Salt Spring Island
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Largest of the Southern Gulf Islands, 180-square-kilometer (70-square-mile) Salt Spring (population 11,000) lies close to Vancouver Island, immediately north of Saanich Inlet. Ferries link the south and north ends of the island to Vancouver Island, and myriad roads converge on the service town of Ganges. The island is home to a large number of artisans, along with hobby farmers, retirees, and wealthy Vancouverites who spend their summers at private getaways.
Sights and Recreation
Ask any longtime local and they’ll tell you the island’s main town, Ganges, is over-commercialized. But it’s still quaint, and well worth visiting. Set around a protected bay, the original waterfront buildings have undergone a colorful transformation and where once you would have found boat-builders, you can now browse through art galleries, shop for antiques, or dine on innovative cuisine. One of the most eye-catching shops is Jill Louise Campbell Fine Art Gallery.
Near the Fulford Harbour ferry terminal, take Beaver Point Road east to 486-hectare (1,200-acre) Ruckle Provincial Park. The access road ends at the rocky headland of Beaver Point, where trails lead north along the coastline, providing great views across to North Pender Island.
Along the road north to Ganges, small Mount Maxwell Provincial Park protects the slopes of its namesake mountain. A rough unsealed road off Musgrave Road leads to the 588-meter (1,930-foot) summit, from where views extend south across the island to Vancouver Island and east to the other Gulf Islands.
With Sea Otter Kayaking (250/537-5678 or 877/537-5678), get up close and personal with local marine and bird life on while exploring the coastline on a guided tour, with a break for a picnic lunch on a remote beach ($115 for six hours).
Maple Ridge Cottages (301 Tripp Rd., 250/537-5977, www.mapleridgecottages.com, $149–199 s or d) is on the banks of St. Mary Lake, a largish body of freshwater that holds a hungry population of bass and trout that can be caught right from the shoreline. For me, the allure of the wooden cottages is the location, but their rustic charm brings back families year after year. Relax on the deck while your catch of the day cooks on the barbecue for the full effect. Free use of canoes and kayaks is a popular bonus.
On the north side of the island on St. Mary Lake, Lakeside Gardens (250/537-5773, www.lakesidegardensresort.com, Apr.–Nov., $90–145 s or d) offers rustic cabins with shared bathrooms as well as self-contained cottages. You can camp in Ruckle Provincial Park ($15), although the camping area is a short walk from the parking lot, making this place unsuitable for RVs.
Head to Ganges and wander around the waterfront for the island’s widest choice of dining options. In the heart of the action is the Tree House Café (106 Purvis Lane, 250/537-5379, daily 8 a.m.–10 p.m., $12–17). The “tree” is a plum tree and the “house” is the kitchen. Most people dine outside in the shade of the tree, choosing freshly made dishes such as salmon frittata for breakfast, tuna melt on sourdough at lunch, or Thai chicken curry in the evening.
Salt Spring Island Visitor Info Centre (121 Lower Ganges Rd., 250/537-4223 or 866/216-2936, www.saltspringtourism.com, daily a.m.–5 p.m. in summer, daily 11 a.m.–3 p.m. the rest of the year) is in downtown Ganges, on the main road above the marina.
Getting to Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring has BC Ferries terminals (250/386-3431) with year-round service to two points on Vancouver Island. If you’re traveling up from Victoria, the Swartz Bay terminal is the most convenient departure point, with 10–12 departures daily for Fulford Harbour, a 20-minute drive south of Ganges.
Sailings are even more frequent on the 20-minute run between Crofton, near the Vancouver Island town of Duncan, and Vesuvius Bay, at the island’s north end. Interisland ferries depart from a third terminal, at Long Harbour, east of Ganges. Regardless of the route, the round-trip fare is adult $9.45, child $4.75, vehicle $28.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition