Motels of the Okanagan

A feature series presented by
CBC Radio One

Audio & photos by Chris Walker

Once upon a time, Okanagan motels epitomized the BC vacation.
Inexpensive family holidays in the land of orchards and beaches.

Things have changed.
Now, the Okanagan is dominated by high-end offerings: wine, golf, and luxury hotels.

This series on CBC Radio One is a look at what's left of the Okanagan motel.
The flop-houses, the throwbacks, the desperadoes and the dreamers.

Below, you'll find photos and information on each of the motels featured in this series, plus five short radio documentaries.

CBC listener Ann Nott sent us this 1968 tourist map of Kelowna motels.


Introduction: The Ponderosa

Our series starts at the motel you see above.
The Ponderosa Motel in Kelowna:


24 Grandparents:
The Davies Family
of the Lakeview Motel

Derrick and Sandra Davies and their three kids are originally from Wales,
but moved from Manitoba to run the Lakeview Motel in Osoyoos.
Here's their story:

Lakeview photo gallery

Lakeview links


The Jukebox & the Downbeats:
The Lobby of the El Rancho

The El Rancho Motor Hotel in Penticton.

The El Rancho Motor Hotel was built in the early 1960s across from the old rodeo grounds in Penticton. By the early 1970s, it was one of the largest and most popular motels in the Okanagan, with almost 70 rooms. Now, the majority of those rooms are rented out monthly, mainly to low-income seniors.

Gail and Bill Kolter have run the El Rancho since 1995.
Here's my interview with Gail:

El Rancho photo gallery

El Rancho links


The Cactus Empire:
Building a Motel Dream

Baljit and Gurtej Sidhu

The Cactus Tree Inn in Oliver and the Empire Motel in Penticton
are owned by the same family:
Gurtej and Baljit Sidhu (above) run the Cactus Tree,
while Baljit's brother Jag Bhaniwal and his wife Hardeep run the Empire.

Their story starts in India's Punjab region,
and includes long years in Manitoba and the orchards of Oliver.
But they're not done yet.
They have big dreams for the future.

Here's their story:

Cactus Tree & Empire photo gallery:

Cactus Tree & Empire Links


Last Chance Motel:
The Woman in Room 124

Terri is struggling with alcohol, has a criminal conviction and an estranged family.
A motel manager saved her from homelessness.
Now, that motel is the one stable thing in her life.

Here's Terri's story:


Motel Madness:
Hansel and Gretel's Unlikely Ending

RoseAnne and Guy Oliver

The Skaha Sunrise used to be called the Hansel and Gretel.
Guy and RoseAnne Oliver have turned a run-down motel into one of the most innovative housing projects in the province.

Here's their story:

Skaha Sunrise photo gallery:

Skaha Sunrise Links



All interviews, audio editing & mixing, photography and web content
by Chris Walker unless otherwise indicated.
Daybreak South is produced by Marion Barschel.
Andrew Glass is the program manager for CBC Radio One in Kelowna.

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