One of 225 Canadian Gulf Islands, charming Salt Spring is just a hop, skip and a ferry ride from Vancouver — and one of the country’s best-kept secrets.Despite the fact that the scenery is spectacular, the epicurean possibilities world-class, the cultural highlights significant, and the hotels and inns delightfully rustic to dangerously decadent, Canada’s Salt Spring Island still somehow manages to stay off most travelers’ radars. Maybe it’s because it sleeps in the shadows of its more-celebrated seaside neighbors, Vancouver and Victoria. Or maybe it’s because it’s reachable only by seaplane or ferry. Either way, all this means for you is that the island is an insider’s secret — and we’re here to share it with you.
Eat Bruce’s Kitchen In a funky shack that’s a perfect setting for the USA Network’s “Characters Welcome” campaign, chef Bruce Wood cooks with mostly local foods grown or caught on the island. The place seats around 20 on a good day, so prepare to wait — it’s worth it. (House-made potpies and communal dinners get two thumbs up.) House Piccolo A tiny heritage (read: historic) house is where chef Piccolo Lyytikainen perfects his European take on local classics like wild sablefish, salmon and venison. Complement those with a rare-wine list, candlelight and warm, made-to-order chocolate cake, and you’ll own the evening.
Sleep Hastings House Country House Hotel Originally the home of a Sussex naval architect, this hotel is now a 22-acre waterfront luxury resort and spa with a total of 18 individually designed rooms and suites in seven buildings. Subtle touches seduce: a hamper of fresh muffins and coffee delivered to your door each morning, a fire in the hearth, slippers that match the decor, complimentary mountain bikes. Have dinner here at least once. The restaurant is among British Columbia’s finest. Salt Spring Inn There are seven rooms, all recently renovated, in this charming 75-year-old inn/bed-and-breakfast hybrid. Four of the seven rooms share a bath, but don’t let that put you off. Coziness and friendliness abound, the rates are reasonable and the food is pure comfort.
Shop Twang & Pearl Think Anthropologie with an edge. Funky throws and pillows, side chairs with character and a collection of exotic, offbeat decor items (medicine cabinets and doorknobs, for instance), plus clothes, jewelry, books and more — all assembled from far-flung locales. Look for the purple house, then be prepared to drop some serious cash. Mouat’s Trading Co. Ltd. At this hardware store, founded in 1907, if you can imagine it, you can probably find it. Need some long johns or gum boots to go with your power drill? No problem. Pick up housewares, linens, bath supplies, trinkets and sporting gear too.
Do Salt Spring Air Tour This is the only way to access transcendent, remote fishing and hiking spots, and it offers a thrilling view of majestic Mount Maxwell. Salt Spring Studio Tour Watch an artist paint, peruse handmade jewelry and contemplate sculptures during this self-guided tour that takes you to the studios of 33 island artisans. Many are in-house, and several have received international acclaim. Salt Spring Island Food Tour You’ll need to pace yourself on this chef-prepared, wine-paired picnic that includes visits to island wineries and artisan cheesemakers, as well as a few strolls through organic farms. The finale? A dockside tasting of just-shucked oysters and mussels. (By appointment only during the winter months.)
149 Fulford Ganges Road, in Gasoline Alley
108 Hereford Ave.
Hastings House Country House Hotel
160 Upper Ganges Road
Salt Spring Inn
132 Lower Ganges Road
Twang & Pearl
112 Hereford St.
Mouat’s Trading Co. Ltd.
106 Fulford-Ganges Road
Salt Spring Air Tour
$289, includes up to six people
3102-115 Fulford-Ganges Road
Salt Spring Studio Tour
Free maps can be downloaded and are also available at many locations on the island.
Salt Spring Island Food Tour
$169 per person (with an approximate limit of six people); $280 for a one-way flight from Vancouver; $390 for a round-trip flight from Vancouver Meeting location if departing from Salt Spring Island: Upper Wharf at the Salt Spring Air Dock, Ganges Harbour, 115 Fulford-Ganges Road, Grace Point Square Meeting location if departing from Vancouver: Salt Spring Air Dock at the Westin Bayshore Hotel Marina, 1601 Bayshore Dr.