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If you want to explore Canada’s rich arts and delicious local produce, your next holiday destination should absolutely be Salt Spring Island near Vancouver Island.
The island is nicknamed Canada’s “Island of the Arts” and it’s a sanctuary for creativity and culture. There are plenty of galleries, handcrafts, and artistic events to check out. There’s also a vibrant culinary scene on Salt Spring Island, often accompanied by live music or shows. Many people visit the local town of Ganges to go for a stroll, passing by several boutiques, cafes, and delicious restaurants.
But if outdoor activities are more your thing, there are also tons of hiking routes with idyllic scenery like old mossy forests and rocky coastlines. Along your hike, you might even stumble upon beaches with unique marine wildlife and fun swimming spots.
As you can see, Salt Spring Island has a ton to offer travelers. Whether you stay here for a day or a week, you won’t want to return home. And with so many options, you might have trouble deciding what to do. That’s why I created this guide to visiting Slat Spring Island including a huge list of the best things to see and do!
- About Salt Spring Island
- Getting to Salt Spring Island
- The BEST Things to do on Salt Spring Island
- 1. Wander the Saturday Market
- 2. Go wine tasting
- 3. Explore Ruckle Provincial Park
- 4. Go hiking in Mount Erskine Provincial Park
- 5. Enjoy St Mary Lake
- 6. Visit Salt Spring Island Cheese
- 7. Drink craft beer
- 8. Spend the day at Beddis Beach
- 9. Visit Barbs Bakery and Bistro
- 10. Buy fresh farm produce
- 11. Whale watching
- 12. Treat yourself to a spa
- 13. Head up Mount Maxwell
- 14. Drink locally-made cider
- 15. Take a stroll at Fernwood Point Beach and Wharf
- 16. Listen to live music at the Treehouse Cafe
- 17. Check out the art galleries
- 18. Try some of Brigitte's Pastries
- 19. Explore the village of Ganges
- 20. Lavender and Black Farm
- 21. Mount Bruce
- 22. Drive around the island
- 23. Play Disc Golf
- 24. Enjoy a meal at Auntie Pesto's
- 25. Swim at Cusheon Lake
- 26. Visit Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park (Xwaaqw'um)
- 27. Eat local lamb
- 28. Go on a scenic flight
- Where to Stay on Salt Spring Island
- Thanks for reading!
- Renting a Car in British Columbia
About Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island is located in the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and British Columbia. It’s the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands and was named for all the salt springs found here. The island itself is quite small, and even though you can drive from north to south in 45 minutes, it’s jam-packed with places to explore and things to do.
Salt Spring Island is full of local artists and is home to Robert Bateman, a famous Canadian known for his wildlife paintings. In the main village of Ganges, there are also several art galleries and an impressive market full of handcrafted jewelry, decorations, and clothing.
You can also taste the island’s culinary specialties at this market, including fresh produce, baked goods, and sweet and savory treats that melt in your mouth. I found Salt Spring had some of the most amazing food and drinks. With a community that values the environment and sustainability, a lot of the food is made from organic ingredients grown right here on the island.
Aside from agriculture, Salt Spring Island has mountains and excellent trails. And if you’re looking for some impressive panoramic landscapes, Bruce Peak is the highest point of the island and offers a clear view of the island and the surrounding coasts.
You should definitely leave enough time for all there is to see and do this island. But first, you’ll have to get here, which will require a ferry ride from one of the nearby ports.
Getting to Salt Spring Island
Getting to Salt Spring Island is easy, as you just take a ferry. There are ferries from Victoria’s Swartz Bay Terminal, the Crofton Ferry Terminal, and Vancouver’s Tsawwassen Terminal. Each ferry arrives at a different port on Salt Spring Island.
The Victoria to Salt Spring Island ferry takes 35 minutes, and arrives at the Fulford Harbour in the south. It leaves every two hours Monday through Saturday between 7 am – 9 pm, and Sundays 9 am – 9 pm. It costs $11.60 CAD for adults, $5.80 CAD for kids under 12, and $34.10 CAD for a regular-sized vehicle. What I discovered about this ferry is the return is free, so you only need to budget one way.
The Crofton to Salt Spring Island ferry only takes 25 minutes and arrives at Vesuvius Bay on the west coast. It runs roughly every 1-2 hours Monday through Friday 6:30 am – 11 pm, Saturdays 6:30 am – 10 pm, and Sundays 7:40 am -10 pm. The cost of the ferry is is the same as Swartz Bay, $11.60 CAD per person and $34.10 per vehicle.
The ferries from Vancouver Island to Salt Spring Island (Swartz Bay and Crofton) are not bookable in advance. You pay when you arrive and it is first come first served. For this reason, arrive at the terminal early during the summer months, especially on weekends! Friday evenings and Saturday mornings are the most popular times to head to Salt Spring Island, and the routes on the way back on Sunday are also the busiest.
The Vancouver to Salt Spring Island ferry takes anywhere from 1.5-3 hours depending on the route and potential stops, eventually stopping at Long Harbour on the eastern part of the island. There’s usually an AM and a PM ferry, but times vary so it’s best to check the schedule for your desired date. Tickets cost $38.40 CAD per adult, $17.20 CAD for kids under 12, and $64.70 CAD per regular vehicle – however, these prices do fluctuate depending on the time of year and day.
Ferry tickets sometimes sell out, so you may want to purchase them ahead of time. You’ll also want to get there early since ticket sales and check-in close ten minutes before departure without a reservation. If you have a reservation from Salt Spring Island to Vancouver, check-in for passenger groups and vehicles must be there 30-60 minutes before departure.
Once you get to this magical island, there’s so much to see and do. You’re sure to have a wonderful time!
Related Read: Another popular trip you can take a ferry for is the journey from Vancouver to Tofino!
The BEST Things to do on Salt Spring Island
1. Wander the Saturday Market
When it comes to things to do on Salt Spring Island, paying a visit to the Saturday Market should be at the top of the list. From April to the end of October, this market is open every Saturday between approximately 9 am to 4 pm. You can find the market near Centennial Park in the small village of Ganges on Salt Spring Island.
Visiting this market will definitely help you understand why this small paradise is Canada’s “Island of the Arts”. Every Saturday, there are over 120 vendors here selling self-made products of the highest quality and creativity.
The market began with local farmers selling their organic, locally grown produce and handmade snacks, foods, and cheeses, but it has become so much more. There is literally something for everyone here – you can find artists selling everything from jewelry and clothing to fine art and photography.
I was especially impressed by the handmade pottery and woodwork the locals were selling. The bread stand was also very busy, with a huge line formed by 9 am. I didn’t have time to wait and line and buy a loaf, but judging by the line, the locals know this is the place to get fresh bread!
There is usually some live music and entertainment that makes this market seem even more vibrant. And if you need a break from your pup, you can take advantage of the 1:1 dog sitting service for $10/hour.
If you’re visiting Salt Spring Island on a Saturday, I’d make visiting the market a priority! Trust me – you will not want to leave this fun atmosphere full of creativity and entertainment.
2. Go wine tasting
Another attraction on Salt Spring Island are the wineries, offering a variety of tastings of locally made wines.
Our personal favorite winery on Salt Spring Island was Salt Spring Vineyards, with their very own Tasting Room located right at the heart of the vineyard, among stunning views of the gardens. The winery is open Wednesday-Friday and Sundays from 12 pm to 5 pm, and on Saturdays from 11 am to 6 pm.
For only $5 CAD, you can get 4 pours of any wines you’d like from their white, red, and dessert wines. Feel free to enjoy them in the designated picnic area. On our visit, we sat here next to the cute little pond and got to see the ducks swimming and bathing in the sun.
Garry Oaks Estate Winery is another one of our favorites. It’s right under the peak of Mount Maxwell and is known for the scenic views of its vineyard with the mountain towering above. It’s also known to be one of the oldest wineries on the island. This one also has a tasting fee of $5 CAD and is open Friday-Monday from noon to 5 pm during the summer, with more limited hours during other times of the year.
Everything at the Garry Oaks Estate is made from locally grown grapes and uses some of the most sustainable wine-making practices. For example, they use garden waste and manure from nearby farms to make natural fertilizer for their grapes. Their wines are great for the environment and for the soul!
3. Explore Ruckle Provincial Park
If you want to get closer to nature, exploring Ruckle Provincial Park is the best wildlife experience the island has to offer.
The campgrounds are the largest on the Gulf Islands. And if you love the sea, then you’re in luck – the campsites are located right on the beach, overlooking the scenic Swanson Channel! With about 7 km (4.3 miles) of shoreline, you can explore forests, fields, and the beaches to admire the diverse wildlife. If you’re lucky you might even see sea lions and orcas out at sea, or even find brightly colored crabs, seashells, and starfish in the sand.
Campsites are, for the most part, walk-in (some are also drive-in). If you’d like, you can also make a reservation beforehand on their website. The camping fees vary a lot from campsite to campsite, so we recommend checking the fee table for all campsites beforehand.
Ruckle Park offers a whole variety of other activities, including over 15 km (9 mi) of hiking trails of varying difficulties. One of my favorite hikes is from Ruckle Park Beach to Yeo Point. This easy, out-and-back hike is 9 km (5.6 miles) and is a great scenic route for anyone with an adventurous spirit. You’ll walk through beautiful green hemlock and cedar forests and pass by a small pebble beach, enjoying the quietness and beauty of nature.
While hiking, make sure you stay on the right path and follow all posted signs so you don’t get lost or damage any of the local plants and soil. The locals value the environment greatly, and walking off-path in some fragile landscapes can cause damage.
On the beach along these trails, there are spots for ocean kayaking, scuba diving, and even windsurfing. However, there are no designated swimming areas or lifeguards around, so I wouldn’t recommend swimming alone.
4. Go hiking in Mount Erskine Provincial Park
Another great outdoor activity for all nature lovers is hiking up Mount Erskine.
The area is full of old trees with twisted trunks and blankets of moss, making you feel like you’re traveling through a fantasy world. The little fairy doors built into tree trunks along the way certainly help convey this atmosphere. Don’t worry though, there are no actual fairies here (that we know of!).
There are two possible starting locations for the main trail up Mount Erskine. The first starting point is longer and the second one is a bit shorter, but both have multiple viewpoints along the way where you can admire the island from above. We personally loved the first but both are beautiful!
The Juniper Trail (also known as the Trustees Trail) is one of the most popular ones, taking about 1-2 hours to reach the peak of the mountain and admire the spectacular landscapes.
We also recommend the Mount Erskine Loop, which is a moderate 3.9 km (2.4 mi) hike that can be done in either direction. The eastern trail (clockwise) is a bit gentler, while the western (counterclockwise) trail is steeper. At the top, you can get a clear view of Vancouver Island, Crofton, and the northern part of Salt Spring Island.
It may seem scary, but the counterclockwise trail is actually people’s favorite! There are some tricky parts on this trail, such as rock gardens, giant roots, and slippery boulders, but the beautiful forests and the view at the top make it all worthwhile.
5. Enjoy St Mary Lake
The calm waters of St. Mary Lake are another perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon, either by yourself or with family and friends.
The sandy beach is perfect for swimming, while the lake is great for canoeing, paddleboarding, or fishing. Plus, since it’s a lake, this is freshwater, which can be a nice break from the salty ocean!
On a warm summer day, the lake is the best place to relax and cool off while enjoying the fresh air. Bring some snacks and enjoy a nice picnic on the shore, or go for a swim up to the pontoon, where you can chill and admire the landscapes around you.
6. Visit Salt Spring Island Cheese
If you are looking for a unique and tasty experience, you should absolutely visit Salt Spring Island Cheese! This local, family-owned cheese shop sells some of the most delicious artisan goats’ cheeses, hand packaged into beautiful and flavorful treats.
My favorite was the Flower Chèvre which comes with hand-pressed, local flowers on top! Not only is the presentation absolutely gorgeous, it’s also super tasty.
Salt Spring Island Cheese has a small shop where they sell their cheeses alongside jams, chutneys, and honey. They also have a farm where you can wander around, enjoy the scenic views, and admire the farm animals.
There is also a cafe open all summer for all locals and tourists between 10 am and 5 pm. This is the perfect location for anyone looking for a light, cozy lunch. Check out the cafe menu full of house-made soups, salads, pizzas, or their specialty goat cheesecake dessert that tastes like sweet heaven!
Otherwise, just grab some cheese to-go (like we did); you won’t be disappointed!
7. Drink craft beer
Another great island experience is drinking the local craft beer at Salt Spring Brewing. This local shop serves beers and ales made from fresh, locally grown ingredients. The water also comes straight from the clean waters of the local mountains. You can’t get any fresher than this when it comes to tasty Salt Spring Island brews!
The brewery is not only known for their fresh ingredients, but also for having creative flavors. The core collection includes an Earl Grey IPA and a Crème Brulée Vanilla Stout.
On top of that, the brewery itself is located amongst huge trees, and the bar is actually upstairs in what reminds me of a treehouse. Sit outside in the garden with your beer, it’s truly relaxing. In fact, one of their catchphrases, #drinkbeerwithnature!
Salt Spring Brewing is open Wednesday to Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm in summer, Fridays and Saturday 12 pm to 5 pm in winter, and are dog-friendly year-round.
Unfortunately, due to their liquor license, they can only serve you one beer or one tasting paddle. Not to worry though, just grab yourself some beers to go!
Related Read: If you’re heading to Victoria after Salt Spring Island, check out these fun things to in Victoria!
8. Spend the day at Beddis Beach
For some, holidays are all about sitting on the beach in the sun and splashing around in the shallow waters. Beddis Beach is the ideal location for this, with its beautiful white sand and scenic views. It’s actually my personal favorite beach on Salt Spring Island.
During the afternoon, Beddis Beach cools down and is an excellent spot to escape the torrid summer weather. You can find nice shade under the trees, as well as shallow pools of cold water to swim in. This is also a beautiful spot to watch the sunset!
Please follow all the signage along the fire access road to the beach. Unfortunately, parking is limited at the beach. Although it might be tempting to park on the fire road, it’s used to access the water in case of an emergency.
9. Visit Barbs Bakery and Bistro
Barb’s Bakery and Bistro has some of the best food around Salt Spring Island.
This fantastic bakery offers a large selection of breads, muffins, pastries, and mouth-watering croissants. Everything here is freshly baked, so the pleasant smell of warm bread and pastries fills the air and gives the bistro a homely, nostalgic atmosphere.
For those with dietary restrictions, the bakery also offers gluten-free options. If you’d prefer something besides their amazing baked goods, the bistro also offers the best selection of smoothies on the island. These smoothies can be as filling as a one-course meal, so you won’t leave unsatisfied.
Get there early though, since many of the products sell out early in the morning. The locals know and love this spot, so there’s always plenty of people around.
Just like many other restaurants in Salt Spring Island, all meats and produce, as well as veggies, are locally sourced and sustainable. Salt Spring Island truly is a hub for some of the most environmentally friendly food practices, and places like Barb’s Bakery and Bistro follow that mindset well.
10. Buy fresh farm produce
Don’t worry if you can’t make it to the famous Saturday market while on Salt Spring Island, you can always find farm stands throughout the week selling all sorts of home-grown produce and baked goodies.
North End Farm is one of the local favorites, so stop by if you want the freshest meats and veggies alongside warm baked pies, breads, and sweet treats.
However, you’ll also see plenty of produce stands scattered throughout the island just as you drive around – there are so many! You’ll never be far from some seasonal produce.
What’s impressive is that most of these produce stands on Salt Spring Island work on an honor system. They are simply roadside stalls with the produce on display and no people working. Just pick up what you want and put the money you owe in a box. Some even allow you to pay afterward through your phone. The system works perfectly, which goes to show how tight-knit a community lives on the island.
11. Whale watching
If you’re visiting Salt Spring Island between April and October, you should definitely go on a whale-watching tour. There are plenty of Orcas and Humpback whales around here during this time of year due to mating season, and some can even be seen close to the shore.
This whale watching tour takes between 3-4 hours and has a 98% success rate. Tours cost $169 CAD for adults, and $149 CAD for kids (ages 4-11) and seniors. Seeing these whales was breathtaking and definitely one of the highlights of my trip. While it would be disappointing to not see many whales during the tour, the experience in and of itself is more than worth it.
Related Read: Whale watching is also one of the best things to do in Tofino!
12. Treat yourself to a spa
Holidays are all about relaxation and disconnecting from all the stress and worries of daily life, and what better way to do that than a pleasant day at the spa?
Solace Organic Spa is a fantastic option if you are interested in high-quality massages from some of the island’s most qualified professionals. Their spa therapies held in the forest gardens are a personal favorite. They also sell their own organic aromatherapy skincare brand, all ethically sourced and produced! If spending more than a few hours here, you might get hungry and can check out their Spa & Dine menu.
If you want to try out Canada’s only seaside mineral springs resort, stop by the Mineral Springs Resort. This resort is built around waters naturally high in magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium. These minerals are well-known for having lots of beneficial effects on skin health and for alleviating symptoms of arthritis and muscle tension.
I came here after a long hike, and it was an amazing way to unwind. After the soaking in these mineral pools, I’m convinced they really do help your muscles recover faster. The experience is magical, and you’ll leave feeling like a million bucks, invigorated and fully relaxed.
13. Head up Mount Maxwell
On a sunny day, make sure you head up to the top of Mount Maxwell. It is one of the highest points on Salt Spring Island, so as you can imagine, the views at the top are spectacular!
You can reach the summit by road, but it’s only recommended using a 4×4 vehicle with high clearance due to various road erosion issues.
If you don’t have a sturdy vehicle, there are also some hiking trails that will take you here. There are about 6 km (3.7 mi) of maintained trails in the area with Douglas fir forests, fauna, and animals like falcons, vultures, and black-tailed deer. At Baynes Peak (the top of the mountain), you’ll also have a panoramic view of Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia.
Related Read: For a different view of Salt Spring Island, head to the Malahat Skywalk where you can see the island (and other epic views!) from high above Vancouver Island.
14. Drink locally-made cider
This island is full of culinary delights and one of my favorites are the flavorful, fruity ciders.
Salt Spring Wild Cider is the most popular cidery on the island, and it deserves its praise. All their drinks are made from heritage apples and pears grown right on the island. You can buy their drinks in stores all around BC. However, there’s nothing quite like sipping an ice-cold drink in their cider house, which is open every day from 11 am – 9 pm.
I recommend starting with a cider, then heading to their restaurant which serves some of the tastiest meals you’ll have on the island. They use organic ingredients and ethically-sourced meat, but they also have excellent vegan options. We shared several dishes and cider while overlooking the farm and vineyard.
They’re also dog-friendly, which is a nice plus for anybody traveling with a furry friend.
Ciderworks was another personal favorite, as they also make their own cider using only rare heritage varieties of apples, prepared in traditional ways. They pride themselves on crafting authentic and tasty drinks, made using 100% organic techniques. From May through Thanksgiving, they’re open every day 12 pm – 6 pm, and the rest of the year, opening hours are Fridays through Sundays 12 pm – 5:30 pm.
If you are a true cider fan, you’ll have to try both brands, as they provide vastly different experiences (although both are equally tasty!).
15. Take a stroll at Fernwood Point Beach and Wharf
The Fernwood Point Beach and Wharf is a great place for a short walk on a sunny day – the views are fantastic, and the wharf is the perfect place for an easy stroll. On the beach, there’s a wide variety of sea life so make sure you watch your step! Alongside kelp crabs, clams, and moon snails, you might get to see the only live sand dollars on the island.
Near the wharf, make sure you stop by Fernwood Road Cafe. This quaint little shop serves delicious coffees alongside sweet and savory goods such as muffins, croissants, quiches, and bagels. It’s open every day from 9 am – 4 pm, except Wednesdays, and always has a friendly, neighborhood atmosphere.
We grabbed a coffee to-go from Fernwood Road Cafe and then proceeded to walk the wharf with it. To us, it’s the perfect place for a morning walk with a cuppa!
16. Listen to live music at the Treehouse Cafe
Located at the heart of the Ganges village, Treehouse Cafe is the perfect stop for a fun evening activity. Here, you can treat yourself to a tasty meal or a pint under their plum tree (the feature in the middle of the restaurant – hence it’s name), and also sit back and enjoy the vibrant yet laid-back atmosphere.
They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and are family-friendly.
The selling point of Treehouse Cafe is their live music program, called Music Under the Stars. It lasts throughout summer, providing guests with lovely live concerts every day of the week between 6 pm and 9 pm. You won’t have a boring evening if you decide to stop here, that’s for sure.
17. Check out the art galleries
Salt Spring Island also has some beautiful art galleries that you shouldn’t miss. Salt Spring Gallery of Fine Art is a great one, showcasing some of the most colorful ceramics, stained glass works, paintings, and textile arts. Do check out their website for more information opening hours, exhibitions, and the various events they host!
Our personal favorite art gallery on Salt Spring was Steffich Fine Art. It showcases some of the most diverse groups of artists from many different fields of work including music, sculpture, photography, and painting. I was blown away by their carefully crafted wind sculptures, and also loved their Rock and Roll Art Collection. There is something for everyone to see, and the staff are some of the friendliest, most knowledgeable people you’ll ever meet.
Even if you aren’t interested in purchasing art, the galleries are well worth a wander – plus, they’re completely free to visit!
18. Try some of Brigitte’s Pastries
Remember how I told you about the roadside honor-system produce stands? Well, Brigitte’s Pastries is one of those roadside stands; except instead of produce, it sells baked treats- yum!
Brigitte’s Pastries are famous all over the island and are an absolute must-try for anyone visiting. You can usually find this tiny food stand at the Saturday Market or at their very own food stand in front of their house. If you want to confirm they’ll be open or place an order, you can always email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, just drive buy and see what’s on sale for the day. We had the most beautiful almond tart!
Make sure you try their amazing, mouth-watering canelés, macaroons, and tarts. You won’t regret it!
19. Explore the village of Ganges
Ganges is the main town and cultural center of Salt Spring Island. We’ve already mentioned a few attractions in the village, including activities (the Saturday Market or the art galleries) or places where you can have fantastic food and drinks. However, it’s also the kind of town you can walk around, window shop, and pop into cafes.
If you want to explore some of the hidden gems and learn about the history of this village, you can do a free self-guided walking tour from the Salt Spring Historical Society. Follow the map at the visitor centre and take a step back in time as you check out points of historical significance nearby.
Related Read: Keep exploring Vancouver Island by joining one of the best walking tours in Victoria!
20. Lavender and Black Farm
If you visit Salt Spring Island during summer, don’t miss out on the beautiful experience of walking around a lavender field in full bloom at Lavender and Black Farm. This place is just magical if you visit in season (by early September the lavender gets harvested and you won’t get the full experience). It is still an amazing place to visit, and perfect for that ideal Instagram photo.
At the farm, you can learn more about lavender and the importance of using sustainable, organic products, especially for your health and wellbeing. There is a also a Lavender & Black shop here, where you can buy a large variety of handmade cosmetics which are just delightful (and smell amazing too!).
21. Mount Bruce
Another lovely hiking trail is the one from the Salt Spring Island Trust Area up to Bruce Peak. The trail usually isn’t busy as most people opt for the road trail, meaning you’ll get nice, quiet time exploring nature. You can even bring your dog with you here, as they are allowed to wander around (even without a leash in some places).
It’s a moderate 4.5 km (2.8 mi) out-and-back trail that takes about 1.5 hours on average.
The views at the top are spectacular, as you can admire the whole island and even some mountain ranges further away like Mount Baker in Washington State.
22. Drive around the island
Salt Spring Island has a charming community and a vibrant culture, but it also has beautiful wildlife and landscapes. If you want to escape the bustling Ganges, you can always just jump in a car and drive around the island. Some areas are easier to access by car and can offer some of the most spectacular views you’ve ever seen.
One of my favorites days on Salt Spring Island was spent just driving around, aimlessly. I enjoyed the views, roadside stands, and stopped at various viewpoints. There are lots of signs telling you of nearby tourist attractions as well as shops and attractions.
You can use Discover Cars to rent a car on the mainland before heading over. However, you’ll have to pay an extra $34.10 CAD from Victoria or $64.70 CAD from Vancouver city if you bring a vehicle.
Alternatively, you can rent a car or scooter at Salt Spring Car Rental right on the island. To make reservations, you can call 250 537 3122 or email email@example.com.
Related Read: If you’re road tripping through the nearby Vancouver Island, check out the best places to eat and things to do in Duncan, BC.
23. Play Disc Golf
At Mouat Provincial Park, you can enjoy a fun afternoon playing Disc Golf (frisbee golf) at the Hart Memorial Disc Golf Course. They have an 18-hole course and restrooms are available, but you’ll need to bring your own food and water.
Disc golf is self-explanatory and is played like golf rules but with a frisbee-like disc instead of a ball. It’s not a very physically demanding sport, but you get to spend time in nature. It’s a fun option if you want a relaxing, outdoor activity but are tired of walking around and seeing sights. Daniel loves a good game, and disc golf is something he can play pretty much wherever we travel.
The park also has a picnic area perfect for an afternoon snack. On our trip here, we made a day of it and brought a picnic blanket, snacks, and our own disc golf discs. Overall, it was a nice reprieve from the typical touristy stuff.
24. Enjoy a meal at Auntie Pesto’s
Visiting stuff all day long can be quite tiring, so you need a hearty meal in the evening to replenish that energy. Luckily, Auntie Pesto’s is here to provide some of the best fine dining on the island, ranging from salads and meat-based entrees like duck confit or beer tenderloin to their large selection of delicious pasta. Their meals are simply to die for.
Auntie Pesto is open for dinner only, Wednesday through Sunday from 4:30 pm – 9 pm, and is located along the waterfront in Ganges. The restaurant itself provides a glass-walled deck and heat lamps, making it the ideal place to sit and enjoy the stunning views even in the colder seasons.
Do be warned, though, this restaurant is popular! In the summer months, I highly recommend calling ahead and making a reservation to avoid disappointment.
25. Swim at Cusheon Lake
There are a couple of beaches on Salt Spring Island, but none of them beat Cusheon Lake when it comes to swimming. You can jump into the water year-round, although most people do so during summer. You can also fish, go canoeing, or even paddle-boarding on the lake.
The Cusheon Lake Resort is nearby and can offer some lovely cabins for rent, so you can enjoy a few days just relaxing by the lake. They have one-bedroom cabins starting at $144 CAD per night, as well as two-bedroom cabins and a chalet than can sleep up to 7. Walking up and watching the sunrise over the lake is one reason to stay overnight here.
26. Visit Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park (Xwaaqw’um)
Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park is located on the west side of Salt Spring Island, at about half the distance between Nanaimo and Victoria. It is also one of the largest networks of protected areas in the Gulf Islands.
In this park, you can venture on one of the four hiking trails (Burgoyne Bay Walk is a fan favorite among island visitors!) and explore the idyllic scenery full of wildflowers and impressive fauna. The area is quiet most days, making it a perfect retreat for anyone who wants to enjoy a relaxing day in nature.
The Park has a special place in the hearts of local people due to its strong cultural value. In the park, you can even visit the Xwaaqw’um village to learn more about this indigenous tribe and local restoration projects. But make sure to read about the local cultures beforehand so you can avoid sacred ritual places and sensitive ecological areas.
27. Eat local lamb
Local lamb meat is considered a delicacy around here, and a must-try for anyone visiting. There is a surprisingly large sheep population on Salt Spring Island, so lamb is a popular dish.
We loved the lamb burger at The Burger Bar, which also serves gluten-free and vegan options. They’re open from May 15 – Sept 15, every day from 11 am – 7 pm.
Some other amazing options are the lamb at House Piccolo or the shank at Salt Spring Wild Cider. The latter is open every day from 11 am – 9 pm and serves excellent varieties of locally made ciders that complement the lamb meat perfectly.
28. Go on a scenic flight
Exploring Salt Spring Island by foot is one thing, but have you considered exploring it by air?
These 20-minute flights offered by Harbour Air are the perfect treat for the most adventurous tourists. You’ll head high above to admire the island’s rural landscape and its surroundings. Prices start at $132 CAD per person for a classic panorama flight, where you’ll take off from Ganges Harbour and get 20 magical minutes in the sky. Flights like this truly are a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a unique way to see the island.
Related Read: Riding in a seaplane in Vancouver is also super popular!
Where to Stay on Salt Spring Island
Because Salt Spring Island is a top tourist destination, there are several hotels and bed and breakfasts around the island. However, I’d recommend reserving well in advance as many places will be fully booked (especially during the summer months.)
For budget travelers, the Salt Spring Inn is a cozy, rustic option right across from the Visitor Information Center in Ganges. You can relax at the lounge fireplace, get fresh air on the deck, or enjoy the on-site restaurant. For a discount hotel, it’s extremely clean and you’re in walking distance to everything in town.
If you’re okay spending slightly more, the Harbour House Hotel is also in Ganges and has everything you need. This hotel has been around for over 100 years, but recently underwent a huge renovations, so its a nice blend of old and new. Most of the rooms overlook the waterfront and have an amazing view of the sunrise. You can sit by the fire on the outdoor patio in cozy seats, or enjoy the restaurant which offers nightly dinner and weekend breakfast service.
For a luxury stay, I’d opt for the Hastings House Country House Hotel. This rustic yet upscale hotel is right along the waterfront so you can enjoy the view as you walk around the serene grounds. Rooms have a clean, country feel and you can choose from luxurious suites in the Hillside, Farmhouse, or Manor buildings. While it’s walking distance from the all the action in Ganges, you can also stay in and enjoy a day at the hotel’s spa or eat at their world-class restaurant.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
Salt Spring Island is a charming place with many things to do. Despite its small size, you can enjoy outdoor sports, nature, and the arts or indulge in some tasty local cuisine. Although it’s hard to narrow it down, I hope my blog has helped you find some fun activities for your vacation here!
If you enjoyed reading about Salt Spring Island, check out my other blogs about Vancouver Island, or the related articles below.