Penticton, from the Interior Salish word snpintktn, is commonly translated as "a place to stay forever," or more accurately, “a place where people live year-round.” For over 7,000 years, Penticton has been home to the Syilx First Peoples, who were instrumental in helping the first European fur traders travel through the Okanagan in the early 1800s.
In 1865, an Irish immigrant named Thomas Ellis became the first European to settle in Penticton. Becoming one of the province's most successful cattle ranchers, Ellis acquired territory that stretched from Naramata all the way south to the American border. When he retired in 1892, Ellis sold off a large portion of his property to developers who laid out a small townsite at the foot of Okanagan Lake. Penticton was born.
In 1905, the South Okanagan Land Company subdivided another large section of the Ellis holdings. By 1908, with a population of 600, Penticton was incorporated and growth accelerated.
Due to rugged local terrain, early transportation in and out of Penticton was primarily by water on Okanagan Lake, much of which was aboard steamships like the S.S. Sicamous. Known as the “Queen of the Lake”, she was built in Port Harbor, Ont. and assembled at Okanagan Landing for her maiden voyage on July 1st, 1914. In 1949, the City of Penticton purchased the ship from the Canadian Pacific Railway in order to preserve this important relic of the age of the lake steamships.
In 1910, an announcement was made that Penticton would serve as the headquarters for the new Kettle Valley Railway, the rail line that would finally link the transportation of the coast to the wealth of the Kootenays. This decision secured Penticton's economic future; the arrival of the railway brought many jobs and the town's population more than doubled by the time it was finished.
The railway also provided fast and efficient transportation for local products, greatly boosting the burgeoning orchard industry. The KVR also allowed tourists to visit an area that had long been isolated from the rest of the province, enabling Penticton to become a tourist destination.
Golden Age of Growth
Following the end of the Second World War, a flood of returning veterans led to a post-war population boom and in 1948 Penticton was incorporated as a city. The 1950s and 1960s were busy decades of construction and large infrastructure projects. The channelization of the Okanagan River and numerous construction projects – including a new city hall, a community arts building and Penticton's first major shopping centre – changed the face of the young city.
In March 1955 the city achieved international fame when the Penticton Vees hockey team brought home the World Cup after defeating the Soviet Union 5-0.
Big events such as IRONMAN Canada, Peach Festival and Peach City Beach Cruise helped fuel our tourism industry, attracting visitors from throughout B.C. The South Okanagan Events Centre opened in 2008 and brings conventions, sporting events and performances of all kinds.
From peaches and apples to vineyards, wine and craft beer, we have deep roots in agriculture and many appealing tourism attractions.
For a step back in time, visit the S.S. Sicamous, which today is the largest surviving ship of its kind in Canada. It hosts a museum and the decks have been fully restored.
Now over 100 years since the city was incorporated, Penticton continues to grow. We’re recognized as one of Canada’s top wine regions and an idyllic location to visit, work, live and play. Our evolution continues and we look forward to seeing what the future brings.