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Celebrating Spring in the Thompson Okanagan

By Sarah Israel/

Great Taste of Canada

The Thompson Okanagan is home to every vista you could ever hope to see: tall mountains, rolling hills, raging rivers, peaceful lakes, temperate rainforests, and even a dry desert. These diverse natural elements collide to create a unique terroir, where good things seem to grow in abundance all year long.

Ready to start exploring this unique corner of British Columbia? We’ve got you covered! Today, we’re sharing our step-by-step plan for a perfect springtime visit to the Thompson Okanagan.

Where is the Thompson Okanagan?

The Thompson Okanagan region is in the southern interior of British Columbia, and it covers a huge area – approximately 71,600 km², which is roughly the same size as Ireland! 

The northern point of this region borders Alberta in the Canadian Rockies, while the southernmost edge of the Thompson Okanagan shares an international border with the state of Washington.

This diverse region is home to over 120 communities, including 33 Indigenous communities. Major cities include Kelowna, Kamloops, Osoyoos, and Vernon.

Spring Into the Thompson Okanagan
The Thompson Okanagan is home to four wine regions: the Similkameen Valley, the Okanagan Valley, the Thompson Valley, and the Shuswap.

How do I get there?

Depending on your start-end points, the Thompson Okanagan region is a 4-5 hour drive from Vancouver. There are also several airports in the area, including the Kelowna International Airport. 

When is the best time to visit?

Spring is a great time to visit the Thompson Okanagan: not too hot, not too cold, and most tourist attractions are open for the season, so you won’t miss out on any of the fun.

Planning a springtime visit will also help you avoid closures and delays due to wildfires. Unfortunately, the Thompson Okanagan region has dealt with a series of damaging summer wildfire seasons in the past few years. The best way to help small businesses and producers in the region rebound is to plan a visit! The communities in the Thompson Okanagan are open for business and look forward to welcoming you.

Where should I go?

The Thompson Okanagan region is home to more than 200 licensed wineries scattered throughout four wine regions: the Similkameen Valley, the Okanagan Valley, the Thompson Valley, and the Shuswap.

In each region, you’ll find tons of foodie opportunities, including restaurants, breweries, farmers’ markets, cideries, winery restaurants, fruit stands, and more.

We’ve put together a traveler's guide to the Thompson Okanagan to help you make the most of your time in the area. This guide is split up by region, so plot out your itinerary and chart a course for your next delicious bite.

Similkameen Valley getting here
Beautiful vistas await in the Similkameen Valley. Photo via

The Similkameen Valley

The Similkameen Valley runs roughly east-west; it starts in Manning Provincial Park and Tulameen on the eastern edge, stretches through the grassy meadows of Princeton’s cattle country, and winds up in the fruit orchards and vineyards of Keremeos and Cawston on the western side.

This region holds two special distinctions: Keremeos is known as the Fruit Stand Capital of Canada, while Cawston holds the title of Organic Farming Capital of Canada thanks to the nearly 100 certified organic farms in the area.

The best way to enjoy this region is to let the scent of just-picked fruit and veg lead you to one of the area’s many farm stands. If you spot an interesting sign along the way, turn off the road and go explore – you never know what you might find!

For more food and drink options in the Similkameen Valley, visit the HelloBC website.

Okanagan vineyards at King Family Farms
The vineyards at King Family Farms. Photo via

The Okanagan Valley

The Okanagan Valley stretches north-south and includes the cities of Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, and Osoyoos. This is one of British Columbia’s top-producing wine regions and there are tons of award-winning vintages to enjoy in this area, including CedarCreek Estate Winery in Kelowna. Chef Neil Taylor, who heads up Home Block on the winery grounds, was one of ten chefs who traveled to Ottawa in February 2024 to compete for the title of Canadian Culinary Champion. Read more about it here!

A warm welcome awaits 2SLGBTQIA+ travelers in the Okanagan Valley, which bills itself as “a region for all.” Click here to learn more about the Thompson Okanagan’s commitment to safe and inclusive travel and their Rainbow Registered certification.

There are hundreds of food and drink options in the Okanagan Valley alone! To browse the full list and plan your itinerary, visit the HelloBC website.

Thompson Valley
Photo via

The Thompson Valley

The Thompson Valley stretches east and south of Kamloops towards Merritt. The rugged landscape of the area lends itself to mountain biking, skiing, and outdoor activities of all kinds. After a long day of exhilarating mountain adventures, set your sights on Kamloops for dinner! Whether you’re looking for a casual family restaurant, a lively pub, or fine dining options, the city has it all.

The cuisine in Kamloops is inspired by the nearly 3,500 international students from over 100 countries who come to the city each semester. Diners can find Caribbean, Japanese, Mexican, Italian, and Vietnamese options throughout the city. As the weather warms up, stop for lunch at one of the many food trucks in Kamloops.

To discover the many intriguing culinary options in the Thompson Valley, visit the HelloBC website.

Sicamous, set along Shuswap and Mara lakes. Photo by Shuswap Tourism via

The Shuswap

Our last stop through the Thompson Okanagan is an area west of Kamloops known as the Shuswap. This region offers fishing, hiking and biking in the summer, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and sledding in the winter, and a number of wineries to visit year-round.

This area sits on the traditional territories of the Secwepemc, or the “meeting of the waters,” and is a place of gathering for different cultures and cuisines. Looking for an olive oil and vinegar tasting room? You got it. What about an Italian-style cheese factory? They have that too. And if you want to enjoy milk from Canada’s first 100% grass-fed-only dairy farm, you’ve come to the right place.

After a few days in the Shuswap, you’ll be ready to Shu-swap lives with the residents of this beautiful area and stay indefinitely. To start planning your culinary excursions, visit the HelloBC website.

Where can I learn more?

For a stop-by-stop guide to the Thompson Okanagan, check out this article, and to start planning your trip, head to the Canada Culinary destination guide to the Thompson Okanagan. Happy trails to you!