Our summer rockhounding adventure included a u-dig opal adventure in the mountains west of Vernon, British Columbia. The morning meetup place was at a gas station on the west side of Okanagan Lake, and I wanted to be camping nearby to minimize our pain the morning of our dig.
If you’re familiar with Okanagan Lake, civilization is primarily on the east side along the north half of the lake. At Kelowna, things spill over to the west side and remain there to the lake’s southern terminus. I had no knowledge of anything existing on the west side of the north half of the lake. That soon changed.
Development-wise, the northwest of the lake pales in comparison to the northeast side, but it is not barren. There’s Bear Creek Provincial Park, which I knew of from long ago. There’s also several residential developments and estate homes overlooking the lake all along the lone road twinning the western shoreline. And … there is Fintry Provincial Park.
FINTRY PROVINCIAL PARK LOCATION
Located on a small delta spilling into Okanagan Lake some 35 km north of Wiliam R. Bennett Bridge that connects West Kelowna and Kelowna, Fintry Provincial Park was far and away the best option for our one-night stay.
At an acceptable 23 km south of our meetup point, in many ways it was the only option for our pre-hunt campout. Thankfully, it turned out to be a great spot to get some shuteye before we set our sights on accumulating opal.
Arriving from the south, our trip to the park was a bit tricky. Westside Road is a wild, windy, hilly road of varying quality. It’s entirely paved, but that asphalt ranges from old and pitted to literally brand new.
Some curves are tight, others broad. If you’re hauling a large RV, it’ll be a bit stressful and hard on the brakes. If you’re traveling by motorcycle or sports car, there’s a good chance you’ll love it. Unless you get stuck behind the large RV. There are very few places to legally pass slower traffic.
With all that in mind, the trip time differs substantially depending on traffic. Heavy or frustrating traffic, will result in a 45 minute drive or more. With empty roads and a heavy foot, you can make the trip to West Kelowna in half an hour. Don’t ask me how I know.
FINTRY PROVINCIAL PARK SETTING
The history of Fintry Provincial Park is quite interesting. Long before becoming a park, it was the estate home of some British muckity muck who ran a massive orchard and farming operation here in the early 1900s. Upon his death, he sold Fintry Estates to a philanthropic organization that used the farm as a school to educate British orphans in practical farm skills.
At one time, the estate shipped tens of thousands of crates of apples down the lake to market. Those days are long gone and since 1996, the estate has been a provincial park with a non-profit support group preserving the structures and running tours.
Sadly, the orchards are long gone. Where they went, I haven’t a clue. I do know this, though; they haven’t been replaced by vineyards like the rest of the valley. What remains of the estate in the park is primarily a giant hay field. Yeah, weird.
This is the most dominant feature of Fintry Provincial Park. The area rimming the shoreline is treed, mostly with a mix of poplars and conifers. Some gigantic pine trees can be found in the northwest loop. The west portion of the park by the waterfall becomes more treed again and moving further west still into the Fintry protected lands, you’ll find typical BC interior forest.
CAMPSITES AND LAYOUT AT FINTRY PROVINCIAL PARK
The campground at Fintry Provincial Park consists of 5 separate loops that more or less hug the shoreline. My best guess is that the two northerly loops and the uppermost southeastern loop are original while the two remaining southeastern loops are relatively new.
All five loops are accessed by short roads stemming from a primary park road that almost encircles the interior of the park with the massive hay field at its centre. Every one of the 158 campsites has a back-in orientation. A handful of those are double sites.
As is often the case with BC Parks, none of the sites have electricity or water. I still find that odd for a province with such bounty in both. None have sewers, either.
The two newer loops in the southeast corner of the park are built into a portion of the hay field. As such, they have zero tree cover and more of a music festival vibe to them. A few trees have been planted, so there is hope for the future, but for now, it’s a stove top with campsites.
The other three loops are more forested in nature, at least around their perimeter. The northwest loop (the top loop on the map) is entirely within a pine forest while the other two loops have bald interiors with mixed trees around their edges. Trees have been planted in those interiors as well but need time to mature into shade providers.
This results in a variety of shelter quality from well-shaded campsites to fully open. It’s all a little bit funny, if you ask me. BC is not a place you visit expecting to find treeless campsites.
Access roads and loop roads are paved but the sites themselves are all gravel. The land is on a delta, so everything is mostly flat and level. Most of the sites have a longish driveway leading to a bulb with an immoveable picnic table and firepit. The behemoth tables are on a concrete pad. The firepits have open fronts with a partial grill on top.
Our site had shrubs on the sides and a forested rear. However, it faced due west and got smoked by afternoon and evening sun. Only when the sun fell behind the mountains did the heat alleviate.
The gravel, while fantastic for RVs, made peg insertion difficult.
That northwest loop was easily the nicest of the entire campground. The towering pine trees were amazing, and the ground looked a bit softer and aged. Several sites back right onto the lake. Try to snag one of these if you can.
Fintry Provincial Park boasts two campground hosts despite only one being shown on the official map. One resides in the northwest loop. The other is at the confluence of the southeast loops, next to the shower house.
The northwest loop host has a regular campsite amongst the common folk. The distinguishing feature of this site was the potted plants, indicating permanence, and the little library out front. It’s a modest library, but a great addition, nonetheless.
The southeast host is the most unique campground host I’ve ever seen. This host site is isolated from the regular campground sites. In the summer of 2023, the host occupying this site owned a massive motorhome pulling a dual axel, covered, utility trailer in which they transported their daily driver vehicle … a blue corvette! Definitely not your average campground host.
FINTRY PROVINCIAL PARK PLAYGROUNDS
Fintry Provincial Park also has two playgrounds, which is great to see.
The first is located in the open space between the group sites and the northwest loop. It’s the smaller of the two but nonetheless new and filled with fun equipment to amuse the kidlets. It’s a metal and plastic climbing structure with slides and a selection of spring rides surrounding it. Picnic tables and benches are positioned outside the play area for parents.
The second is the funkiest playground I’ve yet seen anywhere. Located at the intersection of the main entrance road by the boat launch and the access road to the southeast loops, it’s a new, large, and inventive metal and plastic playground with faux palm tree structures.
A park-like environment has been planted around the main playground footprint with lawn, trees, and picnic tables. Further south is an picnic shelter and large, gravel parking lot. It’s a great playground and picnic spot, in a good location for day users and campers alike.
GROUP CAMPING AT FINTRY PROVINCIAL PARK
On your way to the campground after registering, you’ll pass three group sites on your left. They are situated on a round access road in the open space southwest of the northwest loop. So, not entirely isolated but well enough away from most of the campground loops to not be a nuisance.
I was unable to get a good look at the group sites during our single night at Fintry Provincial Park because they were jam packed with people. Most were young folk, so I think it was a summer camp of some kind.
Each of the three group sites has a large, semi-enclosed picnic shelter and a communal firepit. A few conifer trees dot the area but by and large, the group sites are just a wide-open grass field. This gives plenty of space for erecting tents or sports equipment like volleyball nets.
You would be hard-pressed to accommodate a convoy of RVs in any of these group sites. There certainly were some present, but overall, the group sites are geared toward tent camping.
Fintry Provincial Park is a cheeky place that had me going for a few minutes upon arrival. All over the park, there are single, unisex pit toilets. Outhouses, if you will. They have a vintage look about them, though the concrete bases and paved approaches betray, at the least, recent upgrades.
Look inside these tricky pit toilets, however, and you’ll discover a magical, waste-disposal paradise. Almost all of the pit toilets have been converted to modern flush toilets! They even have sinks and mirrors inside.
How wonderful is all I can say because in their former pit toilet state, these must have been nightmares. With all the campers and just sitting in the open sun … I shudder to think.
The group sites have two sets of pit toilets as well, though I do not know if they are still pit toilets or not. I could not get into them to check and not all pit toilets at Fintry have been converted.
At the parking lot for the waterfall trailhead, the outhouses remain in their native state. That’s unfortunate, but I can understand why these were perhaps left untouched for budgetary reasons. I’m just grateful all the toilets I needed to use were modernized.
In addition to the funky outhouses, there are three shower houses in the park. One is within the northwest loop. A second is at the head of the two southernmost loops. And the third is at the day use area by the boat launch.
The southern shower house appears to be the newest of the three. It’s a lovely looking modern facility with multiple showers along with sinks and flush toilets. At the rear exterior of the building are two stainless steel cleaning stations with plenty of space for all your dishwashing needs.
The showers are free and heated, which is fabulous, but you cannot control the temperature. With a push button to engage waterflow and those small showerheads that blast you into submission, you’ll get a good cleaning but not an overly comfortable one.
The shower house in the northwest loop is newer looking as well, but perhaps not as much as the one I’ve just been talking about. It’s not as pretty either. The interior is presumably of similar design, though perhaps with fewer iterations of each stall type since the building is smaller. Two cleaning stations are again present on the building’s exterior.
The third shower house by the boat launch is older and a simpler facility. It has two shower stalls, both unisex and accessed from the building’s exterior. A single, unisex bathroom is next to them, also accessible from the exterior. There is no cleaning station. It is presumably just for day users to clean off after a day at the beach.
Potable water is available from several water taps throughout the campground loops. The two older loops in the northeast have many options in each loop whereas the newer, southeast loops only have one tap per loop. The three group sites share two dedicated water taps. Your best bet for finding one is to find a bathroom. A faucet is sure to be nearby.
We encountered the same boil water warning at Fintry Provincial Park that we did at Otter Lake Provincial Park. The taps here also have the same drinking fountain on top which makes these warning signs kind of confusing. I can drink right out of this thing but should boil it first for two minutes?
For RVs, a single hose is available at the dump station for filling tanks.
Out near the park entrance, is the large, swooping pullout hosting a dual outlet dump station. There is plenty of space here for multiple RVs to line up to empty tanks. Considering the size of the campground, I imagine it still gets clogged up during the Sunday exit rush.
Unlike other dump stations we’ve seen of late, Fintry’s requires payment to use. These are annoying devices that lock the outlet cover unless payment is processed. Too often they are broken rendering the dump station unusable (or free). This one looked like it was functioning, but as we were tenting, I didn’t need to use it.
At the very centre of Fintry Provincial Park on its east side is a boat launch, day use, and beach area. It’s a large and presumably busy place, but not strikingly appealing aside from having access to and views of the lake.
The boat launch area is notable for two buildings left over from the days of the estate. A smaller structure next to the launch and dock and a much larger, former packaging plant across the beach. They’re nifty buildings, I suppose, but you can’t enter them. They’re just there.
The boat launch itself is a sloped concrete pad with an asphalt approach. The dock to its north isn’t especially long but offers a place to jump in the water, fish from, or disembark your boat.
A large, paved parking lot west of the launch provides ample parking for tow vehicles and boat trailers. A secondary sublot is present for day use vehicles.
THE BEACHES OF FINTRY PROVINCIAL PARK
Beach means many things at Fintry Provincial Park. The entire east half of the park is bound by Okanagan Lake. That entire shoreline is a beach if you squint hard enough. It is narrow, bounded to the west by a rim of forest separating much of the campground loops from the water. And the sand is quite stoney with deposits of driftwood being common. But that doesn’t stop campers and day users from finding an open spot to soak up rays and have a swim.
At the aforementioned boat launch, the beach broadens into a rectangular area between the dock and the packaging building. Picnic tables are installed next to this pseudo-beach in an area that was once grass but has long since died.
According to the official park map, there are two designated swim areas. One is on a stretch of beach immediately north of the boat launch. The other is bordering the northwest campground loop. I do not know what makes these two areas special as they appear no different than the rest of the shoreline.
Between these two swim areas is a dog beach, again according to the map. A good idea if it’s enforced. The beach is so narrow that a bunch of happy dogs shaking off after a swim would surely impact sunbathers nearby. I like the idea of segregating the beasts, but it only works if people heed the designations.
Fintry Provincial Park has a decent trail system that connects most areas of the campground with each other and further connects the campground with the Shorts Creek Waterfall Loop.
Some campground loops have shortcut trails across their interiors, but not all. Some trails connect a singular loop with a nearby amenity. For example, there is a short trail connecting the northwest loop with the second playground and then the group area. The loop we were camping in was connected to the day use area and boat launch. These are practical trails not intended for hiking.
Other trails, however, provide a more leisure-focused and enjoyable stroll about the park. One trail parallels the shoreline from the northwest campground all the way to the boat launch. The southeastern loops have a particularly lovely trail through the woods with offshoots to shore. This trail was immediately behind our campsite. It is broad and tree covered and reminded me of childhood.
A couple trails cut across the large interior hay field taking adventurers to the historic farm buildings and the trailhead for the waterfall loop trail. These are non-descript and purely functional, but they take you to the waterfall trail which is well worth exploring.
Our time at Fintry Provincial Park was short. We arrived after a long drive and chores to complete coupled with an early morning packing up and departure. We attempted to see the waterfall in the evening, but it had gotten too dark to fully appreciate, never mind take pictures of it. So, we tried again, briefly, the next morning on our way out.
Some ruins at the trailhead are fun to investigate for a few moments. Then it is off to see the waterfall which requires climbing many flights of wooden stairs. I recommend doing so if you can, but it’s a steep climb that demands a certain amount of mobility and fitness. I am hardly a poster child for either and I was good and bagged by the time we reached the apex overlooking the waterfall.
If you’re unable to make the full journey to the top, there are viewpoints along the way with nice views of the falls. Getting to the top, if you can, adds some great vistas of the surroundings and the campground in the distance.
With limited time available to us, we only climbed to the top of the falls and back down. I wish we had been able to hike the full loop, as I suspect it’s a cool hike. Thankfully the 2023 wildfires did not make it to Fintry.
If you are simply in the neighbourhood and want to see the falls, there is ample parking by the trailhead and historic farm buildings. Water and toilets are here as well. All of this is right next to the park’s main entrance.
ENTRANCE REGISTRATION AND STORE
A registration office is positioned in the middle of the overly complicated entry road. Open during daytime hours, the office is home to friendly staff who will confirm your reservation and direct you to your campsite.
Most of this help is offered via a window directly to your vehicle, but you can enter the office should you choose. They sell ice plus ice cream and other assorted treats and drinks inside. That’s nice, and all, but the office is so far from the campground loops it’s rather impractical to use this small convenience store.
What I didn’t see was firewood. I have no idea if you can buy it in the park or not. You would think you should be able to considering the size of the campground. If not inside the park, somewhere close by must be selling it. Then again, with the annual wildfire danger, I’m not sure bonfires are allowed for much of the summer camping season.
OVERSIZED VEHICLE PARKING
Along the entrance road across from the manor house is a pullout parking lot described as Oversized Vehicle Parking on official maps. I’m not sure of its purpose, despite the obvious name. And with the picnic tables scattered about, it’s as much a small day use area as it is a parking lot.
HISTORICAL MANOR HOUSE AND FARM BUILDINGS
What makes Fintry Provincial Park a little more interesting than many other parks is the pre-park history of the place. In particular, the remaining structures from when Fintry was an actual, working estate.
The first such structures you’ll come across are the vintage barns at the park entrance. These don’t look like typical farm buildings of today or even the recent past. Once more, I wish I’d had more time to explore them more thoroughly.
The crown jewel of Fintry, though, has got to be the manor house. Found in a sprawling yard just east of the northwest loop, the manor house almost looks like something out of an Antiques Roadshow episode. It’s a beautiful, massive, stone bungalow with a porch on two sides and muiltple chimneys. Oh, to have been able to get inside this!
Most of the manor property is lawn with very few trees, though the entire plot is surrounded by them. Some interesting artifacts dot the yard including a sundial, a labyrinth, and a grave within a garden. Sadly, the latter of those has been left a bit unkempt.
Guided tours of both the barns and the manor house are available during the summer. Sadly, we had no time to partake in either.
WILDLIFE AT FINTRY PROVINCIAL PARK
Wildlife comes in three forms at Fintry Provincial Park. There are the birds. There are the multitude of families vacationing. And there are the partiers.
The birds begin their day with incessant chirping right around 5:00 in the morning. Our day already had an early start planned; I didn’t need a wakeup call. Throughout the day you’ll see much activity in the skies above, most notably crows pestering hawks for amusement.
Fintry is incredibly popular with families, as it should be. The park obviously targets this demographic with the playgrounds and beaches. With vacationing families comes the persistent noise of happiness mixed with the odd disagreement.
What I wasn’t expecting on a Thursday night was raucous partying in nearby campground loops. The two southernmost loops are quite barren. They’re exactly the kind of place rabble rousers would go to have some fun.
Thirty some years ago, I’m sure my friends and I would have sought out just such a campground for our long weekend shenanigans. That I encountered this activity on a Thursday night was a bit annoying.
As is often the case, the main culprit was a drunk chick yelling nonsense well past the 11:00 quiet time. She finally shut up around midnight. Could have been far worse, I suppose. This is a testament to how old I’ve gotten. But, hell, I had a busy day ahead and I needed my sleep!
BITS AND BITES
Despite being on the less populated side of the north end of Okanagan Lake, Fintry Provincial Park remains well within civilization. There are plenty of cottages and mansions out this way and cell service is plentiful both to and from, as well as within, the park.
Wi-Fi, on the other hand, is not. That’s no shock in a provincial park, of course. And if you do need groceries or emergency camping gear, you’ll need to make the drive back to Kelowna or onwards to Vernon.
Okanagan Lake is big and a huge summer draw for vacationers. With big bodies of water come boats. Lots and lots of motorized boats and personal watercraft. So, don’t expect a quiet getaway by the water.
MY RATING OF FINTRY PROVINCIAL PARK
Having no knowledge of Fintry Provincial Park until this past summer, I was delightfully surprised by the place. The historical aspect of the park is cool, and I always love waterfalls. One of the campground loops is great if you can get a lakeside spot in it. Two others are nearly as good. There is hiking, beaches, playgrounds, flush toilets, and showers. Not too much missing, if you ask me. And those flush toilets inside pit buildings tickled my fancy something fierce.
I will give Fintry Provincial Park 4.65 Baby Dill Pickles out of 5. It’s nearly perfect and for many families on summer vacation, it certainly is perfect. The only objection I have is with the drunk chick messing with my sleep. That’s not solely the park’s fault, but the hosts weren’t exactly on top of stopping it either. Oh, and electrical sites would be nice.
Needless to say, I wish I could have stayed here longer. I picked this campground solely for convenience for attending another activity. Never thought I’d leave wanting to come back in the future. You definitely should give it a try.