My family had a summer cottage on Saltspring Island for 24 years. My dad used to spend a few months on the island every summer (when his television program was on hiatus) and the rest of us used to come for two weeks every July. I lost my dad when I was 17 but there’s nowhere that I have fonder memories of him than on Saltspring Island. I think of him teaching me to drive a boat, catch crabs and drive a Yamaha scooter (well before I turned 16). I have such happy memories of the place that I was terrified to go back as a tourist without a “home” to stay. Yet my desire to show the place to the girls outweighed this fear. To make it even more special, my brother flew to BC for a long weekend to be able to return with us. We rented side-by-side Airbnbs (on a different part of the island from our old cottage) and we crossed our fingers hoping that the trip would bring happy new memories and not just make us sad.
The magic of Saltspring was still there. Leif and I were reminded of all the things we loved about the place and we weren’t sad -only grateful for getting to spend so much of our childhood here. We were shocked at how much was the same after 8 years but also managed to find some new island gems.
A little about Saltspring Island
It is a relatively large island between Vancouver and Vancouver Island (you must take a ferry or float plane to get there). The island has a history of farming and it is very pastoral in appearance. In the 1960s, Saltspring became a haven for artists and hippies seeking an alternative lifestyle and this culture very much still exists on parts of the island. It became a “cottage destination” for people from Vancouver and Victoria. Impressive houses have been built on many of the waterfront properties.
A few things that I love and reasons to visit Saltspring
The ocean: Muskoka might have stunning lakes but Saltspring has the ocean (which is better!). My kids checked out a different beach each day. The girls seemed a little young to explore the open ocean but next time we’ll have them kayaking around the bays! Tidepools, spitting clams, crabbing from the pier – it is all magical. We especially loved our hike in Ruckle Park -somewhere we had never discovered in our decades visiting the island.
Farmers’ markets: I love a good farmer’s market but the Saltspring one will always be my favourite. Some years there is one market per week but currently, there are two (one for all things touristy on Saturdays and one for food on Tuesdays). Since Saltspring remains a mecca for artists, you’ll often find them selling their creations at the market so you can find everything from tie-dyed clothes to silver jewellery to Tony’s Tarts (Mike’s choice)!
A fun town to explore: When it comes to cottaging, I get antsy when there isn’t a cute town to visit because I grew up with Ganges as my example. Whether it is buying groceries, looking at galleries or shopping for a new book, Ganges is a great little town. I had fun going to all the old shops that we used to visit and checking out the new ones too. We had a great meal at the new Wild Cider (apparently it has been there for 8 years but it was new to us!). I also discovered Boogaloo Bubbywear which is my new favourite bamboo kids’ clothes brand – affordable and made in Canada.
Island Time: This is something that I often associate with the Caribbean but Saltspring has its own version of Island time. Here are a few rules that I had to teach Mike who kept saying “we can go there later”. Ignore posted opening hours because they are almost never correct. A store may say that it is open until 5 pm but it may well close at 3:30. If it is open, you should visit it now because it may well never be open again for many days. Next, do not think that things will be open because it is the weekend (i.e. the busiest time on the island). Popular places like the bakery are closed on the weekend because they do not want to deal with the crowds. Lastly, go with the flow on Saltspring. We saw a sign saying that the local camp still had spots. We ended up signing up the kids for two days which might have been their best camp of the summer. They visited with the local firefighters and learned a great deal. They had a leader named Soleil who had died her hair like a watermelon (including the black seeds). I am now going to spend the next year convincing Isabella that she cannot have watermelon hair.
Overall Saltspring was great. My brother’s visit was the highlight and we’ll miss him as we head off to the mainland again. Are we really heading east now? Yikes! P.S. Some of you may notice that we’re a little behind with the blog but I am going to publish how far behind we are so that we have pressure to catch up.
By the numbers:
- Times we ate a the Treehouse Cafe: 3
- David Wood Saltspring Cheese‘s consumed by Mike: 3 plus the cheese we ate while we visited the farm
- How long it takes Saltspring’s fastest Fire Fighter to get dressed: 48 seconds
- Number of people who went in the hot tub at Uncle Leif’s Airbnb: 2 (you can guess who they were)
- Number of times we said we missed uncle Leif after he left: too many to count
- Blog Posts Overdue: 7 (Vancouver, Fort Langley, Vernon, Jasper, Banff, Calgary, Dinosaurs and Grasslands)
Where we stayed (five words or less):
Orchard Cabin: Too Small but Great Location
- Tide Pool Critters
- Free Range Farm Animals: Turkeys, Sheep, Goats
- 2 Free Range Kids