British Columbia just as cool in summer
Australian travel media came to visit the Thompson Okanagan region earlier this year. The media group toured some of our hidden gems and discovered the summer activities and experiences that Australians may not know about being avid travelers to the region during winter months.
See what Travel writer, Stuart Condie had to say about our stunning area:
I used to think British Columbia was only about winter sports – and I’m way too unco and literally weak at the knees to indulge in anything but the apres ski.
But looking out over Lake Okanagan from a hilltop infinity pool as the sun sets on another perfect 30-degree day, I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be this northern summer.
Set on a pink granite crest high above Lake Okanagan, Sparkling Hill Resort offers commanding views of water on one side and green hills on the other.
With a signature 3700-square-metre spa and 48 treatment rooms open only to staying guests, it’s paradise for any weary traveller with a taste for rest, relaxation, health and wellness.
Oh, and sparkly things… it really helps if you like sparkly things.
Sparkling Hill was the brainchild of Gernot Langes-Swarovski – the patriarch of the Swarovski crystal empire – and his influence is everywhere in a resort light on artwork but heavy on shimmer.
There are only three paintings in the whole hotel, with the clean lines and high ceilings of the Andreas Altmayer-designed resort mostly left to speak for themselves.
The only real adornments come in the form of the 3.5 million Swarovski crystals, which are everywhere from the heavy curtains that hangs from the lobby ceiling, to the male and female figures on the world’s most fabulous bathroom doors.
Even when it’s summer outside, there’s a cool frosty glint inside and it’s easy to imagine the resort during the harsh Canadian winters, when tourists from Australia and all over the world flock to ski stations such as Silver Star and Big White – both drivable from Sparkling Hill.
We got another taste of winter, this time with a Scandinavian feel, as we slapped big wet handfuls of ice against our bare skin to cool down from a spell in one of the many saunas and steam rooms.
When there’s a sauna with a lake view, a rose-scented steam room and, obviously, a crystal sauna that feels like a sweaty nightclub minus the music and booze, it can be tempting to stay there doing nothing for just a little too long.
“Rest and rehydrate,” our guide Janna Maderyc urged.
“You know those movies with the old guys sitting in there for hours at a time? They’re not true.”
At the other end of the temperature scale is cryotherapy, which is among the treatments available at an additional charge.
Still jet lagged after flying from Sydney via Vancouver to nearby Kelowna – and a little light-headed after an hour in the saunas – I instead opted for a swim in the infinity pool rather than the nerve shredding drop to minus 100 degrees Celsius.
But a spectacular view – even one as glorious as that on offer from Sparkling Hill, only counts for so much if there’s nothing else around.
But the Okanagan excels, offering sandy lakeside beaches, paddle boarding, biking and more.
Or you can indulge in some wine tasting at stellar local wineries, including Summerhill, 50th Parallel, Ex Nihilo and Gray Monk.
I look up from the pool and watch the vapour trail of a jet in the cloudless navy sky turn tangerine in the afterglow of the just-set sun, and muse on the fact that – thanks to the international dateline – one could feasibly relax in such luxury only an hour or so after leaving the Australian winter.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Kelowna is a 35-minute flight or four-hour drive from Vancouver, which is a 14-hour journey from Brisbane or Sydney, and 17 hours from Melbourne.
Air Canada flies from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne (via Brisbane) to Vancouver and then on to Kelowna. Fares start at about $A1,500 return, including taxes and charges. Go to aircanada.com
STAYING THERE: Sparkling Hill Resort is a luxury hotel and spa outside Vernon, near Kelowna. It has indoor and outdoor pools, a gym, saunas, steam rooms and other health and wellness treatments. Prices start at about $A250 per night (including breakfast) for a king-size room. For more, sparklinghill.com
PLAYING THERE: Sparkling Hill’s Kurspa is open exclusively to staying guests, with additional treatments including massage and cryotherapy available to book for an extra charge.
For other activities in the Okanagan, visit Thompson Okanagan Tourist Association at totabc.org.
* The writer travelled as a guest of Destination Canada, Destination British Columbia, Tourism Kelowna, Tourism Vernon and Sparkling Hill Resort.
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