Created in 1955, Okanagan Lake Provincial Park is located southeast of Kelowna, British Columbia. The park covers 98 hectares (240 acres) and is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, and water sports. Hiking around the scenic shores of the lake is also a popular pass time. The lake itself is 135km (84 miles) long and offers water-based fun for the whole family.
When the park was first created, it contained a barren hillside that needed some sprucing up. The area specifically between the lake and the highway was targeted for improvement. The decision to plant thousands of non-native saplings on the barren slopes pays off for today's visitors. Now, the natural arboretum provides habitat for different kinds of birds and a welcome respite from the view and noise of the highway.
Travelers come to the park for the beaches and water activities, but the camping is also part of this destination's appeal. Panoramic or direct water views are provided from the pet-friendly campsites. There are no RV hookups but you won't miss them since the campgrounds boast fantastic amenities.
If you're venturing further afield, you'll want to visit two notable parks in the area. The beaches of Sun-Oka Beach Provincial Park are only 15 minutes away, and the climbing opportunities of the impressive Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park are about half an hour away.
Most people visiting Okanagan Lake Provincial Park will be arriving from Kelowna or Vancouver. From Kelowna, the drive lasts about 40 minutes and travels through the small town of Peachland. For about half the trip you drive parallel to the beautiful lake. Highway 97 is paved with gradual curves.
RVers traveling from the major city of Vancouver will have a much longer drive. The trip will take a little under four hours in perfect conditions. This journey involves travel on the BC-5, known as the Coquihalla. The road varies from sections of four to six lanes and is one of the most dangerous highways in BC. Weather conditions vary wildly as you climb or descend depending on your direction of travel. Check that your brakes are in good working order and that you have enough horsepower to make the necessary steep, steady climb. If you are traveling this route during the winter, make sure you have all the necessary gear. Accidents are common, as are total shutdowns of sections of the highway. You may get stranded and have to stay in your vehicle overnight.
Large rigs are easy to park at the campgrounds and day use areas. Arrive early during peak season to ensure you get a suitable parking spot.
The main camping season at Okanagan Lake South is from the end of March to mid-October annually. It's open for winter camping from mid-October to the first snowfall. The largest sites at this provincial campground have a gravel surface and can accommodate rigs up to 50 feet in length. It's possible to reserve campsites in advance, and each one has its own fire ring and picnic table.
When you camp at the south location, you are right at lake level. The views are amazing and access to the water is easy. Buoys mark the swimming area, and there's a boat launch with nearby parking. The lakeshore features a picnic area with tables as well as a shelter if the weather is rainy. The kids can also let loose at the playground.
The campground welcomes pets, and there is a concession area open during the peak season for last-minute supplies. Hot showers, flush toilets, and a tap for drinking water round out the amenities. There are no options for hookups at any of the sites.
If you prefer views over the lake, Oakanagan Lake North Campground is for you. Its layout is made up of three different terraces that overlook the picturesque lake. The campsites here are more private than at the south camping area and offer shade and large gravel pads. The bigger sites will easily fit RVs up to 45 feet.
During the peak season, all of the 81 campsites are available for reservation. No winter camping is permitted, but the campground is open from mid-May to mid-September. Campers can access drinking water taps, restrooms, and hot showers onsite. No hookups are provided.
Each campsite has a picnic table, but since Okanagan North is on a hillside, your table and fire pit may be down a small set of steps. If members of your group have mobility issues, you'll want to confirm this before booking. If you want to visit the South Campground, there is a trail that connects them. As a camper at one, you can enjoy the amenities of both locations so the playground and boat launch at the south camp are easy to reach.
The beaches at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park are made up of small pebbles and the lake bed consists of pebbles and rocks. The water is a refreshing change from the hot summer sun and quite clear. Some quiet spots are also good for snorkeling.
There are no lifeguards available at the swimming beach, but buoys clearly mark the safe area. The beach is wide enough to provide a location to set up for the day. You can sunbathe, read, and watch the many boats go by.
The South Campground is the location of the park's only concrete boat launch and has parking nearby. Boating is a fun way to explore this huge lake in the shortest amount of time. You can bring your fishing gear to fish from the boat or use the boat to do some waterskiing or tubing.
Canoes and kayaks are another great way to travel the lake. Although you won't be able to cover as much ground, you'll have access to the shallow areas that large boats struggle to navigate. You can also do some fishing in a quiet cove from your kayak.
High winds on Okanagan Lake draw out the local windsurfers in numbers. If you're a fan of this activity, the lake is one of the best sites for windsurfing in the region.
A good place to start your windsurfing adventure is closer to Kelowna. The southerly and southwesterly winds south of the Highway 97 William R. Bennett Bridge commonly see wind speeds of 10-15 knots.
If you don't have your own gear, but want to try this sport or even some kite surfing, there are private companies around the lake that can help you out.
The main hiking area of Okanagan Lake Provincial Park is the one-kilometer trail that connects the north and south campgrounds. This scenic trail follows the lake and is suitable for most hikers. There are other areas of the park that can be toured on foot, such as the hillsides above the campgrounds.
When traveling through the park, you're likely to see some ground squirrels and other wildlife. You should be aware that some of the grassy areas are snake habitat. The grassy hillsides are a common place to cross paths with a rattlesnake. Wear high boots and long pants to help protect yourself.
Many visitors to the park come for the wonderful bird watching. On rare occasions, you may catch a glimpse of the vulnerable, blue-listed Lewis's woodpecker. More commonly, you'll spot quail, western meadowlarks, cedar waxwings, and hummingbirds.
Deer roam the area but do not travel into the campground due to fencing. You may see a black bear, cougar, or moose if you're very lucky and happen to be in the right place at the right time.
Other local wildlife includes gopher snakes and rattlesnakes, bats, western toad, and the western painted turtle.
If you're visiting Okanagan Lake to unwind, what better way is there to do so than by fishing? In the summer months of June, July, and August, try your luck fishing for some Kokanee salmon. By contrast, the largest rainbow trout are caught during the colder months of October to December.
While trolling on the lake you might also catch some lake whitefish or burbot. Whatever your goal is, make sure you have a valid British Columbia fishing license before you start.