Further Afield Trips asks locals in a town well beyond Vancouver’s city limits where to find the best places to eat, drink, chill, and have a good time. Think of it as the country cousin to The Dishes.
Heading out to the Naramata, we could think of no better pair than Ned Bell – Executive Chef and General Manager of the historic Naramata Inn – and his Partner, Kate Colley (Director/Brand Experience) to turn us on to the area’s best spots for getting a truly local experience…
Good morning! Let’s take a walk/hike in nature before it gets too hot. Where should we go?
Ned: Naramata Creek Park. This 2.4km, hour long hike follows Naramata Creek up through a deep river canyon to a beautiful cascading waterfall.
Kate: This hike is as basic or as adventurous as you want it to be. It’s where I went this summer to get a dose of “green + fresh”. Something you miss moving from Vancouver. You can tiptoe or splash your way across the rocks and cut through the creek at various points. As you near the waterfall the options continue. Scramble up the rocks and sit beneath Naramata Creek Falls as high as you dare. Or stick to the dirt paths, one very steep but direct, the other kind of ramble-y. You’ll definitely see other hikers, but not too many.
N: Or Rock Ovens. Rock Oven Regional Park is a collection of stone and rock ovens built between 1911 and 1915 located on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR). The park is a collection of hiking trails leading to 10+ rock ovens which were built by the immigrant workers while building the Kettle Valley Railway. The rock ovens served as ovens to bake bread and feed the workers. The Rock Oven Regional Park is accessed by hikers and mountain bikers only. No road access. The route along the KVR to the rock ovens includes two tunnels and should take 3-4 hours to reach when hiking. From the trailhead on Smethhurst Road, the trail first leads explorers to Little Tunnel (rock tunnel and some great views). From the tunnel continue along the trail through the McCullough switchbacks and then to the regional park and the Adra Tunnel (collapsed rock tunnel).
Is there somewhere along the way we can stop for coffee?
N: Just Baked:: Naramata Street Coffee – not to be missed, serving locally roasted coffee and baked goods.
K: Just Baked is a great and quirky coffee find in Naramata. If I was doing the Creek Falls hike though, I would hit up Legend Distilling before or after. They do great picnic bento boxes, or head inside for a bite on the patio, or load up on their pre-made cocktails – most with a Naramata twist – Rhubarb Negronis, Farmberry Cosmos, Manhattans… Their housemade spirits are worth the stop, as well. I like the Blasted Brew and Naramaro. You could add a splash to your coffee…
Now we’re starving! Where should we eat? (breakfast/brunch or lunch)
N: Neverland Tea Cottage – one of Vancouver’s most beloved tea houses, now has a destination tea cottage in Naramata. Neverland Tea Salon was founded in 2013 by two childhood friends with a shared love for decadence, whimsy and adventure. Now, eight years later, this adventurous spirit has led them to the magical lakeside village of Naramata. Surrounded by vineyards, orchards, mountains and a peacock named Kevin.
K: The Tea Cottage is lovely. Locals’ favourite breaky though seems to be the Grape Leaf, a Naramata must despite its somewhat cryptic opening hours. If you wait long enough it’s also a guaranteed peacock sighting. Owner Elisa and family have been giving the take-out window heavy use these past 18 months, but pre-Covid they were dine-in and also boast a summer patio. Everybody goes there and the food is excellent. People wish it was open more often, and flock to it whenever it is. My faves are the build-your-own-breakfast-sandwich, hibiscus iced tea, locally made chai, veggie breakfast scramble, and, when I’m in the mood, a giant stack of pancakes. Great sandwiches and salads too.
We’ve got some free time for an afternoon adventure. What do you suggest we do?
N: My favourite – a bike ride! Naramata offers hundreds of mountain biking trails surrounded by beautiful rocky bluffs, ponderosa pine trees and scenic views of Okanagan Lake. The Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) Trail is the most popular ride due to its user-friendly 2.2% grade, picturesque views and the dozens of wineries along the way. The KVR Trail is the longest rail trail network in British Columbia—once a comprehensive railroad system, the decommissioned tracks are now home to an extensive recreational trail. The Three Blind Mice area overlooks Okanagan Lake to the west, and is mainly composed of beautiful ponderosa pine, rock bluffs, and grasslands. Campbell Mountain is a great place to learn to mountain bike.
K: Absolutely agree on the bike ride. Get a ride to the Glenfir access to the KVR Trail and wheeeeee down the KVR, past Little Tunnel, Arawana Station, history and insane views. Keep going past Smethurst and, heck, keep on going to Penticton. The rolling vineyards, lake views and farmhouse are straight out of a movie. Pass Hillside Winery for a drink or snack (there’s a new brewery going in that everyone is excited about, further towards Penticton) and pause at the Bench Market for some pear juice, a Canadiano, and their addictive granola bars… This path actually takes you all the way to the S.S. Sicamous at the west end of Okanagan Lake where there is this tiny slice of Paris in a really French feeling creperie. You need both a sweet and a savoury.
Where should we head for a post-adventure beer, glass of wine or cocktail?
K: We’ve got a bundle of breweries in Penticton. The newest is owned by Naramatians and is called Neighbourhood Brewing. They have a youthful, fun vibe and serve Tex Mex, like burritos stuffed with steak and tater tots. Also, I haven’t been, but people seem to favour Slackwater Brewing for overall food and fun.
Now we’re hungry again. What’s the plan for dinner?
K: You cannot miss Elma. It has the best food. Their “Elma Bread” plus labne, hummous, olives – seriously, everything on the mezze offerings – but you can’t miss the cocktails (Elma Sour!) and the labne. I love over-ordering, over-eating, and then wander the strip afterwards.
It’s patio season! What’s your favourite restaurant patio?
N: THE BISTRO at Hillside Winery. Be delighted, while you savour interesting flavour combinations and ingredients that pair beautifully with the unique and compelling taste of Hillside’s award winning wines that are crafted exclusively from Naramata-grown grapes. And with breathtaking views of Okanagan Lake as the backdrop.
K: Wayne & Freda – coolest coffee shop in Penticton. It’s not booze but it’s a vibe. Can’t miss the place.
Any tips on a good spot to take in the view and watch the sun go down?
N: From Little Tunnel up the KVR overlooking Okanagan Lake. For easy access, enter from the north side, there is a gravel parking lot off Chute Lake Road (at the 3km mark just past Glenfir Rd). From here you can actually drive along the KVR. Use extreme caution driving along the narrow gravel road, though. There is a very small paved parking lot just before the tunnel. The pavement continues on to and through the Little Tunnel, making it easily accessible for everybody. Too much work? Sunset from the Wharf Park Train Docks are just as nice, as it’s right on Okanagan Lake.
It’s time to catch some shuteye, where do you suggest we stay?
N: With us! Naramata Inn is a really great restaurant, with rooms. Naramata Inn has 12 mission-style rooms, each with direct access to the upper veranda and views of the gardens, lake, and hills. Every room has a unique construction and showcases its original 1908 charm through period details like carpentry and clawfoot or deep soaker tubs. But don’t worry – our recently updated rooms offer all of today’s comforts. We’re talking fluffy linens, cozy robes, and extremely reliable WiFi.
K: The best thing about Naramata is the community. Many unique spots to stay – vacation rentals, B&Bs, Winery guest houses, 113-year-old inns (ahem). The Village Motel is a great place to stay near the Inn. Many units have kitchenettes, a cute courtyard, close to everything, lovely onsite owners. Also, our friends (heavy with Four Seasons pedigree) have opened up a few B&Bs this year including the right-in-the-village, L’alma Art House. They are art-centric, luxury-minded and lovely. Therapy Vineyards Suites are gorgeous, and everyone loves Sandy Beach Resort, but you have to book about 10 years ahead.
Anything we absolutely have to pack in our suitcase while visiting?
N: A camera to get a shot of one of our local peacocks that roam the village, they are both known as “Kevin”.
K: Really cozy stretchy pants that double as dinner out pants. You’re going to want to eat, drink, be comfy, prepare to relax, slow down, enjoy. Really comfy shoes – you might surprise yourself with how far you want to walk and wander. Swimsuit – you will be in and out of the lake all day if you know what’s up (can’t miss paddleboarding either). A book, a cooler, a water bottle for sunset wine time. Don’t bring your laptop; forget your phone charger. If you really want to get away, Naramata is here for you.