This hard-to-get-to public beach where Mission Creek empties into Okanagan Lake gets rave reviews from Wikitravel, but few tourists or residents are aware of its existence.
Among writers for travel guides, our city gets a mostly positive but occasionally quite jarring review.
Yahoo and Rough Guide mock us, but Frommer's wants to marry us. Lonely Planet thinks Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park is our top attraction. Fodor's takes an even hand, praising the walkable and attractive downtown but lamenting the city's raggy edges.
The online sites for Let's Go and Concierge.com seem to give the city a miss entirely. But Wikitravel boasts about knowing of "an absolutely gorgeous beach" so secret it doesn't appear on any Kelowna maps and is called, appropriately enough, "Hidden Beach."
Neither of my two outdoorsy newsroom comrades, JP Squire and Gary Nylander, who together have 60-plus years residency in Kelowna, had ever heard of this particular beach.
Intrigued, I set out Tuesday morning to find this under-publicized slice of sandy heaven. After a wrong turn - the street Wiki gives as the beach access point doesn't exist anymore - I found what appeared to be a narrow public path at the southern end of Truswell Road in the Lower Mission.
I say "appeared" because there wasn't any kind of signage identifying it as a public path. There were just a lot of No Trespassing signs and forbidding barbed wire on the adjacent property, which surely must discourage a lot of people from venturing down the path.
It is a public walkway, however, and it leads down to Mission Creek. Turn right at the water and after a careful five minute walk down a narrow, rough-hewn path littered with boulders and obscured with overgrown Cottonwoods trees and brambly bushes, you do emerge at a small sandy beach.
Here, where Mission Creek empties into Okanagan Lake, there are spectacular views of the South Slopes, and across to Peachland and West Kelowna. A City of Kelowna and Interior Health sign reminds you not to smoke, so you know you are on public property, though I can't imagine the adjacent property owner really enjoys having the great unwashed wash up here.
But too bad. The land is public, and the City of Kelowna ought to do more to encourage people to use it. It would make a fabulous end point for the Mission Creek Greenway, reachable after a short walk down Truswell Road, rewarding hikers with direct connection to the lake instead of the dead-end they get now at Lakeshore Road.
As with any park, the more ordinary people who know about and use this beach, the less it would be favored by the shadowy and troublesome types who are always going to be well-acquainted with remote and little-visited public spaces.
As it is now, most of the 1.3 million people who visit Kelowna each year would never find Hidden Beach. Many of them will be relying on guides like Frommer's, which praises Kelowna as being "about as close to California as it gets in Canada".
On the other hand, Yahoo-Rough Guide says the roads into the city
"come as a very unpleasant surprise, particularly the appalling conglomeration of motels, garages, and fast-food outlets on Highway 97 at the north."
At Monday's city council meeting, representatives of the Downtown Kelowna Association said the number of visitor-related inquires fielded by its staff at their location by the Sails jumped more than threefold last summer.
In July and August of 2012, they handled 4,471 requests, compared to 1,238 during the same months in 2011.
Amid the usual requests for tips on good restaurants and interesting attractions, the staff, like those at any information centre, get a number of quirky queries.
The most common oddball question, coming from people who are literally right beside the water, is "Where's the beach?" says DKA spokesman Ryan Watters. "We're, like, 'Turn around'."
But maybe the info staffers should direct those wanting something different, a trip off the well-beaten path, to a lovely waterside spot further south.
Hidden Beach may be an apt name now, but there's no reason why public use of public land should be so discouraged and so difficult.