Dubbed the Wine Capital of Canada, Oliver BC is a great place to visit for anyone interested in sampling wine in a truly stunning location or enjoying outdoor activities. Located in the Okanagan Valley of the Thompson Okanagan region, right in between Penticton and Osoyoos, Oliver is home to some of Canada’s hottest weather, several award-winning wineries, great restaurants, and outdoor adventure.
This small city is surrounded by fruit orchards, fruit stands, beautiful vineyards and wineries, farmland, and the Sonora Desert, Canada’s only desert. While wine lovers will rejoice with the many wineries in the area, outdoor enthusiasts will also get their fix thanks to the array of trails for both hiking and biking. In addition, there are opportunities for fishing, golfing, and other activities as well.
In this Oliver BC travel guide, we’ll fill you in on all the best things to do in Oliver, British Columbia.
Visit a Winery and Do Some Wine-Tasting
Since Oliver is known as Canada’s Wine Capital, we figured we’d start this list of things to do in Oliver BC with wine tasting, wineries, and vineyards. The grapes grown around the Oliver area are said to be of very high quality, thanks in part to the fertile soil and the amount of sunshine that the region gets.
Wine also tends to taste better at the winery in which it is made (at least in our opinion) and Oliver offers many different wineries that offer wine tasting as well as beautiful views. Whether you’re into White, Red, Rosé, or even the occasional Ice wine, you’ll find something you enjoy.
Plus, there’s also a variety of tours you can enjoy, which not only gets you an in-depth experience into how the wines are made but also includes transportation!
Some of the best tours include:
Osoyoos & Oliver Sip Disturber Half-Day Wine Tour: This is a half-day wine tour that is guaranteed to be a sip-disturbing good time! This tour visits 4 award-winning vineyards on the fabulous Osoyoos/Oliver wine trail. Enjoy worry-free pickup and drop-off at your Osoyoos or Oliver accommodation. Click here to check availability and reviews.
Oliver & Osoyoos Wine Tour Full Day: Tour some of British Columbia’s finest vineyards in comfort on this private day trip. You’ll be taken to five wineries in the Oliver and Osoyoos wine country, recognized as the province’s first wine sub-region. Sit back and relax as you’re driven around. You’ll get a chance to taste the red wines the region is famous for at each stop, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Click here to check availability and reviews.
While visiting the Okanagan, don’t forget to visit Kelowna as well! For more, check out our guide to the best things to do in Kelowna.
Visit the District Wine Village
One of the newest attractions in Oliver BC is the District Wine Village, the first of its kind in Canada, offering a fun and easy way to sample wines from many different wineries in one place. Designed in a circular pattern, visitors will find 13 different wineries, one brewery, one distillery, a restaurant, and entertainment all in one place. Even Matthew Good has performed here and combined with the stunning mountain scenery, it would be a magical place to sample wine and enjoy live music.
What makes the District Wine Village extra special though is that each of the wineries actually produces the wine on-site. Some of them only produce it here whereas others, such as Nk’Mip Cellars, produce wine here and in their main winery down in Osoyoos. However, as part of the agreement for being a part of the District Wine Village, the wineries, distillers, and breweries all have to actually make their products here. How cool is that? You can sample all sorts of wine while enjoying live entertainment!
The Wineries include JoiRyde Winery, One Faith Vineyards, Wapiti Cellars, Vintners Cove Winery, Uppercase Winery, Gneiss Wines, Winemaker’s Cut, Nk’Mip Cellars, Eau Vivre Winery, Silhouette, Valley Commons, Time Family of Wines.
This site is open year-round but the entertainment portion is during the busier warmer months.
Pick Some Fresh Local Fruit at an Orchard
Although Oliver BC is famous for growing grapes and making wine, they’re also well known for growing delicious fruit, such as grapes, apples, plums, cherries, pears and peaches. Even Haskap berries are starting to make their way here. Orchards can be seen all over the region, but best of all, there are many fruits stands around Oliver where you can buy all the fruit your heart, and tastebuds, desire.
Visit the Vaseux Lake Bird Sanctuary
Whether you’re interested in bird watching or just enjoying some really stunning scenery, Vaseux Lake Bird Sanctuary is a great place to visit. Located off Highway 97, just 10 kilometres north of Oliver, this lovely marshland is home to all sorts of birds as well as other animals. The lake itself can also be used for non-motorized activities such as paddle boarding and kayaking.
The Vaseux Wildlife Centre also has a 300-metre boardwalk along with viewing platforms that makes it easy to walk out into the marshland and spot birds. There’s even a tower at the end for those wanting to get a little higher. We visited during the winter months and saw two bald eagles.
There is parking and toilets on-site. However, there are signs warning of poison ivy, so don’t be using the leaves as toilet paper.
Want to go on a bird-watching tour?
Half-Day Birdwatching in the South Okanagan: Discover the unique species of the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valley on a private, half-day bird-watching tour. Accompanied by your guide, view birds in a variety of habitats, including the wetlands and fir forests. Stay alert for regional highlights as well as rare species, as you’re guided through bird-watching hotspots. Take advantage of your guide’s knowledge, and find more than you would alone on this tour through a birder’s paradise. Click here to check availability and reviews.
Visit One of the Mountain Lakes
If you love small mountain lakes or just want to get away from the “town” and deeper into nature, there are actually a few beautiful lakes you can visit.
Madden Lake and Ripley Lake Recreation Sites
Located just 11 kilometres from Oliver, both Madden Lake and Ripley Lake are nice little mountain lakes that can be reached by car or by mountain bike. These lakes can be accessed via Fairview Road, which becomes a dusty dirt road after about 4.5 kilometres. You’ll then continue down the dusty road until you see signs for the lake. Watch out for wildlife and recreation vehicles. Both sites offer a boat launch, tables, toilets, and camping opportunities.
Burnell Lake Recreation Area
Even closer to Oliver and also found by taking Highway 97/Fairville Road Junction, Burnell Lake is another small mountain lake and recreation area. It’s also accessed via a 4-kilometre bumpy Forest Service Road. You can either drive here or ride your mountain bike and there’s an open site with space for a few people to camp next to the lake. This site is popular with fishermen and has a boat launch as well. Keep in mind that the region around Oliver has rattlesnakes, so just be mindful.
Mahoney Lake Recreation Site
Just a little further away, about 22 kilometres, Mahoney Lake Recreation Site offers really beautiful scenery. From Oliver BC, take Highway 97 North to Secrest Hill Road, west onto Secrest Hill Road, turn north onto Willowbrook Road and proceed north to White Lake Biodiversity Ranch kiosk. From here, you can park your vehicle and follow the trail to the overlook of White Lake and the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory.
Eat Delicious Food
Another great thing about visiting Oliver British Columbia is that there’s no shortage of really, really good food. Whether you’re looking for authentic Mexican food from a food truck or fine dining with views of the valley, Oliver has something for everyone. We’ve always had a great time dining at the Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek Winery, which offers fine dining and some of the best views in the entire Okanagan region. However, it certainly doesn’t stop there. Other crowd favourites are Terrafina at Hester Creek, the Sonora Room, Backyard Farm, Masala Bistro at Kismet Winery, and more.
Hike McIntyre Bluff
Known as Oliver BC’s signature hike, McIntyre Bluff is a must for anyone looking for a scenic hike. In fact, the iconic McIntyre Bluff (also known as Indian Head) can be found on many postcards, websites, and even the book covers of South Okanagan travel guides.
The beautiful and striking cliff rises 300 metres above the road and nearby Vaseux Lake. In fact, while you’re in the area, visit the Vaseux Lake Bird Sanctuary (mentioned above). Get a taste of Canada’s only desert on this moderate 10 km return trip. The elevation gain is only 322 m with some steep sections along the way, but the views are worth it. There is no shade, so make sure you prepare for the sunny weather and keep your eye out for wildlife, including rattlesnakes.
Please note: Different websites mention different lengths. The 10 km version typically starts near Covert Farms but we’ve heard that the trailhead is closed. Another option is to start from the McAlpine Bridge, but this turns it into an 18-km trek. However, the hike still takes roughly 5 hours. Perhaps stop into the visitor centre to make sure.
Hike Sandy Hill to Explore Oliver Mountain
If you’re looking for a decent short hike that reaches a summit overlooking Oliver, this is a great option. This 4-kilometre hike starts at the trailhead at the base of Oliver Mountain. The trail will take you up to the radio tower, reaching an elevation change of 400 metres and eventually reaching the summit at 720 metres.
Although this isn’t a very difficult hike, it can be hot and there is no shade, so make sure you prepare for that. People have also seen rattlesnakes on this trail, so just be alert. You will be rewarded with amazing views all around.
Hike Stamp Mill Golden Mail
If you’re looking for an easier hike that is also very beautiful, consider Stamp Mill Golden Mail, a moderate 2.5 km hiking trail that begins at the scenic Tinhorn Creek Winery. This is also a great place to grab lunch or dinner, but either way, you can park at the shop and get a trail map. From the parking area, the trail goes through part of the Thorn Creek vineyards, leading uphill until eventually, the trail levels out and reaches a plateau. If you want to extend the hike, the trail that goes right is part of a 10 km trail that leads you north towards the old Fairview Townsite.
Play Golf at Fairview Mountain Golf Club
Those into golfing will definitely want to visit Fairview Mountain Gold Club. Not only can you whisk away your nights sampling wine, but you can also spend your days whacking golf balls while surrounded by truly stunning scenery. Ranked as #47 among the best public golf courses in Canada, not to mention being named a top 100 course in Canada by Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member and TSN golf analyst Bob Weeks, you’ll find remarkable landscapes, more than 200 feet of elevation, and a layout that can be played by all levels of golfer.
In addition to the gold course itself, they also offer an incredible opportunity to play 18 holes at your choice of 60 different golf courses from around the world via their GC Hawk Simulator. This state-of-the-art machine offers advanced tracking technologies, giving you the most realistic ball-tracking data via the overhead camera. It even knows whether you’re right or left-handed, as well as ball speed, launch angle, direction, and yardage. You can even practice playing in the “wind”!
In addition, you can practice hitting into netted cages, pitching into targeted nets, and perfecting your short game in their 3200-square-foot indoor circuit.
Hike and Bike Along the Okanagan River Channel
Another lovely spot to go for a hike or bike is along the Okanagan River Channel, an 18 km mostly paved trail that goes through Oliver and south towards Osoyoos. If you need a spot to park your vehicle, the Oliver Visitor’s Centre is a great option and you can even grab some maps and ask any questions you might have before you embark on your trip.
If you want to do a loop-style ride, come back via Black Sage Road and visit some wineries along the way.
Experience Mexico in Oliver
For those that don’t know, my wife is from Mexico, and during our first visit to Oliver in the very hot month of August, we were reminded of Mexico quite a bit. Not only does the scenery resemble the desert regions of Mexico but there’s also authentic Mexican cuisine thanks in part to the hundreds of Mexican workers that come here each year to help with the wineries.
There are actually three great spots to get Mexican food, including TacoRiendo, Casa Luna, and the El Sabor de Marina Food Truck, pictured above. However, the food truck is seasonal, open between April and October.
Visit Alpacas at Sunkeya Alpaca Farm
If you’re looking for a smile, check out the Sunkeya Alpaca Farm to see those fluffy, awkwardly shaped Alpacas just waiting to gawk at you with those large, glossy, lash-framed eyes. You’ll meet twelve alpacas including young ones and farm tours are only $5. However, you must book ahead. You’ll also get to tour inside and see how fleece is processed and spun before shopping for socks, toques, scarves, and many other goods.
Spend the Winter at Baldy Mountain Resort
Despite being known as one of the warmest places in Canada, Oliver BC and the South Okanagan are also home to some amazing ski resorts! We were incredibly surprised as to how much powder they get in the mountains but it’s pretty remarkable that you can ski during the day and visit wineries after.
Baldy Mountain Resort is the third-highest ski resort in BC and receives approximately 35 feet of dry, light snow each year. With Lifts taking you up to 2,123 metres in elevation, both skiers and snowboarders will find this to be a winter paradise.
The resort offers a number of runs for both beginners and advanced skiers and riders and for those not interested in skiing, they have a variety of snowshoe trails as well. You can even rent skis, snowshoes, and snowboards at the resort.
Go Cross-Country Skiing or Snowshoeing
If you’d rather not ski downhill, there are also options for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Perhaps the best place to do these activities is at the McKinney Nordic Ski Club, which is located on the same road that takes you to Baldy Mountain Resort. This locally-operated, non-profit cross-country ski and snowshoe organization, manages nine kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails for novice, intermediate and advanced skiers, and also five kilometres of marked snowshoe trails.
These trails are maintained by club volunteers, so it’s always appreciated if you purchase an annual membership or contribute a day-use donation.
Drink Some Beer
While wine is certainly the “name of the game” in Oliver BC, there’s also a great option for beer lovers as well. Located in the basement of the Old Fire Hall, which is perhaps the best landmark in Oliver, Firehall Brewery is popular with locals and tourists alike. Since purchasing all the equipment from a local bootlegger, this family-run brewery has been pumping out unfiltered, unpasteurized, & uncompromised artisan beers for you to enjoy, including Lagers, Witbiers, Blondes, Pale Ales, Stouts, and more!
Since this brewery is located in the heart of downtown, don’t forget to check out Main Street, the Visitor Centre in the Old Railway Station, the Oliver Movie Theatre, and more.
Looking For More Things to Do in British Columbia?
As beautiful as Oliver BC is, it’s best paired with other destinations in the Okanagan or beyond. For more ideas on what to do, check out these guides below:
Sorry, but this is not the only desert in Canada. Manitoba and Saskatchewan both have substantial desert areas well worth checking out.
Matthew G. Bailey says
I think you’re referring to the sand dunes, but that’s not a desert. Even the Okanagan is not a true desert in many ways but its the only one Canada has: https://www.thestar.com/life/travel/2009/06/24/osoyoos_canadas_lone_desert.html