Kelowna and Shuswap fell just after the midpoint of our Canadian road trip. A little over two weeks in, we drove out of Seattle, heading North to Canada.
Crossing back into Canada was a lot less hassle than driving into the US had been. It’s worth noting if you’re a single parent, though, you will be asked for your child’s birth certificate and a letter from your child’s other parent confirming they are aware of your travel plans.
Kelowna is a four hour drive North East from Vancouver, in the Okanagan Valley. This is Canada’s wine country, but for us, it was a chance to explore the mountains, forests and lakes that this part of Canada has in spades.
Driving into Kelowna over the huge bridge, we spotted some inflatables in the water. A quick Google turned up possibly the Greatest Place on Earth for your average 11-year-old. Wibit is a giant inflatable playground for kids big and small. Just $25 buys you a full day’s access.
You can come and go as you please, so you’re free to take a picnic break in the neighbouring park, swim in the lake, visit the playground, and just have a wander. Because it turns out clambering back on those suckers after you fall off? Is ridiculously hard. Lifeguards are on duty on Wibit all day, and lifejackets are mandatory, so it all feels pretty safe.
Our AirBnB apartment in Kelowna had a pool which was a blessing – the Okanagan gets very hot during the summer, it was around 35 degrees during our visit. We also loved the wildlife nearby, especially the friendly deer who liked staring at us through our lounge window!
Our second must-do recommendation for families with kids in Kelowna is a visit to Myra Canyon. This 12km former railroad travels across 18 wooden trestle bridges and under 2 tunnels. We hired bikes at the car park, and drove along the canyon trail and back. You’ll see eagles, chipmunks, squirrels and we even spotted a few herd of deer along the way.
The route is about 25km but fairly flat, and there are a couple of bathrooms along the way. It’s really manageable with kids, and takes around 3-4 hours including lots of stops for drinks and a picnic. Just take plenty of water, and buckets of sunscreen!
This involved – I kid you not – Flea climbing 80 feet up a wooden pole, standing on a tiny platform over a 300 foot ravine, and jumping. INSANE. There’s a rope attached (of course) and an auto belay that slows your fall after 50 feet and lowers you gently to the ground. Still – it was too scary for me, so I let Flea take on that particular challenge.
There are a range of ziplines here and they’re lots of fun – there’s plenty here for kids, including a play area and puzzle zone, which you’re free to explore after you’ve completed your zips.
A couple of hours further North, and we left Kelowna for Lake Shuswap, and the town of Salmon Arm. We arrived in the middle of the country’s biggest roots and blues festival, meaning we could spend our evenings sitting on the deck outside our rental apartment listening to live music. Perfect!
Lake Shuswap itself is a gorgeous place to explore, with numerous beaches where you can swim, sail and laze around.
Our favourite was probably Herald Park, a grassy provincial park with picnic tables and bathrooms, and a stony beach. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards here, and the swimming is perfect. We took a picnic and spent a lazy day here, reading and swimming. There’s a cabin where you can hire kid-sized kayaks, paddle boards and lifejackets.
Herald Park is also close to some great walking trails – the path from the beach up to Margaret Falls is accessible even with pushchairs, and there’s a more challenging walk up to the top of the canyon, which gives some awesome views (although it was rather overcast the day we made the trek).
Expect to spend about 90 minutes doing this trail, and it does get hot, so take plenty of water with you.
During the summer months, the river levels are really too low to go rafting in Okanagan, but it’s still possible to raft in Shuswap, so we headed off to the Adams River for some white water rafting. This was a really well organised trip – you meet at the rafting Adams River Rafting office in Scotch Creek, then it’s a 20-minute ride on a yellow school bus to the drop off site. We spent a gorgeous morning rafting. There were lots of breaks, so we could swim in the river and do a bit off (mini) cliff diving into the water.
On the way back into town, we stopped at the Blue Canoe for sandwiches and it was there that Flea announced, “Mum, I feel a bit …” before pulling an Exorcist, and being violently ill.
For the remainder of our stay in Shuswap, poor Flea struggled to keep down anything more than a few sips of water, and a mouthful of plain rice.
We were due to leave for Vancouver Island but the journey there would be at least 12 hours, so I cancelled our ferry tickets to give Flea more time to recover before the long journey. Being ill sucks at the best of times, but I’m not sure there’s much worse than being ill on holiday, is there?
Thank goodness we brought along the cable that connects my laptop to a TV, and we watched an entire season of The Amazing Race on Amazon Prime from the sofa.
Not very exciting, I confess, but it was about all my poor girl was up to. Fortunately, she was on the mend the next day and we left for our final holiday destination – Vancouver Island – just 24 hours after we’d planned.
Don’t miss Part 1 of our Road Trip: Vancouver and Granville Island
And Part 2 of our Road Trip: Whistler
And Part 3 of our Road Trip: Port Angeles and Seattle