Salt Spring Island is in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Salt Spring (sometimes spelled "Saltspring", one word) 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 by non-First Nations people 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 1960s and 1970s 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 1970s 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 main town, in the centre of the island, is Ganges. In the south of the island is a small cluster of shops around Fulford Harbour. To the north-west is a cluster, Vesuvius. To the east is the ferry dock at Long Harbour.
- 1 Tourist Information Centre, 121 Lower Ganges Rd, ☏ +1 250-537-5252, toll-free: +1-866-216-2936, firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily: 9AM – 5PM (July–August), 10AM – 4PM (April–June, September–October), 11AM – 3PM (November–March). Friendly and helpful volunteers can provide maps, give directions, answer questions, and give recommendations. Free parking in the shopping centre lot, plus many shops and restaurants within easy walking distance.
- Look for the Salt Spring Studio Tour brochure on the ferry you take to the island, or at the Tourist Information Centre, or download it from their web site. Quite apart from the list of studios and wineries which you can visit, it has a quite serviceable map of the island.
BC Ferries, toll-free: +1-888-223-3779. Car ferries connecting the larger of the Southern Gulf Islands (Galiano, Mayne, Pender, Salt Spring, and Saturna) with Vancouver (Tsawwassen) ferry terminal in Delta and Victoria (Swartz Bay) ferry terminal near Sidney. Free reservations are strongly recommended, especially in the summer and can be made online or by phone. BC Ferries is the most common way to get to Salt Spring Island. There are 3 routes that serve Salt Spring Island, each at a different terminal on the island:
- 1 Salt Spring Island (Fulford Harbour) ferry terminal has a vehicle ferry from Victoria (Swartz Bay) ferry terminal near Sidney (terminal is about 30 minutes drive north of Victoria). 35 minutes crossing time. Departures about every 2 hours from 7AM to 9PM. BC Transit serves the terminals at both ends. On Salt Spring Island, bus route #2 serves the ferry terminal.
- 2 Saltspring Island (Vesuvius) ferry terminal has a vehicle ferry from Crofton ferry terminal (near Duncan). 25 minutes crossing. Departures approximately hourly from about 7:30AM to about 10PM. BC Transit serves the terminals at both ends. On Salt Spring Island, bus route #3 serves the ferry terminal.
- 3 Salt Spring Island (Long Harbour) ferry terminal has vehicle ferry from Vancouver (Tsawwassen) ferry terminal (in Delta), which also stops at other Southern Gulf Islands. Crossing times vary. This sails about twice a day. BC Transit serves the Salt Spring Island terminal and TransLink serves Vancouver (Tsawwassen) ferry terminal. On Salt Spring Island, bus route #4 serves the ferry terminal.
Salt Spring Island 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.
- 4 Ganges Marina, 161 Lower Ganges Rd, ☏ +1 250-537-5242.
- 5 Saltspring Marina, 124 Upper Ganges Rd (next to Moby's Pub and Hastings House Country House Hotel), ☏ +1 250-537-5810, toll-free: +1-800-334-6629. Is open to transient boaters, yacht clubs and local year-round moorage.
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, ☏ +1-604-274-1277, toll-free: +1-800-665-0212. Operates seaplane flights mostly to coastal communities in southwestern British Columbia. Flights to Saltspring island from downtown Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport
- Kenmore Air, toll-free: +1-866-435-9524. Operates flights in coastal areas of Washington state flights that travel to the south coastal areas of British Columbia. . Operates flights to Salt Spring Island Lake Union in Seattle to Ganges in the summer only.
- Seair Seaplanes, ☏ +1-604-273-8900, toll-free: +1-800-447-3247. Operates seaplane flights to coastal communities in southwestern British Columbia. Operates flights to Salt Spring Island from the Vancouver International Airport.
Most of these planes are pretty small, so it is not unreasonable to charter a plane to be on your schedule.
A car is usually the easiest way to get to the different parts of Salt Spring 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.
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).
By rental car
- 2 Salt Spring Car Rentals, 7-126 Upper Ganges Rd (Salt Spring Marina beside the marina office), ☏ +1 250-537-3122, email@example.com. 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.
By public transit
- BC Transit (Salt Spring Island Transit System), ☏ +1-250-537-6758. Operates six bus routes that connect Ganges with each of all three BC Ferries ferry terminals and with 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.
- 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.
- 1 Sacred Mountain Lavender, 401 Musgrave Rd (5 min from Fulford Harbour), ☏ +1 250 653-2334. May-Sep: W-Su 10AM-5PM. 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.
- Kayak to nearby 1 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, descendants 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.
- 2 Beachside, 163 Fulford-Ganges Rd, ☏ +1 250-537-2553, toll-free: +1-888-KAYAK-67 (52925-67). Guided kayaking tours, lessons, rentals, sailing excursions. Plus they can connect you to other activities such as SCUBA diving. Also an outdoor gear shop. 2-hour kayak tour $55/person.
- 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
- 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.
- 3 Mount Maxwell Park. Contains one of the highest points on Salt Spring Island, offering excellent views of Vancouver Island, the other Southern Gulf Islands, and the Lower Mainland.
- Scenic plane ride, toll-free: +1-877-537-9880. For that aerial perspective, try the floatplane scenic tour.
- 4 Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, 355 Blackburn Rd, ☏ +1 250-537-2326. Attend a yoga retreat, yoga teacher training program or other spiritual event. The Centre offers accommodation and meals for its residential programs, but also hosts short events for commuters.
- 5 Salt Spring Island Golf Club, 805A Lower Ganges Rd, ☏ +1 250-537-2121. Go golfing.
- 1 Saturday Market (in Centennial Park, in Ganges, on the harbour side of Lower Ganges Road, near intersection with McPhillips Ave). Sa 8:30AM-4PM (April-Oct). This community market includes, among the clothing and jewelry and art, various food vendors. You can get anything from a piece of fudge to a full helping of pasta or stir-fried noodles. various.
Most of the eateries on the island are in Ganges.
- 1 Embe Bakery, 174 Fulford-Ganges Rd, ☏ +1 250-537-5611, firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 4:30AM - 5:30PM, Su 6:30AM - 3PM. Delicious sweet buns, cookies, pies, and lunch sandwiches. They will happily pack baked goods to go.
- 2 Express Sushi2go, 120-170 Fulford Ganges Rd, ☏ +1 250-538-1688, email@example.com. A variety of well-executed Japanese food; teriyaki and tempura in addition to sushi. A few counter seats in the micro-shop if you want to eat right away.
- 3 House Piccolo, 108 Hereford Avenue (A short walk uphill (inland) from Lower Ganges Road, in a small blue house.), ☏ +1 250-537-1844, firstname.lastname@example.org. W-Su 5PM-, M Tu closed. This cozy 30-seat dining room delivers exquisite food with a combination of white-tablecloth service and friendly, laid-back island informality. The published menu is long on seafood and game, but the kitchen knows vegans and vegetarians exist, and will likely be able to accommodate if you ask. Reservations recommended, because many people know how good this place is. entrees $25-40, full meal $60-100 including tax, tip.
- 4 Tree House Cafe, 106 Purvis Ln (Ganges), ☏ +1 250-537-5379.
- 5 Al's Gourmet Falafel & Fries, 151 Rainbow Rd, ☏ +1 250 538-7573. M-F 11AM-4PM, Sa 10AM-4PM (at market), Su closed. This red card offers falafel, pita, and poutine. Some vegan-friendly options. $5-12.
However there are a few restaurants in other parts of the island:
- 6 Fernwood Road Cafe, 325 Fernwood Rd (On the east coast of northern Salt Spring Island, where Fernwood Road intersects Walter's Hook Road.), ☏ +1 250 931-2233, email@example.com. (Sept-May) M Tu Th F 9AM-5PM, Sa Su 10AM-5PM. Offering comfort food and a place for the community to meet. Breakfast includes oatmeal, french toast, and grilled potatoes. Lunch includes sandwiches, pizza, tuna melt, and salads. Vegetarian options available. $5-12.
- 7 Rock Salt Cafe, 2921 Fulford-Ganges Road (In Fulford), ☏ +1 250 653-4833, firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily: breakfast 8-11:30AM, lunch 11:30AM-4:30PM, dinner 4:30-9PM; cafe opens at 7AM. Located near the ferry terminal at Fulford Harbour, this might be a good place to catch a bite when you first arrive on-island, or just before you leave. The eclectic menu has vegan-friendly options and kid menus, along the seafood, steak, and burgers. The café opens earlier than the restaurant, for coffee and pastries. entrées $15-25.
- 8 Morningside Organic Bakery and Café, 107 Morningside Rd (In Fulford), ☏ +1 250-653-4414.
- 1 Moby's Pub, 124A Upper Ganges Rd (at Salt Spring Marina), ☏ +1 250-537-5559. Pub located right beside the water with plenty of drink and food options.
There are bed and breakfasts spread throughout the island. There are also a number of vacation homes and cottages.
- 1 Garden Faire Campground, 305 Rainbow Rd (next to Mouat Park), ☏ +1 250-537-4346. $20 tent, $25 RV.
- 2 Harbour House Hotel, 121 Upper Ganges Rd (Located right beside Ganges Harbour), ☏ +1 250-537-5571. Has 36 renovated rooms with large balconies. - Summer rooms start at $120.
- 3 Hastings House, 160 Upper Ganges Rd, toll-free: +1-800-661-9255. Check-in: 10AM, check-out: 2PM. Sussex-style Manor House overlooking Ganges Harbour. Eighteen guest rooms and suites, each with its own décor, in seven buildings around the estate.
The area code for Salt Spring is (250) -- same as Vancouver Island. Cell phone coverage is spotty on the island. Telus provides the best coverage on the island. Rogers provides some coverage on their network.
- 3 Lady Minto / Gulf Islands Hospital, 135 Crofton Rd, ☏ +1 250-538-4800. Has an emergency department operated by a group of family doctors that take calls 24/7.
- Hop aboard BC Ferries and travel to nearby Mayne, Pender or Saturna Islands to explore Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR). 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.