Oh, the things you will see in Oliver, B.C.
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Explore the South Okanagan three ways with nature, art and wine
Rebecca Bollwitt (aka Miss604)
Oliver, B.C. is home to more than 35 of B.C.’s wineries, the Black Sage Bench, the Golden Mile Bench - which has been recognized as a distinctive sub-Appalachian wine region - three lakes, thousands of bird species, indigenous history, and Nçaylintn - one of the province’s most distinctive rock formations.
Oliver has been proclaimed the Wine Capital of Canada while still maintaining its status as a true hidden gem, with internationally recognized winery restaurants alongside local events full of community spirit. To truly get a feel for this South Okanagan community, you need to experience Oliver three ways: through its nature, art, and wine.
Rhoda from the Oliver Visitor Centre points out some of the flora along the Bike & Hike Trail.
Start your adventure at Oliver’s Visitor Centre, located in a historic CPR railway station alongside the Okanagan River. There, you can get trail maps, event listings, winery passport brochures, and more.
Pick up a book or learn about local history at the Oliver Archives just across the street from Town Hall.
Nature in Oliver
Larry Shannon from the Oliver Archives describes the landscape: “When a person comes to Oliver they’re going to see a prosperous town, they’ll be aware of the wine industry, they’ll see orchards, vineyards, valley bottom. They’ll see the grassy slopes on a hillside, coniferous forests going up to the grassland.”
The Bike & Hike Trail in Oliver follows the Okanagan’s legendary Kettle Valley Rail Trail.
Starting at the Visitor Centre, you can hop onto the 18.8-km Hike & Bike Trail that follows an old CPR rail line beside the Okanagan River, starting out from Lions Park. Pedestrian bridges connect both sides of the trail where you’ll hear birds, spot some turtles, indigenous plant life, and get great views of the valley.
“Oliver is booming but we still have that small-town hospitality,” Rhoda Brooks told me as we walked along the Hike & Bike Trail. Rhoda works in the Visitor Centre and believes that Oliver’s nature is its biggest asset. “The hiking is so unique. There’s a juxtaposition of the orchards and the desert landscape, and the wildlife that make it like nowhere else.”
Artists Lorraine Horn and Katherine MacNeil use collage and paint to decorate their wine barrels for the Art Walk Auction.
You’ll find local art at most of Oliver’s wineries, which perfectly complement the wine touring experience, but one of the best places to find a collection of paintings, mosaics, and collages is at Beyond Bliss Day Spa downtown. In fact, all along the main street there are corridors, shops, and retailers showcasing the works of artists like Marilyn Marsel, Marion Trimble, Sally Franks, Leza Macdonald, Linda Blaschek, Leann Parrent, Bev Alexander, Marlene Slater, Janice Goodman, Leza Macdonald, Sagebrushers president Sally Franks and more.
However, the best place to find a large number of artists all at once is at the Oliver Art Walk, which takes place every May. Artists like Sally Franks and Marion Trimble participated this year, along with local non-profits like CreateAbility and The Painted Chair.
Wineries donate barrels, artists and organizations paint the barrels with a theme or inspiration from that individual winery, and then the public can come view the finished works which are then auctioned off.
Marion Trimble toured me around and showed me her barrel, from Hester Creek, which is celebrating 50 years of their vines in her painting.
Used barrels that are normally sold have been generously donated by local wineries and after they are transformed by the artists, the opening bids start at $150 (with 70 percent to the artist and 30 percent to the Oliver Community Arts Council).
Wine Capital of Canada
Rust Wine Co’s rust-inspired art in their Golden Mile tasting room
Oliver’s wine growing region spans from Road 22, off Okanagan’s Highway 97 to the south, and Nçaylintn Bluff at the north end. I stopped by Rust Wine Co., along the Golden Mile Bench, for a spot of lunch with Kane Morgan, assistant GM, and Rust’s internet-famous winery dog Kaya.
“Our main focus at the end of the day is hospitality,” Kane said while cutting up some steaks that he grilled out on the patio - a new offering that will be available to winery guests this summer. You’ll visit a gorgeous tasting room, complete with an art gallery featuring local paintings and photographs but feel like you’re visiting a pal who just happens to have an amazing panoramic view of the entire valley from his front porch. Oh, then there are the delicious wines like the winery’s Golden Mile Zinfandel or the 2016 rosé.
Across the valley on the Black Sage Bench, gorgeous purple and white blossoms line the driveway at Silver Sage, where you can bring your own picnic to enjoy with your wine in their gazebo. Pick up a wine passport so you don’t miss anything. Each winery is unique when it comes to terroir, location, views, and vintages, but they all offer warm and welcoming Oliver hospitality.
If You Go
Start planning your #OkanaganExploring adventures with these websites:
Learn more about Oliver on the Hello BC website
Uncover more about the Okanagan’s offers for adventure. Check out ZenSeekers #OkanaganExploring Expedition page to see how you can have an adventure like this.
Rebecca Bollwitt is a Seekers' correspondent and award-winning blogger based in Vancouver. Follow her travels on Instagram and Twitter @Miss604.