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Victoria to Salt Spring Island - Day Trip

posted on Mar 12

Salt Spring Island is the biggest of the southern Gulf Islands, a group of islands that are scattered between the lower mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. It is a haven for artists, hippies, movie stars and organic farmers. If you’re interested in alternative lifestyles you’ll find plenty of them on Salt Spring Island.

A visit to the Island and back to Victoria can be undertaken in a day, albeit it may be a long one, and this little guide will, we hope, give you some idea of the best way to get there and back and some of the places you'll want to visit while you're there.

Before setting out on your journey you will want to contact BC Ferries to check on sailing times etc. to Salt Spring Island. You can call them at 1-888-223-3779 or you can check their web site at http://www.bcferries.com/ and then click your way to Southern Gulf Islands routes for information on departure times, fares etc.

Follow Blanshard Street out of Victoria. It becomes Highway 17 and takes you out to the BC Ferries Terminal at Swartz Bay. The drive will take you about 45-55 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.

When you reach the ferry terminal enter into the lane that directs you to the Gulf Islands ferries.  Stop and pay your fare at the toll booth (credit cards, debit cards, cash). Tell the toll booth attendant that you wish to go to Salt Spring Island and they will direct you into a lane where you will stop your car and wait for the ferry to Salt Spring Island to arrive.

Wait times will vary, depending upon passenger/vehicle loads and the time you get to the ferry terminal. Maximum wait time, except in the peak summer season, would probably be anywhere from 20-45 minutes.

After the ferry has disembarked it’s passengers and vehicles you will be directed to drive your car onto the ferry and you will be directed into a parking spot on the ferry.  You can leave your car and walk around on the ferry. It is a small ferry and there’s very little in the way of facilities on board.

The ferry journey to Salt Spring Island will take approximately 30-40 minutes and you will arrive at Fulford Harbour.  You have now arrived on Salt Spring Island.

When you drive off the ferry you will go up a short hill and then follow the road to the left.  Keep following this road for about 30 minutes (it’s a lovely drive along a narrow, winding country road) until you reach the town of Ganges.  Depending on the time of year Ganges has lots of activities going on, especially in the summer months. In the winter it’s worthwhile strolling around the village and checking in with the little shops, restaurants and pubs. 

(Suggested stay time 1-2 hours-depending on time of year)

Head back down the road that took you into Ganges and look for a sign on the right that points you to Mount Maxwell Park (5-10 minutes).  Follow the winding road up to the top of the mountain where you will come to a parking area. Close by you will find a lookout point that will provide you with spectacular views over the island and the surrounding areas (always best on a clear, sunny day of course).

(Suggested stay time 30-40 minutes)

Drive back down the mountain and follow the road back to Ganges. From this point there are a number of activities you could pursue, all within just a few minutes drive. We suggest you get a map of the island while you are in Ganges and talk to the local residents about the best places to go and things to see. 

When you are finished your island travels you have a couple of options for returning to Victoria.

1. You can head back to Fulford Harbour and take the ferry back to Swartz Bay, the same way you came over to the island.

2. You can drive up to the town of Vesuvius where you will be able to catch a ferry back over to Vancouver Island. It takes you to Crofton, which is a small community just north of Duncan, which is about 45 minutes – 1 hour north of Victoria. 

If you choose option 2 you will follow the road leaving the Crofton Terminal until it reaches Highway 1 (also known as the Island Highway). At the junction you will turn left onto the highway and head south towards Victoria. 

The highway passes through the community of Duncan and traffic can get a little bit congested while going through there.  Keep following the highway and it will take you over the Malahat Pass to Victoria. As the Island Highway enters Victoria it becomes Douglas Street, which will lead you right back to your City Life Suite.

Have fun and drive with care.