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Salt Spring Island

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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 is the largest both in area and population of the Southern Gulf Islands. The population is about 10,000 year round residents, with many more seasonal and part time residents.


  • Ganges, the largest town on Salt Spring Island.


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 most 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 blacks from United States and then also a number of Hawaiians who left Hawaii 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.


The area code for Salt Spring is (250) -- same as Vancouver Island. Cell phone coverage is spotty on the island. Telus (on their CDMA and Analog network) provides the best coverage on the island. Rogers provides some coverage on their GSM network.

Get in

The most common way to get to Salt Spring Island is by BC ferries. There are 3 separate routes that serve Salt Spring Island. The ferry from Swartz Bay (near 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 Saltspring Island. This sails about twice a day.

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 and from the Float plane terminal at the South Terminal of the Vancouver Airport.

  • Harbour Air, 604-274-1277 [1] flies twice a day from Vancouver Harbour to the Gulf Islands which includes Ganges Harbour.
  • Seair, 1-800-447-3247 [2] flies three times a day from the Vancouver Airport to the Gulf Islands which includes Ganges Harbour.
  • Saltspring Air, 1-877-537-9880 [3] based out of Ganges on Saltspring Island. This local airline provides service 3 times a day to both the Airport in Vancouver and downtown.
  • Kenmore Air, [4] 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.

Saltspring is a common place for private boaters. There are marinas at ... that allow transient boaters.

Get around

To get to the different parts of Salt Spring a car is the easiest way. There is also a shuttle bus that runs from any of the ferry terminals to Ganges or the Hostel. Operated by the Ganges Faerie Mini Shuttle (pager: 250-538-9007, cell: 250-537-6758)

It is popular for visitors to get around Salt Spring on bicycle. The roads on Salt Spring Island tend to be narrow and quite twisty, so one needs to take care when riding a bicycle on the roads.

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).


  • 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.


  • Kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • 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 [5] held every Saturday from May to October in Ganges.
  • Climbing — Salt Spring Island offers British Columbia's only cobble rock climbing area; that, climbing on walls made of a dense matrix of smooth pebbles. To climbing opportunities are found near the top of Mount Maxwell Park.


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

  • Vesuvius Pub and Restaurant, 805 Vesuvius Road (Vesuvius), 537-2312.
  • Raven Street Market Cafe, 321 Fernwood Road (North Island), 537-2273.
  • Tree House South, 2921 Fulford-Ganges Road (Fulford), 653-4833.
  • Morningside Organic Bakery and Café, 107 Morningside Road (Fulford), 653-4414.



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

  • Salt Spring Island Hostel Forest Retreat, 640 Cusheon Lake Road, 537-4191. [6] This is the only hostel on the island. In addition to the usual dorm rooms, there is a teepee and a tree-house. Not within easy walking distance of Ganges, or the ferries. (closed indefinitely, owners are going away to travel in 2007).

Get out

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