Out and About: The Penticton Only Locals Know
I recently found myself digging into Taco del Norte's absolutely delicious Spicy Coconut Crusted Shrimp tacos, and I found myself thinking: Penticton sure has become a tiny little paradise, filled with culinary delights and gorgeous natural attractions, wedged into the mountains of British Columbia's interior region.
Sure, some will say it has always been a paradise, but for me it wasn't always so. During my childhood, it was the one place I couldn't wait to get away from. A place I considered to be boring, sleepy, even backwards in some regards.
But with age comes wisdom (or so they say), and over the last few years I have come to appreciate the easy-going nature of Penticton. Not only do I now find the atmosphere kind of charming and definitely relaxing, but I'm also astounded at the many independent businesses that have seemingly sprung up out of the ground while I was away.
So I've taken it upon myself to "re-discover" Penticton with fresh eyes - to take time to appreciate the unique pieces of street art in the downtown core, to sit back and enjoy a glass of local wine in the warm spring sunshine, to go on hiking trails that I've never been before, and to check out new and old businesses alike.
I've put all my discoveries in one place - right here, to help you plan what to see, eat, and drink in Penticton.
The best lunch hangouts
Cannery Brewing With natural ale flavors like the Blackberry Porter and the Naramata Nut Brown, it’s clear that the brewers at The Cannery were inspired by their surroundings to create these delicious beers. The concrete patio is a nice lunch hangout for when the weather is warm (their nachos are pretty good, too!).
Tacos del Norte If you come across this small bright yellow taco shop in downtown Penticton, don’t hesitate to grab a seat on one of the bar stools inside. Tacos del Norte serves delicious Baja-inspired tacos – the Spicy Coconut Crusted Prawn Taco is a clear standout.
Hillside Winery Drive the scenic road out to Naramata and iconic Hillside Winery is one of the first large wineries you’ll pass by. With its wooden architecture and church steeple, this rustic winery pours not only great wine, but also serves uniquely appealing cuisine in its onsite restaurant (the patio is especially lovely). P.S. If you don’t make it for lunch, the afternoon Appy Hour includes some incredible dishes – the Beef Carpaccio and house made soups are to die for!
Burger 55 Serving gourmet burgers customized to your preference, this award winning burger joint is not to be missed. Burger 55 is located at the south end of Penticton on Front Street.
Places to find a good cup of coffee
Prague Cafe With a friendly Czech owner plus trinkets and photos from Prague all over this coffee shop, the Prague Café has an unmistakable European flair. Serving Euro-café style cappuccinos and home baked strudels, it’s a great spot to have some strong java right on Okanagan Lake.
The Bench Market Locally roasted coffee by Summerland-based Backyard Beans is the big draw here at The Bench Market, a great spot to stop for an iced beverage after cycling the popular KVR Trail. Their seasonal beverages, like the Iced Raspberry Rooibos, are also quite refreshing on hot summer days.
The Random Dish Located in the historic Cannery building, the specialty drinks at The Random Dish are absolute knockouts - the English Toffee Coffee and the Dirty Chai are must-tries. This cozy bistro also features classic lunch items like wraps, sandwiches, and homemade soups (in quite generous portion sizes) and homemade desserts (the tiramisu is one of the best I’ve had).
Bellevue Cafe Centrally located on Main Street in downtown Penticton, the Bellevue Cafe is one of the best places to people watch, curl up with a good book, or marvel at the large abstract artwork adorning the brick walls.
Where to consume the Okanagan's finest
Moraine Winery Sample all sorts of wines, from Merlot to Gewürztraminer to Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Malbec at the intimate tasting room inside Moraine Winery. My absolute favorite is the Ice Wine – rich, sweet, heavy, and full of delicious flavor.
Legend Distilling Another small-scale distillery that packs a gigantic punch, Legend Distilling produces high-quality vodka, gin, and other spirits. Side up to their rustic tasting bar, and try the Manitou Orange & Sumac Liqueur or the Blasted Brew Spiked Coffee. I’m sure you’ll be more than tempted to take one of the beautifully designed bottles home.
Maple Leaf Spirits Family owned and operated, Maple Leaf Spirits has been around since 2005, popularizing fine spirits and liqueurs in a region mostly known for its abundant vineyards. Handcrafted from Okanagan fruit, this little distillery produces some incredible products. The Maple and Cherry liqueurs are delicious on their own, but also work incredibly well when drizzled on top of desserts.
+ If you're in need of a few more recommendations, check out B.C. wine expert Rachel von Sturmer's handy guide Winetripping: Your Guide to the Best Wineries of British Columbia - Okanagan & Similkameen.
The ultimate dinner spots
Iyara Thai Restaurant A family owned and operated restaurant with exceptional dishes, at Iyara you can expect vibrant, nutritious, and authentic Thai food. It’s a small place with an aged and dark interior, but the quality and flavor of the cuisine certainly makes up for it. What should you order? Anything! Everything I’ve tried – from soups to pad thai to curry - is delicious
La Casa Ouzeria With a warm and rustic interior atmosphere, La Casa Ouzeria serves some of the best Greek and Italian food in town. The homemade lasagna made with their signature meat sauce is a real treat and the signature Ouzeria platter paired with a bottle of wine is perfect for a sumptuous date night.
Lachi Fragrant Indian cuisine cooked with traditional herbs and spices is what you'll find at Lachi. Choose your preferred spice level and savor some authentic chai while you wait.
Mykonos Pizza & Spaghetti House Officially my favorite pizza place in the Okanagan, Mykonos also serves delicious homemade pasta and other Greek specialties. With friendly staff, reasonable prices, and home-cooked recipes it’s easy to understand why they’ve been in business for over 30 years. Owners Cathy and John, who have run the place since the beginning, offer down-to-earth-dining while making their guests feel at home.
Bad Tattoo Brewery With their amusingly designated “Weird Pizzas”, think Okanagan fruit jelly topped with locally made specialty cheeses (sounds strange but it’s actually quite good), and their selection of craft beers (Dia de los Muertos Cerveza Negra is the popular standout), Bad Tattoo Brewery takes the concept of beer and pizza to the next level. Be sure to also try a sample of their house-made root beer – it’s smooth, refreshing, and much lighter in flavor than the taste we all know.
Memorable sites you shouldn't miss
Penticton Farmer's Market What began as a tiny market over 20 years ago has blossomed into one of the most extensive Farmer’s Markets in British Columbia with local agricultural producers, artisans, musicians, and food trucks spanning several city blocks. Each Saturday from 8:30am to 1pm, from May to October, you can find the Penticton Farmer’s Market in the 100-block of Main Street, while the 200-400 blocks contain handicraft and other local vendors. In the wintertime, a smaller version of the market takes place every second Saturday inside the Shatford Centre.
Skaha Bluffs Beloved by rock climbers of all skill levels, the Skaha Bluffs are a short drive south of Penticton along picturesque East Side Road. If you’re not much of a climber yourself, there are also some great hiking trails with valley views. Afterwards, it’s always fun to recharge with a snack while watching some of the pros scale the natural walls.
KVR Trail Although the official start of the heritage Kettle Valley Railway Trail is in Midway, B.C., some of the most scenic and best portions for cyclists are located in the Okanagan Valley. You can easily reach some of the old railroad tunnels overlooking Okanagan Lake and the Naramata Bench by bike or on foot. Head further towards Kelowna pass through Myra Canyon, where you’ll cross high-up trestles with fantastic views.
The Peach A Penticton classic down at Okanagan Lake. Check it out!
Munson Mountain What could be more iconic to Penticton than a mountain with giant white letters spelling the city name? Munson Mountain is the perfect spot for a picnic overlooking the city and surrounding valley. From the top (it’s only a short 5-10 minute walk up) you can see all the way up Okanagan Lake to Peachland and all the way down south to Okanagan Falls.
Traveling through the Okanagan on your way to either Vancouver Island or the Rockies? Penticton is the perfect place to stop on your way to relax for a week or two. For more inspiration and information pick up your copy of Lonely Planet British Columbia & the Canadian Rockies for a complete guide of beautiful western Canada.