Between Mainland British Colombia and Vancouver Island off Canada’s west coast lie the Gulf Islands, and one of the most popular and well known of these is Salt Spring Island. Even with a population of just 30,000 and a total size that allows you to drive from top to bottom in 45 minutes, Salt Spring Island is bursting with things to do. There’s something to do for everyone on Salt Spring Island, from relaxing in a peaceful location or checking out the arts and crafts trails, to more adventurous activities like hiking and kayaking.
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How to get there
Salt Spring Island is accessible by air or sea. There are three ferry terminals to choose from.
Crofton, Vancouver Island to Vesuvius, Salt Spring Island – 20 minutes
Swartz Bay, Vancouver Island to Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island – 35 minutes
Tsawwassen, Vancouver to Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island – 1 hour 15 mins to 3.5 hours depending on how many other island stops are made between them
Check out BC Ferries for timetables and more info.
Saltspring Island also has it’s own Sea Plane company called Saltspring Air, which flies to and from Vancouver and Vancouver Island three times a day.
Getting around Salt Spring Island
Car is the easiest way to get around Salt Spring Island. You can bring a car over on the ferry, or there are a small number of cars available to hire.
There are buses that operate in conjunction with the ferry times from the terminals to Ganges, and to Fernwood, however, they’re not very useful for getting to popular sites around the island as they really only run a few times a day and don’t go past many of the best Salt Spring Island attractions.
Bicycle is a common way to get around Salt Spring Island. There are some dedicated bicycle routes but many cyclists also use the roads, which can be quite narrow, windy, and hilly.
Hitchhiking is common on Salt Spring Island and is a frequent way for young residents of the island to get around as well. You can usually be picked up within 5-15 minutes by locals.
Things to do on Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island is a great place to escape to and get away from it all. When I was studying abroad in Victoria I absolutely loved visiting the island. The locals are friendly, there’s plenty to do if you want to get out and explore, or you can just relax and enjoy the atmosphere. These are some of my favourite things to do on Salt Spring Island.
Kayaking on Salt Spring Island is a very popular activity. If you’re experienced, you can hire kayaks, or take a tour that includes some of the mini-islands around Salt Spring. You might even spot a seal or otter!
The Salt Spring Island Market that is held every Saturday from Easter until the end of October is the biggest in British Colombia. You can find produce, treats and local artwork for sale.
There are freshwater lakes and beaches around Salt Spring Island where you can dip your toes in or go swimming. Try Beddis beach and Vesuvius Beach, both sandy beaches.
There are plenty of different Salt Spring Islands hikes. Mount Maxwell is popular for views over the Fulford Valley. The Chris Hatfield Trail is a community maintained 20-minute walk that includes a fairy village (great for kids!). The Regional Hill Trail and Mount Irskine Provincial Park also give great hills, if you can handle the steep uphill! Ruckle Provincial Park has beautiful tracks that follow the coast.
Artist Studio Tour
If you take the ferry to Salt Spring Island there is usually a map for the Artist Studio Tour or pick one up from the Tourist Information centre. It is a self-guided tour that takes you around the many artist studios on the island, from painters to ceramics and other crafts. It notes which studios are open when, as some only operate from May to September and others are year round.
Discover art and crafts made by local artists for sale. It includes ceramics, jewelry, paintings, lotions, tea, woodworking, glass, candles, cards, and much more!
Whale Watching tour
You may be able to spot Orcas, Humpbacks, Porpoises, and Otters in the waters surrounding Salt Spring Island. Whale watching tours usually run between March and October, and you can expect to frequently see whales between June and September.
Salt Spring Island Ales
Visit the Salt Spring Island Ales Brewery at 270 Furness Rd to enjoy a beer tasting in the tasting room or picnic area, or purchase some to go.
Salt Spring Island Cheese
Salt Spring Island Cheese is handmade from goats and sheep milk, with the soft goat’s cheese proving to be the most popular. They are available from the farm shop or at the Saturday Market.
Sacred Mountain Lavender
This two-acre lavender farm is open for visitors from May until September, with the most lavender blooming from June. It’s free to enter and you can enjoy a self-guided tour.
Salt Spring Island is home to several wineries. Pop in to taste the wine and some other local delicacies like cheese, where available. Each one has their own opening hours.
- Salt Spring Island Vineyards
- Garry Oaks Winery
Salt Spring Island isn’t short on festivals, so be sure to check the calendar when you’re visiting. Some favourites include:
- Maple Syrup Day – February
- Ruckle Farm Day – May
- Lavender Festival – July
- Fall Fair – September
- Apple Festival – September
- Harvest Grape Stomp – October
Where to eat
Rock Salt Cafe and Morningside Organic Bakery and Cafe are very popular in Fulford. Ganges has the Tree House Cafe, Auntie Pestos, Barb’s Buns and the Salt Spring Coffee Shop, as well as the Rendezvous French Patisserie. The Salt Spring Island Golf and Country Club opens the Falconshead Grill and Lounge to visitors. House Piccolo and Hastings House are fancier dining options.
Where to stay
Salt Spring Island accommodation varies from camping sites to B&Bs, self-catering guest houses to hotels and resorts. Garden Faire Campground is a budget option, and Hastings House, Salt Springs Spa Resort and Cusheon Lake Resort Are more luxury options. I love the Cabanas at Lakeside Gardens Resort. Check out Booking.com for plenty more options, including B&B’s and self-catering accommodation.
If you’re visiting Vancouver or Vancouver Island, then I’d highly recommend fitting a trip to Salt Spring Island into your itinerary!
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