"Rural country bliss on Salt Spring Island" Saltspring Island by Carmanah

Saltspring Island Travel Guide: 28 reviews and 65 photos

Salt Spring Island is the largest of all the Gulf Islands. For those not familiar with the region, the Gulf Islands are small chain of islands located off the south-eastern shore of Vancouver Island in the Strait of Georgia (about 30km off the coast from Vancouver). For those familiar with the San Juan Islands in Washington State, USA, the Gulf Islands are actually a part of the same island chain - it's just that the Canada-USA border divides them, and thus, they have different names.

Salt Spring Island is often considered the most popular Gulf Island because it's the largest, but it's also the most populated, and probably the most famous of them all... and yet, my first time there was only recently, in the summer of 2006. You see, the Gulf Islands are a popular place to go on short vacations for people living in Vancouver or Vancouver Island, so while a lot of my friends and family had spent time on Salt Spring, I was glad to finally see what the fuss was about!

In August 2006 we rented a car in Vancouver and drove it to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal in the morning. Because it was a long weekend, we made sure we had reservations before boarding the ferry, otherwise who'd know how long we'd have to wait.

The ferry from Tsawwassen to Salt Spring Island's Long Harbour terminal takes a little bit more than one hour, but it's a beautiful ride. Once on the island, we followed the masses of cars off the ferry and into downtown Ganges. Ganges is Salt Spring Island's own town. It's been around for over 100 years and some of its historic architecture (well, historic for this part of the country!) can be seen. Lots of cafes, little boutiques, ice cream parlours, and shops.

We stopped off in Ganges to take a look around and then found our B&B located a short drive from the water, up the hill from Ganges. We dropped off our luggage and then went to the Ganges Farmer's Market which is only open on Saturday until 3pm! Having only arrived at 2pm, we were able to stroll and see all the fresh produce, as well as local floral arrangements, fresh organic cheeses, local artwork, jewellery and locally-made clothing (and yes, it was not surprising to see tie-dyed shirts!). Many local women wore their country dresses and floppy hats. Teens tended to sport the hippy attire, with facial piercings and dreads, beating djembe drums to a didgeridoo in the parkside. And everywhere you'd go on the island, people would be hitchhiking.

During our two nights on Salt Spring, we explored Vesuvius Bay, Beddis Beach, Fulford Harbour, and Ruckle Provincial Park. We spent time exploring Ganges (where we found our favourite bookstore, Sabine's), and drove through the countryside visiting the Moonstruck Organic Cheese Farm and the Salt Spring Island Winery. Without a car, I'd have no idea how we'd be able to see everything - there's no public transit on the island, and the distances are larger than one might expect.

Compared to other Gulf Islands I've visited, Salt Spring definitely has more of an old world rural country charm. There's a vibrant artist community on Salt Spring, and from all the open-house art studios dotted around the landscape, it's very much evident. And as you drive through the island's north and south communities, you drive through a lot of countryside where meadows and sheep pasture break up the patches of forest. In a way, it feels as if you've gone back in time.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Rich in community spirit, it has a bit of a hippy vibe, the only Gulf Island with a town (Ganges), hitchhiker-friendly, Ganges Farmers Market on Saturdays, the art studios, wineries, cheese farms, and sheep farms are all open to the public
  • Cons:Surprisingly few beaches (most public waterfront is rocky), public transit is zilch and the island is too large to walk and too hilly to bike, there's more developed rural countryside than forested wilderness, accommodation can be expensive
  • In a nutshell:A rural country atmosphere in the Gulf Islands
  • Last visit to Saltspring Island: Aug 2006
  • Intro Updated Feb 20, 2007
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Reviews (3)

Comments (3)

  • canuck68's Profile Photo
    Nov 3, 2007 at 5:55 PM

    I love Saltspring Island. We usually go at least once a year as a friend has property there. I like the Saturday market and also visiting the cheese farm and viewing the local artists' works.

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo
    Nov 3, 2007 at 5:01 PM

    great page. i was on saltspring myself last year and totally loved the place.

  • j-san's Profile Photo
    May 13, 2007 at 6:08 PM

    Sounds great! I really want to go here this summer.


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