Monday, November 3, 2014

OSOYOOS, BC: Watermark Beach Resort

A two-night stay at the Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos, British Columbia was exactly the right way for us to wrap up our recent wine-tasting excursion to Canada’s famed Okanagan Valley.

The view from the room
The five-year-old Watermark Beach Resort is located on the eastern shore of Osoyoos Lake in Osoyoos, just four kilometers north of the U.S. border in an area that verges on true desert. The far southern end of the Okanagan Valley lies just above the northernmost reaches of the Sonoran Desert, which many visitors are surprised to learn stretches from Mexico all the way into Canada. While the area is quite warm during the peak tourist season of the summer months, temperatures were quite pleasant during our end of October sojourn.

Upon check-in, we and our German shepherd were welcomed warmly, checked in efficiently, and given directions to the room. A dog bowl, treat and a welcome note addressed to the dog were waiting in the kitchen of our room, which could better be described as a one-bedroom apartment than a hotel room.

Living room
Our third-floor suite featured a fully equipped kitchen, a dining area, living room with a flat-screen TV and a DVD player, a patio equipped with table and chairs and a view of Anarchist Mountain to the east, and a bedroom with a king bed, dresser, and second flat-screen TV. A closet between the kitchen and bath housed a stackable washing machine and dryer, which were most welcome after a week on the road, with laundry soap available from the front desk. The bathroom was nicely equipped, though on the smaller side with a combination tub and shower, as well as the usual amenities.

Because the property is a resort and not a business hotel, the room was not equipped with a work station per se, but the kitchen table proved to be more than adequate for our needs. In addition, each room has its own wireless router that provides excellent connectivity. The wireless connection was 12 Mbps for downloads and nearly 5 Mbps for uploads as measured by Speakeasy.net/SpeedTest. That compared quite favorably to what I have come to call the “hotel standard” of 1 Mbps.

Bedroom
Service can make or break a property, and service at the Watermark was very good. In addition to a smooth check-in, dinner service at the tapas bar off the lobby was gracious, with a helpful server who suggested nibbles that would go best with our chosen wine. We visited on Wine Wednesday, when the property offers wines by the bottle at 35% off. Befitting a property in a wine region, the restaurant offered a wide selection of local wines, some by the glass but many more by the bottle. I did not note any wines from outside the region, so guests who imbibe may need to be willing to try something new. We had already visited many of the wineries represented and settled on a wine quickly. In addition, our server was more than willing to offer sample sips of those wines they offered by the glass.

En suite kitchen
Units at the property are a combination of company-owned and time shares, so some units have locked “owner’s closets” where the owners store their personal items for the times they visit while other units do not. Despite the variety in ownership, we are told all units are maintained in the same style, meaning there is no need to compare one room to the next to ensure it conforms to a style that makes you comfortable.

Situated on the shore of the lake, there were plenty of places to walk the dog or for us to stroll when weather permitted. It is located on the one of the town’s main roads and an easy walk to several coffee shops, restaurants, a provincial liquor store and a grocery store for those who prefer to prepare some of their own meals or simply have a glass of wine or a cocktail on their patio or in their room while enjoying the view. Numerous other restaurants and pubs are just a short drive away.

Bathroom
The Watermark’s location also makes it an excellent base from which to explore many of the region’s wineries. Striking out from the resort, we headed north about 21 kilometres to the town of Oliver, where we visited several of the area's 30+ wineries before heading back to Osoyoos and visiting the Nk’Mip (pronounced INK-uh-meep) Cellars.

Owned and operated by the Osoyoos First Nations Indian Band, we were told it is only one of two wineries in the world run by aboriginal peoples, the other being a winery in Australia. The cellars are on a resort that offers a restaurant, conference facilities, accommodations, a golf course, and an interpretive cultural centre. The band’s wines are marketed under an agreement with multi-national Constellation Beverages, but it’s always interesting, educational, and simply more fun to visit – and buy from – the winery.

More on our wine-tasting adventures in a separate article.

Finally, prices at the Watermark were quite reasonable. While room rates will vary depending on the type of room selected, the length of the stay and the season, prices in the restaurant were modest considering its resort setting, with tapas ranging from $6 to $18, depending on the dish. All room rates include complimentary Internet access, parking in the on-site garage, local and toll free telephone calls, use of the business centre and access to the Watermark Fitness Centre. A pet fee of $25 per night applies for guests who bring Fido or Fifi.

When we return to Osoyoos, I can’t imagine staying anywhere else.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images

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