One of the Okanagan’s three major population centers, Penticton (population 38,000) lies between the north end of Skaha Lake and the south end of Okanagan Lake. The city gets its name from the nomadic Salish natives, in whose tongue Penticton means “Place to Stay Forever.”
Approaching from the south, you’ll see a roadside plaque honoring pioneer Thomas Ellis, who arrived in the valley in 1886, built a great cattle empire, and planted the area’s first orchard. Today fruit orchards are everywhere. Penticton’s nickname is Peach City; the annual Peach Festival celebrates the harvest in mid-August with a week of sailboat races, parades, games, and entertainment.
Penticton also participates in the Okanagan Wine Festival the first weekend of October, another fruitful event.
Wine Country Visitor Centre (553 Railway St., 250/493-4055 or 800/663-5052, www.tourismpenticton.com, daily 8 a.m.–7 p.m. in summer, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. the rest of the year) is not particularly well signed, but worth stopping at nevertheless. Inside the distinctive adobe style structure is free Internet access, a wine information center, and lots of local literature.
From the south, follow the signs north to Kelowna and take Westminster Ave. right off Eckhardt Ave. (Hwy. 97); it’s off to the right after a few blocks. Coming into town from the north, cross the canal and take the second road on the left (Westminster Avenue).
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition