A Place Like No Other

Lush vineyards, orchards, and blue lakes contrast with desert landscapes and rugged mountains in the South Okanagan. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Welcome to the South Okanagan

For many people, the first glimpse of the South Okanagan is one of enchantment and disbelief that its desert-like landscapes exist in Canada.

Mid-sized mountains of bare, volcanic rock ring the valley, towering above deep green vineyards and blooming orchards that only exist thanks to a century-old network of irrigation.

To the west, the Cascade Mountains cast a rain shadow on the valley, bringing as little as 250-400 mm (10-16 inches) of precipitation each year. But those same mountains also provide spring meltwater, engorging smaller rivers that replenish the valley bottom’s string of oblong lakes.

The arid lands beyond the reach of the irrigation allow unique flora and fauna to thrive – sagebrush, antelope brush, cacti, rattlesnakes, and other plants and creatures not commonly found elsewhere in Canada.

The climate is the warmest in Canada with hot summers and short, mild winters. The sun shines for about 2,000 hours a year and blue skies are typical from the arrival of spring in late February or early March to the arrival of winter in late November or early December.

The lakes, formed by retreating glaciers about 10,000 years ago, now draw thousands of tourists each summer to engage in boating, watersports, and sunbathing. Those same glaciers deposited alluvial fans, creating the rich soils that make the Okanagan a mecca for tree fruits and wine.

This unusual geography is behind the growth of the South Okanagan’s two biggest industries – agriculture and tourism. And it draws people from across Canada and around the world seeking to visit or make it home. Each community though offers something different.

The South Okanagan, for purposes of this website, includes the Okanagan Valley south of, but not including, the City of Penticton, down to the U.S. border.

The unincorporated communities of Kaleden and Okanagan Falls sit on the stunning shores of Skaha Lake and are included in Areas I and D respectively of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS).

To the south, Vaseux Lake is the wildest of the Okanagan lakes, with only a scattering of houses along its banks. Bighorn sheep are often spotted below the rocky cliffs overlooking the lake.

The Town of Oliver, surrounded by RDOS Area C, sits along the Okanagan River, but its one lake, Tuc-el-nuit, is spring fed and separate from the river.

The Town of Osoyoos, a popular tourist resort, straddles Osoyoos Lake, an international lake reaching into Washington state. Osoyoos is surrounded by RDOS Area A.

Whether you’re considering moving to the South Okanagan to start a business, raise a family or retire, this Relocation Guide is for you. Although tourists and current residents will find much of interest here, other online guides may be better directed to their specific needs.

We’ll look at the communities of the South Okanagan and the amenities they offer in more detail on other pages. And through “South Okanagan Stories,” we’ll profile some of the people who started small businesses here, attracted by the lifestyle, and have made this area their home.




Celebrating our unique communities in the South Okanagan


A collection of South Okanagan business stories