The best things in life are free! This is particularly true in Penticton, a city blessed with beautiful surrounding scenery. There’s no need to get out your wallet to enjoy many of the wonderful experiences that Penticton has to offer.
This post will showcase the best free things to do in Penticton, as tried and tested by two locals. From lakeside strolls, beautiful viewpoints and relaxing beaches to colourful street art, vibrant festivals and waterfalls, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to enjoying Penticton on a budget.
Last updated November 2023. For the most up-to-date information, contact individual businesses before visiting. There may be some affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase, we may receive a small percentage of the sale.
Best free things to do in Penticton: our top picks
Read on to discover the best cost-free activities in this picturesque Canadian city, starting with the Munson Mountain viewpoint.
The below map displays the locations of our favourite free things to do in Penticton.
Take in the views from Munson Mountain
The best free activity in Penticton? The Munson Mountain viewpoint! This extinct volcano is home to the iconic Penticton sign and some of the best views in the city. It is completely free to visit.
From the parking lot, it’s only a three minute (or less) walk along a flat, paved path to the first viewpoint, which offers spectacular vistas of the city and Okanagan Lake.
If you want even better views, continue along the gravel path to the summit plateau. There is some loose gravel on the last steep section, so be sure to tread carefully. Sweeping panoramas of the Naramata Bench vineyards await at the top. It is also possible to spot Skaha Lake in the distance.
Walk the Okanagan Lake promenade
The Okanagan Lake promenade takes in some of Penticton’s best attractions. This 1km (one-way) completely flat, paved walk follows the beach and offers spectacular views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Starting (or ending) at the historic SS Sicamous sternwheeler, the promenade travels towards the giant peach structure at the other end. Art sculptures and picnic benches are located all the way along.
I would highly recommend extending your walk by continuing the follow the shoreline through Rotary Park and towards the Kiwanis Walking Pier. Continue through the Penticton Lakeside Resort grounds and onto Okanagan Lake Park and the tranquil Ikeda Japanese garden (more info below).
Marina Way Park and beach are located on the other side of the Ikeda Garden. The return distance of this extended walk from the SS Sicamous to Marina Way beach is 4.5km.
Visit the Ikeda Japanese Garden
Penticton has been the sister city of Ikeda (on the island of Hokkaido) in Japan since 1977. In recognition of this, a small Japanese garden sits behind the Penticton Art Gallery near Marina Way Beach.
This tranquil place features a pond with koi carp and plenty of shady trees and plants. A traditional Japanese Torii marks the entrance of the park, standing proudly above the heritage railway bridge.
Take a pause to enjoy the relaxing surroundings of this beautiful spot. If you have the time, I’d recommend visiting it as part of a longer walk along the Penticton promenade. It’s one of my favourite places in all of Penticton!
Get inspired at Penticton Art Gallery
Just behind the Ikeda Japanese Garden is the Penticton Art Gallery. Established in this location in 1985, the gallery preserves and promotes Penticton’s artistic and cultural heritage.
The permanent exhibition features some of the gallery’s collection of 2,500 works of local art. There are rotating exhibitions too, with new things to see at least every few months or so. One of the most popular temporary exhibits showcased the work of Bob Ross (there were lines out the door for that one!)
Entry to the Penticton Art Gallery is by donation, so you can pay as much or as little as you like.
Float the Penticton Channel
One of the most popular summer activities in Penticton is floating the River Channel between Okanagan and Skaha lakes. Depending on the time of year, the float can take anywhere between one hour to four hours. It’s a great way to spend a warm summer afternoon.
Floating the Penticton Channel is a free activity if you bring a tube with you and have two vehicles for a shuttle. Alternatively, there are tube rentals and shuttle buses available through Coyote Cruises.
It is possible to purchase a tube at many local shops. If you can, buy one of the better quality tubes as it will be a more sustainable purchase in the long run (the cheap ones don’t last very long!)
Chill out on one of Penticton’s beautiful beaches
With two large local lakes, Penticton is host to numerous gorgeous sandy beaches. Visiting at least one beach is a must, no matter the time of year. Penticton’s public beaches are all free to visit, with most having free parking nearby as well.
Backed by parkland, Skaha Beach is probably Penticton’s most scenic beach. The golden sand stretches for almost 1km. The surrounding park features playgrounds, picnic benches, washrooms, concession stands, volleyball courts, a water park and more. Families love it!
Okanagan Beach is located on the other side of town and is also around 1km long. The beach is backed by Lakeshore Drive so it has very easy access but can be a little noisy. The beach offers slides, rafts, washrooms, two fire pits and picnic benches.
Other local beaches include Okanagan Lake Park, Marina Way Beach, Three Mile Beach and Sudbury Beach. All the details are in our dedicated Penticton beaches post.
Walk the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) to the McCulloch Trestle
Walking the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) Trail is one of the best free things to do in Penticton. Once an important 500km long rail route connecting Penticton with Midway and Hope, the KVR is now a multi-use path for cyclists, walkers and horse riders.
Part of the Trans Canada Trail, the KVR is almost completely flat and is therefore both family-friendly and accessible.
There are many great KVR sections close to Penticton, but my top pick is the 5km return route from Vancouver Place to the McCulloch Trestle. This section offers spectacular views of Okanagan Lake, the city of Penticton and surrounding vineyards. The path is gravel but is generally very well maintained.
Run or walk 5km at the weekly parkrun event
Taking part in the Penticton parkrun is a great way to start the weekend. This volunteer-organised 5km event is completely free to join. And you don’t have to run either! Everyone is welcome, including walkers and families.
Meet in Rotary Park at 8am, near the Peach. The route follows the shore of Okanagan Lake to the SS Sicamous and Loco Landing before turning around and returning to the Peach. The Penticton parkrun event runs all year round.
Not a member of Parkrun? Sign up online before the event and show your barcode (printed or digital) after finishing the race.
After the parkrun, I like to browse the nearby Penticton Farmers’ Market (April to October on Main Street). This is another completely free Penticton activity…unless you make a purchase. And trust me, you will be tempted!
Browse the Book Shop and other downtown stores
Penticton is home to the Book Shop, one of Canada’s largest second-hand bookshops.
Whether you love reading or not, the Book Shop is one of those places that needs to be seen! The 5000 square foot Main Street store almost feels like a maze of books, with treasures around every corner.
Of course, there are many other stores in downtown Penticton worth browsing. Eskala Mountain Sports should be a priority if you love the outdoors.
We also love Sirius Science & Nature (board games, educational toys and more), Just 4 Fun (collectables), Penticton Gifts and Antiques and the many art galleries.
The Salvation Army and Care Closet thrift stores are also worth a look. The SmartShopper Value Variety Convenience store always has a great display in the front and a huge selection of craft and seasonal items.
Walk the Penticton River Channel Pathway
The Penticton River Channel, commonly referred to as simply ‘the Channel,’ runs between Okanagan and Skaha Lakes.
A 6km long gravel/partially paved trail runs along the western side and is very popular with cyclists and dog walkers. Completely flat, the path provides an easy and scenic walk at any time of day. It’s also fun to watch the people tubing down the River Channel in summer.
There are multiple access points, with Skaha Lake Road being a popular one. Keep in mind that this parking lot gets very busy with tubers in the summer months. Alternatives include Riverside Drive and Satikw Crescent.
Take a self-guided art tour
Penticton is a colorful and vibrant city packed with talented artists. A short walk along the waterfront and around the downtown reveals dozens of colourful wall paintings and sculptures.
We have counted more than 20 different street art murals in Penticton’s downtown area, with more appearing each year.
One of my favourites is the ‘Welcome to Penticton’ painting found on the side of Martin Street Liquor Merchants. I also really like the ‘Portrait of Chrystal Leigh’ located at 359 Main Street.
The alley behind Slackwater Brewing features some bright coloured walls and business-specific street art, such as the portrait of Bill Nye behind Sirius Science and Nature.
Penticton’s art culture is not limited to indoor galleries and walls, with numerous sculptures scattered around the city. Some of the sculptures are permanent while others (mostly located on the Okanagan Lake promenade) rotate every year.
Hike (or snowshoe) the Canyon View Trail
This short scenic trail in the hills above Penticton offers great ‘bang for buck.’ The trailhead is just 20 minutes drive from downtown and the loop route is only 1.5km long.
The Canyon View Trail travels through a grove of ponderosa pine trees before heading close to the edge of the steep canyon. There are a few very short, steep-ish hills along the way. Two different viewpoints offer excellent panoramas of Penticton and Okanagan Lake.
Accessed from Carmi Road and Beaver Dell Road on a paved road, the Canyon View Trail is our top pick for a quick snowshoe adventure. Snow usually falls at this elevation from December to February.
On the same side of the city is Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park. There are challenging hiking trails and more than 1000+ climbing routes. If you bring your own climbing gear, climbing here is completely free!
Learn about local history at the Penticton Museum
Discover the story behind the Peach City at the Penticton Museum. This small facility is located in the same building as the library and is the ideal destination on inclement weather days. Entry to the museum is by donation.
The permanent exhibition explores the geological formation of the Okanagan Valley as well as the first inhabitants (the Syilx) and the arrival of Europeans in the 19th century. There is an interactive learning space for children. The temporary exhibit usually changes every six months or so.
History lovers should also consider taking a free self-guided historical tour of downtown. While the city is quickly growing, it’s still possible to find many historical buildings around town.
There is interpretive signage in some areas as well, most notably on the exterior of the downtown SmartShopper store, on the corner of Marina Way and Vancouver Avenue and also along the old dock near Marina Way Park.
Paddle Skaha or Okanagan Lake
Situated between two lakes, the city of Penticton is a popular paddling destination. If you have your own kayak, paddleboard or canoe, the paddling opportunities are almost endless!
Launch from one of the many beaches bordering Okanagan or Skaha lakes and enjoy the scenic views from the water. Spring and autumn are my favourite seasons to paddle as the lakes can get pretty busy with power boats during the summer months.
The Penticton River Channel is another great place to paddle. The current is pretty slow most of the year, with the exception of April, May and June.
Beyond Penticton, I’d also recommend Yellow Lake and Vaseux Lake for paddling. The latter is a national waterfowl sanctuary and boating activity is therefore limited (paddleboats and electric motors only).
Attend one of many free festivals and events
Penticton is a bustling place in summer, with dozens of live events and festivals. Many are completely free to attend, such as:
- Ignite the Arts Festival (March)
- Skaha Climbers Festival (May)
- Elvis Festival (June)
- Peach Festival (August)
- Pentastic Jazz Festival (September)
- Dragonboat Festival (September)
- Fall Art Walk (November)
In some cases, the main event is ticketed but there is at least one free event open to the public. Featuring five full days of family-friendly activities and entertainment, Peach Festival is definitely the best free event to attend.
Penticton is also host to some major annual athletic events. Iron Man is the best known and is usually held at the end of August.
Other popular sporting events include the Okanagan Granfondo (July) and Peach Classic Triathlon (also July). It’s always fun to spectate at these high-octane races, especially at the finish line.
Bird watching might not be the first activity to associate with Penticton, but the Okanagan Valley is actually home to over 300 bird species.
Many birds can easily be spotted right from the beaches, along the Okanagan Channel or by Penticton Creek. For more information, contact the South Okanagan Naturalist Club or join a bird-watching tour.
The Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory is just a short drive from Penticton. A national waterfowl sanctuary, Vaseux Lake is a complete power boat-free zone. 11 species of birds at risk of being endangered can be seen alongside more common shorebirds.
A short wooden (sometimes overgrown) boardwalk through protected marshlands leads to a three-storey bird blind. Not just great for bird watching, the top deck of this hide offers panoramic views of the lake and McIntyre Bluff.
Enjoy tranquil Naramata Creek Falls
Naramata Creek Falls is the perfect hiking destination on hot summer days. The short 1.25km long trail leads through the cool, shady forest to a multi-layered cascade. This tranquil spot is almost completely hidden from the busy main road.
To reach this waterfall, a couple of creek crossings are required. More details are in our full Naramata Creek Falls guide.
After your hike, head into the village of Naramata for a coffee or sweet treat at Just Baked. Alternatively, the Naramata Pub & Grill is a great casual pick for lunch or dinner.
Another local waterfall that is completely free to visit is Hardy Falls in Peachland. It’s a little further away from Penticton (30 minutes drive) but is much more accessible than Naramata Creek Falls.
Hike (or bike) the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) to the Little Tunnel
Another of my favourite sections of the KVR Trail is found in the hills above Naramata. The finale of this 4km long stretch of pathway is the 80m ‘Little Tunnel’ that has been blasted through the rock.
As with the rest of the KVR Trail, the pathway is very flat and therefore straightforward to walk. The journey to the Little Tunnel is on the longer side, however, so allow 2.5 to 3 hours for the 8km return distance. On a bike, this adventure takes less than one hour.