Summer Roadtrip Last Day: Okanagan Valley and Mission Hills

Having had a tiring trip, we woke up even later on the last day of our summer roadtrip. However it wasn’t a problem, as we were not in a rush for time. For the morning, we packed our clothes as we cleared our laundry and headed down to the lobby for breakfast at the Bonfire Restaurant and Bar. I had booked a package for the hotel room which includes a $100 credit for food or spa packages in the resort. As we were going off to visit vineyards later, the credit was used to pay for our breakfast instead. The a-la-carte breakfast sets served at the restaurant was good and after finishing our plates, I took a walk around the resort as they had a walkway along the lakeshore of the Okanagan. The sunny weather of the day and warm weather made it good for the morning walk.

Calm waters of Lake Okanagan along Westbank
Calm waters of Lake Okanagan along Westbank

Besides the beautiful setting of the resort just by the lakeside, the hotel had a great architect which was able to place the rooms such that nearly all of them had great views of the Lake. There was also room for a beach, and a nice swimming pool with an outdoor terrace for the restaurant large enough to accomodate BBQ buffets under the skies. Overall, this is a very nice, clean and comfortable resort. And considering the relatively affordable price per night, it is extremely good value for money!

The Cove Lakeside Resort at Westbank by Lake Okanagan
The Cove Lakeside Resort at Westbank by Lake Okanagan

Since the resort is relatively small and is located around a residential area, it was to venture around the area and before long, I found myself back in the room, getting ready the luggage and preparing for check out. It seems that many hotels nowadays practice fast and convenient check-in and check-out as I have not experience any difficulties or long waits in the process. In fact, after this experience, I might even be frustrated should it take longer than 15 minutes for a hotel to process my room key and do check out procedures.

Vineyards of Mission Hills with Lake Okanagan by the background
Vineyards of Mission Hills with Lake Okanagan by the background

With us checked out of the hotel, it was a short drive from the hotel to Mission Hills Family Estates, one of the most well known vineyards in the Kelowna area. In fact, staying in Westbank means you are closer to most of the larger vineyards. One reason for the success of Mission Hills to tourists, I believe is its well planned gardens and visitor centre which encompasses a nice courtyard, a grand entrance archway and a landmark bell tower which is easily observable from town.

Archway Entrance leading to the Mission Hills Family Estates
Archway Entrance leading to the Mission Hills Family Estates

Mission Hills is located at the top of the hill as well, which adds to its stunning setting with the lakes below, creating an amazing atmosphere for visitors. Crossing the archway, visitors find to their right a well furnished wine store with visitor centre that provides wine tasting and registration counter for the vineyard discovery tour. We promptly registered for the tour and was allocated a time slot. It would be good to call or visit the vineyard’s website first to check the various tours they have for the day so you can time the tour right. On the left of the courtyard lies the Terrace Restaurant which serves great lunch and will be where we are planned to have our meal after the tour. We had signed up for the Discovery Tour which will provide an overview of the vineyards owned by Mission Hills, a tour of the cellar and culminating with a wine tasting session. In all, Mission Hills has 5 vineyards in the Okanagan Valley region, making it one of the largest wineries in the area. The tour of the cellar was another interesting portion of the tour, and a note for visitors, wear something warm as the cellar is kept cool even during the summer with its location deep underneath the main building. The discovery tour also provides access to some areas of the estate which some would not be able to access. And after the tour, I do think my knowledge and understanding of wines has increased!

The wine cellar at Mission Hills Family Estate in Kelowna
The wine cellar at Mission Hills Family Estate in Kelowna

For the wine tasting, we were given 4 of the estates’ wines to taste comprising of 2 whites and 2 reds. Personally, I have preferred white wines like Sauvignon Blanc as they are milder and have a more fruity flavour. Indeed, amongst the 4 wines provided, their Sauvignon Blanc was the one I liked. For the red wines, we were given chocolates to go along with them and I do find chocolates and wines to be a good match! In fact, I also got edible chocolate cups to drink icewine from. After the wine tasting, participants in the tour were given a chart which details the food pairing with the various types of wines available. After the tour, it was naturally time for lunch, and we went straight towards the restaurant. I ordered duck confit for lunch, as well as a pacific clam bisque which I found to be the best meal I had for the entire trip. Dad and my brother had the Bison Flat Iron Steak, which was also cooked nicely while Mum ordered the same dish as me and my sister had the Halibut. For the dessert, I ordered the Progression of Valrhona Chocolate which came with a lavender meringue, an indeed odd pairing with chocolate. The purplish biscuit also stood out from all the delicious chocolate desserts!

Splendid setting for a vineyard with a great view from the Terrace Restaurant
Splendid setting for a vineyard with a great view from the Terrace Restaurant

With our lunch done, we went towards the wine shop to purchase some icewines and chocolate cups to drink icewine from! It is easy to see why visitors would enjoy the visit to Mission Hills as it embodies all the fine living associated with wines – good food, great view and sunny weather. Basically you could get all the range of wines offered by the vineyards, including their ‘Reserve’ Icewines and the Oculus which is Mission Hills’ top of the range wine!

Award-winning white wines from Mission Hills
Award-winning white wines from Mission Hills

The day was practically spent at Mission Hills and it was around 3.30 pm before we left the place and headed back to Kelowna to try and visit some orchard plantations in the hope of getting fresh produce like pears, apples and peaches but as these fruits are not in season yet, we did not get what we were looking for. It is thus best for visitors to drop by in July where there are plenty of roadside stalls selling fresh fruits from the orchards around Kelowna. With nothing much else to do, we dropped by one of Kelowna’s shopping malls, where my brother intended to visit his friend who is working there. In the same time, we got ourselves some Starbuck Frappucinos to freshen up for our journey back to Vancouver. From Kelowna, we drove on south towards Penticton before heading eastwards into E.C. Manning Provincial Park where we got to see some more bears as we reached the provincial park late in the evening where bears also start to roam for food. By the time we reached the city of Hope, which is halfway between Kelowna and Vancouver, we had to stop for dinner. As it wasn’t planned to get dinner at Hope, we decided on fast food and this time it won’t be a sit down meal, but a drive-thru. So we picked the most convenient and accessible fast-food – McDonald’s again. If there is any contribution McDonald’s have done, it is to fill the stomachs of hungry tourists around the world. From Hope, it was still a 2 hours drive as we passed by the area termed as Lower Mainland as the area after Hope is mainly flat plains compared to much of the scenery we passed by today which still had a lot of mountainous scenery. The highway from Hope, fortunately, was  a nice 4-lane road which meant smooth traffic towards Vancouver, passing by major towns like Surrey and Coquitlam which forms part of Greater Vancouver. By the time we reached home at downtown Vancouver, it was close to 10.30pm, and we ended the day with beautiful memories of our trip to the Canadian Rockies!

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