Naramata is a bit of a lovely secret.
Surrounded by rolling vineyards set at the foot of steep sandy cliffs, with a glistening lake at its doorstep, it looks like it could have been plucked from a storybook.
So we’re torn.
We don’t really want to tell you too much about this charming little village in British Columbia – and the great restaurants in Naramata – because we don’t want too many people to visit.
But the whole Naramata Bench – a thin ribbon of vineyards stretching 10 miles (15 km) from Penticton to Naramata village – is such an idyllic place for a Canadian wine holiday, that we can’t help rhapsodizing about it!
On a recent trip tasting wines in the Okanagan Valley (yet again!), we stayed in Naramata.
And eating out at the lovely restaurants in Naramata – often part of the wineries – was a treat.
Beyond Naramata, there are also wonderful Okanagan winery restaurants elsewhere in the valley – and we’ll get to those after first dishing on the Naramata winery restaurants and dining spots.
Restaurants in Naramata
The restaurants in Naramata focus on locally sourced products – the Okanagan is a hotbed for locally grown tomatoes, greens, crisp apples, juicy peaches, plump purple cherries and pretty well most other fruits and vegetables. Organic beef and prosciutto is de rigueur.
The Naramata winery restaurants, in particular, specialize in farm-to-table dining.
With the weather being so balmy, we wanted to dine outside. Most Naramata restaurants have patios, often with views of Lake Okanagan.
Here, then, are the best restaurants in Naramata, open for dinner, with outside dining.
1) Serendipity Winery Bistro
A small boutique winery passionately run by a mother-and-daughter team, Serendipity’s bistro has an outside courtyard patio, with wrought iron tables and chairs overlooking its vineyards. As it has a roof, heaters and retractable side screens, you can still sit “outside” even if it rains or the weather is cool. You can see the chef cooking inside a small open kitchen at one side of the courtyard.
The menu features several “share plates,” and there’s typically a daily special as well.
Judy (the owner and mom) is a lover of food-and-wine pairings, and she offered to bring us one plate at a time, which could be shared among four people. With each plate, we received a different paired wine.
We ordered five plates in all. For each plate, we received the equivalent of half a glass of wine each (just the right amount); all wines were Serendipity wines.
Everything was outstanding.
The risotto and gnocchi came out piping hot from the kitchen, just a few feet away from us. And the plates were creatively presented.
Five plates were enough for our group of four for a not-heavy meal.
But you could easily order another plate for four people (six plates in total) to feel just that more satisfied. We’d suggest the Wagyu beef carpaccio, which is paired with an aged Reserve Serenata (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc).
A very fine meal!
2) Hillside Bistro
While still on the Naramata Bench, Hillside Bistro, attached to the Hillside Winery, is one of the best restaurants near Penticton.
The 72-foot cedar tower is what you notice as you drive up to the Hillside Winery. Apart from being a head-scratching talking point, it actually serves as a natural ventilation shaft to help keep the wines cool in the cellar below.
The restaurant itself has a spacious indoor section, as well as a large outdoor terrace overlooking the winery’s flower gardens and vineyards below.
At night, the terrace is romantically lit by small golden lamps set at each table.
If on the fresh sheet, go for the Salt Spring Island mussels.
For our dinner, they had been caught fresh that morning and trucked in – and they were the biggest, plumpest, juiciest mussels we’ve ever eaten. We ordered a pound of them, cradled in a bowl of Thai curry sauce.
The mushroom walnut pate with roasted shallot crackers and apricot honey was a hit with us too, as was the fresh pasta and the garden salad with goat cheese, apple slices, pumpkin seeds and apple dressing.
And to drink? We loved the Muscat Ottonel with its spicy floral flavors. It was the first white variety planted at Hillside (1984) and it’s still a favorite more than 30 years later.
New for 2021?
Chef Evan Robertson has signed on as the executive chef to oversee the Hillside Bistro. He’s honed his skills at several well-known Canadian restaurants, including the foodie-focused dining room at Villa Eyrie on Vancouver Island.
3) Restaurant at the Naramata Inn
One of the finest restaurants in Naramata is the boutique Naramata Inn’s dining room – simply called the Restaurant.
Reincarnated and opened in 2020, the Restaurant’s kitchen (led by top Canadian chef Ned Bell) turns out creative seasonal dishes with ingredients sourced from local growers.
We started with the succulent scallops to share, then followed that with roasted duck with a juniper jus (for George) and gnocchi (for Janice).
Need help choosing a wine? No worries. The sommelier can guide you towards the perfect bottle from the Restaurant’s collection of award-winning wines.
The gracious heritage inn is over 100 years old.
Sitting out on the covered heated porch at the front of the inn for a leisurely dinner takes you back to the unhurried days of yesteryear.
4) Restaurant at Poplar Grove
Another of the best winery restaurants in Naramata is the modernist glass-enclosed Restaurant at Poplar Grove. (Located on the Naramata Bench, it’s actually in the Penticton area – and is one of the top Penticton restaurants.)
The views from the extensive patio are as enticing as the food, which is creative and beautifully presented.
The lamb is a stand-out dish at this Penticton restaurant. The menu changes, but if featured, also try the polenta cubes plus the Wagyu beef tartare with crispy egg yolk, chilli and capers.
To taste as many flavors as you can, order sharing dishes. Enjoy!
5) Naramata Pub
Try some local craft beers and tuck into home-made nachos, ribs, fish-and-chips and burgers at the Naramata Pub.
When you just want simple comfort food and a good brew, the pub’s outdoor patio is the place to hang out.
Wednesday is the pub’s legendary wing night – and they promise the biggest tastiest wings around.
6) Other Naramata restaurants: Lake Breeze
The Patio at Lake Breeze must also be mentioned in our list of the best Naramata restaurants with outdoor patios – indeed it’s one of the top Okanagan winery restaurants in the whole valley.
Serving multi-course, farm-to-table plates, its elegant patio is set in a lush garden. But while superb, it’s only open for lunch. Perhaps plan a long late lunch – accompanied by delicious Lake Breeze wines, of course! (We love the winery’s Pinot Gris.)
Another wonderful place for a wine vacation? We also love wine tasting in Sonoma, California (great bicycling and restaurants too!)
4 Other best winery restaurants in Okanagan
While based in Naramata, you’ll want to know some of the other top winery restaurants in the Okanagan to pop into for lunch or dinner when out and about exploring the Okanagan Valley. Here are 4 of the best with alfresco dining:
7) Sonora Room, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
The fine dining Sonora Room at the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is renowned for its duck confit with carrot-and-brown-butter puree, mushroom bourguignon and, frankly, anything they make. The winery’s premium wines are top-notch too.
This Okanagan restaurant is popular, so be sure to make reservations and ask for the patio if you want outside seating.
8) Old Vines, Quail’s Gate
One of the original Okanagan winery restaurants, the Old Vines restaurant has built a reputation for serving spot-on food in a beautiful setting. Rather than ordering a glass or bottle of wine, you can get red or white flights of Quail’s Gate wines, so you can try a bit of wine tasting with your meal.
The restaurant has a heated patio.
9) Terrafina, Hester Creek
The Tuscan-style Terrafina restaurant offers a vineyard dining experience outside on its patio. The menu focuses on thin-crust pizzas (try the peach-and-proscuitto!) and pasta. The accompanying Hester Creek wines are also very good.
10) Terrace Restaurant, Mission Hill
You can never go wrong dining at the Terrace Restaurant at Mission Hill Family Estate. You’d think you would have to choose between exceptional cuisine or breathtaking vineyard and lake views. But, no, you get both here.
Expect a multi-course set menu, where garnishes range from seasonal mushrooms to wild lilies, all foraged nearby.
The setting is perfect to celebrate a special occasion – highly recommended!
Things to do in Naramata
So, what is there to do in Naramata (other than eating)? Wine tasting, of course!
As well, from spring to fall, you can walk or bicycle along the picturesque Kettle Valley Trail. This decommissioned railway trail offers miles and miles of almost flat bicycling and walking. (It’s 2.2% grade going downhill from Naramata to Penticton.)
In summer, the beaches are great for hanging out. Manitou Beach Park, right in Naramata, is a sweet beach.
You can also rent SUP boards from Sun N’ Sup and go stand-up paddleboarding.
Pssst! Have you visited Galiano Island in BC yet? Check out these 10 fun things to do on Galiano (from beachcombing to magical bioluminescent kayaking)
Where to stay in Naramata
The Village Motel:
Smack-dab in the heart of tiny Naramata village, this small, sweet, spickety clean family-run motel is like the old California-style motels, with a handful of rooms built around a central garden courtyard.
(It’s nothing like the modern version of today’s utilitarian motels, with cars parked outside the rooms. You park your car on a small gravel lot in front of the motel.)
Rooms come kitted out with white walls, white bedding and kitchenettes. Guests love to sit outside in the garden with their coffee in the mornings or a glass of wine in the evenings.
The affordable price point can’t be beat.
We’ve stayed here for a night each on two trips, before moving to a larger Vrbo cottage with kitchen for a longer stay.
The Village Motel: Check rates and availability
The Naramata Inn:
One of the most romantic and best places to stay in Naramata for couples is the lovingly restored Naramata Inn.
The 12 pretty rooms are all different and individually decorated, but they each feature hardwood floors, clawfoot (or soaker) tubs and luxury linens.
As a heritage inn – over a century old – expect soundproofing to be quirky (the 2-bedroom suite is the quietest room).
The Naramata Inn: Check rates and availability
Sandy Beach Lodge:
This beloved lakefront lodge has been the summer vacation choice for many families (including us!) for two generations now.
There are 6 lodge rooms above the main reception building and 13 two-bedroom (one-bathroom) log cottages with full kitchens.
And with more than 400 feet of sandy beachfront plus a small outdoor pool, what more do you need for the quintessential family holiday by the lake!
Sandy Beach Lodge: Check rates and availability
Photo credits: 13, 15, 16 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Other restaurant and hotel photos courtesy the respective businesses | 24 Sun N’ Sup