Just off the coast of British Columbia’s mainland, the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands (at 74 square miles) is Salt Spring Island, a utopia for those who savor organic and locally harvested foods. There are no traffic lights or franchise businesses—and plenty of room to eat your way across the island, which is snug against the east side of Vancouver Island and easily accessible from Vancouver or Victoria by either seaplane or ferry.
While the year-round population is comfortable at around 10,000, during summer it swells to many more. Autumn is a perfect time to visit, when foods are in-season and the crowds have gone. For proof, and to see a lot in limited time, visit Centennial Park on Saturday, when farmers and craftspeople converge on the Village Market. The market has been going strong for more than 30 years.
Hastings House (www.hastingshouse.com), a 22-acre property in Ganges Harbor with just 18 suites, invites guests to catch their own Dungeness crabs from the local waters (through September 30 by reserving a special package, which includes two night’s accommodations, a four-course dinner of crab specialties, a recipe book and measuring tool). Chef Marcel Kauer prepares a five-course dinner inside a replica 11th-century English Manor House with local items like Salt Spring lamb, goat cheese, herbs and produce from his garden. Or, order a picnic basket from the kitchen—if it’s Saturday, head to the market in Ganges Harbor and meet the farmers, too—and head to one of the natural areas or surrounding islands for hiking or sea kayaking. There’s also a 62.5-mile cycling route.
Even the coffee on this island has ethical purpose. Salt Spring Coffee Co.(www.saltspringcoffee.com), a roaster on the island, delivers its beans using biodiesel-powered vehicles and introduced Canada’s first carbon-neutral coffee. There is a café in Ganges Harbor. Other local food stops include Salt Spring Island Cheese Co. (goat cheese produced on a working goat farm), Moonstruck Organic Cheese (www.moonstruckcheese.com) (produces nine cheeses, including ash-ripened camembert and four blue cheeses) and Apple Luscious Organic Orchards (www.appleluscious.com) (14 organic varieties).
About 50 artists live and work in their studios on Salt Spring Island, opening those up to the public. Their wares range from textile arts to carved furniture to tabletop ceramics. Visit www.saltspringstudiotour.com to browse through a directory. Many are closed during the late fall and winter months.
For more information visit www.saltspringisland.org.