Day trip to Saltspring Island

My husband and I used to love a spontaneous trip pre-children. And, despite some very obvious misgivings, we have tried not to completely abandon this style of travelling since we’ve had children.

While our child-free spur-of-the-moment trips might have involved impromptu breaks in Paris or flying to Africa, these days we manage our expectations and keep our spontaneous adventuring a little more low-key. 

I mean we have still done fair bit of long haul travel with toddlers but that involves somewhat more significant planning.

All that to say; on Friday we decided to take a trip to Saltspring Island.

This was largely prompted by the fact that it was my sister’s last full day visiting (sob), but I was also keen to explore a bit. We’ve been on Vancouver Island for 6 months, which feels like a bit of a landmark. Time to venture a little further afield.

It was a total success! Despite some serious rain. So, in the event that you find yourself on Vancouver Island with a day to spare and 4 children to manage: I wholeheartedly recommend Saltspring as a destination. 

If you find yourself here with more time and less children you might find it even more of a delight. We are already planning on a trip out there later this Spring when the market starts running and it is a little sunnier

The Saltspring lowdown:

The ferry

Only a 35minute journey from Victoria (Swartz Bay) – a totally manageable time in transit: anything more than that and I might have started to feel a little less relaxed.

We took the car (fairly essential with children, although you can do the journey by foot/cycle). It’s a beautiful crossing; the ferry is small which means no major amenities on board but also means less chance to lose children. In fact the ferry journey is pretty much enough of a trip for children in itself. No whales this time… but you never know.

Ominous clouds but surprisingly good weather for most of the day

We drove straight into the main town (Ganges)

A 15minute one road-ish journey from the ferry terminal. If you are doing this without a miserable 9month old it will be even nicer. 

When this kind of photo opp greets you, you know it’s going to be a good day

No need to pack food

There are a number of nice looking cafes and food shops so if you arrived empty handed you’d be fine. Although quiet cafes make me feel very nervous with our children. Also, trips for us – even the spontaneous kind – still involve piling the car full of breadsticks, yoyo bears, bananas, the right sort of apple juice… so we skipped the eat-in lunch options. But we did visit Barb’s bakery which does a great line in sandwiches, cakes, soups and hot chocolates, and a smoothie sweet enough to win over all our children.

Browse the shops


A fire station in the middle of the town with these fire engines outside: Saltspring hits the spot for the under 5s

I wouldn’t want to sound surprised but there are some lovely shops on Saltspring. This might be related to Vogue naming it as one of their top 3 undiscovered Island get aways? 

In any case if you have a spare few minutes then I would recommend a browse around Thrive Lifestyle which has some beautiful womens, men’s and baby wear and a great looking accessories line. 

My sister and I would happily have walked out wearing the entire shop but sadly had to dash to catch up with the 4 smaller people who were busy… 

Having a run around

Post lunch we let the children have a run around the waterfront playground at Centennial Park

Not a bad backdrop for a playground

Normally I avoid playgrounds as often as possible, but this was actually quite lovely, being right by the water – and meant the children could burn off some energy before getting in the car to go to…

Ruckle Park

Image: https://bcadayatatime.com (did not look like this when we arrived, picture this scene with less blossom and more rain)

Everyone likes a good navigational misstep once in a while no? Let’s just say we spent a little more time on the back streets of Saltspring than we needed to, on the way to Ruckle Park. 

Nonetheless a beautiful drive – maybe a little less so for the travel sick amongst us – and when we arrived it was pouring with rain. So, not much of a walk for us this time, but looking pretty enough to try again next time. 

We were ready to keep the day simple and head back to the ferry.

Leave before you have to leave

If I’ve learnt anything over the past few years it’s that it is always a good idea to end on a high with spontaneous day trips involving children: don’t try to cram more in than you need to. The key to success – for us at least – is normally to do one or two things less than you would imagine being able to do. And this was a beautiful enough trip that even without a big walk it was plenty for the littler ones of the crowd.

Overall: big Saltspring fans here, looking forward to our next trip already. In particular: I have heard good things about the Chris Hatfield trail in Ruckle Park which includes a stroll through a fairy village, ending on a pebble beach. Pretty sure that would go down well with at least 2 out of our 4 so worth a try – will report back.

The fairy village on the Chris Hatfield trail. Image: saltspringmarket.com

tMatM x

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