Salt Spring Island holds a special place in our hearts. Before our trip around the world, we were living in Vancouver and loved visiting the bohemian island for a nature escape. It's nestled between Vancouver and Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
After travelling for over a year, we fully recognized our love of nature and how much we needed it in our lives. However, finding remote natural areas along with a vibrant culture can be difficult. 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 December 2019!
Salt Spring Island has so much to offer the visitor. We list 33 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!🚗 Compare car rental rates across different companies
33 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 hang out. They offer specialty coffees and local baked goods. Try one of their unique flavoured lattes, like lavender or turmeric.
2. Shop for local goodies at the Saturday market
Every Saturday from April - October, the Salt Spring Market features over 100 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 unique 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 gave me a reading based on my chosen stone.
I learned that tourmaline appears black at first glance, but when illuminated by sunlight, it reveals intricate layers of green. The stone is associated with the heart chakra and allowing the intuitive right side of your brain to have a stronger connection to the analytical left side of your brain. It symbolizes living more in the present 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 for 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 winding road through a field, the cheese farm offers a variety of cheeses to sample. They craft handmade artisanal goat cheeses and offer an array of flavours. Basil, garlic, chilli, olive tapenade, lemon, pepper, truffle... what one would you pick?
After your cheese tasting, 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 three wineries on Salt Spring Island you can stop in 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. Our favourite wine is their Zweigelt.
Next door to Garry Oaks is Salt Spring Vineyards, which is currently up for sale, but still doing wine tastings. Our favourite wine is their champagne-style Karma, which pairs nicely with Salt Spring Island goat cheese.
The third winery, Kutatás (pronounced Koo-Tah-Tash), is THE place to go for a picnic. They encourage you to bring your own selection of picnic goodies to complement their wines.
Immerse yourself in a wine-tasting journey at their charming picnic tables overlooking vineyard. The friendly winemaker takes good care explaining each wine.
Elevate your picnic experience by bringing baked goods from Francis Bread, charcuterie meats from South End Sausage, and artisanal goat cheese from the Salt Spring Island Cheese Farm.
5. Have a flight at Salt Spring Brewing Co.
Tucked away in the forest you'll find Salt Spring Brewing's rustic 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
The food on Salt Spring Island is so fresh. Farm-to-table cuisine is a way of life here, where restaurants source their ingredients from sustainable, organic farms on the island, and locals buy the freshest produce at the Farmer's Market. You will find many delightful eateries thanks to the island's creative flair and organic farming scene.
Make sure to check out our list of the 25 best restaurants on Salt Spring Island, each for a unique reason. Best for live music, best for ocean views, best for sunset... we cover it all!
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 drinking them on their outdoor patio overlooking the farm.
You can also order farm tapas to pair with your cider. Their dishes are perfect for sharing and light enough that you won't have to lie down from a food coma after. It's one of the best spots on Salt Spring Island for lunch.
9. Stay at a B&B and experience the islander way of lifeStaying at one of Salt Spring's quirky B&Bs is a great way to experience the islander way of life.
Our top B&B picks:
- Westover Bed and Breakfast - ticks off all of the boxes for a Salt Springer experience at a great price. The quirky cabin is nestled in a cedar forest and features an outdoor clawfoot bathtub, fireplace, secluded porch and homemade organic breakfast.
- The Sanctuary - is an architecture lover's dream and the place to stay if you're looking for luxury. The beautiful wooden house is integrated into its natural setting, making it feel like the house is a part of the nature around you.
- Sunrise Isles Luxury B&B - bask in ocean views of the Gulf Islands from your personal patio, unwind in the private outdoor hot tub, and wake up to a gourmet breakfast brought to your door.
- Quarrystone House B&B - with a tranquil location on the island's serene north end, Quarrystone House B&B offers four bright and airy rooms on five country acres. Delight in the sunset-oriented ocean views, relax on your private balcony and unwind in the soothing jacuzzi tub.
- 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.
10. Have a weekend getaway with your friends at a lakeside cottageHave a weekend getaway with your friends at The Cottages. The modern three-floor cottages sit right beside a private lake and can accommodate larger groups with its 3 bedrooms and full-size kitchen. If you need more bedrooms, you can easily rent multiple cottages on the lake. See rates for The Cottages. During your stay 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 want to explore the island with your friends and not worry about driving, you can easily book a private driver with Tour Salt Spring. Your tour of the island is customizable and you get up to 5 hours with the van.
Our recommended itinerary with your private driver would be: shop the Saturday Market, enjoy a wine tasting at Garry Oaks and a cheese tasting at the Salt Spring Island Cheese Farm. Continue your journey with a tasting of wines at Kutatas or beers at Salt Spring Brewing Co. Wrap up your day with a leisurely late lunch and flight of ciders at Salt Spring Wild Cider.
For dinner, pick up prepared gourmet dishes from The Woodshed Shop to make back at the cottage. Browse their selection of seasonally inspired meals at their new shop in Merchant Mews (319-#2 Upper Ganges Road). Their Chicken Marbella and Lasagne Bolognese is delectable!Browse more stays on Salt Spring Island
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!
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 the cutest wooden outhouse you can use with a carved symbol of the moon on the front.Salt Spring Adventures offers a 3 hour tour to Chocolate Beach. It includes tea and cookies on the shore and time to swim at the beach ($99 CAD per person).
13. Have a luxurious nature retreat at Hastings House Country HotelCombine nature and luxury at Hastings House Country Hotel. The former 1940s Sussex-style manor overlooks Ganges harbour and features a spa and fine-dining restaurant serving farm-to-table cuisine. The Relais & Chateau has antiques that compliment the original style of the manor, works from local artists, wood fireplaces and immaculate gardens.
Browse more stays on Salt Spring Island
14. See a live show at Mateada
One of the hottest spots on Salt Spring is Mateada, a lounge featuring live music, creative cocktails and tasty bites. The space has a welcoming ambience with its ornate woodwork, rich textures and coloured lighting.
Outside of their creative cocktail selection, Mateada also serves a unique selection of non-alcoholic drinks, like kombucha, reishi hot cacao and yerba mate served in a traditional gourd. Their food is easy for sharing and includes plant-based and gluten free options.
We saw The Della Kit with David Morin perform a groovy set of jazz-inspired neo-soul songs. The atmosphere was lively and a ton of fun. About half-way through, almost everyone got up to dance on the small dance floor at the front.
Mateada hosts different styles of music from Thursdays-Saturdays, so don't miss checking out their list of events!
Top Tip: Arrive 30 minutes before the show starts to order food before the kitchen closes and to get a good seat. You can purchase your ticket online in advance, but tables are not assigned.
15. Discover Salt Spring's unique farm stands
One of the things that make Salt Spring so special are its farm stands scattered throughout the island. What makes them so unique are the honour system they operate on, allowing you to select what you want and leave payment in the money box, all in the absence of the stand's owner. Additionally, many of these farm stands offer the convenience of e-transfer payments.
To uncover these hidden gems, embark on a leisurely drive around the island, keeping an eye out for signs or stands emerging along the roadside. It's not only a delightful way to explore, but a great way to contribute to the local community.
Here are some farm stands to get you started:
- Hen and Hound Farm Stand - oceanside farm stand selling local products, baked goods, coffee and seasonal produce. This is one of the nicest looking farm stands on the island and it even has a place for sitting.
- Pipe Rabbit Farm for kitchen goods, fresh produce, berries and flower bouquets. Only open on Fridays.
- Salt Spring Wool Arts - for handmade felted wool critters- the owls are so cute! We collect one each year for our Christmas display.
- Ambledale Farms for beautiful flower arrangements and fresh produce.
- Brigitte's Pastries for homemade French pastries. Open Fridays and Saturdays.
- Ruckle Heritage Farm for fresh produce, preserved goods and to see cute farm animals.
- 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 Brewing Co. 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!
See more farm stands with this handy map
16. Go boutique shopping in Ganges
Ganges has a variety of boutique stores where you will find unique items, 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:
- 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.
- 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. It's a great place to buy gifts.
- Rhubarb Designs: sells stylish high-quality home decor pieces
- nook: the tiny boutique curates a selection of handcrafted products from local artisans and eclectic goods from countries like Japan, Spain and India, that have inspired the owners.
- Waterfront Gallery Society: a curated selection of arts and crafts from local artisans on Salt Spring Island
- Bohemia Consignment: a well-curated consignment boutique selling clothing and shoes.
- Collide: shop here for eclectic artisanal products and curated vintage pieces
17. 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. See what's on.
18. Enjoy a picnic at Ruckle Provincial Park
Ruckle Provincial Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the Gulf Islands. As you explore the park, you'll find picnic tables dotted across grassy areas with ocean views. Once you park your car, walk along the main paved path to find a picnic table. Don't stop at the first one! Keep going and pick out your favourite spot.
19. Relax at Madrona Beach and go for a swim in the ocean
One of our favourite beaches for relaxing is Madrona Beach. It's located about a 4 minute drive from Ganges at the very end of Churchill Road. From the beach you have gorgeous views of Ganges Harbour, which beautifully lights up in the afternoon. Take a ride on the standing swing and watch the float planes take off the in the distance.
You can find lots of shade in the afternoon along the driftwood. The beach has small rocky pebbles, so bring something comfy to sit on. We also recommend wearing water shoes or crocs, since the rocks are a bit sharp on the feet in the water.
20. Buy delicious local goodies at Merchant Mews
Merchant Mews is located just a 2 minute drive away from the centre of Ganges. This area of Salt Spring Island may look industrial, however it's a burgeoning hub brimming with exceptional shops and eateries:
- Salt Spring Kitchen - sample savoury, sweet and spicy preserves at their new tasting bar. Their spreads go perfectly with a charcuterie board. Our favourites are Hot Mango and Spicy Tomato.
- Woodshed Provisions - sells gourmet seasonally-inspired dishes to heat up back at home. This is handy if you're staying at a place with a kitchen and want to eat in. Their Chicken Marbella is fantastic.
- Francis Bread - sells freshly baked breads, pastries and sandwiches. We tried their daily feature, a Chinese spice BBQ pulled pork sandwich, and it was amazing!
- Moonshine Mamas - sells nourishing turmeric elixirs and tonics that boost your immunity. On Fridays they open their tasting room. Pick up a sandwich from Francis Bread and the drink of the day from Moonshine Mamas to enjoy at a picnic table. Moonshine Mamas has the nicest picnic table setting in Merchant Mews.
- Mavericks - sells small-batch ice cream, ice pops and affogatos (espresso poured on top of vanilla ice cream).
- Dos Amores Tortilleria - treat yourself to tasty authentic Mexican tacos. The head chef was born and raised in Mexico.
21. Hop-on and hop-off to Salt Spring's hottest spots
Opened just this year, Salt Spring Hop Hop Off Tours offers scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs at six places along the artisan trail: Salt Spring Island Cheese Farm, Salt Spring Brewing Co., Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park, Garry Oaks Winery, Ciderworks, and Ganges village/market.
This is a handy service for those who aren't bringing a car, or for those who want to taste wines, beers and ciders without having to worry about driving. Chose where you want to go along the 28km scenic loop at your own pace. The shuttle runs from April - October on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The price is $55 CAD per person.
22. Cool off with some tasty gelato and walk along the harbour front
Pop into Glad's Gelateria for a scoop of small-batch gelato and walk along the boardwalk near Ganges harbour.
23. Browse the local Tuesday Market
Every Tuesday from June to October local producers from the island gather to sell farm fresh produce and other take away items, like homemade lemonade, artisanal sandwiches, tortillas, cider, mead and flowers.
Visiting the Tuesday market is a very local experience and worth a visit if you can't make the Saturday Market. The Saturday Market is a lot bigger and sells items like handicrafts, jewelry, accessories and housewares, and is more catered towards tourists.
Hours: Tuesdays at 2pm-6pm
24. 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 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.
Another cute spot is The Wardrobe at the very bottom of the street by the dock. They sell an assortment of bohemian items.
Note: As a heads up, Morningside Cafe may appear cute and friendly from the outside, but we highly recommend reading these reviews before going inside.
25. Visit the Lavender & Black farm
The boutique lavender and helichrysum farm is stunning. In the beautifully decorated shop, you will find hand-crafted wellness products and culinary products, as well as dried lavender and helichrysum flowers. The owners are friendly and passionate about what they do. They were excited to answer our questions and teach us 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.
26. Visit Sunset Farm's studio shop for sheepskins, pottery & vintage items
Visit Sunset Farm's studio shop tucked away in the north end of Salt Spring Island. Inside you'll find unique pottery, vintage items and sheepskins made right on their farm. They also have farm-raised chicken and lamb available.
27. Walk the Fernwood dock and relax at the Hen & Hound Brasserie
Get some of that ocean breeze and walk the 400 ft 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 The Hen & Hound Brasserie for a hot drink and farm tapas.
28. View contemporary artworks by local artists at the Salt Spring Gallery
The Salt Spring Gallery showcases contemporary works from local island artists, including textile art, sculptures, ceramics, paintings, photography and jewelry. Check out their website for current exhibitions.
29. Make breakfast with local farm-fresh ingredients
If your accommodation has a kitchen, start your day in the most delectable way by crafting a breakfast with local farm-fresh ingredients. Pick up eggs and produce from a farm stand, ethically-made bacon or sausages from South End Sausage, and wood-fired sourdough bread from Francis Bread.
30. Drive the serene north-end loop of the island
The north end of the island is often overlooked by tourists visiting popular spots in the central and southern parts of the island. However, the quieter north offers scenic oceanside roads and a tucked away gems along the way.
Don't miss these spots:
- Walk the 400 ft long Fernwood dock.
- Enjoy hot drinks and farm tapas at the Hen & Hound Brasserie.
- Drive along the ocean on North Beach Road.
- Pop into the studio shop at Sunset Farms.
- Visit Lavender & Black, a boutique lavender farm.
- Walk around Vesuvius Bay, a small community located on the northwest of the island.
- Finish your loop at Off the Hook for coastal-inspired bites (open at 5pm for dinner).
31. Dine outside with live music
Both, the Oystercatcher and Treehouse Cafe feature nightly live music during summertime. Go to Oystercatcher for harbour front views and to Treehouse Cafe for delicious food made-from-scratch.
32. Check out Salt Spring's exciting yearly events
Every year, Salt Spring hosts annual events that are worth a trip on their own:
- Light up Farm Stand Tour: when farm stands get dressed up and stocked up for Christmas. This event typically happens over two weekends in December and over 50 farm stands participate.
- Christmas Craft Fairs: shop the Fulford Artisan Christmas Fair, Beaver Point Christmas Fair and Mahon Hall Artcraft Winter Fair. It's an easy way to buy all of your Christmas gifts.
- Pride Festival: at the end of July, Salt Spring Island hosts the four-day Pride Festival with a parade, camping village, dance hall and live music stage.
- Fall Fair: in September, Salt Spring puts on the fun-filled event with food vendors, live music, farm animals, zucchini races and competitions in produce and livestock. It's a great event to bring kids to.
33. Take the float plane instead of the ferry.One of the most scenic ways to see the southern gulf islands is by float plane with Harbour Air or Seaair. 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.
The only consideration here is that having access to a car is essential for island exploration upon arriving in Ganges. Opting for the float plane is convenient when meeting friends with a vehicle or when you're open to renting a car or scooter on Salt Spring. Check out the rates for Salt Spring Car & Scooter Rentals.
We hope you enjoyed these fun things to do in Salt Spring Island!
Start planning your trip to Salt Spring
- 🏡 Accommodation: see our list of the best B&Bs and hotels in Salt Spring
- 🍴 Restaurants: see our list of the 21 best restaurants on the island
- ⛴ Book your ferry: BC Ferries
- 🚗 Car rental: see Rentalcars.com to compare car rental prices across different companies.
- 🛫 Flights: see the Kayak tool to compare flights (includes float planes)
- 🏥 Travel insurance: World Nomads. Already traveling? You can purchase insurance with World Nomads while you're abroad. A 48-hour waiting period just applies for coverage.
See what it was like in our Salt Spring Vlog!
Explore more of the Gulf Islands:
- Best things to do on Galiano Island
- Best Galiano Island Accommodation for a Weekend Getaway
- Top things to do on Pender Island
- Unique things to do on Gabriola Island
- Fun things to do on Hornby Island
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out our list of 20 Relaxation Travel Ideas to Clear Your Mind