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18 Magical Things to Do on Salt Spring Island, BC

Salt Spring Island holds a special place in our hearts.

This charming little island in British Columbia sits just off the shore of Vancouver Island. It’s a peaceful place, with beautiful views and kind-hearted folks.

We spent a few days of our honeymoon on Salt Spring Island. Then, since moving to Vancouver and later Victoria, we’ve found ourselves drawn back many times for a getaway.

So having spent quite of bit of time there, we feel more than ready to share all the magical things to do on Salt Spring Island.

There are lots of lovely things to do on Salt Spring Island!
You’ll fall in love with Salt Spring Island

Top things to do on Salt Spring Island

From hiking, kayaking and beachcombing to a vibrant arts-and-crafts scene, Salt Spring is an idyllic place for an island holiday.

It’s one of the most beautiful places in Canada, actually!

Even if you’re familiar with Salt Spring, it’s worth returning for another visit, as you’ll discover lots that’s new.

Where is Salt Spring Island, British Columbia?

By way of background, Salt Spring is one of the Gulf Islands.

It lies between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia.

It’s close to Galiano Island, another of the Southern Gulf Islands. (Some people like to visit both Salt Spring and Galiano on the same trip.)

Rocky cove on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia
A rocky cove on beautiful Salt Spring Island

It’s relatively small – you can drive from the top of the island to the bottom in 45 minutes.

Salt Spring has a population of about 11,000 – and it’s long been a sanctuary for painters, sculptors and other artists (Robert Bateman is perhaps the most well-known).

Best Salt Spring Island activities and experiences

1) Bicycle around Salt Spring Island

Bicycling on Salt Spring Island
We love bicycling on Salt Spring Island (on e-bikes!)

What’s new? You can now rent e-bikes on Salt Spring.

On one recent visit, we took out some bicycles for a lovely 17-mile (28-kilometer) loop from Ganges, the island’s main village (see #2).

It didn’t take long to get the hang of our powered wheels.

Soon we were whizzing up steep hills with little effort.

Wild pink sweet peas scented the air, and deer occasionally jumped across the road.

The Fernwood Dock lured us in with its views (see #9).

Continuing to Southey Point, we stopped to look at small boats bobbing in the harbor.

Bicycle on Salt Spring Island
A typical Salt Spring Island scene

It’s a marvel that “regular” bicyclists manage the ups and downs of the island.

Salt Spring is so hilly, we doubt we would have tried going for a ride without the assistance of these electric bicycles.

We still had to pedal though, so we felt somewhat smug that we were getting some exercise.

Outspokin Bike Shop

Outspokin Bike Shop rents e-bikes so you can tackle the hills while exploring on two wheels.

They offer rates from 4 hours to 3 days.

Make sure you reserve ahead during summer, as they tend to sell out.

2) Stroll around Ganges

The quaint village of Ganges is the main town on Salt Spring Island, located on the east side of the island.

It’s where islanders mainly go to pick up groceries and supplies, meet for coffee and enjoy dinner out on the town.

Watch the sea planes flying in an out, pop into its art galleries, ogle the yachts and boats in the harbor, browse the cute shops and stroll the public park.

Ganges is a charming place to lazily pass the time.

3) Hike up Mount Erskine

Fairies sprinkle their magic on Salt Spring Island.

Okay, not real fairies. But you’ll spy several doors to their fairy houses in Mount Erskine Provincial Park.

Hiking on Salt Spring Island
Fairy houses greeted us on Mount Erskine

If you’re not sure what to do on Salt Spring Island for outdoor exercise (apart from bicycling), know this – there’s some great hiking on Salt Spring Island.

The most popular route is the Mount Erskine Trail. It leads from the end of the Trustees Trail road to the mountain’s summit. (This hike is sometimes called the Trustees Trail or the Juniper Trail.)

It’s a short stiff hike up the 1,600-foot (488-meter) mountain, past twisted old trees, moss carpets and “fairy doors.”

Carved by locals, these wee doors – some decorated with painted pebbles and bits of glass – are attached to boulders off the side of the trail.

If they don’t put a smile on your face, the bird’s eye views at the summit sure will. You can see right over Sansum Narrows and toward Vancouver Island.

A short stiff hike up Mount Erskine on Salt Spring Island rewards you with OMG bird's eye views.
View over Sansum Narrows

Allow about 90 minutes for the roundtrip hike (2 hours if you meander along the top and take your time checking out the views).

Getting to this Mount Erskine trailhead

From Rainbow Road, take Juniper Place which turns into Spring Gold Way. From Spring Gold Way, turn right on the Trustees Trail road.

Park at the end of the cul-de-sac there. You’ll see the signposted start of the trail.

4) Slurp pasta at Auntie Pesto’s

Who wants pasta?

A day’s bicycling or hiking means you can indulge at dinner without a second thought.

Thankfully, there’s Auntie Pesto’s in Ganges village –  the perfect place to go for a fine meal!

One of the best restaurants in Salt Spring, it features an upgraded glass-walled deck, with a rollout canopy and heat lamps.

You can sit outside in comfort, from spring to fall, and enjoy the water views.

Auntie Pesto's is one of the best Salt Spring Island restaurants.
Dining at Auntie Pesto’s (Credit: Auntie Pesto’s)

If you’re going for pasta, choose from three types of noodles – spaghetti, penne or the house-made long and wide pasta.

The seared scallops on pork belly in a mustard saffron sauce are totally delicious (they were a special the night we visited). The beef carpaccio with truffle sauce is also an excellent choice.

For a main course, you can’t beat the creamy-and-garlicky pasta carbonara, served complete with an egg yolk on top.

5) Do an artist studio tour

Salt Spring Island Tweed Shop
Tartan backpack for sale (Credit: Salt Spring Tweed)

Spring and fall are ideal for taking in the islands’ arts-and-crafts scene.

There are 18 galleries and studios to discover on the island.

You can take a self-guided Salt Spring Studio Tour.

Just follow the blue-and-white sheep signs, and you’ll get to meet the artists where they work. Watch local artisans create ceramic bowls, decorative glass vases, French-country tapestries, wood-fired pottery, jade jewelry and more.

At some studios, you can even try making the crafts yourself – like weaving.

6) Browse the Salt Spring Saturday Market

If you time your island visit carefully, you’ll be able to attend the Salt Spring Saturday Market.

Farmers Market on Salt Spring Island
There’s lots of good stuff for sale at the Salt Spring Island Market

This popular market showcases the products of some 140+ stallholders, who sell what they make, bake or grow on the island.

Maybe pick up some gemstone jewelry, ceramics, gluten-free coconut chocolate shortbread, herbal skin products, healthy kale chips or a fresh-baked pie?

The market is open every Saturday from April to October and takes place at Centennial Park in Ganges village.

7) Go kayaking on Salt Spring Island

If you love getting out on the water, one of the best things to do on Salt Spring Island is to go for a paddle in a kayak.

If you’re new to kayaking, a guided tour around Ganges Harbor with the Salt Spring Adventure Company is a great introduction to the beauty of the Gulf Islands from the perspective of a kayak.

Kayaking is one of the fun things to do in Salt Spring Island if you love getting out on the water.
Kayaking is a great way to experience the best of Salt Spring (Credit: Salt Spring Adventure Company)

You’ll visit a centuries-old First Nations white shell midden beach and learn about the area. Keep an eye out for otters, great blue herons and harbor seals too!

Other tours take you meandering through the kelp beds along the shoreline of smaller uninhabited islands and Prevost Island.

Salt Spring Adventure Company

You can rent kayaks from the Salt Spring Adventure Company, located at the Ganges Marina.

They offer single and double kayaks on an hourly and/or daily basis throughout the summer.

You can choose from both sit-in sea kayaks (with spray skirts) and new sit-on-top kayaks if you know how to kayak.

They also offer several guided tours, including a Ganges Harbor tour, a night-time bioluminescent paddle and a full moon paddle.

8) Smell lavender at Lavender & Black

Lavender & Black is a visitor-friendly lavender farm on Salt Spring Island.
Pretty lavender growing on Salt Spring Island

Created in 2016, Lavender & Black is a high-end, visitor-friendly lavender farm.

It occupies a stunning property on the north end of Salt Spring Island. As it’s built around existing fir, arbutus and maple trees, it feels natural and fluid in design.

The lavender is organically grown, and Ben and Awatief (the friendly couple who own the property) distill their essential oils onsite.

Pop in during opening hours (see below), and you’ll likely be greeted by Ben. He’ll explain how lavender is grown, cultivated, dried and turned into essential oil.

Lavender & Black is one of the most interesting Salt Spring Island attractions.
Ben explained the different types of lavender to us

You can also learn about the different types of lavender. English lavender is sweeter and more delicate, while French lavender is stronger and better suited for room spray.

Awatief makes lavender ice-cream too – buy a cup to enjoy while wandering the farm.

Then check out the beautiful array of lavender products for sale, from lavender body lotion, linen spray and kitchen-and-bathroom cleaners to lavender-infused honey, tea and salt.

We enjoyed visiting Lavender & Black more than we expected, and we think it’s one of the most interesting Salt Spring Island attractions.

Touring the Lavender & Black farm is one of the best things to do in Salt Spring Island!
Lavender products (Credit: Lavender & Black)

Visit Lavender & Black

The lavender blooms from June to September.

In season (June to September), the farm is open Thursday to Monday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

In spring (starting the Easter weekend), hours are Friday to Sunday from noon to 3:00 pm.

The farm is free to visit.

See Lavender & Black for more details.

There’s another lavender farm on Salt Spring Island too

Displaying up to 60 varieties of lavender, the Sacred Mountain Lavender Farm is a boutique 2-acre lavender farm, located on the south end of the island.

It also has a farm shop, where you can pick up a host of lavender products, including sachets, bath salts and natural soaps.

From May to mid-October, the farm shop is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. In April, it’s open on weekends.

9) Walk the Fernwood Dock

Fernwood Dock

The Fernwood Point Beach and Dock on the north end of the island is a great spot for birdwatching and snapping pics of fantastic ocean views.

The dock juts out 400 feet into the water, so it’s pleasant for a stroll, especially when it’s sunny.

On the beach below the pier, beachcombing at low tide reveals everything from kelp crabs to clams and moon snails.

We first stumbled upon Fernwood Dock bicycling around the island. You could say it’s one of the “Salt Spring Island secrets” (though it’s not a secret to locals).

Afterward, pop into The Hen and Hound brasserie across the street for coffee, brunch (on weekends) or lunch.

Tasty goodies (Credit: The Hen and Hound)

Maybe go for the Croque Madame, with local egg and house-made Bechamel sauce? Their fresh cinnamon churro doughnuts look pretty tantalizing too.

The eatery is also open seasonally for dinner.

10) Soak up the sun at Vesuvius Beach

A list of the “best of Salt Spring” wouldn’t be complete without mention of Vesuvius Bay and its beach.

This popular family beach has the island’s warmest ocean water. The wide beach is very shallow and the bay is calm, making it an ideal spot for swimming.

Facing west, the beach is a heat trap.

And the water is actually warm, really! Okay, at least by Canadian standards…

It’s not “Caribbean warm.” But we found it plenty warm for swimming on a hot sunny day in summer – noticeably warmer than the ocean water at our beaches in Victoria, a 35-minute ferry ride away.

Vesuvius Beach is an especially great place on Salt Spring Island for children.

Kids will be intrigued by all the tiny fish and crabs seen when wading out into the water. They’ll also want to check out the cool rock formations around the beach.

What to do on Salt Spring Island when it's hot? Go swimming at Vesuvius Bay!
Vesuvius Beach Cove

Just bring water shoes to protect tender tootsies, both yours and your kids, as the area is a bit rocky. (We didn’t have any, so we were just super careful going into the water.)

Also bring your own shade umbrella and sunhats. There’s no shade late in the afternoon (except by the outdoor biffy at the far end of the beach, and no one wants to sit there).

To get to Vesuvius Beach, park at the side of Langley Street, then walk down a flight of wooden steps to access the beach.

11) Go wine tasting

One of the fun things to do on Salt Spring Island is to go wine tasting.
Wine grapes on Salt Spring Island

You may know about the wineries in the Okanagan Valley in the interior of BC. But you can also go wine tasting on Salt Spring.

Garry Oaks Winery is one of the oldest wineries on the island. They produce their wines by hand, and they’re known for their Pinot Noir and Zweigelt (a red varietal developed in Austria).

The Garry Oaks Winery is a great place for wine tasting on Salt Spring Island.
The wine tasting room is in a pretty location (Credit: Garry Oaks Winery)

Visit Garry Oaks Winery

The winery has a tasting room for trying their small-lot estate wines.

From May to October, they’re open daily from 11:00 to 5:00 pm.

For full opening hours, check their website.

12) Hike Ruckle Provincial Park

Ruckle Provincial Park is one of the most beautiful places in Salt Spring Island.
Ruckle Provincial Park

As avid hikers, we love hiking Ruckle Provincial Park.

It’s one of the most beautiful places in Salt Spring Island – with forest, fields and shoreline dimpled with mussel-filled tidal pools – and 9+ miles (15 km) of trails.

A popular Salt Spring Island hike is the Yeo Point hike.

From the parking lot (beyond the park gate), you can follow a coastal trail winding through hemlock and cedar forest, past a lovely pebble beach, to King’s Cove and then Yeo Point.

This route to Yeo Point is about 2.8 miles (4.5 km) one way.

Sheep graze at Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island
Grazing sheep… So bucolic!

Grouse may cross your path, and sometimes, orcas (killer whales) can be seen frolicking out at sea.

Recently, we saw majestic bald eagles flying overhead, a white-tailed hare scampering across the trail (quick as a bunny!) and lots of deer. We also saw many fat woolly sheep, some even causing a “sheep jam” on the trail.

Have a look at this map (the download link is given below).

Ruckle Provincial Park Map
Map of Ruckle Provincial Park

The trail is relatively flat, with a few bumps up and down, from the starting point (#1) to Bear Point (#2).

Slightly beyond Bear Point, the trail gets much more rugged. It’s rooty and more up-and-down, with some hill climbing (in fact, a sign at Bear Point warns that the trail beyond is rugged).

However, the last section from King’s Cove to Yeo Point (just over half a mile) is easy again.

There’s a stunning sandy-and-pebble beach at Yeo Point (Yeo Beach). It’s the perfect place to munch on your lunch and snooze in the sun on the sand.

Ocean view from Ruckle Provincial Park, Salt Spring Island
Yes, it’s Janice! And the ocean views along the trail are beautiful

On the return, you can take the inland trail from King’s Cove, passing Merganser Pond and the heritage farm with its grazing sheep, back to your starting point – about 2.2 miles (3.5 km).

Pack your lunch and make it a leisurely hiking day, enjoying the views along the way.

It’s an easyish hike if you’re young and fit – a more moderate hike if you’re 50+.

Ruckle Provincial Park

See the BC Parks Ruckle Park page for more information. Scroll down the page for the map (or download it here).

Tip: Keep an eye out for the orange markers on trees and boulders, because on some parts of the trail, it’s easy to take a wrong turn (and then you have to backtrack to find the orange marker again).

13) Walk the Chris Hatfield Trail

Pssst! Want in on a secret?

Apart from locals, not many people know that you can enjoy the back end of the Yeo Point hike in Ruckle Provincial Park (described in #12 above) by starting at the endpoint, Yeo Point.

To get there, you take the Chris Hatfield Trail.

It’s an easy trail through the forest, a little over a half mile long.

Start of the Chris Hatfield Trail, Salt Spring Island
Start of the Chris Hatfield Trail

You should still wear proper hiking shoes or boots, though, as roots can trip you up. At one point, there’s a rope to help you get down (and back up) a short steepish slope.

After crossing a small bridge, you come to an unmarked fork. The left trail runs alongside a creek to Cusheon Cove, while the straight-ahead trail leads to Yeo Beach.

It’s worth heading left to Cusheon Cove for the beautiful views (just a short walk), then backtracking to take the trail to Yeo Beach.

Cusheon Cove, Salt Spring Island
Cusheon Cove on Salt Spring Island

Once you’ve checked out Yeo Beach, you can then turn right along the coastal trail – it’s the last section of the Yeo Point hike (from Yeo Point to King’s Cove).

This section is our favorite part of the Yeo Point trail.

It’s mostly flat, hugs the coast (past moss-covered boulders) and meanders through fields of tiny white wild flowers. The ocean views are breathtaking – with ferries and sailboats plying the glittering blue waters.

Moss-covered boulders on the Chris Hatfield Trail
Moss-covered boulders on the Chris Hatfield Trail

Getting to the Chris Hatfield Trail

The trailhead for the Chris Hatfield Trail is at the end of Meyer Road in the south part of the island. From Beaver Point Road take Bulman Road and at the end, turn right on Meyer and park at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Tip: The Chris Hatfield Trail is a great trail for a family hike, as it’s relatively flat and short.

14) Taste cider at Salt Spring Wild

As well as making wine, Salt Spring Island also produces cider.

The craft cidery, Salt Spring Wild, creates its own cider from both organic orchard apples and wild apples found across the island.

One of the tastiest things to do on Salt Spring Island is to go cider tasting at Salt Spring Wild.
You can taste cider from organic orchard apples grown on Salt Spring Island (Credit: Salt Spring Wild)

Don’t think sugary sweet cider. Salt Spring Wild’s crisp cider tastes more like traditional English cider.

Their staples are a dry cider (one of the driest ciders we’ve ever tasted!) and a semi-dry version.

But the cidery also produces some interesting blends, like a ginger root cider and a wild berry cider.

Visit Salt Spring Wild Cider House

You can taste a flight of ciders in a renovated horse barn (the cider house) at Salt Spring Wild.

Hungry? Order some farm-style tapas too, and sit out on a picnic bench on the lawn while listening to Johnny Cash and relaxed country music.

The cidery is open for tastings and purchases every day from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm from spring to fall.

Hours are more restricted in winter.

14) Visit Salt Spring Island Cheese

Visit Salt Spring Island Cheese! They make the yummiest artisan goat cheeses.
Cheese, please! (Credit: Salt Spring Island Cheese)

You must also visit Salt Spring Island Cheese, which makes the yummiest artisan goat cheeses.

At the farm shop, you can sample everything from chili chevre to a mild blue brie cheese and a traditional goat milk feta.

You can also peek through viewing windows into the rooms of the cheese-making facility.

If you’d like to stay for a light lunch, their café is open in the summer months. It serves house-made soups, pizza, salad and a scrumptious goat cheesecake for dessert.

Visit the Salt Spring Island Cheese company

The farm shop at Salt Spring Island Cheese is open every day (except Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day).

Summer hours are from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. In winter, they close an hour earlier at 4:00 pm.

16) Swim at Cusheon Lake

One of the most popular places to swim on Salt Spring Island is Cusheon Lake. The water is warm and ideal for swimming, especially from late May to the end of September.

The public access is at the Cusheon Lake Public Viewpoint on Cusheon Lake Road.

There’s a small stretch of grass off the side of the road, with a shallow sandy beach entry and a tilted dock (that could benefit from some repairs).

One of the best places to swim on Salt Spring Island is Cusheon Lake.
One of the best places to swim on Salt Spring Island is Cusheon Lake

Children love to dive off the dock into the water, while their moms sit around chatting, their feet dangling in the water.

You’ll also find a port-a-pottie and parking for about 10 cars.

Go in the afternoon, and it will be busy – so it will be hard to find a parking spot or a place to sit on the lawn or dock.

But if you time your dip for after 6:00 pm, you may only have to share the peace and quiet with perhaps a handful of other folk.

On our last visit, we jumped into Cusheon Lake just before showering for dinner. It turned out to be one of our favorite things to do on Salt Spring!

17) Try local craft beer at Salt Spring Island Ales

So, you’ve tasted locally-made wine (#11) and cider (#14). How about some local beer?

The great news is there’s a craft brewery on Salt Spring Island. You can enjoy beer flights in their tasting room and on their patio.

Salt Spring Island Ales
Ales ready for sipping (Credit: Salt Spring Island Ales)

Salt Spring Island Ales makes organic beer without any preservatives or chemicals.

Their beer is all made by hand, using water piped straight from a mountain spring. Whenever they can, the brewery also uses locally grown hops, honey and heather.

Popular varieties? The mildly floral Heather Pale Ale is a light delicate beer. The Dry Porter is dark, crisp and bold in flavor.

The brewery also typically makes a series of more unusual beers, such as a Raspberry Mango Sour Beer.

18) Eat oysters at the Oystercatcher

On the waterfront in Ganges, the Oystercatcher Seafood & Cocktail Bar has a great waterfront deck.

Soak in the sunset and the marina views as you mull over the menu. We couldn’t resist the deep-fried oysters and mussels in a ginger cream sauce – accompanied by lots of fresh-made focaccia.

The Oystercatcher restaurant in Salt Spring Island has a great waterfront deck.
The waterfront deck is the place to sit on a warm evening (Credit: Oystercatcher)

There’s often live music in the evenings. One time, we got to see the former lead singer from the Kelowna-born “Grapes of Wrath” band strum soulful guitar tunes from the 80s.

It was all very chilled, just like Salt Spring itself.

Recommended Salt Spring Island restaurants

Auntie Pesto’s

This is one of the more upscale restaurants on Salt Spring Island (no burgers or fish-and-chips). Auntie Pesto’s uses local cheese, meat and fresh produce for its seasonally inspired menus.

It’s open from Wednesday to Sunday for dinner only. Highly recommended!

Oystercatcher

Dine on local ingredients at the Oystercatcher on its waterfront patio in summer or by the river-rock fireplace in winter.

Salt Spring Inn

The Salt Spring Inn in Ganges offers hearty, home-style food. It's one of the best Salt Spring Island restaurants!
Welcome to the Salt Spring Inn!

The Salt Spring Inn is open daily year-round for breakfast, lunch and dinner for hearty, home-style food.

You can’t miss it if you’re looking for this restaurant in Ganges village – the roses and flowers growing over its picket white fence are eye-catching.

Feeling healthy? The organic salad with goat cheese is excellent.

Feeling sinful? Try the warm ginger spice pudding with whipped cream and toffee sauce.

Where to stay on Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island accommodations range from a luxury Relais & Chateaux country house to B&Bs, affordable hotels and cottage rentals with kitchens.

Hastings House

For a luxury stay on Salt Spring, pick this Relais & Chateaux inn (Credit: Hastings House)

The best of the Salt Spring Island hotels is Hastings House. (It’s the place where we stayed on our honeymoon!)

Surrounded by flowering gardens, this small luxury country house hotel is located on the Ganges Harbor waterfront.

Rooms vary at this lovely Relais & Chateaux property – from stand-alone cottages to hillside suites to English country-style manor rooms. But they all come with down duvets, candles and local Salt Spring Island soaps.

A special treat is waking up to fresh-baked muffins and hot coffee, discreetly delivered to your doorstep each morning.

The formal dining room (with white tablecloths and silverware) serves up delicious farm-to-table cuisine.

Hastings House: Check rates and availability

The Cottages on Salt Spring

Salt Spring accommodation: The Cottages
Family-friendly cottages on Bullock Lake (Credit: The Cottages on Salt Spring)

Bring the family!

On Bullock Lake (where you can swim), each of the Cottages has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a full kitchen.

The Cottages on Salt Spring: Check rates and availability

Peaceful Oasis in the Trees

The Sanctuary is one of the best places to stay on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.
Stay in this architecturally-designed home in the forest! (Credit: The Sanctuary)

This top-rated two-story house is an architectural gem, just a 3-minute drive from Ganges. With three bedrooms (sleeping seven people), two bathrooms and a full kitchen, it’s perfect for a family or friends.

Perks include a fireplace, a hot tub on the deck and sweeping ocean views.

Peaceful Oasis in the Trees, Salt Spring: Check rates and availability

Best time to visit Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring is often the envy of the rest of Canada, because it enjoys such a good climate – it feels almost Mediterranean.

The best time to visit Salt Spring Island is between May and September.

These months are the warmest. They’re also the driest months – and see little rain.

You can expect temps in high summer (July and August) to hit the 80s F (high 20s C). But cooling sea breezes mean it’s never too hot.

The best time to visit Salt Spring Island is from May to September.
Summer is a lovely time to visit Salt Spring Island

Spring and fall are cooler and you might experience a little drizzle.

September is a glorious month because it’s still warm, the leaves are starting to turn golden and the island is less busy.

We’ve also lucked out with gorgeous weather in early June – hot enough to swim at Vesuvius Beach and Cusheon Lake!

How to get to Salt Spring Island, Canada

If you’re coming from Vancouver, BC Ferries offers nonstop service from the Tsawwassen ferry terminal to Salt Spring Island (90 minutes). Reservations are recommended for booking vehicle passage from Vancouver on BC Ferries.

If you’re coming from Victoria, the ferry takes 35 minutes from the Swartz Bay terminal to Fulford Harbor on Salt Spring.

Check out BC Ferries for schedules and more information. (If you’re going from Vancouver to Victoria first, you might want to read our guide on taking the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria.)

Alternatively, you can book a seaplane flight on Harbour Air, which offers regular daily service from Vancouver and Vancouver Island to Salt Spring Island.

Day trip to Salt Spring Island from Vancouver

Only have a day and want to visit from Vancouver? This special Salt Spring Island day trip is for you.

After an exhilarating seaplane flight from Vancouver to the island, a knowledgeable guide will take you kayaking in some of the most interesting waters in the world. 

As you paddle, enjoy the amazing views of rock cliffs and hidden beaches, and keep an eye out for local animals. You might spot bald eagles, seals, dolphins, otters, birds, and colorful starfish, among others.

After about four hours of adventure, you’ll fly back to the mainland on the seaplane, then be driven back to your Vancouver hotel.

Lots of things to do in Salt Spring Island, BC!

That wraps up our Salt Spring Island travel guide.

One thing’s for sure. This enchanting island will cast its spell on you.

You’ll discover tons of fun things to do on Salt Spring Island and sights to see – from old-growth forests and lavender farms to beaches and freshwater lakes – and you’ll end up wondering why on earth you didn’t visit (or revisit) sooner!

More Salt Spring Island travel information

See the Salt Spring Island Tourism website.

Experience more of British Columbia!

Vancouver: It’s a lovely ride bicycling around Stanley Park!

Parksville area: From swimming at warm shallow beaches to caving to spying the goats on the roof, you’ll love these crazy fun things to do in Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

Victoria: Lace up your sneakers and check out these easy scenic walks in Victoria.

Tofino: When the weather is wild and bad, go storm watching in Tofino!

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


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Things to do on Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island travel guide

Photo credits: 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 17, 19, 27, 29 to 34, 39, 42 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Mary Stephenson

Tuesday 1st of August 2023

I grew up on Salt Spring and left when I was 18, back in 1965. There were only about 3,000 people at that time. And there was only one school in Ganges for all 12 grades.

We lived at Fernwood Point and used to go on the beach there and swim in the ocean. Sometimes we'd swim at St. Mary's Lake, but we preferred the ocean.

Fernwood was a great place to observe killer whales passing through the area. It was so quiet you could hear them crashing in the water a mile out.

Things have obviously changed. I went to visit back in 2017 and was shocked at how the island has grown.

I still have some family that live there...

Janice and George

Sunday 6th of August 2023

Wow, how incredible it must have been to hear the orcas swim by! You have some lovely memories of growing up on Salt Spring Island :-). Thanks for taking the time to share them.

Eric

Wednesday 7th of September 2022

This Salt Spring article is great... even for a local yokel...

Treehouse Cafe was worth a mention, as was a tour of the farm stands, Fernwood dock, Mouats Park on the edge of town and our early/mid September fall fair.

The Museum at the Farmer's Institute, Mahon Hall for art exhibits and performances and Art Spring for extraordinary performances from classical concerts to Commedia dell Arte' buffoonery are also worth mentioning.

And there's sooo much more !!!!!!

I'm realizing how much there is on my wee rock !!

Janice and George

Monday 12th of September 2022

Thanks, Eric, for the kind comment. Thanks too for pointing out the museum and the other performing art venues!

Nicole

Friday 17th of June 2022

This is a great comprehensive guide to Salt Spring! We will be there for 4 nights 6/23-6/27. End of June but according to the forecast it looks like rain (I realize the weather may change). Wondering if you have recommendations re what to do if it does rain?

Thanks! Nicole

Janice and George

Wednesday 6th of July 2022

Oh, that's too bad. Salt Spring is at its best when the sun shines and the weather is good.

What to do? Pack a light rain jacket! Go outside and hike/walk anyway :-). Check out the art galleries. Eat fish and chips. Read a book. And enjoy all the deep green colors of the forests - it's a lush island, thanks in large part to the rain :-). It is on the (wet) West Coast, after all...

Liz

Monday 30th of May 2022

Can you get around Salt Spring without a car?

I like hiking and I'd like to visit the Cheese Shop.

We'd be coming from Los Angeles. Best place to fly into to start the journey to Salt Spring?

Thank you!

Janice and George

Monday 30th of May 2022

From L.A., you're probably best to fly to Vancouver (Canada), then take the ferry to Salt Spring Island.

A car definitely makes it easier to get around the island. You can rent a car in Vancouver at the airport (probably the cheaper option) or on the island through Salt Spring Car Rental.

However, you can still get around Salt Spring without a car.

BC Transit operates a public bus system on the island. Here's their schedule and route map.

If you don't have a car, you'll probably want to stay in Ganges, where you're walking distance to shops and restaurants.

Hope this helps, and enjoy your visit!

Nancy Shalen

Thursday 19th of August 2021

My husband and I are planning a trip to Vancouver to visit his sister and brother-in-law.

We have reservations arriving on Oct. 5th and departing on Oct. 10. We will be driving from Denver and will have our own car.

We'd like to spend another three or four days either on Victoria Island or one of the Gulf Islands, possibly Salt Spring.

Could you give me some advice comparing the islands and suggest which you think is best for the amount of time we have?

Thanks, Nancy

Janice and George

Thursday 19th of August 2021

Hi Nancy,

You should spend at least a couple of nights in Victoria on Vancouver Island. See our post on all the great things to do in Victoria. (And it's a bit confusing because Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, located on Vancouver Island, while Vancouver, which is the bigger city, is located on the mainland.)

Vancouver Island is much bigger than Salt Spring, and you could enjoy your 3 or 4 days just exploring Victoria and the island surroundings. You can drive to Sooke and East Sooke Park, go to Unsworth Vineyards, check out the Saanich Peninsula and Sidney-by-the-Sea, explore further up to Parksville, or immerse yourself in the real west coast wilderness down near French Beach and Jordan River, etc. Victoria city has quite a different feel than Vancouver (more British, more quaint, lots of seaside walks).

If you're going to visit a Gulf Island, Salt Spring Island is the easiest to get to -- it's only a 30 or so minute ferry ride from the ferry terminal near Victoria, and there are several ferries that leave daily from Victoria. Salt Spring is quieter, more rural, smaller than Vancouver Island -- it will give you that real getaway, small island feel, especially in October, since that will be heading into the slower season. But in our view, October is not really the ideal time to visit Salt Spring -- we like it best in May/June and September. In mid-October, you might encounter rain and that would put a damper on what you can do.

So you could do 2 nights in Victoria and 2 nights on Salt Spring. But that's a lot of packing and unpacking.

Maybe base yourself for the extra 3 or 4 days in Victoria, and save Salt Spring for another future visit?

Hope this helps! And have a great trip no matter what you decide :-).