Spring was a very busy time for my family with kindergarten ending for my son, classes at the University of Victoria finishing for my wife, and a variety of promotional events supporting my book, Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to BC Breweries, which often took me on the road for a few days at a time. Needless to say, by the time summer arrived, we were in need of a family vacation. So when I spotted a social media post by an old friend about the cottage her family stays at on Salt Spring Island, my wife and I checked it out on airbnb, shared a “How can we afford not to?” moment, and booked it before we could talk ourselves out of it.
We loaded up our car with games, puzzles, books, beach toys, an empty growler or two, and, oh yeah, some clothes, then caught a late-morning ferry at Swartz Bay bound for Fulford Harbour on Salt Spring Island. My stress began to melt away on the 35-minute ferry ride, and I relaxed even more as we drove past self-serve farm stands and picturesque vineyards on the road into Ganges, the main town on the island. There, we stopped for lunch at Burger Bar 537, which sits right on the edge of Ganges Harbour with views of floatplanes landing and taking off. Our first meal on the Island – burgers made from locally raised beef and Whale Tail Ales from Salt Spring Island Ales for the grown-ups – was delicious.
Arriving on a Tuesday was fortuitous because of the Tuesday Farmers’ Market held at Centennial Park in Ganges from June to October. We stocked up on provisions – fresh fruit and veggies and other treats – and then drove up to the northwest corner of the Island where our cottage was located on a little inlet near Vesuvius Bay.
The cottage was even better than we’d hoped with a big deck, a yard to play in, a secluded cove to explore, and all the amenities we needed. We could stay in and cook our own food or walk to the nearby Seaside Restaurant at Vesuvius Bay, which, we found out, is one of the island’s best swimming spots.
When we weren’t just relaxing at the cottage, we explored the island. Duck Creek Park nearby offered a leisurely hour-long walk while Ruckle Provincial Park, located at the southeast corner of the island, easily filled an entire afternoon of hiking along its picturesque shorelines. There are seaside campsites available there on a first-come first-served basis, so we might return with our tent and sleeping bags some time.
On the way back from Ruckle, we followed a sign for the Salt Spring Island Bread Co. to the top of a sunny, arbutus-covered ridge. The bakery was opened in 1994 by Heather Campbell, who had moved to the island to escape city life in 1992 and came up with baking bread as a way to earn an income there. Now known as the island’s Bread Lady, she bakes a variety of artisanal breads in a custom-built, wood-fired brick oven. The delicious bread and locally produced gooseberry jam we bought there sustained us through our remaining breakfasts on the island, and I made sure to buy another loaf at the Saturday market on the day we left for home.
There are plenty of other food producers on Salt Spring Island, including a variety of farms, cheese producers, bakeries, and Salt Spring Sea Salt. Three wineries offer tastings and bottle sales at their vineyards: Garry Oaks, Mistaken Identity and Salt Spring Vineyards, which also offers two B&B rooms. Being a beer lover myself, I was happy to fill up a growler in the tasting room at Salt Spring Island Ales, a rustic brewery in an old barn at the base of Mount Bruce. Beer is never fresher than right at the source!
Our four-day family getaway to Salt Spring Island was pretty idyllic. We certainly could have stayed much longer, and now we are already dreaming of our next visit.
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