Experiencing the island life IN B.C.

Times & Transcript Sat Sep 16 2017

Page: F1 Byline: Steve MacNaull

We have a dilemma.

Today, on Salt Spring Island, my wife, Kerry, and I are canoeing, wine and cheese tasting, lunching harbourside, hiking, paddle boarding and going out for dinner.

What should we wear?

And how many changes of clothes do we have to lug around?

None, apparently.

"Wear Salt Spring formal for everything," says Salt Spring Island Chamber of Commerce executive director Janet Clouston with a laugh.

"We're ultra-casual and laid-back here on the island. You can wear the same thing to paddle board and out for dinner."

Of course, that's all well and good, as long as we don't fall off paddle boarding and show up for dinner disheveled and sodden.

We don't.

And the shorts and t-shirts we started the day in seamlessly take us through all activities and dinner.

Salt Spring Island is one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island, measuring only 30 kilometres long by 10 kilometres wide.

For such a small island, it packs a lot of quirky personality and tourism appeal.

It's known for being both hippie and high-end, eco-friendly and luxurious, artsy and foodie, off-beat and recreational.

As such, Kerry and I vow to experience it all.

We start by booking into one of the 50 luxurious units at The Cottages on Salt Spring Island overlooking Bullock Lake.

"We've really capitalized on the cachet of Salt Spring here," said The Cottages' manager Mike Duggan.

"These cottages are perfect for relaxing right here and for using as a base for everything Salt Spring has to offer."

Thus, Kerry and I start the day with a serene canoe on Bullock Lake.

The Cottages are selling units for as low as $379,000, but owners are putting their cottages into a rental pool when they aren't using them.

So, you can book a cottage as you would a hotel for nightly rates starting at $240.

Only a 10-minute drive away are tastings at two wineries - Salt Spring Vineyards and Garry Oaks.

What's wine without some cheese?

So, we head over to Salt Spring Island Cheese Co. to pet some goats, taste some of the 16 cheeses and guiltlessly indulge in ice cream made with goat's milk, which is half the fat of regular ice cream.

Still hungry we drive to Ganges, Salt Spring's main village, for lunch on the harbourside patio of Oystercatcher.

The Pacific halibut fish tacos pair nicely with a glass of Garry Oaks Pinot Gris.

To work off lunch, we head to Mount Erskine Provincial Park.

The 3.5-kilometre hike on the Jupiter Loop serves double duty.

We revel in forest bathing, the Japanese-coined term for spending time in nature and soaking up all the feel-good antibiotic and antibacterial properties in the air.

The Salt Spring chamber is marketing the island to the Japanese as the perfect place to forest bathe and Canadian, American and European visitors are catching on, too.

As well, the hike offers the whimsy of little fairy doors along the way built in rock outcroppings and tree trunks.

No one knows for sure how the doors started showing up, but they have also turned into a tourist attraction.

We then meet Gigi Judd at Vesuvius Bay for a sunset outing with Gigi Paddleboard Rentals.

It's the ideal activity to cap off a perfect Salt Spring day.

Dry and hungry we show up at Salt Spring Inn overlooking Ganges and its harbour for lamb burgers so good they're listed on the menu as Lamborghini.

Get to Salt Spring Island via ferry from either Vancouver or Victoria or take a float plane from Vancouver Harbour or Vancouver International Airport's seaplane base.

Check out SaltSpringTourism.com and CottagesOnSaltSpring.com.