The O'Keefe Ranch, in Vernon BC, is a unique BC heritage site that offers a look at life, ranching and economic development in the Okanagan from the mid 1800's. A historic British Columbia tourism attraction, we toured the ranch during our summer vacation and enjoyed traditional scones prepared on a griddle over an antique stove, farm animals, traditional saddle-making, unique pottery, a gift shop and a lot more!
On our day trip to the ranch we toured the historic buildings from the cattle ranching days, where some of the oldest remaining structures in the Vernon BC area remain. We saw how people dressed, as ranch staff, who played roles and interacted with visitors, also dressed in western wear from the cattle ranching era.
Though summer is the most popular time to visit, there's other events that take place at the ranch throughout the year, including fun things like sheep shearing, father's day events, family day events, a Victorian Christmas event in December, a summer festival and a fall family event.
Cornelius O'Keefe, a determined Irishman from Ontario, and two partners began driving cattle north from Oregon, to the Okanagan Valley, to provide food for the miners of the Caribou gold fields in the 1800's. Built in 1867, some of the original buildings still remain where they were built, like the St. Anne's Church, which was built in 1889.
As they discovered that the land they were bringing cattle to was rich with resources suitable for ranching, they bought meadow land just north of Vernon BC, transported in breeding stock, and began ranching. The O'Keefe Ranch was, at one time, one of the largest cattle ranches in all of British Columbia. They built their land into a massive 20,000 acres.
Like many early ranches in the Okanagan and in British Columbia, the ranch was a community with a post office, blacksmith shop and it's own church. Cornelius O'Keefe was also responsible for obtaining the postal service that began delivering mail once a week, 1872. He was also the postmaster.
The O'Keefe family continued ranching until 1967 making this the only ranch in British Columbia to be carried on by the founding family for over a hundred years.
So, we took a few pictures during our day trip visit. Like this cool vintage police car that sits on the grounds as you enter the ranch.
The original family home as well as the mansion (a larger home built later on) still stands and contain many original furnishings and other artifacts.
When you tour some of the buildings you get to see some amazing artifacts like these old guns of the west! Our top kid thought these were so cool!
This is a great fun family attraction, and a super way to spend the afternoon touring and learning about the traditional ways things were done in the early days in the Okanagan.
On a nice sunny day, we just wandered around the grounds, across boardwalks, and toured the buildings, like the old Schubert house which was built in 1892.
And if you go into the Schubert House, you might see someone - Mrs. Schubert ;-) - spinning yarn. Plus, you can get some fresh baked scones... and they'll give you the recipe too!
The tour guides are all dressed in vintage clothing from the ranching era! The ranch grounds are beautiful and manicured. And there is an area with picnic tables where you can enjoy lunch outside.
Plus, there's different animals on the ranch that the kids really enjoyed... like these Australian Spotted Geese.
There are pheasants, chickens, turkeys and other animals. And feeding the friendly horses was fun too!
As we toured through the historic buildings we saw many more displays of original furniture, clothing, saddles and tack, vintage farm equipment, armory and some really beautiful pottery.
The ranch also has special events that go on at different times of the year, like Father's day. And in the fall they have Family Daze with wagon rides, pony rides and other fun things, as well as a corn maze and Halloween activities. It's well worth the visit!
Finding the ranch is easy. Just follow Highway 97 north of the city of Vernon BC. You'll pass Atlantis Waterslides on the right, and just a short distance from there, take the exit to stay on highway 97.
The actual address is:
9380 Highway 97 North
Here's a handy map to help you. Click on the link below the map to open a larger map in a new window. Or, on the map, click the blue marker for more details and a link to the ranch website.
Some of the best vacation attractions in the Okanagan are found in the Vernon area. So if you're out in the North Okanagan, also check out Atlantis Water Slides, the Vernon Heritage Murals, Planet Bee Honey Farm, and Allan Brooks Nature Centre. We wish you happy days wandering and exploring the southern interior BC!
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