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Beach on a Budget: Fun in the Sun in Penticton, BC

Who doesn’t dream of the ideal beach vacation? Hot sand. Cool water. Cold drinks. If you are like many parents, the days of international getaways are on hold or less frequent than your pre-child days. But do not dismay, you can get that Mexico feel right next door in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Penticton in the summer offers 30-degree temperatures, sandy beaches, festivals, farmers’ markets and lots of family fun.

Penticton is flanked by two amazing lakes: Skaha and Okanagan. Skaha’s main beach is the most family-friendly with a wide stretch of sand, a spray park, playground, beach volleyball, tennis courts and concession stands. The boardwalk and grass areas keep the kiddies a safe distance from traffic, so parents can relax. Accommodations at this beach include RV campgrounds and independent motels. The only drawback at Skaha’s main beach is lack of shade trees, so be sure to pack an umbrella.

On the north side, Okanagan beach is nestled amongst a busy business district including restaurants, hotels and shops. This beach is where the action happens, including the awesome farmers’ market on Saturdays. Okanagan beach is a great option if your kids are 10+.

Affordable beach vacation tips

1. Camping at an RV Resort is most affordable. Our favorite is the Oxbow RV Resort. Another budget-friendly option is staying at a motel with a kitchenette and guest barbecues. Our favorite is the Waterfront Inn.

2. Bring groceries from home to avoid HST and higher costs in BC; meat is especially pricey.

3. Stay at the Skaha end of town, which has two great RV parks located across the street and hotel rooms tend to be cheaper.

4. Plan your stay around local festivals and attend the free or nominal-charge activities.

Fun, low-cost activities

1. Picking fruit at local farms. Kids love picking fruit right off the tree. Pails of fruit can cost $5 to $20 and you get to eat the rewards after.

2. The Penticton Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. There is a lot to look at, taste and hear.

3. Drive to the local ice cream destination, Tickleberry’s, located 15 minutes south at OK Falls. It is a little pricy but the scoops are massive so you get your money’s worth. In Penticton, Gilligan’s BeachSide Motel ice cream stand is a close second.

4. The Summerland Trout Hatchery Visitor Centre is 15 minutes north of town and is a free interactive site with kids’ crafts and tours highlighting fish in all stages of development. Make sure to book ahead of time at www.gofishbc.com.

5. Penticton River Channel tubing is free. Bring your tubes and float from the Okanogan Lake down to Skaha Lake. There are companies that have a fee-for-service transport back to your vehicle or take a short cab ride.

For a little extra, try these activities:

• The LocoLanding Adventure Park is a bit pricey, but offers a lot to do for the five- to 10-year-old group including bumper boats, go-karts, mini-golf, has a really cool climbing structure and more. The day pass is the best option at $35 per child. Go early to avoid the heat.

• Rent water sport items like a paddle boat or a paddle board ($15 to $20 per hour).

• Go for coffee and dessert at a local winery; they offer free estate tours and sample tasting.

If your family likes to be more active, there is a lot to do in the area: Biking, hiking, rock climbing, parasailing, kayaking, canoeing and fishing. There is something for everyone, and you will love the beaches!

Lisa is a committed human service professional that has worked to enhance the lives of families and children for the last decade. She is a certified Positive Discipline Facilitator and enjoys parent coaching, facilitating parenting education programs and parenting her nine-year-old daughter. 

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