Stepping into a fairy tale at Château Okanagan
Words + Photography Lia Crowe
Crunching along a nondescript road lined by dry, scrubby yellow and sage green bushes running parallel to Okanagan Lake and high up the hillside, my travel companion and I look down again at our map app to make sure we are still en route to our destination.
Soon, seemingly out of nowhere, we arrive at an unmarked entry—a hobbit-esque gatehouse. High black gates slowly open, like magic, to reveal a winding driveway lined by mature and manicured green gardens. Snaking down the driveway, we see a large castle-like structure, fronted by Alice-in-Wonderland-style gardens, with geometric-patterned hedges and trickling fountains. My friend of many years, Genevieve, starts to laugh as we roll into the porte-cochère, saying, “What fairytale book have we just entered?!”
The large latch on the heavy wooden doors of Château Okanagan clicks open, we step in, our jaws drop…and our fantasy experience begins.
Our host, Sara Campbell (guest relations), shows us to our room—the Bordeaux Grande Suite—clearly enjoying our reactions. The suite not only has sparkling lake views from the main bedroom and a lavishly furnished sitting area, but boasts a separate office fit for a king, a large dressing room and a massive bathroom, complete with infinity bathtub, all exquisitely decorated with opulent furnishings, tiles and woodwork, and walls covered by thoughtful, unique pieces of art. We can’t wait to see the rest of the château and discover the next page of our storybook experience.
Located on 44 acres with a kilometre of the lakefront, Château Okanagan was built over five years in the early 2000s as a private home, and officially opened as a private rental property this spring.
Feeling like we’re in a scene from Beauty and the Beast, we explore the château with wonder. Peaceful water sounds play out in the background, emanating from a water feature that extends over two floors.
One wing of the château has two levels of guest rooms, each unique in itself, meticulously designed and decorated with magical touches, like wooden jewellery boxes and finishes dripping with heavy, lavish tassels, but all holding to an old-world European aesthetic—with all the modern comforts.
In the centre of the château sits a grand dining room with vaulted ceilings and exposed wooden beams, overlooked by a Juliet-style balcony from the library above, a lush sitting room and large kitchen and dining room.
The other wing contains a home theatre, stocked wine cellar and huge fitness studio that leads to a full spa, both opening out to the two outdoor infinity pools. The spa is covered in tiny iridescent tiles that cover the hot tub and a steam room that beckons with a heady aroma. There is something familiar about the spa, which makes sense when I’m told it was created by the same designer as the spa at Sparkling Hills Resort.
As we walk around, my mind puzzles on a sensation that this place is somehow different from other high-end accommodations, but I can’t quite place why. Then it occurs to me: this château was not built as a hotel for others to enjoy, it was conceived by and for the family that was to inhabit it. This was built as a home, not a business. It was a labour of love—and it feels that way.
Soon Genevieve and I are sitting on the large terrace, watching the last of the light dissolve from the sky, the foothills of the Monashee Mountains fading into a silhouette, and sipping glasses of cold 50th Parallel Pinot Gris, while the château’s private chef, Scott Geiring, prepares our dinner.
The next morning, I open my eyes and feel like I’m living a dream—I’m an everyday woman who has just learned she is actually a princess. Feeling right at home, Genevieve and I pad down the long hallway in bare feet and nightgowns to our set breakfast table on the terrace. Chef Scott brings us a smoothie bowl of yogurt infused with electric blue/green spirulina and a mango/watermelon smoothie topped with super grains and fresh strawberries. The dish is a piece of art and it’s clear that nature is the palette he uses to create; it’s playful and colourful.
The château is not a hotel, it is a guest house that can only be booked by one party at a time with a maximum of 16 guests per party.
“This is ideal for large, multi-generational family gatherings, as there is something for everyone and every age here,” says general manager Brian Dower. “It is also ideal for small weddings, corporate events and for those who value total privacy and an escape from the world. The property is completely private and, although we are working towards offering additional high-end excursions such as heli-skiing and wine tours by boat, it provides many activities on site.”
I completely understand this, as no part of me wants to leave the property. Guest relations manager Kathleen Nierfeld gives us our agenda for the day: paddleboard yoga on the lake, a kickboxing class, massages and options for hiking, kayaking, swimming and relaxation, all capped off with a sushi-making class with Scott for our dinner.
“Move at your own pace as you play with pushing up into downward dog,” yoga teacher Samantha Hogue says with encouragement.
I am on my hands and knees on a paddleboard in the middle of Okanagan Lake. I start to straighten my knees, reaching my hips up into the air, as a gentle rocking motion from the lake ripples through my yoga pose. This is a first for me and what originally seemed like two activities pointlessly merged now makes sense as the fluidity of the water informs my movements. I begin to feel at one with this incredible body of water and by the end of the yoga and meditation, now on my back, I simply roll into the lake with absolute pleasure and open my eyes to a world of green around me—submerged, connected and completely zen-ed out.
The rest of the day is an absolute win. Kickboxing with Carol Romanchuk and Cathy Swabey, of C&C Kickbox Co., is pure fire energy to balance out the fluid water vibes of the yoga, and we leave the class sweaty, pumped up and thankful for the exercise to balance out all the amazing food we’ve been enjoying.
An early evening in the spa followed by massages grounds us and we arrive at our sushi-making class totally transformed. Chef Scott leads us through sushi rolling with patience and humour, and although our rolls aren’t quite as pretty as his, we are pleased with our creations and stuff our mouths with colourful rolls filled with tuna belly, cucumber and fun ingredients such as golden beets, lobster and blueberries.
Again, I notice the difference of this resort experience—the feeling is that we are in a home, relaxed and surrounded by pleasant company but with total luxury at every turn.
Beyond the château and gardens, the estate contains a large natural area with weaving trails that we hike with Brian, who describes the land as a sanctuary for flora and fauna, safe from housing developments. This property will remain a place for people to enjoy the environment, catch glimpses of wildlife and play on the many craggy beaches that edge the property.
For our final dinner Chef Scott wows us with strawberry, beet and baby tomato salad with crumbled blue cheese, red onion and poppy seed croutons, all tossed in a rose vinaigrette. Next, we’re presented with a local-mushroom ravioli topped with mushroom ragout, blueberry, toasted pumpkin seeds and shaved Parmesan drizzled with a goat cheese popcorn sauce and truffle oil, all washed down by a beautiful Chardonnay. He ends the meal with New York-style cheesecake with berries and aged port chocolate sauce that is somehow light and fluffy.
Our conversation turns to recalling those moments in life when all the conditions line up and everything is perfect, because this is one such moment.