Vernon is a city of about 45,000 people (2016) in the north end of the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. Vernon is known for its lakes and beaches in the summer, and skiing and hockey in the winter. It is therefore a year-round tourist destination and weekend getaway for people from Vancouver and Calgary.
The site of the city was discovered by the Okanagan people, a tribe of the Interior Salish people, who named the community Nintle Moos Chin, meaning "jumping over place where the creek narrows". This name refers to a section of the Swan Lake that passes through Downtown Vernon, the community's central business district. Some of these were part of the Okanagan Indian Band, a First Nations government part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance. This name was followed by Priest's Valley, which serves as an Indian reserve, and its present name, in honour of Forbes George Vernon, a pioneer member part of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia for Yale. The Okanagan people settled around the city's two lakes, Okanagan Lake and Swan Lake, obtaining seasonal sources of food.
In 1811, fur traders began travelling around the area. After one of these, David Stuart, began working with the Pacific Fur Company, which was bought out by the North West Company; Luc Girouard became the first white settler. The North West Company was forced to merge with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821. A number of fur traders decided to camp in Vernon, which started to develop in 1863, following a gold discovery at the Cherry Creek, Monashee Mountains, Mission Creek and the east side of Okanagan Lake. After the development began, numerous ranches were constructed. Centreville, the community's original central business district, was formed in 1885. That same year, a post office, hotel, general store, and school house was constructed. A Hudson's Bay Company store was established in 1887, in a rough wooden structure. Historically a major economic hub destination in the Okanagan, Vernon was home to many cattle ranches and fruit orchard areas, attracting British families.
Vernon's growth accelerated beginning in 1891, after the Canadian Pacific Railway was opened. Fruit trees were planted in Vernon, which first grew by the early 1890s. In 1908, the Okanagan Mounted Rifles military program was formed in it, thus bringing a number of people to the area during World War I and World War II for lessons.
Vernon is accessed from the north or south by Hwy 97. It is a 30-40 minute drive from Kelowna and just over an hour from Kamloops. Travel time from Vancouver (via Kamloops and the Coquihalla Hwy 5) is 4½-5 hours. Hwy 6 connects Vernon to Lumby, the Slocan Valley and Nelson to the east.
- Ebus, toll-free: . Travels daily between Kamloops and Kelowna with stops in Chase, Sorrento, Salmon Arm, Enderby, Armstrong, and Vernon. Travel time to Vernon from Kelowna is 1 hour, from Salmon Arm is 50 minutes, and from Kamloops is 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours 10 minutes (some trips do not stop between Vernon and Kamloops). Service provider also operates routes between Vancouver and Kamloops, and between Vancouver and Kelowna.
- Rider Express, toll-free: . Service from Kelowna and Salmon Arm.
Vernon is quite spread out. Many of the restaurants and hotels are located close to the town center while the attractions are often at the edge of town. Having a car will be the most efficient way to get around and see the sights.
By public transit
- BC Transit (Vernon Regional Transit System), ☏ . Operates local buses that connect the downtown Vernon bus exchange with outlying areas. The routes cover a number of the attractions but service tends to run every 35 or 70 minutes. Adult cash fare for travel within Vernon (including Coldstream) is $2 or $5 for a day pass.
- Operates bus route 60 from Monday to Saturday that travels between Vernon and Enderby with stops in Armstrong. Travel time to Vernon from Enderby is about 65 minutes and from Armstrong is about 35 to 40 minutes. On Wednesdays, BC Transit (Shuswap Regional Transit System) operates bus route 41 between Enderby and Salmon Arm.
- Operates bus route 90 multiple times daily between Vernon and Kelowna (51 min) with a stop along the way in Lake Country.
- Capital Taxi, ☏ .
- Vernon Taxi, ☏ .
- 1 Davison Orchards Country Village (Davison Orchards), 3111 Davison Rd, ☏ . Su-Th 8AM-6PM, F Sa 8AM-8PM. A family-run apple orchard that has become a popular family attraction. There are some sheep, goats and chickens (feed is available for 25¢), two playgrounds, lots of tractors to look at (or climb onto), and a 20-minute tractor-drawn ride (the Johnny Popper Tour) through the orchard where the guide explains some of the history of the orchard and what they do. A bakery and cafe sell freshly baked goods, including the popular apple cider donuts, and the shop sells local fruit and their cold-pressed fresh apple juice. Entry is free. The Johnny Popper Tour is $4/6 (child/adult).
- 2 Historic O'Keefe Ranch, 9380 Hwy 97, ☏ . 10AM-5PM from Mother's Day to Thanksgiving (early May to early Oct). One of the first ranches created in the Okanagan, the buildings are now a heritage site open to the public. Many of the buildings have been restored and there are exhibits on the history of the ranch and ranching in British Columbia. Notable sites include the O'Keefe Mansion, the church, the old school, the Greenhow Museum (with a large model railroad upstairs) and the farm animals. There is also a corn maze to explore for an extra fee. Ranch: $10/13 (youth/adult); Corn maze: $6/8 (youth/adult).
- 3 Planet Bee, 5011 Bella Vista Rd, ☏ . July-Aug: M-Sa 8AM-7PM, Su 9AM-5:30PM; May-June Sep-Oct M-F 8AM-6PM, Sa 8:30AM-6PM, Su 9AM-5PM; Nov-Apr: M-Sa 8:30AM-5:30PM, Su 9:30AM-4:30PM. Bee farm with glass hives that allow you to watch the bees make the honey, honey and mead tasting, and a gift shop with a large selection of honey products. For a small fee, there are information presentations available daily in July/Aug and on weekends in June and Sept that provide more info on bees and beekeeping. The bees are active year round but are most active in the summer. Entry and self-guided tour is free. Information presentations are $2.50/person (15 min) or $5.50-7 (child/adult for 50 min).
- 1 Silver Star. The most popular winter attraction in the Okanagan Valley. Skiers and snowboarders take advantage of Silver Star Mountain where they have 2,491 feet (760 m) of vertical drop in which to defy gravity. Cross-country skiers also have a venue at Silver Star with 37 kilometers of tracked and groomed trails. In addition, there are 50 km of groomed trails that pass through the adjacent Sovereign Lake area. Located 24 km (under 30 minutes) north-east of downtown Vernon.
- Enjoy Kalamalka & Okanagan Lakes
- 2 Kal Beach, 13836 Kalamalka Rd (in Coldstream) (a large parking lot is accessed from Husband Rd). Sandy beach at the north end of Kalamalka Lake with a swimming area, beach volleyball and picnic tables. A concession stand is open in the summer.
- 3 Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park, access from Kidson Rd or Cosens Bay Rd. Day use park with picnic areas, beaches and many hiking trails with some nice views that show off Kalamalka Lake's vibrant colour in summer. The terrain is hilly with a mix of grassland, forest and wetlands. Mountain biking is allowed in some areas of the park. Note that all beach access requires some walking. The park is undeveloped and only has pit toilets.
- 4 Kin Beach, 7248 Tronson Rd (from downtown, take 25th Ave, turn right onto Tronson Rd and follow until it reaches Lake Okanagan). Sandy beach on an arm of Lake Okanagan. There's a swimming area, beach volleyball court, playground and picnic tables in mature trees.
- 6 Predator Ridge Resort (Predator and Ridge Golf Courses), 301 Village Centre Pl, ☏ , toll-free: .
- 7 The Rise Golf Course, 8800 Rising View Way, toll-free: .
- 1 Village Green Shopping Centre, 900 - 27 St, ☏ . An indoor mall, which is the largest in the city.
- Lots of shopping including most of the big box stores (Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy).
- 1 The Italian Kitchen, 2916 30th Ave, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Lunch M-F 11AM-2PM; Dinner daily from 5PM. Located in the downtown core. Great food, big portions. Starters $8-16, pasta and mains $18-30.
- 2 Kelly O'Bryans, 4215 32 St, ☏ . 11AM - midnight. A bit of everything on a large menu. Starters $7-18, mains $15-33.
- 3 Outboard Waterfront Pub (formerly the Blue Heron Water Front Pub & Restaurant), 7673 Okanagan Landing Rd, ☏ . Su-Th 9AM-11PM, F Sa 9AM-midnight. Waterfront restaurant with a patio overlooking Lake Okanagan. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Part of the Blue Heron Marina. Starters $8-20, mains $12-24.
- Food Court at the Village Green Shopping Centre (see "Buy")
- 1 Sir Winstons Pub, 2705 32nd St, ☏ . 11AM to close. Two level pub with roof top patio and big screen TVs. Menu includes usual pub fare like burgers, sandwiches, wraps, bowls and fish & chips. Daily drink and food specials, like cheap wings on Thursday and Sunday. Voted best pub in local Reader's Choice awards 2013-2015. Starters $8-16, mains $15-20.
- 1 Castle at Swan Lake, 7905 Greenhow Rd, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. All-suite hotel with every room having a deck or balcony, fireplace and a full kitchen. Luxury touches include pillow-top mattresses, stainless steel kitchen appliances and rainfall showers. There is free Wi-Fi, an outdoor pool and hot tub, and a free continental breakfast. There are one and two bedroom suites, and reviewers indicate rooms are spacious. $190-220 in summer, $120-145 in low season.
- 2 Sparkling Hill Resort, 888 Sparkling Pl, ☏ , toll-free: . 149-room resort with one of the largest spas in Canada. Room amenities include floor-to-ceiling windows, Swarovsky crystal fireplaces, two person soaker tubs and mini-fridge. Rooms also include a complementary hot breakfast buffet, Wifi and use of the fitness facility. The architecture of the hotel is unique with its estimated 3.5 million pieces of crystal. The setting is also quite nice — the resort is built on a ridge overlooking Lake Okanagan, which affords some very nice views of the lake and the Monashee Mountains. $370 and up in summer, $290 and up in winter. Lake view rooms cost about $30 more per night. If you're looking to make extensive use of the spa, look for one of the health/wellness packages.
- 3 Quality Inn & Suites, 4204 32nd St, ☏ , email@example.com. Air-conditioned rooms equipped with refrigerators.
- Vernon Morning Star, ☏ .
- Head south on Hwy 97 to see the rest of the Okanagan including Kelowna and Penticton.
- Head east on Hwy 6 to see the mountains and lakes of the West Kootenays, including Nakusp, New Denver and Nelson.
- Head north on Hwy 97 to the 97A and 97B to see the Shuswap lakeside towns of Salmon Arm and Sicamous.
|Routes through Vernon|
|ENDS at ←||W E||→ Lumby → → Nakusp → Nelson|
|Prince George ← Kamloops ←||N S||→ Lake Country → Kelowna|
|Sicamous / Salmon Arm via ← Armstrong ←||N S||→ ENDS at|