Salt Spring, the largest of BC's Gulf Islands

So much to see and do:

The Canadian “ Gulf Islands " (like their American counterparts- the "San Juan Islands" of Washington State ) are tranquil, peaceful havens from the bustle of the nearby cities of Vancouver, Seattle and Victoria. Spectacular scenery is what first attracts visitors (plus that unexplainable magic of being on an island). Salt Spring (sometimes spelled Saltspring) enjoys a microclimate quite different from Vancouver and Seattle.

Salt Spring is the largest, most populous, and most diverse with over 10,000 individualists and "out-of -box" thinkers living their chosen lifestyle. It is home to a collection of artists and artisans, the rich, the poor, the retired, the aging hippies and the "ordinary people" (hardly!!!) who own or work in small shops, restaurants or businesses. In 2007 Salt Spring was listed as one of the top 100 islands in the world by National Geographic.

   Salt Spring Island          

The main town of Ganges , acclaimed as one of the best small art towns in North America , boasts over a dozen art galleries on the "Gallery Walk," a vibrant centre called  “ArtSpring” for the performing arts, and a special appreciation for live music which cascades over the boardwalks onto the docks of the harbour.  June through September, the Salt Spring Arts Council plays host to “ ArtCraft ” a cooperative gallery that makes use of one of the best preserved old time halls on   the Island at Mahon Hall. The beautiful heritage- yellow structure with its mini park is well worth the stop!

Around the island there are over three dozen artists on " The Studio Tour ," a self-guided adventure through the hillsides to discover mix of many different art forms that cover the alphabet from acrylics and bath salts to wood turning and Zen gardens. Not limited to traditional artisan wares, the Studio Tour also boasts wineries, artisnal cheeses and breads!! Bonus -every Saturday from Easter through Canadian Thanksgiving there is the renowned Saturday Market where a good cross section of the artisans on island brings a sample of their wares and share space with loads of great organic produce.

Saturday Market offerings

Peaceful spaces abound. For "land recreation" Salt Spring offers magnificent viewpoints, secluded picnic spots, walking or hiking trails, and bird watching. Salt Spring also offers, tennis, golf or horseback riding on its island mountains. If the water is more your style, try ocean kayaking, scuba diving, fresh or saltwater fishing. Or how about a four-hour sail or cruise with your captain at the helm?

Eating Well: No surprise here – Salt Spring offers a true feast for visitors. Salt Spring has some of the best organic and local produce around!   Wild salmon, halibut, mussels and shrimp abound. If you are a vegetarian or prefer meat you’ll find that too. You won’t find big name fast food here!. Salt Spring is the ultimate informal place.   Dockers and jackets are about as formal as it gets unless you go to Hastings House Resort where a tad dressier is appropriate for that special dinner.   Bistros offer waterfront fine dining and are well known for its excellent seafood and delicious West Coast cuisine.

Salt Spring or Saltspring – in either case you’ll need a 2 or 3 night stay just to scratch the surface of this Be sure to check other traveler articles about Salt Spring on Trip Advisor for more details!

Getting to and around Salt Spring: It's easy!

Salt Spring is an easy destination by car using BC Ferries from Vancouver , Victoria and Crofton (mid Vancouver Island ). Round trip for car, driver and passenger is in the $100 range from Vancouver and in the $35 range from Victoria or Crofton.   Or, arrive by floatplane from Vancouver or Seattle!

However you arrive- you'll likely need a car to get around to all points of the island. Rentals are available in Ganges , but most visitors prefer to bring vehicles from off island. Limited bus service was established on Salt Spring in January 2008. Water taxis, ferries and floatplanes service the other islands, which have smaller populations but have similar outdoor adventures and appeal. Bicycling?? Be sure that you are a capable bicyclist. Salt Spring is notoriously hilly!! Many visitors prefer to strap bicycles onto their vehicles and use them on selective routes on the island.

Advice: Don't arrive without a reservation!!

Salt Spring thrives on "small". Don't be fooled by the sheer number of B and B's, and the few hotels and resorts. All are small. Most of the B and B's have only 2 or 3 rooms and all of the hotels and resorts combined come up with under 80 more rooms. While this is not a particular problem between October and March, many a visitor has been disappointed when the island hits its stride in the spring, summer, and fall.  If you do take the chance, be sure to stop at the visitor information centre in Ganges and line up your accommodation early in the day. Most places limit check-in to between 3 and 6 PM. Here is another quirk of an island surrounded by salt water - as fresh water is precious, most accommodation is offered on a minimum two night basis in order to reduce water consumption associated with room changes!

Numerous websites list accommodation in directory format. Try key words like " Salt Spring Island accommodation" to find them. Besides appearing on Trip Advisor, reputable establishments tend to be found on the Chamber of Commerce , or the  Saturday Market websites. The  Taste of Salt Spring www.tasteofsaltspring.com  , or the Tourism BC www.hellobc.com   websites take it up a notch and list inspected and Canada Select rated accommodations.