PENTICTON (pop.33,000) 68km south of Kelowna, is a corruption of the Salish phrase pen tak tin – "a place to stay forever"; while this is not a sobriquet the most southerly of the Okanagan's big towns deserves, it is far more laid back and inviting than Kelowna. Its summer daily average of ten hours of sunshine ranks it higher than Honolulu, making tourism its biggest industry after fruit (this is "Peach City"). That, along with Penticton's proximity to Vancouver and the US, keeps prices high and ensures that the town and beaches are swarming with water-sports jocks, cross-country travellers, RV skippers and lots of happy families. Off the beaches there's some festival or other playing virtually every day of the year to keep the punters entertained, the key ones being the Wine Festival in May and late September and the Peach Festival in August.
Most leisure pastimes in Penticton take place on or near Okanagan Lake, just ten blocks from the town centre. Okanagan Beach is the closest sand to downtown and is usually covered in oiled bodies for most of its one-kilometre stretch; Skaha Beach, 4km south of town on Skaha Lake, is a touch quieter and trendier – both close at midnight, and sleeping on them is out of the question. The favourite method of cooling off in the summer is by floating down the Okanagan River Channel to Skaha Lake in an inflatable boat or tube; the route takes between two and four hours depending on the current and is popular with posturing teenagers working hard on their skin cancer; Cayote Cruises, 215 Riverside Drive (Tel:250/492-2116), rent out tubes and offer a return shuttle for $11.