At the southern end of the Okanagan Valley, this town of 5,000 is nestled on the west shore of Osoyoos Lake, Canada’s warmest freshwater lake (up to 24°C/75°F in summer). The town also boasts Canada’s highest year-round average temperature.
In a parking lot at the corner of Highways 3 and 97 is Osoyoos Visitor Centre (9912 Hwy. 3, 250/495-5070, www.destinationosoyoos.com, daily 8 a.m.–6 p.m. in summer, daily 9 a.m.–4 p.m. the rest of the year).
Away from the valley floor and its many orchards, the landscape is surprisingly arid. In one particular area, a 100-hectare (250-acre) “pocket desert” has the distinction of being Canada’s driest spot, receiving less than 300 millimeters (11 inches) of precipitation annually. It is a desert in the truest sense, complete with sand, cacti, prickly pear, sagebrush, lizards, scorpions, rattlesnakes, and other desert dwellers, including 23 invertebrates found nowhere else in the world.
Learn more about this unique landscape at the Desert Centre (250/495-2470 or 877/899-0897, summer daily 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., spring and fall daily 10 a.m.–2 p.m., adult $8, senior $7, child $5), a research and interpretive facility, where a boardwalk leads through this very un-Canadian environment.
To get there, follow Highway 97 north from Osoyoos, and take 146th Avenue to the west.
Accommodations and Camping
In summer, Osoyoos Lake attracts hordes of water-lovers and sun worshippers, so getting accommodations can be difficult—especially along the prime stretch of lakefront east of downtown along Highway 3.
You’ll need to book well in advance to get a room during summer at the
Sandy Beach Motel (6706 Ponderosa Dr., 250/495-6931 or 866/495-6931, www.sandybeachmotel.com, $169–299 s or d), but you’ll be glad you did. Set on a private stretch of sandy beach, the 25-kitchen-equipped units face a grassy courtyard, landscaped with crushed gravel pathways and cacti. Some have one or two separate bedrooms. Along the same stretch but larger and less personal is Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites (7906 Main St., 250/495-7223 or 877/660-8550, www.holidayinosoyoos.com, $179 s or d).
Haynes Point Provincial Park (camping $24) protects an extremely narrow low-lying spit that juts into Osoyoos Lake south of downtown. At the far end of the spit is a beautiful campground, with many sites enjoying lakefront settings.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition