To truly experience the west coast lifestyle in British Columbia, a visit to the most popular of the Gulf Islands is a must. On Salt Spring Island, the pace slows and this is home to those who like it that way. It is also well known for its green initiatives and pristine lands where rolling hills edge down to the sea.
During the summer months, outdoor pursuits call, but even in the cooler periods, this mild climate island has plenty to offer to those who favour both inside and out. Full of luxury accommodations, art galleries, performing arts, farmers markets and excellent dining, there truly is something for all.
Part of travelling is always the journey and the one to Salt Spring Island is a particularly gorgeous trek across the sea, whether you come efficiently by float plane from Vancouver or take your time walking or driving aboard the BC Ferries. Float planes leave frequently from the downtown harbour in Vancouver or the South Terminal at Vancouver Airport and can be booked through Salt Spring Air or Seair Seaplanes.
Stay at Salt Spring
Hastings House Country Hotel is a spectacular waterfront country house and cottages, resting on twenty-two acres of picturesque garden lands. Afternoon tea is served in the guest house, dinner is not to be missed at their fabulous onsite restaurant and their spa is top notch. Roam the gardens and observe the art work, or take an easy walk into the village. Each morning you will wake up to a hamper of coffee and muffins, and then join them in the country house for a hearty breakfast. Chef Marcel Kauer works with local ingredients such as Salt Spring Island lamb and fresh herbs from the garden to compliment their local and international selection of wines.
Mariner’s Loft suites are perched over-looking the inner harbour and include seven fully furnished luxury suites with full gourmet kitchens and sleeping for up to six people. They are within a minute or two walk from restaurants, grocery stores and shops and include outdoor patios with barbeques for the summer months and cozy indoor fire places for cooler days.
Stonehouse Bed and Breakfast is the newest in boutique accommodation on Salt Spring Island and rests atop the area locals call Hundred Hills overlooking the Georgia Straight. This bed and breakfast is an immaculately finished architectural gem full of acclaimed art works and surrounded by pristinely kept, yet entirely natural grounds. Stroll out to the “Standing Stone Circle” a mini
Stonehenge-type structure with central fire pit where guests can pause to contemplate the more Zen side of life. Breakfast here is not merely an afterthought; it’s vital to the experience.
Things to do in cooler months
Ruckle Provincial Park is an excellent place to hike along seven kilometres of shorelines and through the gorgeous colours in the arbutus forests. Trails are for all levels and there’s plenty of opportunity to bird watch, spot sea lions, otters, and even killer wales.
Salt Spring Air Scenic Flights in the winter are particularly scenic as clear skies give viewers the chance to catch all the winter colours along with the beautiful frosts on the ground.
Christmas on Salt Spring includes late night shopping evenings in the city centre, craft markets and visits from Santa in late November/early December. Martini lovers should look for the Glowtini Martini Challenge cocktail contest and tour and there’s also a Chili Cookoff. The cookoff is held on the night of the main harbour’s Christmas Tree Light Up where attendees
can enjoy the outdoor concert. Both attract all the local talent and raise funds for the local charities.
Maple Syrup Day takes place in February alongside Family Day at Harbour House Hotel. Over 100 trees are hand tapped and the sap is collected daily culminating in this festival. There are tours of the hotel’s diverse farm property which provides much of the produce for the hotel, pancakes, maple syrup tasting, hot chocolate and live music.
Salt Spring Island Film Festival will be held next in March of 2015 and attracts world class films from around the globe. It is a registered educational society and holds “Social Justice Bazaar” discussions after the films educating the audience on beneficial activities taking place on the Island. There is a culinary aspect to the festival and film nights, events and workshops take place throughout the year leading up to the festival.
Salt Spring Island is home to some seriously good art galleries as well as island studios where you can observe the artists at work. Don’t miss Gallery 8 and the Pegasus Gallery, and be sure to check to see if there are any special exhibits or tours on during your visit.
Check out the Island’s ArtSpring, which is home to an exhibition and performance area. There are many local and travelling perform-ances and a multi-purpose area that often hosts interesting events. Yoga is also big on the Island and the new Ganges Yoga Studio has classes for all levels and ages.
New to the Island, Southend Grooveyard is a live music venue in a wood cabin. This is a very casual eighty seat venue where singers, musicians and performers of many talents meet for folk music performances. All proceeds go to the artists and the evening brings guests of all ages.
There are dozens of restaurant on the island, some more interesting than others, as well as farms and wineries to visit. I would highly recommend dining at Hastings House for a meal you won’t forget. Lunches are great at Auntie Pesto’s or Barb’s Bakery and Bistro. Oysters and drinks at Moby’s are a must and the Harbour House offers up some great meals all day long. New to the Island is the funky Galeria Café Kizmit worth a stop in for lunch and a browse of their wares and Beach Bistro for breakfast.
On the Island you’ll find Garry Oaks Winery, Salt Spring Vineyards and Mistaken Identity Vineyards. Do call ahead as visiting hours vary with the seasons. There are also many farms offering tours. Salt Spring is famous for its cheese, lamb and mussels.
Find additional information on the Hello Salt Spring App on itunes and www.saltspringtourism.com
PHOTOS: SaltSpring tourism, SaltspringAir, Chris Pouget photography, Garry Oaks Winery, Cassandra Anderton