Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island is in the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia in Canada. Salt Spring (sometimes spelled "Saltspring", one word) is the largest both in area and population of the Southern Gulf Islands. The population has grown from about 10,000 to 13,000 in the past five years with the influx of baby boomer retirees (many Canadian-American from California) and Alberta oil patch money. There are many more seasonal and part-time residents.


Salt Spring Island was first called Saltspring (one word) Island by Governor James Douglas in 1853. He believed that the Salt Springs in the North of the Island would bring great wealth to the Island. It was also known by a few other names during the early years: Klaathem (Cowichan Indian word for Salt), Chuam, Tuam, and Admiral Island. Saltspring was the official name as recorded by the Geographic Board of Canada in 1905. However, Canada Post and many locals used (and still use) the name Salt Spring (2 words) Island . It is frequently abbreviated as SSI.

Salt Spring Island was first settled in 1859, primarily by farmers. In the early years it was settled by many different groups including a number of African-Americans and then a number of Hawaiians and settled on Salt Spring and a number of other gulf islands. In the 1960s and 1970s there was a large influx of back to the landers who lived either in informal communes or squatted. Many of these people have settled and have become a large part of the culture of Salt Spring. Since the 1970s Salt Spring has attracted a large number of artists, and has become more and more of a tourist destination and retirement spot for the wealthy. This dichotomy of large developments for the hordes of people who want to get away from the development of the city has created a certain amount of conflict. However the island is still primarily characterized by the artists and farmers.

The main town, in the centre of the island, is Ganges. In the south of the island is a small cluster of shops around Fulford Harbour. To the north-west is a cluster, Vesuvius. To the east is the ferry dock at Long Harbour.

10AM – 4PM (April–June, September–October), 11AM – 3PM (November–March). Friendly and helpful volunteers can provide maps, give directions, answer questions, and give recommendations. Free parking in the shopping centre lot, plus many shops and restaurants within easy walking distance.

Get in

By boat

The most common way to get to Salt Spring Island is by BC Ferries. There are 3 separate routes that serve Salt Spring Island. The ferry from Swartz Bay (1/2 hour drive North of Victoria) to Fulford Harbour runs about every 2 hours from 7AM to 9PM. The route from Crofton (near Duncan) runs approximately hourly from about 7:30AM to about 10PM. The Southern Gulf Island route runs from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) to various locations of the gulf island that includes a stop at Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island. This sails about twice a day.

Salt Spring is a popular destination for private boaters. There are public marinas at Ganges and Fulford (at the southern end of the island), with limited moorage, and two private marinas in Ganges Harbor that allow transient boaters.

By plane

There is no airport on Salt Spring Island, but float planes fly into Ganges Harbour. This includes regular scheduled service from the Harbour in downtown Vancouver, from Seattle and from the Float plane terminal at the South Terminal of the Vancouver Airport.

Most of these planes are pretty small, so it is not unreasonable to charter a plane to be on your schedule.

Get around

A car is usually the easiest way to get to the different parts of Salt Spring Island. If you don't bring your own, there are a small number of cars available for hire.

The Salt Spring Island Transit Commission (+1 250 538-4282) operates six bus routes that connect Ganges with each of the three ferry terminals as well as Fernwood. The service is very handy for getting to and from the ferries because the bus times coincide with ferry arrivals and departures. It's not as useful for other trips, as most routes only operate three or four times a day and it does not service outlying attractions like Ruckle Provincial Park, Mt Maxwell and the Sacred Lavender farm. Fare costs $2.

There are also a number of taxi companies that can shuttle you around the island.

It is popular for visitors to get around Salt Spring on bicycle. The roads on the island tend to be narrow, hilly and quite twisty, so one needs to take care when riding a bicycle.

It is also quite common for people to hitch-hike around the island and you will probably be picked up in 5-10 minutes anywhere on the island (other than where traffic is exiting a ferry onto Salt Spring).




Most of the eateries on the island are in Ganges.

However there are a few restaurants in other parts of the island:



There are Bed and Breakfasts spread throughout the island. There are also a number of vacation homes and cottages.


The area code for Salt Spring is (250) -- same as Vancouver Island. Cell phone coverage is spotty on the island. Telus provides the best coverage on the island. Rogers provides some coverage on their GSM network.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.