Home to just over 10,000 inhabitants the 180 square kilometer Salt Spring Island is the largest of the Gulf Islands nestled in the Strait of Georgia between mainland Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Connected to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island by BC Ferries or by air, Salt Spring Island is a short trip from Vancouver making it an ideal weekend get-away.
Renowned for its creative edge, Salt Spring Island is arguably one of North America’s best small arts towns with a whole host of galleries and artists’ studios offering the visitor a wide choice of high-quality arts & crafts. Along with its creative flair, Salt Spring Island also offers a whole host of outdoor activities as well for those looking for a little more adventure; spectacular hiking trails, fishing, kayaking, golfing and plenty of beaches to explore are just a few things that make its attractive to those looking for more physical activities.
But whether it is searching for that next piece of artwork for your living room or communing with nature, Salt Spring Island offers something more in the form of an extremely queer friendly attitude due in no small part to GLOSSI (Gays and Lesbians of Salt Spring Island).
As the social glue for the queer community on Salt Spring Island, GLOSSI now boasts a whole cadre of gay and gay-friendly businesses from the expected inns and B&Bs to more traditional businesses to the ubiquitous Salt Spring Island artisans. And while Vancouver is host to British Columbia’s largest Pride event, Salt Spring Island is now home to its own yearly Pride parade and festival in September; in 2009, the Salt Spring Island Pride Festival will take place September 10-13. Coupled with the queer friendly Our Island Our World annual film festival in March, Salt Spring Island has definitely opened its arms to the GLBT community.
Your Salt Spring Island Weekend Getaway
From Vancouver start your journey to Salt Spring Island with a ride on one of the scenic BC Ferries either serving the Gulf Islands or to Schwartz Bay on Vancouver Island. The Gulf Islands ferries will take you on a leisurely cruise through a number of the other Gulf Islands before its final stop in Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island or if you time it right you can also take one of the direct ferries that operate on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. If you choose the Vancouver Island route, after the 1.5 hour ride to Schwartz Bay you can link up with the smaller BC Ferry direct to Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island.
Or perhaps for those with less time to spend traversing the waters of the British Columbia coast, Harbour Air, Seair and Salt Spring Air all offer regularly scheduled 30 minute flights from Vancouver Airport’s South Terminal to Ganges Harbour.
Depending on your arrival time, we suggest a stop at the Garry Oaks Winery to stock up for your weekend and then onto the Hastings House Country House Hotel, one of the most luxurious resorts and spas in British Columbia . Sitting on 22 acres of waterfront at Ganges Harbour, this small 18-room resort has at its heart an 18th century Manor House where guests can gather before dinner or be pampered with a whole host of treatments in its spa. As an added bonus, those arriving by air are provided with complimentary shuttle service to and from Ganges Harbour so there is no need to worry about being without your car for the weekend.
A member of Small Luxury Hotels since 2005, eight-time Grand Award Winner in Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report, and one of the “Thousand Places to See Before You Die,” Hastings House is like no other place in the world. With impeccable, personalized service throughout the hotel and spa (both male and female massage practitioners available), spectacular views of Ganges Harbour, and 22 acres of stunning gardens, lawns, forests and seashore, there is no more romantic setting to host a wedding, honeymoon, anniversary, or relaxing getaway than this sparkling gem.
But whether your plans include Hastings House or one of the many other of Salt Spring Island’s Inns and Bed & Breakfasts you can’t go wrong with the Hastings House’s suggested itineraries to help plan your getaway. One of our favorites, Culinary Salt Spring, is a half-day self-guided tour that includes stops at the Salt Spring Vineyards, Salt Spring Cheese Company and the Salt Spring Island Bread Co and culminates with a made-on-Salt Spring picnic in the 1,000 acre Ruckle Park where you can enjoy the scenery, watch the marine traffic and enjoy the morsels you gathered.
Of course if your stay includes a Saturday, no trip to Salt Spring Island is complete without a visit to the Salt Spring Island’s Saturday Market where the rule is that every vendor must “make it, bake it, or grow it” and provides choices from over 140 artisans. Plus, depending on the time of year, the historic Mahon Hall is home to the Salt Springs Arts Council and its annual ArtCraft in the summer, WinterCraft in December and maybe even a hip-hop dance class or two.
For those that might be slightly more adventurous or looking for something more active than sipping cocktails on the verandah at the Hastings House, Salt Spring Island also offers a wide variety of land and sea based activities.
Whale watching, of course, is de rigueur for the West Coast set and the team at Outdoor Visions offer daily tours that include hydrophones that actually let you listen to the whales. Or perhaps a kayaking sea adventure might be more to your liking with a number of companies offering kayak tours and rentals including the Salt Spring Island Adventure Co.
Of course, like any great getaway, it all must come to an end and whether you it is back to the mainland on BC Ferries or your return trip by floatplane, your Salt Spring Island getaway will be long remembered for its quiet beauty, that extra bottle of Salt Spring Island wine to go with the cheese that you bring back and, of course, that prized tchotchke or fine piece of art that you picked up during the Saturday Market.