Destination: Salt Spring Island

Long before deciding on UVic for my post-secondary studies, one of my favourite high school teachers told me about a beautiful, elusive place called Salt Spring Island, located somewhere in the Pacific Ocean on Canada’s distant West Coast (I’m originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia!). Being the plant-loving, adventure-seeking, 21st century hippie that I am, she insisted that it was a place where I would fit right in.

Intrigued by her recommendation, I turned to the trusty internet to find some more information, and sure enough, discovered a long-lost land of small-scale organic farms, street-side kombucha stalls, Saturday night community sing-alongs, and untouched evergreen forests. Although my infatuation with Salt Spring Island inevitably became lost amidst the bustle and business of everyday life, that faint, idealistic dream was always lurking in the back of my mind. I knew that someday, somehow, I would get there.

Fast forward a couple of years, and here I am; my first year of Geography and Environmental Studies at UVic, only a 10 minute walk, 40 minute bus, then quick 25 minute ferry ride from Salt Spring Island itself. In fact, there are nearly a dozen Gulf Islands between Victoria and the Mainland waiting to be explored, Salt Spring just happens to be one of the largest (and hippie-est). So close at last, a weekend journey to Salt Spring Island was at the top of my first semester bucket list.

Finally, on the last weekend of October, my roommates and I found ourselves urgently craving a little fresh air and adventure, amidst the chaos of mid-semester. In a last minute flurry of excitement, we threw together plans for a low-cost, no-car-needed camping trip to Salt Spring Island.

Less than 48 hours later, we found ourselves standing aboard the upper deck of a small passenger ferry, ocean air howling around us, Friday evening sun hanging low on the horizon, carrying backpacks full of warm socks, hummus, and trail mix. It was bound to be an unforgettable weekend.

Shout out to BC Ferries! Round-trip to Salt Spring only costs $12.50 per person – now that’s money well spent.

Upon arriving at the ferry terminal in Fulford Harbour, we planned to catch the local bus into Ganges 12km away, which is the only real town on the island. From there, it was only a short 20-minute walk to the campground where we were staying. Like any good adventure though, we of course encountered a couple of minor roadblocks…

As we took our time disembarking from the ferry, we hadn’t anticipated that the waiting bus would only have enough seating for about 20 people. Or that the bus only came every two and a half hours. Nonetheless, we enjoyed a couple of hours hanging out on the fishing pier with some other eclectic travellers, diving into our precious hummus rations as the sun set over the Pacific.

Late that night, we eventually arrived at our campsite, which turned out to be a very charming little spot, tucked away at the base of a hill amidst a dense grove of cedar trees. Apparently, most other people aren’t into chilly late-season camping, because we had the whole place to ourselves. Nothing compares to a dark, quiet night in a tent; trees rustling, stars glimmering, the smell of fresh campfire smoke lingering in your hair. It felt so good to get back to the woods.

Life among the trees…

On Saturday, we very intentionally decided to just take it easy. Our only real goal was to explore the famed Salt Spring Saturday Market, especially considering that it was the last one of the season. As someone who has visited many (MANY) farmers’ markets, I can honestly say that Salt Spring boasts one of the best. It features a lovely mixture of local artisans, organic produce, tempting baked goods, and quirky people. It’s the kind of place that you just want to wander around for a while — which is exactly what we did.

Exploring the famous Salt Spring Saturday Market.

From there, the rest our day included sipping coffee on the sunny patio of a seaside café, roaming the other eclectic shops in Ganges, hiking around a couple of woodsy trails behind our campsite, and exploring some nearby beaches. In the evening, we treated ourselves to a tasty meal of coconut lentil soup and veggie burgers at the Treehouse Café.

The next morning, we woke up dark and early to hurriedly pack up our site in time to watch the sunrise over the harbour before catching our ferry back to Victoria.

The start of a beautiful new day.

Ultimately, our time spent on Salt Spring, however brief, was a wonderful chance to unwind, reconnect, and explore. Full of fond memories and a promise to return soon, we arrived back in Victoria feeling re-energized, and ready to grind out a few more weeks of university before the November reading week.

Better yet? A couple of weeks after our trip, my grandfather in New Brunswick responded to a postcard that I had sent from Salt Spring to inform me that, incredibly, I have some long-lost cousins who live just outside of Ganges! Since getting in touch with them and learning that they have a spare guest house on their property, it seems that there will be a lot more Salt Spring Island in my near future.

Until next time…

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