Okanagan & Thompson

Families Travel! Penticton with Kids

Joanna Nesbit, a Bellingham-area mom (and fellow travel writer) recently went with her family to Penticton, BC, for three nights. Penticton is about a five hour drive from Bellingham, six and a half from Seattle and about five from Vancouver, BC.

“We went over Memorial Day weekend, which is a great time in Canada because it’s not their holiday,” Nesbit says. “Penticton is a beautiful town located on the land bridge that separates Okanogan Lake and Lake Skaha. It’s friendly, easy to navigate, and there are plenty of grocery and restaurant options for visitors.”

Nesbit went about her trip in a smart way – she brought her 13-year-old daughter’s friend along with them, and then met up with friends (who had a son the same age as Joanna’s 10-year-old).

Q. Where did you sleep in Penticton, BC?

We camped at Banbury Green RV Park. It’s pretty but tight. I wasn’t prepared for was how small the sites are. There are some other RV parks that might be just as good, not sure. Here’s a list of RV parks (Kaleden and Penticton addresses good; others too far away).

Penticton camping site
Penticton camping site

Q. What did you like about the campsite? What types of amenities did it offer?

The location was fantastic, a few minutes out of town right on Skaha Lake. We rented a paddle boat and the kids swam (sort of – the lake was cold). We also played rousing games of volleyball, rode bikes on a nearby trail, and of course roasted marshmallows. The RV park has showers, toilets, amenities for washing dishes, ice at the office, and paddle boat rentals (with life jackets)– $10 per hour or $25 for 4 hours.

Q. Which Penticton activities did your family enjoy?

We went to the Okanagan Amuseuments Go-Kart track just a few minutes down the road from the RV Park, where some of us got on Go-Karts and others got on bumper boats. Found Loco Landing online, which we missed, but I would feel confident saying it would be a blast. The bumper boats are cheaper here than what we paid.

bumper boats in Penticton, BC
Bumper boats in Penticton, BC

We went to the Skaha Bluffs climbing area, on the other side of the lake from the RV Park. The climbing area in the spring is a huge attraction for visitors (and the RV Park was full of climbers). It’s a beautiful place to walk around even if you’re not a climber (I’m not), and a great place to climb for all ages. However it would be too hot to climb there in the summer.

We also played on the public beach on Skaha Lake that features a playground, picnicking areas, a kiosk with ice cream and sno-cones. The lake does have a drop-off that parents of small children should be wary of – it’s marked (more on Penticton beaches here). We saw a kids’ spray park for younger kids (Lakawana Park) that looked great but it didn’t appeal to mine (ages 10 & 13)

Q. What did you need to do to bring a child’s friend across the Canadian border? How did that work out?

To take unrelated kids across the border, you need either a passport, or picture ID and a certified copy of a birth certificate, as well as a letter of permission from the parents that includes phone number(s) of parents and dates their child is entering and leaving Canada. There might be a form online. We put her documents in a clear zip-loc bag for easy visibility, and it was no problem.

We took a friend for Leah because we knew her younger brother would have a friend there. She had someone her own age to hang out with — by the time kids are teens (she’s 13), they really care about hanging out with friends. It worked out very well. But I’d pick that friend carefully if it’s for multiple days (we had Leah’s friend for three days).

Read more about entry into the Canada with kids or entry into the U.S. with kids.

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.