July 14, 2014


Officially it is Saltspring Island (by the Geographical Names Board of Canada) but locals prefer Salt Spring Island (two words).  Canada Post accepts both.  17 miles (27 km) long and 9 miles (14 km) at its widest, it is the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands and the most populous, close to 11,000 residents.  The island got its name from the 14 briny (hence salty) springs on the north end of the island, now on private property.

From Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay

There are three ferry terminals in Salt Spring: Fulford Harbour, Vesuvius and Long Harbour.  From Tsawwassen (closest to Vancouver BC) there are direct services to Long Harbour, see http://www.bcferries.com.   The problem is if you want to catch the Saturday market early when the goodies for sale are in their max, you have to leave the day before.  The very first Saturday ferry from Tsawwassen to Long Harbour leaves at 12:38 pm and does not berth at Long till 2 pm.  And then you have to catch a bus (if you can get a seat in the first mini-bus) to Ganges where the market is.  If the first bus is full, there can be long lines,  it will be another 30 minute wait.  So by the time you get to the market, a number of vendors have little to sell.

So to be there before noon, I decided to go Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay (in Vancouver Island) and then connect to a smaller boat to Fulford Harbour. 
Closing in Fulford Harbour
If you take this route, tell the ticket agent your intent and you will get a detour pass so you will pay the same rate for  a direct trip.  Get it?  E-mail me if you want further explanation.

Bring CAD$2.25 in cash for the one way bus fare from Fulford Harbour to the village of Ganges 7.5 miles (12 km) north.  To get a seat in the first trip, try to walk out of the ferry boat first and walk as fast as you can to the waiting bus (from the boat,you will see a white mini parked at the right side pedestrian ramp). 
Fulford Harbour: The white public transit bus is at the right.

Ganges is a town, not a river.  It was named after HMS Ganges, the flagship of the Royal Navy's Pacific Station between 1857 and 1860. Once in Ganges, you will pass by the bustling summer market at your right (in Ganges’ Centennial Park next to the water) but you will be let off in front of the Information Center and then a five minute walk back.

The largest in the Gulf Islands, the Salt Spring Saturday Market is open on Saturdays from 8:30 am till 4 pm.  On certain long weekends, the market is in business starting late afternoon Friday till Sunday.  See http://saltspringmarket.com/


At the market, there was an excellent free sampling of Salt Spring Island cheese. 

A French couple which has a bakery in the island, Rendezvous Patisserie, was selling delectable pastries.  They said their most popular item is Canneles de Bordeaux, which did quickly sell out to my dismay. 
Chocolate Incroyable
But there were still some chocolate Incroyable (meringue) at CAD$2.50 each.  Incroyable in literal French means “incredible”.  They taste and look like a bigger version of French macarons- airy, sweet - but really just a meringue.

To be a vendor in the market, you must “make it, bake it, or grow it yourselves”.  All products must be “vendor produced and sold”.  
At one end of the market, a hot dog kiosk was fascinating with its wide selection of condiments and relishes.  I remarked to the lady those huge hot dogs were good.  The lady responded, 

“We tried all brands, and found out the best is from Costco.”

Tree House Cafe
Once done with the summer market, the town of Ganges itself is actually interesting http://www.saltspringisland.org/.  The original Mouat's Store which opened in 1907 still operates in its 1911 building.  Mouat’s is like a combination of Home Depot and Hudson Bay or Macy’s.  There is the Black Sheep Bookstore and the touristy Tree House Café built around and under a plum tree.  Drop by the Information Center, their staff are friendly and helpful.

Salt Spring is renowned for its lamb.  The only store that sells the cuts is at Country Grocer, a supermarket, which is further up, a good half an hour walk from Ganges center, at Upper Ganges.  That day the local lamb was on sale at 30% off.  Weeks later, I roasted the chops - good but nothing outstanding.

To get the island feel, I tented overnight at very shady woody quiet Garden Faire Campground, see www.gardenfaire.ca, a 15 minute trudge from the Info/Bus Stop. 

This is Vesuvius - really residential.

A road stall near Vesuvius on an Honor System - you drop your cash in a box.

Early Sunday I hitched a couple of rides to a village I am curious to see because of its name, Vesuvius, also known as Vesuvius Bay.  A volcano nearby?  Far from it - named after HMS Vesuvius, a ship of the Royal Navy assigned to the Canadian Pacific in the 19th Century.   

Vesuvius was first settled first on 1857 by nine American blacks who had purchased their freedom from slavery.   Most of their descendants have left Salt Spring.  In my weekend there, I did not see any Black Canadian.   

To my shock, a man driving a pick up made eye contact and pointed two of his fingers in a V towards his eyes.

At Vesuvius, I took a quick ferry to Crofton in Vancouver Island.  Crofton is a blue collar town with a pulp and paper mill as the main employer.  It has a pretty boardwalk.

By mid-afternoon I made it back to Fulford Harbour and I had time to look at the shops.   If you are into dyed shirts, there is a very creative local artist.

The ferry back to Swartz Bay is on an honor system.  Make sure you buy the fare from an automated machine with your credit card.  If you don’t and you plan to return to Tsawwassen, without a ticket to show to the counter at Swartz Bay to get your connection , you will be obliged to pay a much costlier fare.



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