Long weekend adventures in Salt Spring Island

boardwalk in salt spring

The first week of the month is supposed to be a goal check-in here on the blog, but after having been away for a killer weekend of outdoor adventuring, I can’t not tell you about this instead.

Weekend Adventures in Salt Spring Island

At the beginning of July, one of my goals was to go on at least 2 weekend adventures. There were a couple of mini ones like visiting a goji berry farm, hiking around Garibaldi Provincial Park, and discovering a bunch of other trails. All of these were fun, fairly spontaneous decisions, and none were places I’d been before.

1a - Salt Spring Island from the ferry

The bigger and more planned out adventure was to Salt Spring Island this past weekend. My first trip there was when I was really little – so young that I barely remember it. Having heard from friends about how gorgeous it is, I added it to my summer bucket list in hopes of recruiting a friend to come along. During the Canada Day long weekend, Danielle (also a runner, blogger, Ontario transplant and outdoorsy enthusiast) and I casually tossed around the idea of making the ferry ride over. When the two of us chatting, we don’t just talk about things – we actually end up DOING them. It was only a couple of days before I had the ferry reservation made, we’d found some accommodation, and the Danielle had all the places we needed to see were plotted out.

2 - on the ferry

We arrived on Friday afternoon and filled the day with exploring downtown and stand-up paddle boarding. We rented boards for a couple of hours, paddled out to a beach, and then over to an island nature reserve where we spotted some seals. This was my second time paddle boarding and I’m still incredibly slow at it, but at least I managed to avoid falling in the water so I suppose that’s progress!

SUP in salt spring island

One of the big draws (at least for me) was Salt Spring Island’s glorious food. So much of it is produced at local farms, and that means restaurant menus are always seasonal. Cheeses, salt, tofu and baked goods are also locally produced. Lunch was at a spot called Barb’s Bakery & Bistro where I got what was quite possibly the largest ahi tuna steak on my salad that I’ve ever seen, and none of it went to waste. They also had fantastic green juice which tasted even better than I’m sure it usually does because the weather was absolutely scorching and there was no A/C.

3 - lunch at barb's bakery and bistro

Dinner that night was at Seaside Restaurant, a really small place down near the harbour our ferry had docked at. We ate on the patio in full sun so I don’t have a great photo to show you, but afterwards we drove around to few sightseeing spots that the locals had told us to check out. The driving around was totally worth it, and the photos below don’t even look half as magical as the real thing.

sunset in salt spring

Weekend Adventures in Salt Spring Island

sunset in salt spring

sunset in salt spring

Saturday morning started with a run, and someone we’d spoken to the night before recommended taking Rainbow Road out towards the beach. This looked like about 4 miles on Google Maps, and we figured an 8 mile out-and-back would be perfect. The entire island is extremely hilly with winding roads, and Rainbow was no different. We definitely got some solid training in, but it was 100% worth the sweat because we got to see this:

running along the beach in salt spring

This beach was at the bottom of a huge hill and was almost completely empty. The tide was way out so we took about a squillion photos, checked out the water (COLD), and turned around to run alllll the way back up to the top, then back to the hotel.

running up a huge hill

Next up was the farmer’s market, which we’d heard was a pretty big deal. Judging by the crowds of people we saw walking in the same direction on the way back from our run, I’m pretty sure everyone on the island goes the market on Saturdays.

cucumbers at the market

There were lots of produce vendors, bakeries (including many gluten-free ones), coffee stands, and even more artisans selling things like jewelry, soap, clothes and other crafts. It wasn’t as big as some of the markets I’ve been to, but it was still fun to check out… while eating a box of blackberries for breakfast.

blackberries for breakfast

Lunch that day was one of the best meals of the trip. Danielle had read about a farm-to-fork food trailer called BNurtured, and it was conveniently located about a block from our hotel. We met the owners who source all of their produce from local farms, and grow plenty of it themselves. They also smoke their own salmon, make their kombucha, and pretty much put every effort they can into making all of their customers’ meals look beautiful and delicious.

bnurtured food trailer

bnurtured food trailer

We took our lunches to the starting point of our afternoon hike in Ruckle Provincial Park. I had a massive box full of local greens, cauliflower, blackberries, plums, purple peppers, smoked salmon, sunflower seeds, fresh basil, tomatoes, and a creamy hemp-tahini dressing.

bnurtured salad with smoked salmon

Seriously guys, if all veggies tasted this good, salads would have never been stereotyped as boring. I was actually kind of sad when it was all gone, but that sadness soon went away when we got into our 3 ½ hour hike and saw things like this:

hiking through ruckle provincial park

That night we went for dinner at another very busy and well-known spot, Treehouse Cafe. The restaurant is built around a peach tree and like many others in the area, has live music and a menu full of locally-sourced ingredients. I had grilled salmon with blackberry-ginger glaze that was the size of my face and DELICIOUS. Of course, almost anything would be after an afternoon of hiking, but this was really, really good!!

treehouse cafe

Sunday began with more of a lazy start and sleeping in until 7:30. (For a girl who can hardly sleep past 6:30am, this is BIG news.) Our plan was originally to hike Mount Erskine, but our waitress the day before said that Mount Maxwell might be a better pick since we’d be able to reach the highest point on the island. We planned a route based on the map we found at the start of the trails then set off for what we anticipated would be a fairly easy-to-follow hike – maybe 2 hours.

hiking up mount maxwell

The first 90 minutes went smoothly, but after a while we started finding ourselves making turns on the trails that didn’t seem to match up with what our maps were showing. Phone service was super weak in most spots so we couldn’t rely on GPS, and we didn’t see any other hikers on the trails. The numbers we’d seen that indicated the earlier trailheads seemed to have stopped, and we couldn’t spot any more orange markers on the trees. Despite being on pathways that were very much well-worn trails, lots of the ones we ventured down seemed to hit dead ends.

hiking up mount maxwell

Eventually we found ourselves in a valley, again not sure if the trail we were on was even part of what was shown on our maps. We’d been a little lost on hikes before, but this time we truly had no idea what direction to go in. A few seconds later we heard some very deliberate, loud hacking around happening in the trees about 100m away, and it was at that point that both of us figured we should just turn around and come back the way we came. I won’t lie – I was definitely a little worried!

hiking up mount maxwell

We retraced what we thought were the steps were that we’d taken earlier for about 30 minutes, and thank the freaking heavens, found our way back to the road we drove up to get to the start of the trail. Three hours was our total time and we still can’t figure out how we managed to go so wrong. It was a steep walk back up to the car, but at least we knew where we were going!

The booking we had for the ferry back to Vancouver wasn’t until later in the afternoon, so after driving back downtown, we grabbed some lunch at a seafood restaurant – be still my heart – on a patio right next to a marina. Again, the table was in full sun so I don’t have a lovely photo to show you, but just picture seared ahi tuna, greens, beets, corn, avocado, sesame seeds, carrots…. all great stuff.

salt spring island marina

The remainder of our time was spent at a beach that we found on the way to the ferry terminal at Long Harbour. We saw a bunch of jellyfish washed up on the shore, got a wee bit too much sun on our shoulders, and I sat on a log as happy as a clam, eating a quarter of a watermelon.

watermelon at the beach

Coming back on the ferry last night, I felt like I’d been hundreds of miles away from home. Thinking back, I’m not sure when the last time was that I’d spent so much time over the course of 3 days outside, but it was awesome. After today it’s back to reality and time to take on August goals, but I’ll tell you all about those in next week’s check-in.

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For now, tell me…

  • What did YOU get up to this weekend?
  • Do you ever go on mini-vacations or staycations? Where to?

9 thoughts on “Long weekend adventures in Salt Spring Island

  1. This looks INCREDIBLE…Canada is such a beautiful country…isn’t it?

    I went backcountry camping this past weekend in Algonquin and I loved it…one of my fav camping spots by far!

    I think a few weekend getaways a year are essential…they’re like mini tune ups for the soul<3

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