Osoyoos is a beautiful lakefront town with about 5000 residents located at the southern end of the Okanagan valley just north of the Canada – USA border crossing. It is a wonderrul destination for year round activities, especially for those who love the great outdoors.
The name comes from the First Nations word sẁiẁs pronounce “soo-yoos’ which means narrowing of the waters which perfectly describes how the Osoyoos lake is almost divided in two by the land. Highway 3 crosses the lake by means of a small bridge at the narrowest point. Small watercraft can pass underneath enabling them to utilize both sections of the lake. Indigneous peoples lived in tge area for thousands of years, while the first Europeans, fur traders at the time, began to settle in 1811. When the railway arrived in 1946, Osoyoos was incorporated as a village and later as a town in the 1980s. The railway is not longer operating.
Today, Osoyoos is popular with retirees and it swells with tourists every summer. Orchards and Wineries abound on the gentle slopes situated between the lake and the mountains.
Osoyoos is well known for its dry climate. While many have described the area as a desert, semi-arid is more accurate. It does average less than 13 inches of precipitation annually.
The summer months tend to be sunny and hot and the winters are relatively mild by Canadian standards, but temperatures do range pretty close to the freezing mark from November through February. Temperatures occasional drop much lower when Artic air pushes south through the valley several times over the winter months.
With an average water temperature of 24°C, Osoyoos Lake is the warmest fresh water lake in Canada which, combined with the beautiful sandy beaches and numerous resorts, helps attract so many visitors during the summer months.
Besides the lake itself and the many outdoor activities that can be enjoyed in the area, Osoyoos has museums, art galleries, craft wineries and more to enjoy.
Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre
The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is located on First Nations land on the eastern hillside above the northern portion of Osoyoos Lake. The centre is part of the Nk’Mip resort where you can stay or camp while visiting Osoyoos. Indoor and outdoor exhibits including interactive displays and multi-media theatres will educate you about the ecology, wildlife and history in the area. There is also a gift shop offering Aboriginal crafts and giftware.
Osoyoos Desert Centre
The Osoyoos Desert Centre is a 67 acre interpretive facility with an indoor interpretive centre and a 1.5 kilometre wooden boardwalk leading through the semi-arid shrub-steppe terrain. While the term desert is used loosing with names such as Okanagan Desert or Osoyoos Desert, this is somewhat misleading, as this area, while dry, still receives more precipitation than a true desert. None-the-less this is and interest place to see and learn more about this interesting and unique habitat. The centre is located a few kilometres north of town just off Highway 97.
The Osoyoos Museum showcases the history of the town since the first European settlers cam on the scene in the early 1800s. Exhibits and artifacts tell of the influence and change brought about by fur traders, farmers, ranchers and vintners. Learn how Osoyoos greww from a US/Canada customs post to the bustling little town it is today. The museum is easy to find at the foot of Main Street (near the lake) and it is open year round.
Okanagan Art Gallery
Okanagan Art Gallery is a hidden gem located on the towns busy Main Street. Rooms in the Gallery are flooded with natural light to help show off the many fine works of art which include paintings, sculptures and photography. The Gallery is run by a Co-op of Artists and a few are always available to answer questions. You may even encounter one actively working on a painting.
The Art Gallery Osoyoos
The non-profit Art Gallery Osoyoos is located in the Osoyoos Art Centre at the corner of 89th Street and Main Street. They feature original art produced by local and non-local talent.
Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad
Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad is a fascinating exhibit that features the largest Marklin model train layout in North America. You will see more than 20,000 hand-painted models of people and animals placed throughout the 4000 square foot miniature European style towns and mountains. As many as 45 cumputer controlled trains travel along an incredible 2km of track. This attraction will delight all ages and is open the year round Monday – Saturday from 10AM – 5PM. It is located at 11611 – 115 Street, which is just off Highway 3 a little west of town.
When it comes to wineries, there are almost two many to mention, but if you like wine, you will definitely want to enjoy some wine tasting at some of the local wineries. This has become an extremely popular activity thoughout the Okanagan Valley. There are also services that provide airconditioned vans to provide a hop-on hop-off tour of the area wineries. More information can be obtained at the Visitor Centre located at the junction of Highway 3 and 97.
Walking and Cycling
For those who love to walk or cycle there are some great paths available. The Canal Walkway on the west side of Osoyoos is a combination of paved and gravel trail starting at the Visitor Centre that loops around the airport and continues along the west bench adjacent to the Osoyoos Golf Course. It offers nice views as it passes between the fruit orchards and natural semi-arid shrub-steppe terrain.
Pioneer Walkway begins at Gyro Park at the foot of Main Street. It follows the western lakeshore south to the narrows and then, paralleling Main Street, it crosses the lake and continues south along the eastern shore, passing through Goodman Park and ending at Osoyoos Lake Regional Park.
The Provincial Park on Haynes Point is another great place to enjoy an easy stroll that literally takes you right out into the lake.
The surrounding mountains also have trails suitable for hiking and mountain biking.
If you need to rent a bike, check out Double O Bikes on Main Street. They rent out a variety of quality bikes including some E-Bikes at very reasonable rates.
Camping and Picnicing
There are a number of private camping and RV parks in Osoyoos. One of the most popular spots is the Provincial Park located on Haynes Point. This park sits on a narrow spit of land that extends about 3/4s of the way into the south portion of the lake. This is a very popular park during the summer months.
If you are just seeking out a place to enjoy a picnic, any of the municipal or regional parks are great.
For one of the best views of Osoyoos and the southern Okanagan Valley, drive east on Highway 3 to the Anarchist Mountain View Point. This viewpoint is located about 11 kms from the town centre and offers a spectacular view of the entire South Okanagan Valley.
Indian Grove Riding Stable at 600 Rancher Creek Road offers morning and afternoon group trail rides. These must be reserved in advance by phoning 250-495-7555.
Osoyoos is home to three golf courses. They all offer a beautiful setting and you can count on good weather. Located on the East Bench of the valley you will find the Sonora Dunes Golf Course a smaller par-35, 2523 yard course on which you can play 9 or 18 holes. The Osoyoos Golf Club located on the West bench features 2 full sized 18 hole courses. One is targeted for more experienced golfers while the other is suitable for all levels from novice up.
Boat and Watersport Rentals
Osoyoos is a fantastic place to enjoy the water. If you don’t have your own equipment, there are plenty places from which you can rent. One of the highest rated is Wakepilot at Walnut Beach Resort located on the eastern shore of the southern half of the lake is highly rated and offers kayak, stand-up paddleboard, goat and seadoo rentals. They also offer training. Other providers include ATB Watersports, Starlite Martina, and Osoyoos Beach Rentals.
Osoyoos has a wide range of accommodations available from simple motels to full lakefront resorts. There are numerous motels and hotels located along highway 3 where it crosses the narrows between the north and south half of the lake. Most of them offer beach access, but some are dated and not as well maintained as others, so check the reviews before booking. Other properties located just a short walk from the lake are available at lower rates and most offer a seasonal outdoor pool.