Saltspring Island has two things to thank for its wonderfully
rustic charm sheep and hippies.
Sheep-farming has preserved the pastoral nature of Saltspring
the largest of the Gulf Islands between mainland British Columbia
and Vancouver Island while the hippie invasion of the ’60s and ’70s
left behind a thriving community of artists and craftspeople.
Consequently, the island holds great appeal for visitors looking
for a place where life moves at a stroll.
In the summer months, tourists swell the island’s permanent
population of 11,000 residents, without disrupting the serenity of
the island. Shorts and sandals are standard summer attire, just
about everywhere on the island. And unless you need to catch a
ferry, you seldom need a watch.
Saltspring’s largest village is Ganges, about a 20-minute drive
from the largest of the island’s three ferry terminals. By all
means, park your car and explore the town on foot. With its
waterfront walkways linking galleries, shops and restaurants the
town is designed for pedestrians. Summer weekends bring the biggest
influx of day-trippers from Vancouver and the provincial capital of
Victoria. Most come for the open-air market held in Ganges, every
Saturday, from mid-April to mid-October. The market’s homemade or
homegrown policy showcases the island’s organic produce cheeses
made from goat or sheep’s milk as well as local crafts.
Another good one-stop place to see the work of dozens of artists
is Mahon Hall, a heritage building that features Gulf Island
artists from June to September.
The rest of the island is dotted with galleries and artisans’
studios the best way to find about three dozen of them is to stop
by the visitors’ information center in Ganges and get yourself a
self-guided tour map.
One place you shouldn’t miss is the Tufted Puffin gallery,
tucked away on one of the finger-like peninsulas, near the terminal
for the ferry to Vancouver. Along the forested drive leading to
David Jackson’s studio, you might be waylaid by inquisitive deer
that want to see if you have anything interesting in your
The beaches are mostly small and rocky, but the view from
several points on the island are spectacular. Hiking and cycling
trails abound, and sheltered inlets offer gentle waters for even
You can get a taste of Saltspring Island in a day trip from
Vancouver or Victoria, but to really get a feel for its easygoing
charm, do what the locals do take your time.
Getting there: Ferries run regularly to Saltspring from mainland
British Columbia and Vancouver Island.
Reservations: www.bcferries.bc.ca prepaid reservations
essential. Accommodations: Hastings House, Cusheon Lake Resort
Web: www.britishcolumbia.com search “Saltspring Island” for an
overview of the island’s history, geography and attractions, with
links to hotels and resorts.
www.saltspringmarket.com overview of the crafts offered at the
Saturday open-air market.