Just across the border from Washington State on Hwy. 97, Osoyoos (pop. 5,000) is a small agricultural town on Osoyoos Lake that's making a rapid transition to being a wine country resort destination in its own right. The steep and narrow mountain slopes that encase the entire Okanagan region are particularly high here, making this the driest and hottest area in all of Canada. All that heat makes great conditions for irrigated fruit crops, wineries, and sun worshipers seeking summer beachfront. Osoyoos Lake has miles of sandy beaches and the warmest lake water in Canada.
A dizzying profusion of boating and water recreation awaits on Osoyoos Lake. To rent jet-boats, power boats, Sea-doos, ski boats, pedal boats, aqua bikes, and pontoon boats, walk along the marinas on Hwy. 3, where you'll find a number of rental services.
If you're really not into the jet-boat scene, Osoyoos has one unique feature to interest you. The land in the Okanagan Valley between Osoyoos and Penticton's Skaha Lake is considered the northernmost extension of the Sonoran desert that begins in Mexico. These "pocket deserts" -- as the thin strip of arid steppes are called locally -- are highly endangered ecosystems, as a century's worth of irrigation has served to put almost all the desert into cultivation.
One area of the Osoyoos desert is preserved at the Desert Center (tel. 877/899-0897 or 250/495-2470; www.desert.org). This interpretive center features nature trails through antelope brush grasslands that are home to many endangered and threatened species such as the burrowing owl, the spadefoot toad, the northern rattler, and the pallid bat. The center is open mid-May to mid-September Wednesday through Monday 9:30am to 4:30pm, with hour-long tours at 10am, noon, and 2pm. The center is also open late April to mid-May and mid-September to early October, but with self-guided tours only. Admission is C$7 adult, C$6 seniors and students, C$5 children 6 to 12, and C$16 for a family. The Desert Center is about 2 miles north of Osoyoos on Hwy. 97, at 146th Street.
Nk'Mip Cellars, 1400 Rancher Creek Rd. (tel. 250/495-2985; www.nkmipcellars.com), is a top Osoyoos-area winery, located at the Spirit Ridge Resort . North America's first First Nations-owned and -operated winery, Nk'Mip Cellars (pronounced In-ka-meep) produces a full range of wines; particularly excellent are the pinot blanc, syrah, and a meritage blend. The tasting room is open daily 9am to 5pm.
Contact the Osoyoos Visitor Info Centre at 9912 Hwy. 3 (tel. 888/676-9667 or 250/495-3366; www.destinationosoyoos.com).