Taste the high country with a tour of working cattle ranches, orchards, and farms. This circuit starts just off the #5 Yellowhead Highway and tours the Nicola Valley, one of BC’s most secluded and beautiful valleys and home to two major cattle operations. Then, it’s up to Kamloops for some up-front and personal (not to mention safe) encounters with BC wildlife. Heading east into the Okanagan, you can see the fruits ripening on the vine or limb at any number of the orchards or vineyards which festoon the hillsides.
Day 1 — Vancouver to Merritt (3 hours)
Travel over the #5 Yellowhead Highway to Merritt. Arrive at the Merritt Visitor Information Centre located at the historic Baillie House for a short tour that will provide an historical look in to the pioneers of the Nicola Valley. The historic Baillie Property, operated by the Nicola Valley Heritage Society, consists of a house, barn, store and heritage style garden. The importance of the property is the extent to which the buildings have remained so unchanged since the early 1900’s. The former store on the property also enjoys its’ new purpose as Merritt’s Tourism Information Centre. Just ten minutes north of town, the Nicola Ranch, is one of Canada’s largest cattle ranches, located in a pretty river valley of the same name. Visitors will see the full range of activities on a working ranch, feeding livestock, baling hay, and irrigating the crops. Almost all the buildings that the ranch now occupies date from between 1876 and 1913 when the town of Nicola was the most important settlement in the area. Two historic churches, a blacksmith’s shop, and the ‘red barn’ ranch barn all add to the historical ambience. One hour or two hour tours are available. Hunting and fishing are popular with guests staying overnight at the ranch.
Continue north along Highway #5A, and turn off for Douglas Lake Ranch. Nestled amidst rolling hills and sagebrush, Douglas Lake Ranch is Canada’s largest working ranch, where 20,000 head of cattle graze and roam across a half-million acres of range land! On this property, guests will find some of the best fly fishing in the interior, over twenty kilometres of biking and hiking trails, and a peaceful place to sit back, relax and take in the beauty of this inspiring landscape.
Day 2 — Merritt to Kamloops to Vernon (2.5 hours)
Travel from Merritt to Kamloops along Highway #5A. Spend your morning discovering downtown Kamloops, where a visit to the Kamloops Museum tells the tale of the city’s pioneers. A new exhibit even celebrates the region’s fly-fishing heritage. A self-guided downtown heritage walking tour lets visitors relive a bygone era. Stop for lunch at one of many quaint restaurants before heading east to a Wildlife Park. See native species including grizzly bears, timber wolves, cougars, moose, mountain goats, birds of prey at this spacious 50 hectare park. Daily activities include wildlife encounters, interpretive talks, animal feedings, and even a wolf pack demonstration. The award- winning Discovery Centre includes the BC Eco-Discovery Gallery where guests explore the many habitats on which BC wildlife depend — rainforest, grasslands, mountains, the Interior plateau and the North. An outdoor amphitheater hosts the BC Wildlife Encounters Festival every July and August.
Head east from Kamloops on Highway #1, then follow the signs for Highway #97 to Vernon. Located approximately 10 minutes from Vernon along Highway #97 Historic O’Keefe Ranch was once one of the largest cattle ranches in the province, spanning over 20,000 acres of prime Okanagan range. Discover some of the oldest buildings in the North Okanagan, all carefully preserved and restored. Pan for gold, enjoy the huge model railway display, examine the vintage farm machinery and study the collection of rare breed farm animals. A guided tour of the grand O’Keefe Mansion offers a personal insight into the lifestyle of the Victorian era.
A highly recommended stop is at Planet Bee Honey Farm and Meadery where you can arrange a presentation next to a honey bee hive. Purchase some gift items and taste some mead. Davison Orchards also provides a great glimpse of the rich agriculture tradition of the North Okanagan. The farm is located at the north end of the fertile Okanagan Valley above Bella Vista Road. Blessed with the area’s legendary sunshine, the Davisons are able to grow over twenty varieties of apples as well as a choice selection of field produce including tomatoes, corn, peppers, cantaloupe and cutting flowers. Enjoy a wagon ride orchard tour, taste some of their fresh baked delicacies, pick some flowers, and browse through the farm’s gift shop.
Overnight in Vernon.
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Planet Bee Honey Farm and Honeymoon Meadery
Day 3 — Vernon to Kelowna
Head south to Kelowna, the largest city in the region, to one of the most beautiful areas and a drive along the lakeshore to visit Carmeli’s Goat Cheese Farm. Carmeli’s goat milk contains no additives or preservatives and they use no stimulation processes in their production, making sure every type of cheese reaches its true maturity. You can sample any cheese and we suggest taking a little slice to go along with the wine you bought earlier this afternoon. The two will make a perfect pairing in your hotel room. Try their home made Gelato — unbelievable!
A “must see” and a short, pretty drive from Carmelis is the Okanagan Lavender Farm. Originally planted as an orchard and for nursery stock in the 1950’s, the one acre property was re-planted in 1994 with lavender and now boasts over 18 varieties. You can pick your own lavender or browse their gift shop featuring many different types of lavender products. The fragrant fields overlook Okanagan Lake and the hustle and bustle of Kelowna far below. Summerhill Pyramid Winery is close by for a tasting, tour and meal.
Not far away, in fact just around the corner, you may want to discover Arlo’s Honey Farm. Here you see and hear about the dance of the honey bee and how this orchestrates the pollination of our flowers, fruits, berries and vegetables. Come for a short tour or to taste award winning honey and tour their gift shop and market for pollen, bees wax, fresh fruit, berries and vegetables in season. Arlo’s honey products are sold at the Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market.
Located in the heart of Kelowna’s Cultural District, the BC Orchard Industry Museum and the BC Wine Museum are both located in the Laurel Packing House, a former fruit processing facility. Tour the BC Orchard Industry Museum and discover what a day in the life of a Kelowna pioneer was like. The centerpiece exhibit is The Learning Tree, a fifty year-old Macintosh apple tree from K.L.O. Orchards. Travel over to West Kelowna for more wine touring and make a convenient stop at one one of the region’s newest wineries, Grizzli Winery.
Depart Kelowna to West Kelowna Vancouver via Highway #97/97C. (4 hours)
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