Sun Rivers Golf
Golfers may prefer staying at the cozy South Thompson Inn and
Guest Ranch with its golf packages I recommend the river-view
rooms. However, I prefer the charming Plaza Hotel with its
methodical 70-year-old elevator and proximity to the city’s
historical center. The Kamloops golf season begins in late-March
and runs until early November.
Another regional stay worth noting is the Quaaout Lodge, just
outside of Chase along Highway 1 (about two hours south of
Kamloops). The hotel is owned and operated by the Little Shuswap
Indian Band, and as legend has it, the 26-time fancy dance
champion, Elder Ernie Philip, still wows crowds around
Agents should know that Thompson Okanagan is a desert that gets
quite cold in the winter, hot in the summer and may be the best
keep secret in Western Canada.
Thompson Okanagan Tourism
All hotels offer agents 10 percent commission.
Plaza Heritage Hotel
South Thompson Inn and Guest Ranch