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Salt Spring Island

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Salt Spring Island is in Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia in Canada. Salt Spring (Saltspring, one word, by everyone local) is the largest both in area and population of the Southern Gulf Islands. The population has grown from about 10,000 to 13,000 in the past five years with the influx of baby boomer retirees (many Canadian-American from California) and Alberta oil patch money. There are many more seasonal and part time residents.


Salt Spring Island was first called Saltspring (one word) Island by Governor James Douglas in 1853. He believed that the Salt Springs in the North of the Island would bring great wealth to the Island. It was also known by a few other names during the early years: Klaathem (Cowichan Indian word for Salt), Chuam, Tuam, and Admiral Island. Saltspring was the official name as recorded by the Geographic Board of Canada in 1905. However, Canada Post and many locals used (and still use) the name Salt Spring (2 words) Island . It is frequently abbreviated as SSI.

Salt Spring Island was first settled in 1859, primarily by farmers. In the early years it was settled by many different groups including a number of African-Americans and then a number of Hawaiians and settled on Salt Spring and a number of other gulf islands. In the 1960's and 1970's there was a large influx of back to the landers who lived either in informal communes or squatted. Many of these people have settled and have become a large part of the culture of Salt Spring. Since the 1970's Salt Spring has attracted a large number of artists, and has become more and more of a tourist destination and retirement spot for the wealthy. This dichotomy of large developments for the hordes of people who want to get away from the development of the city has created a certain amount of conflict. However the island is still primarily characterized by the artists and farmers.

Get in[edit]

By boat[edit]

The most common way to get to Salt Spring Island is by BC Ferries [10]. There are 3 separate routes that serve Salt Spring Island. The ferry from Swartz Bay (1/2 hour drive North of Victoria) to Fulford Harbour runs about every 2 hours from 7AM to 9PM. The route from Crofton (near Duncan) runs approximately hourly from about 7:30AM to about 10PM. The Southern Gulf Island route runs from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) to various locations of the gulf island that includes a stop at Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island. This sails about twice a day.

Salt Spring is a popular destination for private boaters. There are public marinas at Ganges and Fulford (at the southern end of the island), with limited moorage, and two private marinas in Ganges Harbor that allow transient boaters.

  • Saltspring Marina, [11], next to Moby's Pub and Hastings House Country House Hotel--managed by Lesley Cheeseman for over 30 years and due to be rebuilt in 2019--open to transient boaters as well as yacht clubs and local year-round moorage.
  • Ganges Marina, [12], closest to town.

By plane[edit]

There is no airport on Salt Spring Island, but float planes fly into Ganges Harbour. This includes regular scheduled service from the Harbour in downtown Vancouver, from Seattle and from the Float plane terminal at the South Terminal of the Vancouver Airport.

  • Harbour Air, 604-274-1277 [13] flies twice a day from Vancouver Harbour to the Gulf Islands which includes Ganges Harbour.
  • Seair, 1-800-447-3247 [14] flies three times a day from the Vancouver Airport to the Gulf Islands which includes Ganges Harbour.
  • Saltspring Air, 1-877-537-9880 [15] based out of Ganges on Saltspring Island. This local airline provides service 3 times a day to Maple Bay, Vancouver airport and downtown.
  • Kenmore Air, [16] provides service from Lake Union in Seattle to Ganges in the summer only.

Most of these planes are pretty small, so it is not unreasonable to charter a plane to be on your schedule.

Get around[edit]

A car is usually the easiest way to get to the different parts of Salt Spring Island. If you don't bring your own, there are a small number of cars available for hire.

  • Salt Spring Car Rentals, Salt Spring Marina, Ganges (beside the marina office), 250 537-5810 (toll free: 1-800-334-6629, ), [1]. Economy, mid-size cars, large-size cars, vans and SUVs available for rent. Convertibles and scooters also available in the summer. $55-125/day, depending on type of car.  edit

The Salt Spring Island Transit Commission (250 538-4282) [17] operates six bus routes that connect Ganges with each of the three ferry terminals as well as Fernwood. The service is very handy for getting to and from the ferries because the bus times coincide with ferry arrivals and departures. It's not as useful for other trips, as most routes only operate three or four times a day and it does not service outlying attractions like Ruckle Provincial Park, Mt Maxwell and the Sacred Lavender farm. Fare costs $2.25.

There are also a number of taxi companies that can shuttle you around the island.

It is popular for visitors to get around Salt Spring on bicycle. The roads on the island tend to be narrow, hilly and quite twisty, so one needs to take care when riding a bicycle. There are marked bicycle routes, but these are bike routes in name only. "Share the Road" signs are common, but taking up full lanes and forcing the cars to wait to pass is required on many roads. Usng alternate routes when available is recommended.

It is also quite common for people to hitch-hike around the island and you will probably be picked up in 5-10 minutes anywhere on the island (other than where traffic is exiting a ferry onto Salt Spring).

See[edit][add listing]

  • Artist Studio Tour, get the Salt Spring Studio Tour map on ferry. This is a self guided tour of over 30 different artist studios. The hours and days vary from artist to artist. This is also a very good map of Salt Spring Island. Artists studios vary from painters, sculptures, potters to speciality cheese makers. Most artists studios are open May to September, some are available year around.
  • Sacred Mountain Lavender, 401 Musgrave Road (5 min from Fulford Harbour), 250 653 2334, [2]. May-Sep Wed-Sun10-5. Sacred Mountain Lavender is a boutique lavender farm nestled on the foothills of sacred Mount Tuam on Salt Spring Island B.C. Enjoy a self-guided farm tour and indulge in the rich purple of 2 acres of organically-grown lavender, which blooms from June to September. free.  edit

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Kayak to nearby Russell Island, located in the mouth of Fulford Harbour. Russell Island is part of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve and features gorgeous examples of second-growth Douglas fir, arbutus and Garry oak trees. A gentle loop trail hugs the island's shore, and takes you to the historic Mahoi House. Here, decendents of Maria Mahoi--one of the island's original Hawaiian (Kanaka) settlers-- host an interpretive program for visitors. The Russell Island Host Program runs from early June until early September [18].
  • Swim
  • Hike
  • Fall Fair a traditional country fair with a Salt Spring flavor. Held around the last weekend of summer or the first weekend of fall. It is held at a very nice fair grounds that has a number of buildings and a few show areas. There are judging of entries in everything from baking, and vegetables to equestrian and livestock. The food and craft stands are quite good. There is also music all day long
  • Salt Spring market [19] held every Saturday from May to October in Ganges.
  • Climbing — Salt Spring Island offers British Columbia's only cobble rock climbing area; that is, climbing on walls made of a dense matrix of smooth pebbles. Other climbing opportunities are found near the top of Mount Maxwell Park.
  • scenic plane ride [20] for that aerial perspective, try the floatplane scenic tour.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Rendezvous Patisserie at Harbour's End.

Most of the eateries on the island are in Ganges. However there are a few restaurants in other parts of the island:

  • Rendezvous French Patisserie 126 Upper Ganges Road at Harbour's End Marina, 250 537 8400. French macarons, cannelés de Bordeaux, crêpes, croissants...
  • Falconshead Grill & Lounge open to the public at the SSI Golf & Country Club (Central), 537-1760
  • Rock Salt Cafe, 2921 Fulford-Ganges Road (Fulford), 653-4833
  • Morningside Organic Bakery and Café, 107 Morningside Road (Fulford), 653-4414.
  • Tree House Cafe, 106 Purvis Lane (Ganges), 537-5379

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Clubhouse Bar & Grill at the SSI Golf & Country Club - one of the few licensed patios on the island that actually has sun all afternoon. A nice casual place with excellent food and great service - Open to the public - 7 days a week - all year long (no guarantees on the sunshine).

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are Bed and Breakfasts spread throughout the island. There are also a number of vacation homes and cottages.

  • Garden Faire Campground, 305 Rainbow Rd (next to Mouat Park), (250) 537-4346, [3]. $20 tent, $25 RV.  edit
  • Lost & Found Guest House & Art Gallery, Salt Spring Island, 250-537-9440, [4]. A self contained guest house with a full kitchen, bathroom, washer and dryer. Sleeps 7. It features the art work of artists such as Robert Bateman, Heather Horton, Alan Bateman, Holly Carr, Andrew Scott, Kate Kennedy. $180.  edit
  • Harbour House Hotel, 121 Upper Ganges Road (Located right beside Ganges Harbour), (250) 537 - 5571, [5]. Has 38 Renovated Rooms with large balconies - Winter rooms start at $99.  edit
  • Ango Retreat Bed & Breakfast, 340 Lepage Rd. (North on North End Rd to the top of St. Mary Lake, right on Lepage Rd. Keep going to the very end of this dead-end country road and turn into the driveway on the left), 250-537-0022, [6]. checkin: 4pm; checkout: 11 am. 20 acres of panoramic water, mountain & meadow views at the end of a forested country lane. Beautiful west coast style self-contained, self-catering, wheelchair-accessible bed & breakfast guest suites. Free wireless internet, private entrances & decks, fully-equipped kitchens. Fresh air & birds galore, gorgeous sunrises over the water, forest paths, organic gardens, cozy wood stoves, and separate music studio with resident concert pianist and concert Steinway grand piano. $195. per night, for occupancy up to 4 people.  edit
  • Salt Springs Spa Resort (Salt Springs Spa), 1481 North Beach Rd (North Island near Fernwood Dock), 1.800.665.0039, [7]. checkin: 4pm; checkout: 11am. Salt Spring Island's seaside spa resort features ocean-view and forest-view chalets, each with their own cozy wood-burning fireplace, complete kitchen and two person mineral water hydro-jet spa bath. from $100 per night.  edit
  • Hastings House (Hastings House Country House Hotel), 160 Upper Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island B.C. Canada, V8K 2S2 (see for directions), 1-800-661-9255, [8]. checkin: 10 am; checkout: 2 pm. Salt Spring Island's Hotel for discerning guests Hastings House Country House Hotel—a small waterfront luxury country resort, spa and restaurant - sits on 22 acres on the waterfront of Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Enjoy luxury lodging, fine dining, wellness and relaxation in a casually-elegant atmosphere. Explore British Columbia’s natural beauty, Salt Spring’s mild climate and the warmth and creativity of its people. Return to an era of grace and simplicity with a getaway to Hastings House Country House Hotel. Elegant Accommodations The heart of the seaside resort is a magnificent 11th century Sussex-style Manor House overlooking peaceful Ganges Harbour on Salt Spring Island, BC. The Manor House is where guests gather for cocktails and conversation, before dinner. Eighteen unique guest rooms and suites, each with its own décor and history, are situated in seven lovingly maintained buildings around the estate. (48°51'32.79N,123°29'59.07W) edit
  • Cusheon Lake Resort (Judy Ellis), 171 Natalie Lane (South of Ganges, please follow the signs), 1-866-899-0017, [9]. checkin: 3:30; checkout: 11:00. Your vacation getaway on Salt Spring Island. Situated on the second largest lake, this unique resort occupies four acres at the tip of a peninsula, making each chalet and cabin a private retreat with lake view. All accommodations have fully equipped kitchens. Log cabins have wood-burning fireplaces. Comfort! $120+.  edit


The area code for Salt Spring is (250) -- same as Vancouver Island. Cell phone coverage is spotty at best on the island, and non-existent at worst. Be prepared to spend most of your trip with one bar of reception or less. Telus provides the best coverage on the island. Rogers provides some coverage on their GSM network.

Get out[edit]

  • Hop aboard a BC Ferry [21] and travel to nearby Mayne, Pender or Saturna Islands to explore Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR)[22]. Gulf Islands National Park Reserve offers incredible opportunities for boating, kayaking, hiking, wildlife viewing and picnicking, as well as for exploring these rural island communities.
  • There is a useful interactive online ""map of Salt Spring Island""[23] available for free which can be found by googling Salt Spring Island, or Salt Spring Map Salt Spring Map [24]. The map is great for navigation, searchable, you can even use it when offline which is handy sometimes as internet reception on the island is patchy in some places, such as the south end and certain spots mid island at higher elevations.Create category
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