Oliver is a small town located on Highway 97 (Okanagan Highway), at the southernmost tip of the Okanagan Valley and the northern edge of the Sonora Desert. Highway 97 is a major north-south transportation link, connecting California to Alaska. To the south is the town of Osoyoos, and the Canada/US border. And north are Skaha Lake, the town of Kaleden and City of Penticton. The community is situated along the Okanagan River by Tuc-el-nuit Lake.
There's a desert to the south, and in all other directions, Oliver is surrounded by mountains, lakes, lush orchards, farms and vineyards. Oliver is one of the most picturesque places in the Okanagan. The South Okanagan has Canada’s only arid desert environment, with over 100 rare plants and 300 rare invertebrates. It is one of North America's most unique and endangered ecological regions.
The town was named after John Oliver, Premier of British Columbia from 1856 to 1927. It was Premiere "Honest John" and his government, through the South Okanagan Lands Project, who brought "The Ditch" irrigation canal and agricultural prosperity to the northern end of the Sonora Desert region. Oliver has been referred to as being "born of the waters, blessed by the sun." With irrigation, the desert landscape became the ideal place for growing cantaloupe, tree fruits and many ground crops.
In the 1880s, free gold-bearing quartz was found east of Oliver at Camp McKinney; and then just west of and above Oliver, driving the growth of a boomtown called Fairview. Fairview was one of the province's largest towns at the turn of the century. Today it's represented by a historical marker.
In 1923 the Kettle Valley Railway (CPR) built Oliver Station and laid track from Penticton. The railway enabled Oliver farmers to transport fruit to market economically. The CPR Station has been restored and now houses the Oliver Visitor Centre. Oliver was incorporated in 1946 and elected its first council in 1968. The Oliver township is made up of land controlled by three different governing bodies: the Town of Oliver, the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
Oliver is one of the first stops on the Okanagan wine tour in the South Okanagan's wine country. Located in the south Okanagan Valley between Mount Kobau and Mount Baldy, this thriving little town has been branded Canada’s Wine Capital. Oliver spans over 500 hectares and is home to 41 wineries, with notable brands like Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs. Oliver is world-renowned for the quality of grapes it grows. Varietals produced in the favoured "Golden Mile" and on "Black Sage Bench" are sought after by vintners across the province. Oliver's climate and topography also provide the optimal conditions for growing the preferred Vinifera wine grapes.
The population is 4,928 (2016 census) and has been growing at a rate of 1.11% per year. The median age is 57.3, reflecting the popularity of the South Okanagan with retirees. 52.5% of Oliver's residents are aged 45 to 79., and residents over the age of 65 represent double the average for the rest of the province.
There are 2,155 private households in Oliver (2016 census). There was a construction spurt just before 1960, during which 480 homes were built. 28.01 percent of the homes in Oliver were built between 1961 and 1980, and the most popular bedroom size was 2 bedrooms. Another 410 homes were constructed in a spurt between 1991 and 2000. There has been another recent construction boom in Oliver, with several new exciting developments.
The Golf Villas are luxurious, two-and three-bedroom villas, featuring Southwestern resort-style architecture and single-level floor plans. The homes are located along the 17th and 18th holes of the NK’ MIP Canyon Desert Golf Course. The villas offer spectacular views of the Okanagan Valley and golf course. Each Golf Villa includes the initiation fee for a lifetime golf membership. Canyon Desert is the ultimate active living resort community with luxurious, two and three-bedroom single-family detached and semi-detached residences.
Oliver Heights offers a beautiful, thoughtfully designed, pet-friendly, and multi-generational gated community. The one-level 'orchard bungalow' homes are a contemporary take on the traditional bungalow, with stunning views of benches below, lush orchards and vineyards. The 1 storey, 2-bedroom 'orchard rancher' is a contemporary interpretation of the mid-century modern home with open plans and articulated views. The spacious two-storey 'orchard manor' are two to four-bedroom contemporary executive homes with 360-degree views. And the 'orchard villa' homes have two-levels – a contemporary take on a traditional brownstone – with a streetscape, front entrance, and garage all facing the valley. The Orchards Phase I and II offering is just 40 building home site lots for sale.
Riverside Place condominiums offer you a luxurious home on the banks of the Okanagan River. Each spacious condo is designed with high-end materials and appliances and environment controlled systems. Riverside offers exceptional value for the money, with enormous two bedrooms or two bedrooms plus den, and features a “flex” room at the entrance of the suite. Riverside Place offers luxury residences starting from just $429,900.
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Oliver and Osoyoos have the best weather in Canada. The year-round average temperature is above 15 degrees Celcius. Oliver has a local steppe climate, classified as BSk by Köppen and Geiger. The town enjoys 2,040 hours of sunshine each year, with an average summer temperature of 29°C. Each summer visitors and locals enjoy the spectacular sunshine, beaches and parks, wineries, fruit stands and outdoor recreation.
As Canada’s only desert, precipitation is only 292 mm per year. The average winter temperature is 0 °C. With the comfortable winter temperatures and an average snowfall of 51 cm, Mount Baldy has made Oliver the new hot winter destination for skiers and snowbirds. With a drop in the Canadian dollar, snowbirds from northern British Columbia and other western provinces are making the Oliver area their winter destination.
The least amount of rainfall occurs during October. The average in this month is 16 mm. In December, the precipitation reaches its peak, with an average of 34 mm. The variation in annual temperature is around 24.3 °C. The Southern Okanagan Valley has some of the highest degree growing days in BC.
The median household income is $54,656. Oliver's unemployment rate is 6.7% (2016 census), slightly below the Canadian average for the census period.
Key business sectors in Oliver are health care and social assistance (12.1%); agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (11.8%); construction (11.3%); and accommodation and food services (10.1%). Health care and social assistance are the largest labour force in Oliver due to the above-average retirement population. Agriculture still plays a vital role, with tree fruit, organic greenhouse vegetables, and large vineyards. 50% of all wine grapes for BC are grown in Oliver. Tourism is also an important provider of jobs, attracting tourists in the summer with its beaches, fruit and vineyards; and skiing in the winter.
Oliver falls under School District 53 Okanagan Similkameen. There are two public elementary schools and one secondary school. There are 646 students in the elementary schools, and 630 in secondary education (BC Ministry of Education, 2015).
Oliver Elementary School has approximately 350 students, kindergarten through grade 7, and 40 teachers. The school is known for its strong Fine Arts program. OES also has sports teams, academies and clubs, with activities throughout the year. The school promotes a sense of community, providing students with opportunities for giving back and becoming involved.
Tuc-el-Nuit Elementary School teaches students kindergarten through grade 7. Tuc-el-Nuit offers a Late French Immersion program, beginning at the Grade 6 level. Upon graduation from the Late French Immersion in Grade 12, students should be able to participate easily in French conversations, take post-secondary courses with French as the language of instruction, and accept employment with French as the language of employment. Other programs include Basketball, Cross-Country, Hockey Academy, Soccer, Volleyball and Indigenous Education.
Southern Okanagan Secondary School has about 485 students, grades 8 to 12, and 31 teachers. As a result of a fire in 2011, students now have a new school. SOS offers a range of programs including Advanced Placement courses, Apprenticeship and Work Experience, and the ACE It program, offered in conjunction with Okanagan College.
SenPokChin Elementary School offers an alternative to crowded classrooms. SenPokChin is a certified class 2 BC Independent School, teaching students kindergarten to Grade 8. Special programs include Speech Therapy, Rich Culture and Okanagan Language program, school garden, and daily breakfast and hot lunch program.
Okanagan College - Oliver Campus offers a wide range of academic, vocational, trades, apprenticeship and continuing education programs and courses. The college also provides quality education and training for the wine and hospitality industries. Unique to this region are their Signature Programs, including Winery Assistant Certificate, Viticulture Certificate, Wine Sales Certificate, and Career Facilitator.
Conveniently located along Highway 97, Oliver Place Mall is an open-air shopping centre in the heart of Canada’s Wine Capital. The 61,088 square foot mall is anchored by No Frills and Shoppers Drug Mart. It offers over 500 feet of frontage along Highway 97 and 340 surface parking spaces.
There are several coffee shops in Oliver. Stop by the Cock and Bull Cappuccino Bar for espresso drinks, breakfast and lunch; and Medici's Gelateria & Coffee House makes the absolute best premium Italian Gelato and Sorbetto. Big Al's Bakery & Deli serves fresh baked goods, hot coffee and delicious meats and cheeses.
For a quick bite, you might like Mr. Spud's authentic beer-battered fish & chips. Casa Luna is a family-owned restaurant that recreates the authentic flavours of true Mexican food, from recipes handed down from generation to generation. Oliver Garden Restaurant has been serving Oliver since 1983, with a wide range of options; and was awarded “Best Buffet and Take out in the South Okanagan”.
Oliver currently has 5 great food trucks. El Sabor de Marina serves up Mexican and Central American dishes, and their specialty is burritos. You'll find them parked at 5636 Hwy 97 (next to C&C Food Mart). Hammer's House of Hog offers up Southern-style BBQ. Their specialty is a legendary pulled pork sandwich. You'll find their truck at 6607 Main St, Lions Park. Mr. Spud is an English fish and chips spot, parked at 5974 Main Street. The Wienery specializes in European American fare, with gourmet hot dogs and sizzling sausages. And the Vagabond Kitchen offers up a selection of global street food. Their specialty is the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich. You'll find Vagabond Kitchen parked at 6060 Station Street.
Auntie Ag's Seafood Cafe is another restaurant known for its British style Fish and Chips. Auntie Ag's also makes a great homemade seafood chowder, teeming with cod, salmon and halibut; as well as their famous clam chowder. They also serve burgers, and poutine, the French Canadian favourite, is available on the side.
For something a bit more substantial, Crucetti's Restaurant is a family restaurant that offers sizeable portions, a comfortable atmosphere and freshly cooked food. Savvios Family Restaurant serves up Greek and Italian cuisine, with friendly service and generous portions. If you're craving Greek or Italian food, a steak, seafood, pasta or live music, Savvios could be just the spot.
Pizza Rolla offer an interesting combination: pizza, sushi and teriyaki. Pizza Rolla pride themselves on producing great pizzas, pasta, sushi and original teriyaki, salads and wings. It's a family pleaser combination that works. The master chef at Pappa's Firehall Bistro specializes in Mediterranean fire-grilled chicken and ribs. Steak and shrimp, lemon-roasted potatoes, calamari or falafel salad... there's something for everyone. Best of India Restaurant & Sweets offers authentic Indian cuisine.
The Wine Capital of Canada has also become known as a foodie destination. What pairs better with wine than food, right? For date night, a special occasion or relaxing lunch, look no further than Oliver's wineries. Masala Bistro at Kismet Estate Winery serves a variety of appetizers, garden veg selections, biryani, tandoori favourites and delicious entrées, with pairing recommendations. Terrafina is a beautiful Tuscan style restaurant situated amongst the vines of Hester Creek Estate Winery in Oliver. Terrafina offers fresh, local and seasonal ingredients expressed with a homestyle Italian warmth, paired with wines from Hester Creek Estate.
The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery has gained a reputation for its epicurean excellence, superb service, relaxed style and spectacular views of Burrowing Owl's 140 acres of vineyard. Sonora's menu showcases local organic produce, fresh, seasonal fruits and artisan breads and cheeses. Backyard Farm Chef’s Table can host up to 20 guests. Chris Van Hooydonk’s food philosophy embodies the approachable side of healthy eating and farming; putting emphasis put on sourcing the freshest and organic when possible, highest quality, seasonal and sustainable ingredients.
Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek features sweeping panoramic views of the valley below while serving locally sourced ingredients prepared by award-winning chef Manuel Ferreira. Rustic meets elegant in delicious harmony, with a hint of Mediterranean on the palate. Vineyard Kitchen at Black Hills Estate Winery serves flatbread pizzas with the freshest local ingredients, salmon on a bed of asparagus, decadent chocolate cookies filled with chocolate fudge and topped with sprinkles of sea salt all have their Black Hills wine pairings.
80.29% of Oliver's inhabitants are vehicle drivers. Oliver's downtown is walkable, but as with most rural communities, local amenities can be somewhat spread out. It's accessibility – with airports, major highways and the US border just a few kilometres away – has made Oliver a popular location for companies looking for lower office and warehouse costs. Oliver is connected with Penticton by BC Transit Route 40.
Oliver is located only 21km north of the US border crossing at Osoyoos, which is also the junction with Highway 3. Oliver and Osoyoos have easy highway access west to Vancouver and east to Calgary. Oliver to Osoyoos is 17 minutes (20.8 km) via Hwy 97, and the Oroville-Osoyoos Border Crossing is 21 minutes (24.4 km). Oliver to Penticton is a 36 minute (42.2 km) drive via Hwy 97, and o Vancouver is 4 hours 28 minutes (407.6 km) via Hwy 3 and the Trans Canada Hwy.
Oliver's closest airport is Penticton Regional Airport (YYF), which is 40km (25 miles) north of Oliver. YYF offers daily non-stop flights to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and Calgary International Airport (YYC) via major airlines WestJet and Air Canada. Small plane owners operating personal aircraft can also take advantage of the Oliver VIR-Only Airport.
The Oliver Community Arts Council (OCAC) has been the hub of artistic activity in Oliver since it opened in 1970. The Oliver Community Arts Council offers several major public events throughout the year. The Wine Capital Art Walk in early May celebrates local artists during the Spring Wine Festival. Also during the Wine Festival, Showcase of Talent offers an opportunity for local music students to perform selections from their recent music studies, competitions, and performances. During July and August, Music in the Park provides a stage for South Okanagan musical performers to entertain in relaxed outdoor concerts. The Fall Art Show and Sale is held late in September/early October in conjunction with the Festival of the Grape at the Oliver Community Centre.
Frank Venables Theatre is a performing arts centre in the heart of the South Okanagan. Owned by School District #53, the Frank Venables stage is used for a wide range of theatre, dance and music, children’s events and community activities.
The Oliver & District Heritage Society operates out of two different facilities. The Museum houses Oliver's exhibits and collection of artifacts, while the Archives is a research library and archival facility, documenting and preserving the community's history.
Oliver Community Park offers five multi-use fields suitable for slo-pitch, softball, baseball or fastball and soccer. During the summer the fields are used for practises and weekend tournaments. And during July and August, the fields are used for Big League Experience Baseball Camp.
Inkaneep Provincial Park is a small 21-hectare park located 6km north of the Town of Oliver, on the shores of the Okanagan River. The park is popular with hikers and bird watchers, with old-growth cottonwood trees and 7 rustic campsites. Bird species include the black-headed grosbeak, northern oriole, American redstart, Lewis’s woodpecker, yellow warbler, and warbling vireo. Short trails lead from the campground area to a short section of the dike on the river.
Kinsmen Spray Park and Playground is one of the highest use parks in Oliver, located along the west side of the Okanagan River. There's a fully equipped playground with features to climb, slide and swing on. The waterpark includes a splash pad with a spray tunnel, multiple fountains and a water cannon. Located at the North Entrance to Oliver, Lions Park provides a playground for smaller children, a skateboard park, a basketball hoop and a covered pavilion. The pavilion is used for entertainment, and in the summer it's home to the farmer’s market. Picnic tables are located throughout the park, and the pavilion offers shelter for family reunions, weddings and many other gatherings.
Rotary Beach, on Tuc el Nuit Lake, has a gradual decline into the water, making it the perfect swimming spot for small children. The park is a popular place for families to swim, paddleboard, and kayak. The park has grass areas in the shade, picnic tables, sandy shores and excellent views of the surrounding mountain and vineyards.
Baldy Mountain Ski Resort ranks in the top ten of the highest elevation ski resorts in Canada. Mount Baldy is known for its stunning high alpine views of the desert and vineyards below, minimal to no lift lines, exceptional prices, gladed terrain and light fluffy powder. The mountain offers 35 alpine runs, 360 acres of trails, and 240 acres of glades for tree skiing and boarding. Baldy Mountain also has 5 km of groomed cross-country skiing trails for beginners to intermediates, and 5 km of snowshoe trails.
Oliver residents enjoy one of Canada’s longest golf seasons. The South Okanagan offers 12 courses of varying difficulty. There are six championship, three executive, and three par 3 courses that can be reached in under an hour’s drive from Oliver.
Fairview Mountain Golf Club was rated by SCOREGolf at #47, in the top 100 public courses in Canada, and among the best values. The 18-hole course offers incredible views and challenging play for golfers of every skill level. Nk'Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course is a full-length championship course with over 50 years of heritage; recognized as one of the Premier Golf Courses in Canada. NK’Mip Canyon hosts a variety of events and golf tournaments throughout the year.
The real estate prices in the South Okanagan are a bargain when compared with homes in Vancouver and other metropolitan cities. Some retirees have been able to sell their home in the city and then purchase two homes: one in Oliver, and another house or suite near their children. Oliver is one of the fastest-growing communities in Canada, thanks to attractive relocation costs, a high tech infrastructure and an exceptional lifestyle.
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