• Claire

A Day Trip to Salt Spring Island | Exploring the 'Hippie Capital' of Canada

Updated: Apr 20, 2019

Salt Spring Island is the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands located off the West Coast of B.C between Vancouver Island. Salt Spring is often nicknamed the 'hippie capital' of Canada as its natural beauty and relaxed lifestyle has attracted a community of artists, writers, farmers and dreamers to its shores.

The New York Times has described Salt Spring as "one of the prettiest artist towns in North America". Salt Spring is a popular holiday destination in summer. I visited at the end of October and although things we definitely quietening down for the winter, it was still a beautiful time to visit as the island had a beautiful autumn glow.

"Things grow unusually well on Salt Spring – trees and flowers and ideas and art. Especially art. This lush island is a crucible of human ingenuity." - Arthur Black

Salt Spring is conveniently located only a 30min ferry ride away from where I live at the moment I knew so I must pay it a visit! BC Ferries have services to Salt Spring from Tsawwassen on the BC mainland, Duncan on Vancouver Island and Swartz Bay north of Victoria - you can also get to Salt Spring by sea plane!

Map of Salt Spring Island


The sun rises at around 7:30am here now so I caught the first ferry from Swartz bay to Fulford Harbour in the dark. It was my first time taking a car ferry and a weird sensation sitting in the car and having the ferry move without you driving! The ride took only 30mins and cost $42 return for 1 car and 1 adult.

Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour Ferry

Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour Ferry


I arrived on Salt Spring to a super misty morning, although the forecast was for a clear day. I even saw some deer on my way to the trail point for my hike!

I used the Salt Spring Adventure Map to find my way around (you can find it here) - it's such a great resource and lists popular hikes, sunset/sunrise spots, beach accesses and accommodation.

A misty autumn morning

Spotted a deer!

Exploring using the Salt Spring adventure map


I decided to stop off and hike the Reginald Hill trail as it was close to Fulford Harbour and was meant to have great views at the top. The trail was super steep but only 1km long and it was super beautiful. The coolest thing was I saw no one the entire time, I had the misty forest all to myself.

However, when I got to the top I realised that the mist filled the entire valley and was obstructing the view! I waited at the top for about half an hour hoping it would clear, to no avail.

Reginald Hill Trail

Reginald Hill Trail

The top of Reginald Hill Trail

View from the top of Reginald Hill Trail


After my hike I drove 15mins to Ganges the main town on Salt Spring.

One of my favourite things about Salt Spring is that all the local farmers sell their fresh produce in farm stands on the side of the road! I passed heaps on the drive to Ganges - selling everything from cheese to apples to flowers. I love that you can pick up fresh locally-grown organic vegetables and pop your money in an honesty box which goes straight to the farmers.

A farm stand on the side of the road


I arrived in Ganges and grabbed a chai latte to warm up and sat by the harbour as the mist cleared. I watched a stream of locals arrive in the harbour by kayaks and rowboats to grab their morning coffee from town.

Chai latte by Ganges Harbour

Ganges Harbour once the mist cleared


The Salt Spring Saturday Market is a display of the work of local artists and food producers from all over the island. From organic produce to freshly baked bread to handicrafts or origami made by local kids - the market really has it all. The coolest thing about these markets is that in order to be allowed to sell at the market vendors must "make it, bake it, or grow it" themselves - guaranteeing all products are locally sourced.

I wandered around the markets for around an hour and treated myself to a delicious macaroon!

Ganges Saturday market

Local kids selling their origami

Delicious Macarons!

Local produce at the markets

Local produce at the markets


After going to the markets, I wandered around the shops in the main street of Ganges town. Ganges has a really well-stocked heath food store, a number of gift shops, a pretty good thrift store and a great secondhand book store - I found a guide book on Cuba for my next trip!

Second hand bookstore find

Health food store

Thrift shop


I had early lunch at the TreeHouse cafe in the centre of Ganges. This cafe came highly recommended to me - there's a literal tree growing out the top of the cafe(!) and the veggie burger was delicious!

Treehouse Cafe

Veggie burger at Treehouse cafe

Treehouse cafe


After lunch I popped into Embe Bakery - known as a favourite with the locals and picked up some snacks for exploring. I got a raspberry and white chocolate scone and a Nanaimo bar (a 3-layer slice of a wafer and coconut crumb-base, custard flavoured butter icing in the middle and a layer of chocolate ganache on top) for just $4!

Embe local bakery

Raspberry and white chocolate scone and Nanaimo Bar


I set off from Ganges to explore some local beaches and ended up in Booth Bay. Again, there was no one around - it was so peaceful!

Booth Bay

Booth Bay


I figured a yoga class would be a great way to immerse myself in the culture of Salt Spring so I joined a vinyasa flow yoga class at the Salt Spring Island Wellness Centre in Ganges. I felt so relaxed after my 2 hour class!

Yoga class at the SS Wellness Centre


On my way back to the ferry terminal I popped into Beddis Beach. It was really beautiful - I could even see Mt Baker far into the distance.

Beddis Beach

Beddis Beach

Beddis Beach


Unfortunately my day trip to Salt Spring had to come to an end! I got the 5:50pm ferry back (and lucky I got to the terminal 45 mins before as the line filled up) from Fulford Harbour to Swartz Bay. We were treated to a spectacular sunset over the Gulf Islands on the way back!

Fulford Ferry Terminal

Fulford Ferry Terminal

Sunset over the Gulf Islands on the ferry home

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You can read more about my adventures in Canada and living on Vancouver Island here!