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Spring is a great time to be biking on Salt Spring Island
Spring is a great time to be biking on Salt Spring Island as the traffic is minimal

Biking Salt Spring Island in British Columbia

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Biking Salt Spring Island is a great way to experience the largest of the Gulf Islands. Go in spring or fall if you can. Once the tourists show up in summer you have to fight harder for space on the narrow, winding roads. In spring especially, the traffic is light and often you’ll have the road to yourself.

There are two loops bike rides that are particularly good on Salt Spring Island. They could both be done in one long day but that wouldn’t leave you much time to explore or visit any of the local artists on the studio tour.

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Salt Spring Island map
Salt Spring Island map

Cycle 30-35 km on a northern route starting from the Long Harbour Ferry Terminal

Initially it offers some very steep but short hills and a pretty section of ocean side biking before rounding the northern tip of the island. If you’ve got the time there are two side trips here worth considering. One is a visit to the Blue Horse Folk Art Gallery (also a B&B located at 175 North View Drive); it offers wonderful sculptural pieces, raku pottery and paintings.

The other side trip takes you down Southey Point Road for a kilometre or so where there’s a small rock beach offering views of the Trincomali Channel.

If you have even more time do the 45-minute hike on the Jack Foster Trail to a picnic spot on the ocean. Then get back on your bike and continue on a narrow, hilly section of road that takes you to the intersection of Vesuvius Bay Road – a busier road that leads into the town of Ganges.

View from the top of Salt Spring Island - Photo credit: Cameron Birse
View from the top of Salt Spring Island – Photo credit: Cameron Birse

The 50 km southern loop bike ride starting in Ganges

There are lots of great stops to be made on this loop bike ride. At the end of Beddis Road, about seven kilometres from Ganges is a beautiful white clamshell beach. To get there you pass Moonstruck Organic Cheese and The Farmhouse Gallery – both worthwhile stops.

Calf on the farm at Moonstruck Cheese Shop
Calf on the farm at Moonstruck Cheese Shop

As you continue south on the island look for a turn-off to Beaver Point Road. Turn left – and if you entertain ideas of a picnic lunch at Ruckle Provincial Park then make Salt Spring Island Cheese your next stop.

To do this take the next right onto Reynolds Road and look for the sheep sign about a kilometre down the road on your left. You can park your bike and wander around the garden and farm.

Well placed windows allow viewing of the operation and once inside the shop you can sample the cheeses, olives and fruit pates. Attention to detail and beautiful packaging of the cheeses is trademark David Woods, the founder of Salt Spring Island Cheese.

Locally made cheese
Salt Spring Island cheese

Stop in at Ruckle Provincial Park

Head for Ruckle Provincial Park, about seven kilometres from Salt Spring Island Cheese. Ruckle offers many kilometres of shoreline trails so after lunch you could always lock up your bike (just to be safe) and do some exploring. To return to Ganges head back along Beaver Point Road and stay on it until it meets the Fulford-Ganges Road, about nine kilometres away.

If you are heading for the Fulford ferry then turn left and cycle down the road half a kilometre. Fulford Harbour is a small hamlet with a few shops and very good cafes so even if you aren’t catching the ferry you might enjoy a quick tour of the area.

In the summertime rent sea kayaks right on the dock by the Fulford ferry and head out for a few hours of poking about. On a nice day this can be a good spot to watch the comings and goings of the people that make up the eclectic population that call Salt Spring Island home.

If you elect not to go to Fulford Harbour then make a right at the intersection of Beaver Point and Fulford-Ganges Roads. This road is much busier than the ones you have cycled on so far. The shoulders are narrow so exercise extreme caution.

If a ferry has just unloaded it would be wise to let the cars pass before continuing on your way. The upside is that the hills are gentler and there are two wineries to visit on the way back.

Beautiful signage on the winery
Sign outside Salt Spring Island Winery

Wineries to visit by bike on Salt Spring Island

Two wineries are easily accessed 5.5 kilometres up the road from the Fulford Harbour ferry terminal. The first one is the Garry Oaks Winery which doesn’t usually open its doors until sometime in May.

Salt Spring Vineyards are a further half kilometre up the road. They are open every day in the summer and weekends in the spring and fall. Free tastings are available and wine is available for purchase. Try the blackberry port from Salt Spring Vineyards for something a little different!

Hop back on your bikes and in half an hour or so you should be back in Ganges…unless you have energy to burn in which case cycle nine kilometres up Mount Maxwell on a partially dirt road and top out at 588 metres (1,929 feet). It’s the highest point on Salt Spring Island.

You can reach the turnoff for that about two kilometres outside of Ganges by taking a left on Cranberry Road and following it to the top. That should finish all but the hardiest of souls off for the day.

Other activities on Salt Spring Island

There is lots of hiking and kayaking available and if you’re visiting in the summer there is some lovely lake swimming – and it’s not too cold. If you’re around on a weekend starting in the spring check out the well-attended Saturday Farmer’s Market.

You could easily spend the better part of a week on Salt Spring Island depending on how much exploring you wanted to do. There is a wide range of accommodation from camping through to the very luxurious and expensive Hastings House. Two nights will give you a good sense of the island and help meet the minimum stay requirements of so many places.

The Salt Spring Island Ferry

There are three ferry terminals on Salt Spring Island – Fulford Harbour, Long Harbour and Vesuvius, making it a very accessible Gulf Island. Fulford Harbour is to the south with ferries coming in from Swartz Bay. Vesuvius is to the west with ferries from Crofton on Vancouver Island. 

Long Harbour is in the northeast part of the island and has ferries directly from Tsawwassen on weekends only and via Galiano, Mayne and Pender twice a weekday. There are eight departures a day from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour, a short 35 minute sailing, so it is a very convenient entrance point. It deposits you at the main road leading to Ganges.

You can download a detailed biking guide for the Gulf Islands here.

Vineyard on Salt Spring Island
Vineyard on Salt Spring Island

Where to stay on Salt Spring Island

There is a huge range of places to stay on Salt Spring Island from the fancy Hastings House Country House Hotel to loads of B&B’s, with the majority of accommodation close to Ganges.

Some great options include The Mariner’s Loft, rated fabulous. It’s a self-catering apartment in Ganges with great views of the harbour.

The Sanctuary Salt Spring offers a stellar view and is rated exceptional.

Wisteria Guest House is home to a one acre garden – and a stay comes with a gourmet breakfast.

Further reading on things to do in BC

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Cycling Salt Spring Island in BC

 

 

 

 

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