Salt Spring Island has a big place in our heart. Before our trip around the world we were living in Vancouver and loved visiting the island for a nature escape. The bohemian island is located in British Columbia, Canada between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
After travelling for over a year, we fully recognized our passion for nature and how much we needed it in our lives. However, finding remote nature as well as a good culture can be tough. That is what makes Salt Spring Island so special. It has an amazing creative community and a free-spirited vibe. We decided to take the plunge and we moved to the island in January 2020!
Salt Spring Island has so much to offer the visitor. We list 20 of our favourite things to do in Salt Spring Island as well as the best time to visit, how to get to Salt Spring and the best way to get around the island.
What to do on Salt Spring island
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Best time to visit Salt Spring Island
The best time to visit Salt Spring Island is between May-September. These are the warmer and drier months of the year. The Saturday Market is also on during this time, so ensure your visit includes a Saturday!
How to get to Salt Spring Island from Vancouver
- Give yourself 45 minutes (60 minutes if rush hour) to get from Vancouver to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal by car.
- The ferry from Tsawwassen to Salt Spring Island takes 1.5-2.75 hours depending on which ferry you take. Some ferries are non-stop and others include additional stops at islands along the way. Reservations are highly recommended during peak summer times.
- If you have a reservation you need to be at the ferry terminal at least 40 minutes prior to your scheduled departure. If you don't have a reservation, you should still arrive early, so you get a spot on the ferry.
Best way to get around Salt Spring Island
We highly recommend renting a car on the mainland of British Columbia to bring to Salt Spring Island. Taxis and busses are very limited and most of the fun is driving around exploring the island on your own!
20 Top Things to do on Salt Spring Island
See our ultimate guide on what to do in Salt Spring Island below.
1. Start off your morning with coffee at a locals cafe
Switch Board Cafe is a cute cafe off the main strip in Ganges where locals like to hangout. They offer great coffee from 49th Parallel and delicious local baked goods. Try one of their unique flavoured lattes like lavender or pumpkin spice.
Another awesome breakfast spot is Beachside Cafe. They have a patio in the back of the cafe with beautiful views of the harbour front. Grab a picnic table and one of their delicious smoothie bowls. On Saturdays they feature live music.
2. Shop for local goodies at the Saturday market
Every Saturday from April - October, the Salt Spring Market features over 140 local vendors. All products must be produced by the vendor selling them. You’ll also find delicious food stalls and live music to enjoy!
There are so many amazing vendors at the Saturday market, it's hard not to bust open your wallet. I was browsing a local vendor named Bohemian Arts Mixed Media Studio, when a beautiful dark green ring caught my eye. The vendor said it was a tourmaline stone as she pulled out an ancient looking book from the back. She then said she would give me a reading based on the stone I chose.
I was told tourmaline is a stone that may look black, but once the sun shines on it you see all of the different green layers inside. It symbolizes the heart chakra and allowing the right side of your brain to have a stronger connection to the analytical left side of your brain. The stone represents living more in the moment and making deeper decisions to promote self healing and completeness.
I discovered this ring before we left on our world trip and brought it with me! I thought it was quite fitting, since I’m definitely on the analytical side, but took a big leap to follow my passion of travel.
3. Sample cheese at the award winning Salt Spring Island Cheese Farm
The best way to experience Salt Spring Island is to rent a car and discover all of the local goodies along the quiet roads. One of the best stops is the Salt Spring Island Cheese Farm.
Located at the end of a small winding road through the fields lies the farm with tons of cheese to sample! They specialize in handmade artisan goat cheeses with different flavours to choose from. Basil, garlic, chili, olive tapenade, flower, lemon pepper, truffle... what one would you pick?
After your cheese tasting you can grab lunch at their cafe and sit in the beautiful courtyard. The cafe is open during summertime and serves pizzas, sandwiches and salads.
4. Taste local wines and have a picnic overlooking the vineyards
There are two wineries on Salt Spring Island you should stop at for a tasting. The first is Garry Oaks Winery, one of the oldest farms in Salt Spring. Try their wines and sit along the vineyards in their yellow cottage chairs.
Next, harvest all of those delicious goodies you bought at the Saturday market and cheese farm and enjoy a picnic at Salt Spring Vineyards. They have picnic tables along their vineyards where you can either bring your own food or purchase some aperitifs on site. Our favourite wine is their champagne-style sparkling.
5. Have a flight at Salt Spring Island Ales
Tucked away in the forest is the rustic Salt Spring Island Ales tasting room. Grab a flight and try their award winning organic craft beers. The setting is lovely with their outdoor picnic tables.
6. Enjoy delicious local cuisine
We can’t explain in words how good the cuisine is on Salt Spring island. You have to try it to understand how fresh it is. Farm-to-table is a trendy type of cuisine we’ve seen at upscale restaurants in Vancouver and Toronto, but Salt Spring takes it to the next level → backyard-to-table cuisine.
Make sure to check out our list of the 16 best restaurants on Salt Spring Island, each for a unique reason. Best for the harbourfront view, best for daytime drinks, best for breakfast, best for Italian... we cover it all!
If you can only go to one restaurant, we recommend House Piccolo. It's located in a heritage building in Ganges and serves delicious West Coast-Finnish cuisine. The ambience is perfect for a date night.
7. Drive or hike up Mount Maxwell to see a panoramic view of the island
If you drive up Mt. Maxwell road to the very top you will be rewarded with panoramic views of Salt Spring Island and the neighbouring islands. To get to the very top, you need a 4x4 vehicle.
If you don't have a 4x4, you can park your car at the end of Seymour Heights and hike the Mountain Trail to Baynes Peak. It's a 2.3km hike there and back and 166m elevation gain.
8. Go for a cider tasting at the Salt Spring Wild Cider House
Not only does Salt Spring Island produce wine and beer, it also produces cider. We love ordering a flight of ciders at Salt Spring Wild Cider House and having them on their outdoor patio overlooking the farm.
You can also order farm tapas to go along with your cider. Our favourite plates are the mezze platter and jerk chicken. It's one of the best spots on Salt Spring Island for lunch.
9. Stay at an Airbnb and experience the islander way of lifeOne of our favourite airbnbs in the world is on Salt Spring Island. The Salty Pear Camping Casita is the definition of tiny living - island style. You can sit on your private deck overlooking the fields and trees in the morning, de-stress in the wood-burning barrel sauna, or have a soak outside overlooking the organic farms. We made our own private outdoor jacuzzi and topped it off with some Moscow Mules. You can either choose from their quirky camping casita or their newer studio suite attached to their gallery.
10. Enjoy a rustic setting in a modern lakeside cottageFor those of you who want a larger space or have a larger group, The Cottages have beautiful modern three-floor cottages beside a private lake. The cottages have a full kitchen and you can use the communal BBQ, canoes and stand-up-paddle boards free of charge. We made it our daily routine to take the stand-up-paddle boards out on the lake and every night we sat on our outdoor terrace with a glass of our favourite Salt Spring wine.
If you’re looking for a more upscale full-service hotel with a spa and restaurant, try Hastings House, a Relais & Chateaux.
See the best accommodation in Salt Spring Island for a weekend getaway, from luxury hotels to cozy Airbnbs.
11. Unwind at Solace Organic Spa
A little slice of heaven! Solace Organic Spa is located in the middle of the forest and offers a private hydrotherapy circuit experience. In your hot, cold, relax & repeat sequence you have access to an outdoor hot tub, infrared sauna, cold cedar plunge pool and outdoor relaxation room where you can read or drink a hot cup of tea. You also have access to your own private bathroom and shower, where you are supplied robes, towels, slippers, facial products and hair products.
The 90-minute spa ritual can either be done during the day or night. During the daytime watch the sun shine through the trees and at nighttime gaze at the stars.
Solace Organic Spa also has a treatment room and offers facials, massages, body scrubs, body wraps, dry brushing, pedis and manis. We combined the hydrotherapy circuit with a one hour massage and it felt like we were floating in the clouds after!For $15 off of your treatment, see our referral link here. Valid for new customers only.
12. Kayak to Chocolate Beach
From Ganges Harbour, you can kayak to a white-crushed shell beach called Chocolate Beach on the tiny Third Sister Island. Chocolate Beach got it's name from the chocolate lily that once grew there, which was a staple of the indigenous local Saanich people. On the island there is even a unique wooden outhouse you can use with a carved symbol of the moon on the front.
BEACHSiDE offers a 3-hour or 5-hour kayak tour to Chocolate Beach:
- 3-hour tour: includes beverages and cookies on the shore & time to swim on the beach ($84.95 CAD per person).
- 5-hour tour: includes everything in the 3-hour tour plus a delectable picnic and more relaxation time on the beach ($155 CAD per person).
13. Discover Salt Spring's unique farm stands
One of the things that makes Salt Spring so special are its farm stands you will find peppered throughout the island. What makes them so unique is that they work on an honour system. That means you pick out what you like and they trust you will place your cash in the money box. The owner of the farm stand won't be there. Many of the farm stands also have an e-transfer option as well.
To find the farm stands, just drive around the island and explore! You will see signs or them appear on the side of the road. It's a great way to support local.
Here are some farm stands to get you started:
- Piper's Buns at 740 Walkers Hook for delicious baked goods
- Farm stand at Salt Spring Vineyards where you will find a variety of products like kombucha, vegan ice cream sandwiches and essential oils.
- As you drive up Furness Road to Salt Spring Island Ales you will see a couple farm stands, Alchemy Farm Stand on the lefthand side and another one up the road on the right which sells the best pepperoni sticks!
14. Go boutique shopping in Ganges
Ganges has a variety of boutique stores where you will find unique goods, vintage pieces and products from local artisans.
Here are some of our favourite boutique stores in Ganges to add to your Salt Spring Island shopping list:
- Inspired: features products from Canadian artists and vintage items from Canadian homes.
- Mondo Trading Company: where you will find handcrafted fair trade products from around the world, like colourful baskets, traditional blankets, unique housewares and jewelry. We love the Palestinian za'atar herb mix.
- Bohemia Consignment: a well-curated consignment boutique where you will find clothing and shoes.
- Salt Spring Island Soapworks: shop for all-natural body products, like bath bombs, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, body oils and masks. They come in unique scents like lemongrass-coconut, vanilla-frankincense and lavender-eucalyptus. We are obsessed with the mint-rosemary body wash.
- Twang & Pearl: where you will find a collection of quirky accessories, housewares, stationary and clothing.
15. Watch a movie at The Fritz Cinema
The Fritz Cinema is the cutest old-school movie theatre. See what is playing and go on a date night! They serve all the best snacks, like fresh buttered popcorn, gummies, chocolates and soda pop.
16. Explore Fulford Harbour
Drive to the south end of the island to explore the the quaint village of Fulford Habour. Pop into Rock Salt Cafe for lunch or grab a coffee and delicious stuffed cheese bun to go.
Make sure to check out our favourite boutique store in Salt Spring Island called The Pottery. They carry beautiful handmade pieces from over 50 artisans on Salt Spring Island and Vancouver Island. We love collecting unique coffee mugs.
Note: As a heads up, Morningside Cafe may appear cute and friendly from the outside, but we highly recommend reading these reviews to see how customers have been treated before you go inside.
17. Visit the Lavender & Black farm
The boutique helichrysum and lavender farm is absolutely stunning. In the beautifully decorated shop, you will find hand-crafted wellness products and culinary products, as well as dried lavender and helichrysum flowers. They are perfect for a vase in your home. The owners are friendly and passionate about what they do. They will gladly answer any questions you have and teach you about their techniques.
It was the first time I had ever heard of the helichrysum flower, also known as the Everlasting Flower. It has an array of health benefits and looks similar to lavender, except it's yellow in colour.
Once you're done in the farm shop, take the short trail through the lavender fields to the two yellow cottage chairs. You will have a nice view of the ocean and trees along the way.
18. Visit Sunset Farm's studio shop for sheepskins, pottery & vintage items
A hidden gem located in the north of Salt Spring Island is Sunset Farm's studio shop. Walk inside and you will find unique pottery, vintage items and sheepskins made right on their farm. They also have farm-raised chicken and lamb available.
19. Walk the dock at Fernwood
Get some of that ocean breeze and walk the 400 foot dock at Fernwood, a cute little community located on the northeast of the island. There is also a small beach there you can walk along during low tide. Across the street, pop into Fernwood Road Cafe for a coffee or small bite.
20. Take the float plane instead of the ferry.
One of the most scenic ways to see the southern gulf islands is by float plane. If you are traveling from the Lower Mainland, you may want to consider taking the floatplane over rather than the ferry. You will save a lot of time since the flight is only 35 minutes from Vancouver Harbour or 25 minutes from YVR South. You can either fly with Harbour Air or Seair.
The caveat to this however, is that you will need access to a car to be able to explore the island once you arrive in Ganges. Taking the float plane is great if you're meeting friends who have a car or if you don't mind renting a car or scooter in Salt Spring. Check out the rates for Salt Spring Car & Scooter Rentals.
Enjoy these fun things to do in Salt Spring Island!
If you haven't yet, check out our other Salt Spring Island posts:
See what it was like in our Salt Spring Vlog!