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Salt Spring South End Route

Boat at sunset off the coast of Salt Spring Island

(John Cameron/Salt Spring Island Tourism photo)

Salt Spring Island

Geography

Salt Spring Island is the largest of British Columbia's Gulf Islands at 185 sq km/74sq mi.

This collection of 200 green and rocky islands dots the Pacific waters of the Strait of Georgia between the mainland and Vancouver Island's east coast.

Location and Landscape

Salt Spring is part of a geographic region officially known as the "Strait of Georgia Lowlands" – a temperate belt with a Mediterranean microclimate marked by warm summers and mild, wet winters that make gumboots a practical fashion statement. While these lowlands comprise just two percent of BC's land mass, they include Vancouver and Victoria and are home to two-thirds of the province's population. The fragile ecosystems of Salt Spring and the southern Gulf Islands as a whole are the most protected areas in the region.

The island is a mix of farmland, mountains, lakes and forested areas. A range of peaks (Mount Sullivan, Mount Bruce, Hope Hill and Mount Tuam) occupy the largely uninhabited southwestern quarter of Salt Spring. Prominently seen by drivers on the Fulford-Ganges Road, Mount Maxwell offers spectacular scenic outlooks over the Fulford Valley and across to Vancouver Island.

Wildlife Watching

This part of the west coast is the northern extreme for many plants, birds and animals commonplace in warmer climates. Eagles, owls, California quail and hummingbirds patrol the skies. A large population of black-tailed deer munch on all things green and leafy (as frustrated gardeners here well know).

Shoreline visitors include Orcas, Steller sea lions, harbour seals and California sea lions. Once in a blue moon, a cougar is spotted in the wilds after having swum across from Vancouver Island via Sansom Narrows (the body of water on the island's midwest side).

The dominant oceanside tree is the arbutus, which is easy to spot with its curling bark and leathery leaves. The Mount Maxwell Ecological Reserve protects Canada's largest stand of endangered Garry oak trees.

Climate and Weather

The southern Gulf Islands enjoy one of the mildest and most pleasant climates in Canada. Summers are typically dry with daytime highs hovering around 22°C/72°F. Relatively chilly nights, however, require layers even in July. While Salt Spring gets less rain than Vancouver Island, plentiful precipitation still falls between November and March. Storm-ready raingear, heavy sweaters, gloves and perhaps a pair of gumboots for sloshing down muddy trails are de rigueur. Night-time temperatures dip to the freezing mark during these winter months.