Salt Spring Island is located in the sheltered waters of the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. It is the largest, most populated, and most-visited of the islands. Due to its close proximity to Vancouver Island, Salt Spring is the most accessible of the islands.
Ferries to/from Salt Spring Island
There are three ferries from Salt Spring Island to the rest of the world:
Salt Spring Island (Fulford Harbour) - Swartz Bay (Vancouver Island)
This is the most-convenient route.
Salt Spring Island (Vesuvius Bay) - Crofton (Vancouver Island)
For Vancouver Island residents originating north of Duncan, this is the most-convenient route onto Salt Spring Island.
Salt Spring Island (Ganges/Long Harbour) - Tsawwassen (southwest BC)
For this direct route, there are only two sailings per day. Thus, extra-cost, well-in-advance reservations, through BC Ferries, are highly recommended.
Ferry from Tsawwassen (Vancouver)
The most convenient method is to get a "thru fare" from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay (Victoria), and then to connect to the smaller ferry from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour.
At Swartz Bay, it is necessary for vehicles to depart the ferry terminal (this will be Highway 17). Drive a few kilometres, and take Exit 31. Follow the Highway 17 North sign, and drive to the Salt Spring Island ticket wicket.
Travelling by Air
The nearest airports are:
Note on the name "Saltspring/Salt Spring"
Named in the early 1800s by officers of the Hudson's Bay Company for the briny cold springs on the north end of the island, debate continues to this day as to whether the island is Saltspring or Salt Spring. It was also known by a few other names during the early years: Klaathem (Cowichan Indian word for Salt), Chuam, Tuam, and Admiral Island. The Oxford Dictionary of Canadian Place Names indicates that the Hudson's Bay Company named it Salt Spring Island. In 1910, the name was changed to Saltspring by the Geographic Board of Canada, which often fused multiple-word place names. So, officially the island's name is one word, but local usage tends to prefer two words, although it is not unanimous. Canada Post accepts both spellings of the name.
The GEO BC web-site has much more information about the name. See: BCGNIS Query Results for "Saltspring".
Other local names
The town of Ganges was named for HMS Ganges, which was stationed there between 1857 and 1861. HMS Ganges was a 2nd rate, 2,284 tons, 84 gun warship of the British Royal Navy.
Similarly, the village of Vesuvius Bay was named for HMS Vesuvius.
Baynes Peak, on southwestern Salt Spring Island, is named for Admiral Baynes, the commanding military officer during the Governancy of James Douglas, formerly of the Royal Navy base in Callao, Peru.
Geography and Terrain
Salt Spring Island, is 18 miles (29 km) long and 9 miles (14 km) wide, with 83 miles (133 km) of shoreline and 182.27 sq km (70.37 sq mi) of land area.
The island's Mediterranean climate is blessed with annual sunshine in excess of 2,000 hours. Annual rainfall is 34" (84 cm). Summers are near-constant sunshine, accompanied by prolonged drought. Winters are a mix of sun, drizzle, and mists.
Average July Temperature is 24°C (75°F) with highs of around 30°C while the average January temperature is a mild 7°C (45°F) with lows of a few degrees below freezing.
The population of the island is about 12,000 and rising. Another large, noticeable mammal is the black-tailed deer, the population of which is sizeable - likely outnumbering humans.
The rugged and mountainous southern end of the island is dominated by Mount Tuam and Mount Bruce, separated from the equally mountainous mid-island region by the Fulford Valley where the relatively rich soils are cultivated for wine grapes.
The north end of the island has a lower elevation, with rolling some pastures, forests and residential developments concentrated around the village of Ganges.
Nine lovely lakes are scattered throughout the island, offering fine swimming. The island's extensive shoreline is varied, with rocky shores, tidal pools, shell and sandy beaches.
Of the 22 ocean beaches, four are designated for public swimming.
Salt Spring Island is also home to some of the few remaining Garry Oak meadows in British Columbia. These meadows and their associated ecosystems contain more plant species than any other terrestrial ecosystem in coastal B.C., as well as a multitude of other creatures, including many species found nowhere else in Canada.
Salt Spring Island has been a seasonal home of the Coast Salish First Nations since at least the time of European settlement, and evidence suggests that permanent settlements existed for centuries before that, on the south coast of the island, where the Tsawout Band Reserve is located today.
The Wsanec people of the Saanich Peninsula and the Cowichan people from the Cowichan Valley frequented the island's shores and harvested its resources.
The island was explored by the Spanish and British in the 1700s, and settled in the 1850s by early pioneers who had abandoned their Fraser River gold rush hopes.
A group of 9 African-American slaves, who had purchased their liberty in the United States, arrived at Vesuvius in 1857. Further black settlers, mainly from California, were followed by European immigrants from Portugal and Scandinavia, and British and Hawaiian (Kanakas) settlers originally recruited by the Hudson's Bay Company.
As well, many Japanese settlers arrived on the island to fish; there still are islanders who are of this Japanese descent.
In the 60's and 70's, many young people moved to the island, attracted by the care-free artisan lifestyle and the mild climate. These back-to-the-landers initially lived either in informal communes or squatted. Many later purchased property and have become a large part of the culture of Salt Spring. The "hippie" lifestyle also attracted many Vietnam draft-dodgers, also pacifist American families.
Today, Salt Spring Island is home to many - descendants of the original pioneering families, aging hippies, organic farmers, and active retirees.
The island is also home to artisans who enjoy the creative environment on the island, fostered by the many galleries and artists and a great many professionals whose work is independent of their place of residency.