Saltspring Island is a place where you can disconnect from the, "real" world and rediscover what truly matters in life.... your relationships with people, the land, the community and most importantly with yourself.
My first introduction to this special place was during a trip with my husband Michael, in the early 90's. We were newly married, young, broke and without many travel miles under our belt. Saltspring seemed like a vaguely appealing place to visit and most importantly, fit our humble budget. Michael had spent every summer there since he was a baby and always talked about what an amazing place it was growing up for him and his family. Knowing how broke we were, I couldn’t help but think how cute it was, that he was trying so hard to sell me on the wonderment of a Saltspring trip vs. the appealing allure of some far flung exotic resort destination that we clearly couldn't afford.
As it turned out, he was absolutely right and ever since I set foot on that little piece of paradise, I have fallen under its spell. The same spell I'm sure many others have fallen under. Perhaps it’s the wonderfully peculiar people who reside here, or the faint aroma of the briny salt air, the winding country roads, the pastoral beauty or even the pristine lakes that draw people here. Or just maybe, it’s the stunning mountain ranges that allow for magnificent views of the rocky shorelines that seem to protect this place from the craziness of the world beyond. Whatever it may be, there is something undeniable about the appeal of this place.
In stark contrast to this peaceful backdrop, is the surprisingly robust commercial activity found in the village of Ganges and to a lesser degree, Fulford harbour and Vesuvius Bay. It’s the perfect combination of an unexpected city energy mixed with the tranquility that one would expect on a small island. I particularly like the energy and feel of Ganges in the summer. There are plenty of restaurants and cool food trucks that would appeal to the most discerning foodie. Many focus on top quality local ingredients and environmental sustainability… they had me at hello!!! The cherry on top for me, is the high end, trendy home decor and clothing stores that seem to have sprung up over the last few years. Every summer, I look forward to shopping at some of my fave places like: Twang and Pearl, Thrive Lifestyle, The Wardrobe, Mondo and the The Salt shop to name a few. Saltspring is set apart from many of the other Gulf islands because anything and everything you need or want can be found without ever having to go off island. Although these added amenities make the island even better, they are only a small part of what keeps us coming back every year. Another bonus is that Saltspring is perfectly situated to use as a springboard for island hopping if your feeling adventurous.
Even though life has been good to us and our budget is just a bit bigger... we don't choose to stay in a luxurious spa like resort although they have them there. We stay in what could best be described as a modest little 10x10 bungalow with a "very modest" outdoor cooking facility on St. Mary's lake. You read that right... four full size human beings spending a week together in the equivalent of a garden shed and we LOVE every minute of it. Although I have to admit, I don't love the shared bathroom facility or the hike to get there in the middle of the night. Lets just say the nighttime wildlife encounters can make for some pretty funny family stories. This year we had the option of taking a full size cabin on the lake and we all told the owner we would rather stay in the small bungalow... Even he was shocked that we didn't at least want to rent out two bungalows now that the girls are older and bigger. We've discovered that tight quarters make for close families and although we might not be able to live like this everyday... we always seem to leave the island with a renewed sense of bonding that is strengthened after every trip.
Saltspring is the largest of the gulf islands easily accessible from either Vancouver or Victoria British Columbia by ferry or float plane. Traditionally, part of the Coast Salish people's territory, Saltspring has benefitted from the richness of the many cultures that have had the privilege of calling it home. It's beginnings were built upon a patchwork of interesting people from different cultures that still resonates among the locals today. About half of the early settlers to the island were African Americans who left from San Fransisco to escape the racism that existed there 1858. They were then followed by Europeans, Australians and other Americans who had come to Canada in search of gold. Among the early settlers were a number of former Hudson Bay company employees who brought with them several Hawaiians and Japanese as labourers. As one could imagine, the adversity involved in settling a new land, helped to bridge the differences of this motley crew of people and led to strong bonds of friendship. Since the 1930's tourists began flocking to Salt Spring... and the rest is history.
Aside from being known for its mild climate, Saltspring boasts fertile soil, abundant seafood, large fruit harvests, famous lamb, artisan cheeses and now even some great wineries. Tours of these wineries and cheese producers have become quite popular. It really is a paradise and has been referred to in the New York Times as, "one of the prettiest artist towns in North America." As for me, I absolutely love the relaxed feel of this place, from the hippies (many shoeless lol!!!) that still gather in the town centre every summer, to the artists, crafts people and farmers who set up every weekend to display their latest creations at the popular Saturday market. If you love to people watch this is definitely the place for you!!! If you can't be there for the market don't worry... on almost every street throughout the island you'll find signs and sandwich boards directing you to locals selling their wares. If you're a foodie you'll absolutely love the Tuesday market!!! This is my favourite market, it gives me a chance to chat with farmers, chefs and foodies alike.
The words of Dejan Stojanovic the well known philosopher/poet, seem appropriate for describing how Saltspring makes me feel...
"I've visited many places, some of them quite exotic and far away, but always I returned to myself."