Located in the southern tip of the Okanagan Valley, Oliver has been deemed “the Wine Capital of Canada.” This slogan seems to have replaced previous ones like “The Home of the Cantaloupe” and “Home of the International Horseshow.”
Residents named the town after John Oliver, the provincial premier from 1918–1927. “Honest John,” as he was known by his constituents, brought irrigation water and settlement lots to the area with the South Okanagan Lands Project (SOLP).
The people of the Syilx Okanagan Nation lived in the South Okanagan for hundreds if not thousands of years prior to the appearance of European immigrants around 1811, when fur traders established the nearby Fort Okanagan (now in the U.S.).
In the 1880s, Camp McKinney (east of Oliver) became a busy gold mine, attracting miners and merchants to the area. To the west, in Fairview, miners found more gold, fuelling a brief boom in the town.
In 1919, Oliver’s SOLP began work on the Intake Dam. In 1921, the town was established as a settlement for unemployed veterans of the First World War as part of the Soldier Settlement Act of 1917. In 1923, the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) constructed a station in Oliver and rails to transport fruit north to Penticton. When completed in 1927, the SOLP ran water to the bottom land in the southern Valley.
The village was incorporated in 1945, and was upgraded to town status in 1990.
Oliver has a semi-arid climate with hot, dry summers and cool winters. Annual snowfall is light, and Oliver is amongst the warmest communities in Canada with an average daily mean of 50.5°F (10.3°C).
Fun facts about Oliver include:
in 1935, Ripley’s Believe it or Not featured the town for the claim that none of the dogs in the town had fleas
in 1990, Oliver held the world record for baking the world's largest cherry pie
in 2002, on her Golden Jubilee Tour of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II gave the Royal assent that Oliver was the Wine Capital of Canada
House price growth in the Okanagan has accelerated through 2020. In 2019, the average price for a detached home in Oliver was $389,000, an increase of two percent over the previous year.
Oliver is home to nearly 5000 people. The Regional District Area C accounts for 3473 people and the Osoyoos Indian Band number 900 in population.
Local industries include grape and fruit production, agri-tourism, wine production, ranching, golfing and recreation, retail and service trades. Some of the largest employers include Osoyoos Indian Band, School District #53, Interior Health and Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative.
The beach at nearby Tuc-el-Nuit Lake is a popular local attraction, as are the parks and trails. Hikers enjoy the trail on McIntyre Bluff.
Thirty-five minutes from Oliver, Baldy Mountain Resort ranks in the top ten of highest elevation ski resorts in Canada. It’s suitable for family-friendly skiing and snowboarding.
Located east of Oliver is Area 27 Motorsports Park, which is the first and only track over two miles in Canada west of Ontario.
Attractions in Oliver include the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, Venables Theatre, Oliver and District Museum & Archives. The latter is one of the few remaining intact buildings from the town’s gold mining past. Downtown Heritage Walking Tours are popular among visitors from June to August.
The Venables Theatre is a mid-sized community theatre operated by the Oliver Community Theatre Society. Opened in 2014, the theatre rose out of the ashes of the historic art-deco-style Venables Auditorium which burnt to the ground in the fall of 2011.
The summer series Music in the Park is popular with locals and visitors with a diverse range of musical artists.
The region’s 44 wineries have won more accolades than any other wine region in Canada. The slopes of Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country are also a locus for fine dining with winery views and events such as the Half Corked Marathon and the annual food and wine festivals, Pig Out (May) and Festival of the Grape (October).
Oliver is home to a number of family-run restaurants as well as several winery restaurant establishments. Dining hotspots include Oliver Eats, Savvios, The Best of India, Pizza Rolla and Medici’s.
Most of the shops in Oliver are clustered around the downtown area. There are several quaint boutiques along with the usual dollar stores, grocery stores, and a couple of big-box stores.