“What if the hokey pokey is really what it’s all about”, a simple yet complex sentiment found on a magnet at a farmer’s market in the town of Ganges, BC. This sums up this destination rather well. Nestled close to Vancouver Island, a short 20 minute ferry from Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island is the perfect weekend get-away, rich with artistic vibes, tasty wines and cheese, glorious scenery, and, well, a little bit of hokey pokey.
There are three different arrival ports to Salt Spring Island: Vesuvius, Long Harbour, and Fulford Harbour. BC Ferries run direct routes from Vancouver Island (20-30 mins) and Tsawwassen (1.5-3 hours, depending on number of island stops). Check timetables for departure and arrival times.
The small town of Ganges sits in the middle of the island. Generally a quiet little town, it comes alive for the Salt Spring Saturday Market. Artisans from all reaches of the island nestle together to bring you felt hats, local artistry and dream catchers. Whilst not everyone can pull off a felt hat, it is certainly charming and worth a look. The highlight of the market is the ice cream made by the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. Why they specialize in cheese when their ice cream is a scoop of heaven with dark chocolate chips is anyone’s guess. It’s so good that I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it’s laced with crack cocaine, which might explain the existential conversation stemming from my newly purchased hokey pokey magnet.
As the journey continues south, you find yourself heading into a warm, dry basin, surrounded by modest hills. The Salt Spring Vineyards and Garry Oaks Winery are along the Fulford-Ganges Road and both offer tasting of their wines. The Salt Spring Vineyards is situated on a gentle slope, set up with a courtyard to enjoy their wines at your own pace. With the sun beating down and the sweet Prosecco on your lips, it doesn’t get much better than this. When you’re done at Salt Spring Vineyards it is only a few minutes down the road to Garry Oaks Winery, where you get to do it all over again.
The next stop is the Salt Spring Island Cheese Company, where you can see the cheese being made. The cheese is so good that they have put little to no effort into advertising their location, which will inevitably end up in three u-turns and slipping into a black hole to find their driveway. If you do manage to find it, you will be rewarded with the most delicious cheese you could ever imagine and more crack ice cream. Yum. The cheese platter at the cafe is delightful, plus you’ll need to take a favourite cheese or two for the road. Bring something to keep them cool. Chickens and goats roam the farm, which is great for the kids. However, the goat milk used in the cheese production is brought over from Chilliwack, so the goats are merely for decoration.
After all this indulgence, you should now head to the Ruckle Provincial Park to walk off the hideous number of calories you have consumed. There is a gentle pathway around the peninsular, with some lovely views of the ocean and the surrounding islands. There are also longer hikes in the area, if you are feeling adventurous. If you have more time, the northern end of the island is great for a scenic drive, picking up fresh eggs and stopping for a swim in St Mary Lake. A quiet bay rests at the bottom of a short path from Sunset Drive as you approach Vesuvius from the north.
Accommodation on the island is limited in the busy season. Try staying on weekdays, if you can, or spend the day on the island and head back to Nanaimo or Victoria in the evening. A day is enough to see all the sights, but two to three days would be best if you want to visit at a relaxed pace.