Things to see and do on Salt Spring Island
If you live in the greater Vancouver area, Salt Spring Island is the ideal place to enjoy some rest and relaxation. I recommend going for longer than a weekend because it takes several hours to get there. A long weekend getaway would be ideal so that’s the Salt Spring Island itinerary I’ve put together.
In fact, I think it’s one of the best long weekend getaways from Vancouver. If you aren’t ready to travel far away yet, enjoy a road trip to the largest gulf island.
If you’re wondering if Salt Spring Island is worth visiting, it definitely is! Salt Spring Island has a true community feeling and seems unaffected by today’s hectic society. It is the largest and most populous of the Southern Gulf Islands. Spanning 74 square miles, you can easily drive from one end to the other in less than an hour.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links I receive a small commission that enables me to continue providing you with awesome and informative blog posts like this one.
The island gets its name from the salt springs at the North End of the island. If you’re wondering where the salt springs are, they do still exist today. The springs can be found at the Salt Spring Spa Resort. There is no public access, you must stay at the resort to enjoy them.
Salt Spring Island proudly consists of locally-owned stores and restaurants. If you’re looking for a Starbucks, you’re not going to find one here. This is a place to support local, small businesses. The majority of the places to stay are quaint B & B’s and cottages.
You won’t find a major hotel chain here either. I have stayed at lots of cute places, but I really love Mariner’s Loft. It’s gorgeous, has a full kitchen and is conveniently located in Ganges, with stunning views of the harbour.
Before we dive into your ideal weekend itinerary, let’s discuss how to get to Salt Spring Island.
Getting to Salt Spring Island – Your Itinerary
The voyage is where the fun begins. You have two options to get to Salt Spring Island; you can take a ferry or a float plane. Whatever you decide, your trip is going to be off to a very scenic start.
The gulf islands are an incredibly beautiful area in the Pacific Northwest. Watch the video below for a sneak peek of what you can expect on a BC Ferries ride. I once saw Orcas swimming alongside the ferry!
Taking the ferry to Salt Spring Island from Vancouver
If you are a first-time visitor or going to be staying longer than a weekend, I recommend driving your vehicle on the ferry. This will enable you to explore the island at your own leisure. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can rent one from one of the many Vancouver car rental companies.
Alternatively, you can walk on the ferry, or fly. While having a vehicle does afford you greater flexibility, there is a bus on the island, as well as a taxi service. There are also a few different tour groups that offer a variety of guided tours.
Salt Spring Island has three ferry terminals: Long Harbour in the main town of Ganges, as well as smaller ferries at Fulford Harbour and Vesuvius. Both of the latter options require taking two ferries from Vancouver. You would have to switch ferries in either Victoria or Nanaimo.
I highly recommend that you plan your route in advance on the BC Ferries website and, if you are driving your vehicle on the ferry, make a reservation to guarantee your spot on the ferry. Sitting at the terminal after missing a ferry is not how you want to start your vacation.
Things to do on Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island Weekend Itinerary
I will base this itinerary on a Friday evening arrival and a Monday departure. In order to have a relaxing weekend, and see the sights, it’s best to take an extra day. A long weekend is ideal for your Salt Spring Island trip. I’ll provide a few different options each day to ensure you have lots to do, especially if you’re staying longer than a weekend.
Day 1 – Friday evening
If you’re arriving in the evening, your options are limited as most places close early. You’re in luck though because Moby’s Pub is where it’s at on a Friday night. They have great food and spectacular views of the Ganges Marina. Late nights at Moby’s often include live music.
The last time I was there the kitchen closed at 8 pm and we almost missed dinner. If you’re arriving late, I recommend heading straight to Moby’s Pub instead of checking in where you are staying. If you know that you’ll arrive late, eat dinner on the ferry. A White Spot burger and fries are certainly better than nothing!
There isn’t much for nightlife on the island so once you’re finished at Moby’s Pub, I suggest heading to your accommodations. Enjoy the hot tub, fireplace, or however else you like to unwind at the end of the week. Many of the accommodations on the island don’t have TVs so be prepared and bring cards, board games, or your tablet with you.
Day 2 – Saturday
No trip to Salt Spring Island would be complete without a visit to Embe Bakery. On your itinerary, make this your first stop in the morning or you run the risk of being disappointed by empty shelves later in the day.
A hot commodity, this bakery’s treats go fast and rarely last the day. Open since 1978, this local treasure serves up savoury pies, delicious sweet treats and freshly baked bread.
For breakfast on Saturday morning, check out the Tree House Cafe. It is aptly named as there is a giant plum tree growing in the centre of this cafe. During the winter months, they place walls around it, so the tree is quite literally in the centre of the restaurant. Open year-round, they are passionate about serving delicious, healthy food made from scratch.
Salt Spring Island Farmers Market
Next up is the Saturday Market. If you’re visiting Salt Spring Island between the months of April to October, the Saturday Market needs to be on your itinerary. No weekend on Salt Spring Island is complete without it. It takes place right downtown Ganges, a few blocks away from the Tree House Cafe. Put on your walking shoes, we have some local wares to check out!
The market’s motto is, ‘make it, bake it, or grow it on Salt Spring.’ This mandate is the essence of the market. If you are looking for a unique souvenir or handmade gift, this is the place to purchase it. All of the vendors are locals and you can find everything from handmade jewelry to artisan soaps to delicious jam.
Local Wine, Cider, Beer and Spirits
Next up are a few stops for my folks who like to imbibe. If you’re a teetotaler, please feel free to skip ahead. However, if you enjoy wine tastings, there are three wineries on Salt Spring Island: Salt Spring Island Vineyards, Gary Oaks Winery and Kutatás Wines. Feeling peckish? Enjoy lunch overlooking the pond at Salt Spring Island Vineyards.
Perhaps you prefer cider, then pop over to Salt Spring Wild Cider. They bring together the community as they gather over 250,000 lbs of apples from farms all over the island. They help farmers and families manage their apples by purchasing their excess apples.
Or maybe you’re more of a beer connoisseur, or would like to be. Salt Spring Island Brewing boasts that they offer a brew for every palate. Not surprisingly, this craft brewery uses hops grown on the island.
And finally, the last stop in our boozy tour is Shine Distillery. Open in 2016, this small, family-owned artisanal distillery crafts its small-batch spirits with 100% BC honey. You can enjoy a complimentary tasting of their Honeycomb Moonshine, Hive Vodka or Sting Gin.
Shop local at roadside stands
While driving around the island, either on the boozy tour mentioned above or not, you should definitely purchase something from a roadside stand. Roadside stands are everywhere on Salt Spring Island. There won’t be anyone working the stands, they function based on the honour system. Simply pull over, take what you wish, and leave your money in the tin can.
Where else can you do this? If for nothing other than the nostalgia of it, and a story to tell friends back home, be sure to pick up a thing or two. And snap a photo for the ‘gram to prove that the honour system is still around in 2022.
At this point, it’s likely going to be time for dinner. There are lots of great restaurant choices on Salt Spring Island. If fresh oysters and seafood are what you’re after, then Oystercatcher is where you want to be. Known as the Island’s waterfront restaurant of choice, they serve sustainable and ethical meals. And you can’t beat the views!
Some of my other faves include Auntie Pestos, House Piccolo and Rock Salt, pictured below. Rock Salt is also the ideal spot for a bite to eat while waiting for the ferry if you are down in Fulford. You can watch the ferry pull into the harbour so you’re guaranteed to not miss it.
Day 3 – Sunday
Salt Spring Island Artists
An ideal afternoon activity is to take a tour of the art studios around the island. As soon as you arrive on Salt Spring Island, you will notice that there is a thriving art community. A long-standing tradition, you can go on a self-guided studio tour.
There are 21 studios in total and you can often watch the artists as they work. Some of the studios offer a one-of-a-kind experience, such as a workshop tour or even a hands-on demonstration of creating a work of art.
Not sure where to find the studios? Either grab the studio tour map on the ferry or download it here Salt Spring Studio Tour Map. Alternatively, it’s easy to spot the large white signs with black sheep scattered all over the island signifying each studio’s location. When you see one, simply pop in for a visit to see what the artist is up to.
Hiking, Biking, Swimming and More
There are endless hiking trails and picnic areas in Salt Spring Island’s seven parks and visiting some of them should be on your Salt Spring Island itinerary. Ruckle Park has the largest Gulf Island provincial campground with a trail that ends at a secluded beach. If you’re a disc golf player, check out the course at Mouat Regional Park.
Mount Erskine is known for its hiking trails; however, the best views are at the top of Mount Maxwell. Its lookout point offers sprawling views and the best sunrises and sunsets on the island.
If you’re visiting during the warmer summer months, you should go for a dip in one of the island’s freshwater lakes. There are eight lakes on the island and five of them have public beaches.
It’s easy to fill your weekend on Salt Spring Island with outdoor adventures and activities. Beachcombing is a favourite activity for locals and visitors alike.
Day 4 – Monday
Before you head home, make time to visit Embe Bakery one last time. Pick up some delicious treats for the ferry ride home. Also, check the freezer section for pies that are begging to be taken home and cooked at a later date. I love taking a slice of Salt Spring Island home with me to be enjoyed later.
If you have time, definitely stop in and visit the goats at Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. Family-owned and operated, they make artisan goat cheese. On your self-guided tour, you can watch the cheese being made through the viewing windows of their production facility.
You can both taste as well as purchase their cheese on-site. They offer a variety of cheese with delicious toppings including truffles, olive tapenade, garlic and more.
And there you have it, your ideal Salt Spring Island itinerary. A favourite long weekend getaway from Vancouver, I adore Salt Spring Island. I hope you do too! If you’re looking for tips on how to make your road trip the best ever, check out my post on how to plan an epic road trip.
Find other places to go on a weekend getaway from the city in my 5 of the best weekend getaways from Vancouver article.