There are approximately 200 Gulf Islands in British Columbia and Salt Spring is one of them. The Gulf Islands are known to attract people who want to get away from the mainland and have a bohemian feel to them. Salt Spring Island is the largest and most populated of the Gulf Islands but preserves its culture and atmosphere despite being popular with tourists. With town names such as Ganges and Vesuvius, its own currency of Salt Spring Island dollars, and farm stands on the side of the road selling everything from potted plants to freshly baked cookies and locally grown ginger, you will fall in love with this magical little island so close to Vancouver!

In this post, we share tips and information to help you plan a long weekend to enjoy all the small island of Salt Spring has to offer!

Salt Spring Island Dollar Bill

Getting Here:

It isn’t too difficult to get to Salt Spring Island but it does require some planning.

  • By ferry: There are 3 ways to get to Salt Spring Island with BC Ferries:
    • From Vancouver: Departs BC Ferries Tsawwassen terminal and sails to Long Harbour, Salt Spring’s mid-island terminal.
    • From Victoria: Departs BC Ferries Swartz Bay terminal and sails to Fulford Harbour at Salt Spring’s south end.
    • From Duncan: Departs BC Ferries Crofton terminal and sails to Vesuvius Bay at Salt Spring’s north end.
Salt Spring Island street signs

For the weekend we booked, there were no ferry reservations from Vancouver’s Tsawwassen ferry terminal to Long Harbour and so we travelled to Victoria (just under 2 hours) first and then took a ferry from there to Fulfor Harbour (30 minutes). For our return trip, we were able to secure a reservation to travel from Salt Spring back to Vancouver with a short stop on Pender Island (about 2.5 hours).

Tips:

  1. You could easily spend 1 night and 1 day in Victoria before heading to Salt Spring Island for 1-2 nights if you want to visit more than one spot. 
  2. We do recommend paying extra to make a reservation in advance to avoid waiting hours at the terminal. You cannot make a reservation for the ferry from Victoria’s Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour though.

By air:

  • Seaplane: You can take a seaplane from either downtown Vancouver or by Vancouver International airport to get to and from Salt Spring Island with SeaAir or Harbour Air. We recommend this option to experience a scenic flight and for a quick day or weekend trip. The seaplanes drop you off right in Ganges town by the harbor and so you will be ready to explore as soon as you land!

Where to Stay:

Salt Spring Island is small island and there are no chain hotels; just small hotels/inns, AirBnBs, bed and breakfasts, and other accommodations (cottages, farm stays, etc.). We did have trouble in finding and securing a place to stay because everything was sold out but we lucked out due to a last minute cancellation thankfully and ended up staying at 1 of our 2 top choices. We recommend looking at the options listed on TripAdvisor and Salt Spring Island Tourism for options.

Sunrise Isles B&B is located a 5 minute drive or 15 minute walk just outside of Ganges. The property has two 1 bedroom suites located on the lower floor of the owners home and a separate 2 bedroom villa located on the property. Every morning, we woke up to watch the sunrise from our very own private hot tub.

As if this view and the quality of the suite weren’t enough, Birgitte also served up breakfasts better than most of the luxury hotels we’ve stayed at around the world. Each day, you had a choice of 3 entrees with the usual sides.

This is one of those places that is so hard to book and we don’t really want anyone to know about it but it is too good to not share!

  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: bed and living area
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: sunrise from the patio
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: outdoor patio
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: the hot tub
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: view from the hot tub
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: shower
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: bathroom
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: breakfast menu
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: smoked salmon eggs benedict
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: shrimp and breakfast burrito
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: sticky bun and scrambled eggs
  • Sunrise Isles Bed and Breakfast: yogurt parfait

We really wanted to stay here as well but it is always sold out! Salty Pear B&B is located about 10 minutes outside of Ganges. The property is 5 acres with lots of heritage fruit trees and has 2 suites; a studio and a camping casita. Both offer a glamping experience in a rural setting with access to a wood burning sauna, fire pit, and the studio has an outdoor bathroom.

What to Do/ Where to Eat and Drink:

Salt Spring Island is small; it’s 27 kilometres long and 14 kilometres wide with a population of about 11,000 year round. It feels like you are on an island with a small town and so you can easily walk, bike, or drive. We recommend a combination of the 3 to access the activities on the island.

We like to visit places that have outdoor activities like hiking and places to eat and drink at to experience local culture and so we will focus on those activities in this blog post about Salt Spring Island.

  • Salt Spring Island Cheese: Salt Spring Island cheese is a destination in itself and how we found out about the island when we moved to Vancouver. They have a farm shop that does cheese tastings (no tastings during COVID), a small restaurant that serves light fare like salads and pizzas, and an area to view the goats that live on the farm. We LOVED the salads here and ate here twice just for the salads. Salt Spring Island Cheese is a very fun place to visit and is good for all ages, including children. We highly recommend all their cheeses but the Ruckles and the spicy feta are our favorites.
  • Salt Spring Island Saturday Market: The Salt Spring Island Saturday Market is open rain or shine between April and October from 08:00-16:00. You’ve been to farmer’s markets like this before but the size and range of products for such a small island is outstanding. We were also impressed with the produce; yes that’s locally grown organic ginger!
  • Salt Spring Island Farm Stands: Farm stands along the side of the road are very unique to Salt Spring Island and the only other place we’ve seen them like this might be the Big Island of Hawaii. If the place you are staying has a kitchen, don’t miss out on buying farm fresh eggs. There is a Facebook page where people share what they have at their stands but part of the fun is discovering them on your own.
  • Go on a drink crawl to sample kombucha, beer, wine, and cider made on the island:
    • Cider: Since there are so many apple trees on Salt Spring Island, cider is very popular. We enjoyed the following two cideries:
      • Salt Spring Wild Cider: Don’t think about; order the flight that allows you to sample all the ciders they make! Jason and I shared a flight and had no regrets (no hangover the next day). We also recommend eating here.
    • Kombucha – Salt Spring Island Kombucha: Just down the road from Salt Spring Island Ales, you will find SSIK’s farm stand where you can purchase their kombucha.
    • Wine – Kutatas: There are a few wineries on Salt Spring Island but we settled on visiting Kutatas because we ran out of time. We really enjoyed the tasting here and found the wines to be quite good. We really enjoyed the sparkling wine, the Ortega and the Pinot Grigio.  
  • Go Hiking: If you want to experience more of nature, here are two recommended hikes.
    • Mount Maxwell: Mount Maxwell Provincial Park has trails that take you through the forest and some lead to scenic vistas.
    • Mount Erskine: Mount Erskine Provincial Park has trails and some lead to scenic vistas. We really enjoyed the Mount Erskine “Assault Route” (AKA Jack Fisher Trail) that’s 3.4 kms and 404 metres of elevation gain.
Top of Mount Erskine
  • Aloha Aina Farm: Aloha Aina has its own farm stand and also offers a farm-to-table organically grown vegetarian lunch Monday to Friday at 12:30 on the farm (book in advance). In addition, you can also sign up for a longer stay to learn about life on the farm and to develop other life skills that range from tincture making to permaculture design.   
  • Places to Eat: We’ve covered some of the places to eat but here are a few more suggestions:
    • Moby’s Pub: Someone told us about the duck wings and how delicious they are and they do live up to the hype.  Moby’s is an eclectic pub with outdoor seating, a happy hour (specials on drinks), and their legendary duck wings.
    • Francis Bread: If you like naturally leavened breads, you will want to check out Francis Bread. We waited a loooong time but it was worth the wait to get some of their savory scones and a baguette to fuel our drink crawl!

Summary:

For an island just a 30 minute ferry ride from Victoria, it feels more remote than it is while offering so many tasty things to eat and drink too, making it our type of destination. After visiting Salt Spring Island, we felt like we took a break from modern time and its pace and felt refreshed. We truly have not been anywhere like Salt Spring Island and hope it stays the way it is. As we sit here and type this, we are dreaming of visiting again during summer when its blackberry season.

Have you been to Salt Spring Island? Do you have any other places to stay, activities, and places to eat to recommend?

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