24 MAY 2017: In my last column I wrote about the outstanding golf courses in and around Vernon, BC. But there’s plenty more to do in this vibrant small city at the northern end of the Okanagan Valley. The region’s motto is “Activate Life.” Indeed with three lakes, five provincial parks, mountains, and miles of hiking and biking trails, you can be super active. On a nice spring day you could spend the morning skiing at Silver Star, play nine holes of golf and then take a stand-up paddleboard lesson on Kalamalka Lake.  

When you’ve worked up an appetite you’ll find no lack of places to refuel. I was dazzled by the culinary offerings—from great restaurants to farmhouse markets to boutique wineries. Vernon even boasts an award-winning distillery.

The “Cheap Thrills” Save List

How Sweet it is

If you see a line of folks in front of Ratio Coffee & Pastry, in what was once the old railway station, you’ll know it is Friday and that’s donut day at Ratio. If you’re smart you’ll join the line. Owner Andrew McWilliam and his chief baker partner, Laurie Knuever, sell 1200 donuts every Friday. Intriguing flavours include lemon basil and maple bourbon glazed with candied bacon.

Knuever, a master baker, creates a special dessert for every day of the week: galettes on Mondays; éclairs on Tuesdays; cakes on Wednesdays; strudels on Thursdays; sticky buns on Saturday. But there is always a wonderful selection of more sweets, soups, salads and super coffee. The croissants are as buttery and flaky as anything I’ve eaten in Paris. www.ratiocoffee.ca

Everything but the Bees’ Knees

It is believed that the Vikings and Norsemen drank mead for 28 days in a row in order to conceive a son. This and other bee trivia you’ll learn with a visit to Planet Bee Honey Farm and Honeymoon Meadery. Mead is a mildly alcoholic ancient drink made from fermented honey. At the Mead bar you can sample various flavours. I liked Raspberry Romance. I also tasted a number of different kinds of honeys, including buckwheat and blueberry blossom, and got to see two queens in a working hive. Owners Ed and Taosha Nowek are clearly passionate about their bees and offer a warm welcome to visitors. www.planetbee.com

The Great Walls of Vernon

The walls of downtown Vernon depict the town’s history in the form of 27 murals painted by local youth You can pick up a self-guided tour brochure or print one by visiting www.downtownverson.com

Take a Scenic Sip

Take a self-guided or guided tour of six wineries located within a 20-minute drive from Vernon. You’ll sip the fruits of the vine at 50th Parallel, Ancient Hill, Grey Monk, Ex Nihilo, Intrigue Wines, Arrowleaf Cellars and Blind Tiger Vineyards. www.scenicsip.ca

Going Naked Downtown

30 Avenue is Vernon’s main street where you will find a plethora of great coffee shops and restaurants. For fabulous “low and slow smoked” ribs and other pork treats, head to the Naked Pig BBQ & Smokehouse. They make their own barbeque sauces and serve craft BC beers. www.nakedpig.ca

The “You Only Live Once” Splurge List

The Big Chill at Sparkling Hill

At Sparkling Hill Resort you can add some bling to your Okanagan Valley fling. Owned by Mr. Gernot Langes-Swarovski (patriarch of the Austrian crystal family), the state-of-the art facility, carved into a hillside overlooking award-winning Predator Ridge golf course, is unlike any other destination spa resort in Canada. For starters, the organic, airy interiors are embellished with $10 million worth of Swarovski crystals—from chandeliers in the shape of maple leafs to cleverly illuminated “fireplace” sculptures beside the deep soaker tubs.

The resort’s KurSpa, the largest in Canada, consists of rose, crystal and salt steam rooms, three saunas and multi-“fauceted” showers. The aqua area features a hot tub, indoor and outdoor salt-water pools and a Kneipp waterway to stimulate your circulatory and lymphatic systems.

But the KurSpa’s signature treatment is the Cold Chamber, the one and only in North America. It’s supposed to be good for whatever ails you—from alleviating joint and muscle pain and inflammation to curing depression. Whole body cryotherapy works by cooling the body, which shrinks blood vessels, which increases blood flow, thus reducing inflammation.

When you enter the chamber, chilled to -110 degrees Celsius, the key is to keep moving but don’t touch the walls. (Remember when you got your tongue stuck to a Popsicle when you were a kid?) While you’re in the “deep-freeze” professionals are monitoring you. You can escape anytime you want but the goal is to endure three minutes.

If “the big chill” doesn’t sound like your idea of spa bliss, consider a warm mud wrap and a massage. www.sparklinghill.com

Get Okanagan Spirit

Okanagan Spirits distills fine fruits from the Valley into award-winning brandies, liqueurs, vodka, gin, whisky, grappa, aquavit, bitters…even absinthe. Tour the distillery and then saddle up to the tasting bar to sample their liquid elixirs. I recommend the pear eau de vie. www.okanaganspirits.com

Predator Home Comforts

Overlooking the golf course, Predator Ridge Lodge suites offer all the comforts of home, including full kitchen, living room, balcony, deep soaker tub and fireplace. For recreation, hit one of the biking trails, take a dip in the pool or challenge the two golf courses. Executive Chef, Jeremy Luypen invites you to enjoy the 100-mile diet inspired menu at the Range Lounge & Grill. The outdoor patio offers wonderful views. Don’t resist the truffle mushroom soup. www.predatorridge.com


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Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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