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Okanagan

Mara Provincial Park in the North Okanagan

Spend a day relaxing or enjoying water sports on the pristine Mara Lake in the North Okanagan.

I grew up in the North Okanagan-Shuswap and spent many a day on the shores of rivers and lakes. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now that I’m “adulting”, I often wish I could go back to enjoy those carefree summer days. One of my old haunts was Mara Provincial Park near Salmon Arm and I love remembering the soft sand, glistening smiles, and belly laughs. There’s nothing quite like spending a lazy day on the beach with your friends.

Mara Provincial Park is a small 5.9-hectare day-use park on the eastern shores of Mara Lake near Sicamous. Like most of the Okanagan, people love their water sports here. You’ll find lots of boaters, kayakers, swimmers, and even houseboats! The provincial park is a popular way to enjoy the beautiful lake and is culturally important to the local First Nations.

Trail Information

AvailabilityServiced May 1 to September 27
Walk-in only during the winter
ActivitiesBoating, kayaking, canoeing, SUP, fishing, swimming, casual sports, and picnicking. 
FacilitiesPotable water, picnic areas, pit + flush toilets, boat launch, and parking.
Grassy area overlooking Mara Lake

Mara Provincial Park

One of my ultimate bucket list items is to visit every provincial park in BC. At first, I thought that was an attainable goal, but then I learned that there are over 600 of them. Ha! Since that’s an overwhelming amount, I had to break that into more manageable goals. So for now, my goal is to visit every provincial park in the Okanagan. Thanks for helping, Mara! 

Mara Provincial Park is located in the North Okanagan-Shuswap. It’s about 30 minutes from Salmon Arm or an hour and a half from Kelowna. Plus, it’s just off Highway 97A so it’s super easy to get to. You don’t need to drive up a gravel road for kilometres! Mara is a great place to spend a lazy day or even just a quick rest stop. The lake is stunning and the beaches are covered in soft, white sand. Who wouldn’t want to spend time here?

Expansive sandy beach at Mara Provincial Park
Sign for Mara Provincial Park on the side of Highway 97
Information sign at Mara Provincial Park

Things to Do at Mara Provincial Park

Don’t let Mara Provincial Park’s small size fool you! Whether you’re looking for relaxation or recreation, Mara’s got ya covered. And like most of the Okanagan, the summer brings a flurry of activity to this otherwise quiet corner of BC. Locals love it here!

Recreation + Watersports

Mara is awesome if you like outdoor recreation! You’ll find people enjoying all kinds of watersports, including boating, water-skiing, kayaking, canoeing, SUP, fishing, swimming, and even houseboating. Fun fact: my first tubing experience was at Mara Lake! There’s also a paved boat launch and a large parking lot so you can easily bring your own boat. Just keep in mind that you can’t moor overnight. 

If you like kayaking, canoeing, or SUP, you’ll probably wanna take a paddle on the Shuswap River before it spills into Mara Lake. Once you’re on the lake, though, try to stick near the shore if you don’t wanna compete with boats.

You can also fish on Mara Lake! There are lots of Rainbow trout, Kokanee, Lake trout, and Dolly Varden. I’m personally not much of a fisher, but hey, this site isn’t for me, is it?

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Beaches + Swimming

If you’re not feelin’ the whole recreation side of things, good news: beautiful, unspoiled beaches stretch the entire length of Mara Provincial Park. The white sandy beaches are a peeerfect way to relax. Or if you’re into building sandcastles, you can do that, too! I’m not judging over here, adults can totally build sandcastles. You can bring your cute pets with you onto the beach, though.

And of course, you can go swimming here! That’s what summer in the Okanagan is all about, isn’t it? But because the lake has so much boat traffic, you need to stay within the designated swimming areas. There are no lifeguards on duty, so let’s just keep everyone safe, okay?

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Picnics

Picnicking is another fun way to enjoy Mara Provincial Park. There’s a large grassy area near the beach along with a few tables where you can set for the day. Grab a few friends, yummy snacks, and a deck of cards or a soccer ball and get ready for a fun afternoon! There are also two potable water taps in the park, so just bring your reusable bottle and you’re set for the day. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

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PS: This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission (at no cost to you) if you click them; I only recommend products that I think will help you. Read my full disclosure statement here.

The sandy beach at Mara Provincial Park
An empty beach at Mara Lake

Amenities

Even though Mara Provincial Park is small and only day-use, it does have some amenities. You’re not totally outta luck.

There are two potable water taps throughout the park. One is near the grassy area and the other is at the boat launch. They’re functional for most of the year, except for the off-season. There are also six washrooms (pit and flush) and some are wheelchair accessible.

The park doesn’t offer any rentals or stores, but it’s only a few kilometers from the nearest store so you don’t have to go far if you need something.

Sandy beach at Mara Provincial Park in the North Okanagan-Shuswap

History of Mara Provincial Park

I like to throw in some history every once in a while. Mostly cause I find it interesting. I hope you do too and that I’m not totally boring you. Please don’t let it be the latter… fingers crossed.

Just like many places in the Okanagan, Mara was named after a successful old guy. John Andrew Mara (1840-1920) owned most of the ranch land between Enderby and Sicamous and was a pretty well-known local politician and merchant. The community of Mara was settled in the late 1800s and most of the settlers arrived after the railway was finished in 1892.

During WWI, there were two internment camps on Mara Lake and thousands of Ukrainians and Europeans were imprisoned. Later during the Great Depression, two relief camps were set up to provide employment and those men widened the road between Mara and Sicamous. One of these camps was located where the provincial park stands today.

Today, it’s primarily a farming community and is home to about 300 people. Mara Provincial Park was established in 1938.

The forest and outhouse at Mara Provincial Park

I’ll be the first to admit that some outdoor activities have a long list of daunting gear that quickly becomes overwhelming (I’m looking at you, backpacking). Luckily, Mara is one of those places where you don’t really need anything, but there is some gear that would make your visit even better!

  • Swimsuit: Mara has a beautiful, pristine beach, so chances are you’ll want to go swimming. I looove Londre Bodywear and Wolven! Their suits are made of recycled plastic bottles and look amazing on everyone.
  • Beach towel: Beaches and beach towels are basically synonymous. Anaskela makes beautiful, lightweight towels from recycled plastic bottles.
  • Sunglasses: You’ll definitely need a pair of sunnies when you’re hanging out at Mara Lake. These sunglasses from Pela are biodegradable and look awesome. Win-win.
  • Camp chair: A lightweight camp chair makes it easy to enjoy the outdoors at Mara, especially if you’re picnicking. Helinox uses high-quality fabrics and a process called “Green Anodising” that reduces the negative environmental impacts of their manufacturing process.
  • Reusable water bottle: Mara has potable water so there’s really no reason to bring plastic water bottles (as if there’s ever actually a reason). S’well bottles will keep your water cold even if it’s been sitting in the hot sun for hours.

PS: This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission (at no cost to you) if you click them; I only recommend products that I think will help you. Read my full disclosure statement here.

The large parking lot at Mara Provincial Park in BC

Grassy picnic area at Mara Provincial Park in BC

Final Notes

Regardless of how much time you decide to spend at Mara Provincial Park, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time! The water is beautiful, the beach is clean, and there are a million and one activities you keep you busy (or not-busy) as you’d like.

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