A Romantic Salt Spring Island Getaway
Canada is a spectacularly gorgeous country offering up coastal cities and towns, rugged mountain terrain, laid-back prairies, northern wilderness, and sophisticated urban centres. Each province and city features its own unique vibe and offerings. For Canadians, travelling within our borders is stress-free with no customs and immigration lineups or currency exchange rates to think about. Spacious paved roads and great road signage makes driving here a breeze.
Canada's West Coast is one of the highlights of the country. British Columbia is a beautiful province that gives one the opportunity to build an itinerary that works for different people, tastes and budgets. #beautifulbritishcolumbia. British Columbia features islands located between BC's mainland and Vancouver Island, each with their own characteristics that set them apart.
WHY SALT SPRING ISLAND?: After some research, we chose to visit Salt Spring Island for our weekend getaway. Salt Spring Island is a Gulf Island located in the Strait of Georgia and the most populous of the islands. This particular island is close to Vancouver Island and to airports. We travelled mid-October. The island was not busy because summer travel was over but the weather was still sunny, averaging 15-17C during the day. The air was fresh, clean and crisp. Leaves on the trees were shades ranging from golden yellow to crimson and when we walked, we could hear hear the crunch of the fallen and dried leaves underfoot.
BEFORE YOU GO CHECKLIST: Check out flights. Nanaimo (YCD) and Comox (YQQ) or Victoria (YYJ) in that order will be your best options if you fly to Vancouver Island. BC Ferries (bcferries.com) will show you the ferry options, times and price to get you over to Salt Spring Island. Booking.com or Airbnb for accommodations. WestJet.com/car to check out the lowest price for a vehicle from different car rental companies. Do a Google search; what's good at your destination at the time of year you wish to visit? The Weather Network App; What are the temperatures like? Take the guesswork out of knowing what to pack so you bring clothing and items that you need.
HOW TO GET THERE?: A direct flight from Calgary to Nanaimo with WestJet was our best choice. We arrived in under two hours and the Nanaimo Airport (YCD) has car rental companies on the premises which made getting off of the plane, through the small terminal and into our rental car an absolute breeze.
Before hitting the road to the ferry terminal, we drove directly to the Nanaimo harbour to wander around a bit and to enjoy lunch. After eating, we headed south on the Trans-Canada to the Crofton Bay Ferry Terminal. We arrived at the Terminal early, so we checked out the town on foot. Nico's Travel Tip: Get your vehicle in the ferry line early and then do a bit of wandering. Be back at your vehicle no less than 15 minutes before the ferry leaves. Unless you want to be that person.
WHERE TO STAY/ FINDING ACCOMMODATIONS: I used booking.com to find Maple Ridge Cottages which consists of five very cute standalone cottages. They each have a private deck with a table and chairs, a BBQ, a well-loved veranda with chairs that face St Mary's Lake, a fresh water lake on the island and a great for a group of couples or families (each renting a cottage) or for travelling on your own. The cottages have one bed, a pull out, a bathroom, a kitchen and dining area. The cottages themselves are rustic and cozy; the price unbeatable. (mapleridgecottages.com) The property also boasts two docks, each with two Adirondack chairs to enjoy lakeside lounging. The views of the water through the maple trees were stunning and enjoying conversation and each other's company with a glass of wine by the lake was a nice way to end the day.
Bonus: The friendly owners who live on the premises are more than happy to answer questions and give advice on what to see.
FIVE FUN THINGS TO SEE AND DO:
The Seaside Restaurant: As soon as you drive off of the ferry at Vesuvius Bay Terminal, the Seaside Restaurant is right on your left. The local catch is halibut and hands down the best battered halibut ever and the service second to none. So good we ate there twice.
Saturday Market: The Saturday market is a Salt Spring Island must-see. Tons of vendors without the hard sell. It's by the water and a nice way to spend a couple of hours. All items sold at the market are created or grown by the people selling them. Check out the delicious infused sea salt from Salt Spring Sea Salt, which is hand harvested on the island. (Says so right on the package!). We had a brief tutorial on how to use the finishing salt on a meal and got the chance to sample the salt before making a purchase. We ended up at The Local Pub afterward. The local Pub does seem to be the pub that locals hang out at. Zero tourist vibes and a great view of the marina. The Saturday Market opens Easter Weekend and closes for the season on the last Saturday in October. The hours are 9:00am - 5:00pm and during the week it's a Farmer's Market.
The Summit of Mount Maxwell: Hike or drive to the top. The summit offers INCREDIBLE views of the Gulf Islands. Get your camera ready and then hang out a bit to enjoy the tranquil, inspiring vibe.
Sunset at Vesuvius Bay: Beautiful. Watch it from the patio that overlooks the ocean at the Seaside Restaurant. Ask the server for a blanket to snuggle under while enjoying the colours as the sun dips below the horizon.
Show me the Money! The island has its own local currency - the Salt Spring Dollar. It has the image of important person from the island's history on the front of the note and the reverse features work by local artists.
There is also Salt Spring Island Ales, jewellery and clothing shops and places to find natural skin care products. I don't typically shop a lot while on a getaway due to lack of carry on suitcase space and a preference to enjoy food and the experience more than bringing home trinkets but if you are someone who likes meaningful gifts, you're sure to find some on the island.
The Verdict: This weekend getaway was so good. It was hard to leave. Salt Spring Island is an easy place to navigate and although it would be more crowded in the summer, it would be fun to come back then with a group of friends and enjoy the things that we didn't get to see this time 'round. Swimming in the lake, checking out the brewery and relaxing at one of the beaches. If you haven't visited Salt Spring Island, do yourself the favour!
Check out my Instagram Stories "SaltSpring" to see more pictures and videos of this most amazing island!
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