When visiting southern Vancouver Island you’ll soon discover that there’s much to see and do but sometimes it’s good to get away on a day trip from Victoria. So let’s hop on a short ferry ride to spend a relaxing day on delightful Salt Spring Island.
The trip begins at the BC Ferries terminal at Swartz Bay on the northern end of the Saanich Peninsula, 40 minutes from downtown Victoria (yes, you’ll need a car today). The 35 minute crossing to Fulford Harbour slows you down in preparation for the charm which awaits. On arrival you soon discover this, passing farmsteads, pretty churches and the rolling, ever-rolling, picturesque countryside.
But let’s step back a moment to consider the historical context of our trip. Salt Spring Island is Coast Salish territory (one reserve remains) on which white settlement began in 1859. Named after the salt springs found there, with the main village of Ganges named after a battleship which carried out land surveys prior to the settlement. It is the largest of the southern Gulf Island with a population of 10,000+.
Salt Spring Island rightly has a reputation for a relaxed lifestyle in a pastoral setting. It has attracted interesting people, something of a hippy haven, who have settled on the 200+ farmsteads or in quirky cabins – painters, jewellery designers, potters, basket weavers, woodworkers, glass makers and the like. Discovering these is well organised with a studio tour and markets. We took the short drive to Ganges for the Saturday market and were so impressed. About 140 artisans were proudly presenting their wares which were of a consistent high quality. Note: do not bring food with you, buy it from the food booths which will make you salivate! Then we were faced with many purchase temptations as we wandered around some of the artistic stores in the village.
Next was the Salt Spring Studio Tour. This self-guided tour passes by 30 local artisans throughout the island so it’s a good excuse to take a snoop too. We discovered that the Saturday bustle was restricted to Ganges while the rest of the island was wonderfully quiet. We passed the northern point called Southey Point (my italics). So after a while we found a beach for a picnic and snoozed to the lapping waves. Driving back to Fulford Harbour there are three more pleasures to enjoy. Firstly, sampling wines at two of the vineyards and then driving to scenic 530 hectares Ruckle Park on the SE tip of the island with its 7 km of shoreline.
We brought back bottles of wine and a handwoven basket as souvenirs of our trip but you might consider something very unique to the island. Remarkably, the island has its own legal currency, the Salt Spring dollar, for use in local businesses as an option to the Canadian dollar with which it is always on par, so you might choose to leave with this unusual memento.