Fun Things to Do on Salt Spring Island for Families
Summer will soon be here and the tourists are already starting to arrive. Listed as one of the top tourist destinations for 2016, this largest of the Gulf Islands is sure not to disappoint, with a vibrant community, laid back feel, and natural beauty you won’t soon forget. No matter what time of year you’re here, there are a variety of fun things to do on Salt Spring Island with kids. While I didn’t include any of the Festivals or the Saturday Market, here are some other options for families who are looking for things to enjoy together. So what can families do on Salt Spring Island?
Things To Do On Salt Spring Island with Kids
Visit Elves and Fairies
On Salt Spring Island there are a variety of places to check out magical places where you can see signs of elves and fairies. This is definitely one of the most fun things to do on Salt Spring Island.
Fairy Doors on Erskine
If your family enjoys hiking through the woods, spotting fairy doors, and beautiful viewpoints you’ll definitely want to get out for an adventure up Mt. Erskine. Hidden along the trail are various fairy doors that amaze children and adults alike. Check out my instructions in this post for the easiest route up the mountain, where you’re sure to spot at least a few of the most interesting little fairy doors.
Elf Door and Village in Ganges
If you’re not up for quite as big of an adventure as hiking up Mt. Erskine, you can still take a peek at some magical doors and habitats right in Ganges. Find the door and contact station for Erskine the Elf on the side of the Treehouse Café, and cross the street to check out the elf village next to West of the Moon (the local toy store), which gathers various gifts and trinkets through the summer. Some fairy doors can even be found walking through Mouat Park and the Hart Memorial Disc Golf Course. Read more about these places here.
Fairy Door Tour
Close to Ganges is a property that has been lovingly adorned with various “fairy homes and gnomey domes and little elves in hiding”. Open to the public since 2015, the caretaker and grandmotherly tour guide, Cathy, leads visitors young and old on a tour, following clues along the trail to find each of the stunning little homes. Children are invited to choose a little gauze bag at the start of the tour and collect small objects from the insides of the fairy houses. Read a full post on enjoying this adventure and instructions to find it for yourself here.
Hunt for Hidden Treasure
Have you ever tried geocaching? Salt Spring Island has a plethora of interesting places to explore and take in all of the natural beauty that are host to the hidden geocaches that are so much fun to seek out and discover the little trinkets that are left to be claimed. Learn more about geocaching on Salt Spring Island here.
Have a Beach Day
Whether you spend the day playing at the lake or sunning by the seashore, there is no shortage of beaches to explore and enjoy. Don’t forget to bring your shovels and buckets to build sand castles or collect sea glass, shells, and tide pool treasures to investigate.
Here are some of our favourites: St Mary’s Lake is the biggest of the lakes and lies in the centre of the island. Stowell Lake is close to Fulford, and houses turtle nesting boxes. On the ocean, Beddis Beach is long, somewhat sandy, and open to the sun most of the day. Vesuvius Beach is the perfect spot to watch the sun set among the islands. Either at St Mary’s Lake or Vesuvius you can hop on a paddleboard rental and enjoy checking out the beach and island from a new perspective. For a more comprehensive list of Salt Spring Island beaches, visit the Salt Spring tourism website.
Birdwatching is easy to do with kids on Salt Spring Island, as there are many different species of birds in various viewing areas around the island. There are often seagulls, swans and other water fowl to check out at the Fulford Estuary in Fulford Harbour, if you want an easy-to-get-to place to spot these birds, that is conveniently located next to a playground. Ruckle Park and Mt Maxwell are also good bets to find some feathered creatures. The Salt Spring Island Nature Conservancy has a handy checklist for the birds of Salt Spring Island, as well as a list of Salt Spring owls and their calls. Find both of those birdwatching lists here.
Go for a Nature Walk
There are a great number of parks and trails to explore on Salt Spring. You can take a peek at the live-aboards in Burgoyne Bay, discover breathtaking views from the top of Mt Maxwell, walk the dog in Duck Creek Park, visit turkeys and chance a glimpse of whales and porpoises passing by Ruckle Park, wind through the endangered Garry Oaks in the Salt Spring Island Nature Conservancy, and explore many other places on foot. For more information on where to go exploring and what flora and fauna you might encounter on your way, check this out.
Visit a Farm
As a mainly rural community, Salt Spring Island depends on a number of farms to grow and supply local meat, dairy, and produce. We have enjoyed shopping at the farm stands, watching lambs play in the fields, and feeding grass to horses at the different farms. Our favourites farms to visit are Bon Acres Farm (at the end of Lepage Rd), Sunset Farm, and North End Farms.
Get a Tasty Treat
The delicious local goodies are sure to tempt you while you’re here. Drop by the Saltspring Fruitsicle stand near Fulford to buy singles or cases of the healthy versions of popsicles, made with fruit, or find them in many different freezer locations around Saltspring. These are very popular with the children! If cheese and ice cream are more your style, Salt Spring Island Cheese invites visitors to sample their delectable cheeses and lick cones filled with goats milk ice cream as you check out the farm life and peek into the windows to see where and how the cheese is made. In Ganges, Glad’s is a popular place to get a cone of ice cream or some candy, and Harlan’s sells the best chocolates and gelato.
Play at a Playground
Swing, Slide and Climb at one of the Playgrounds is a very popular thing to do on Salt Spring Island with kids. You can check out one of the many different locations on this list of Salt Spring Island playgrounds before you go, to see what the playgrounds are like.
Visit a Model Railway
This miniature railway and train is open to visitors to enjoy an impressive model train show, and to enjoy the goat, sheep, chickens and guinea pigs on the family farm there. Railway visits are by appointment only from October through April, and is open from 10-4 from May through September, with evening sessions by appointment. Visit the website here for more information.
Watch the sea planes and boat traffic
Many of the ramps and docks leading off from Ganges provide children’s life jackets to borrow for taking a closer look at the boats and seaplanes that frequent Salt Spring Island. The large dock leading down from the back of Mouat’s Home Hardware is where the seaplanes take off and dock, and offers some fabulous views for this boat and air traffic.
Go for a Dip at the Pool
Rainbow Road pool is the local swimming pool, with lanes for swimming at all different paces or leisure, as well as a hot tub. Since the water here is generally cooler, and the hot tub is too hot for babes to play in for long, there is a kiddie pool provided that you are welcome to fill with the warm water next to the hot tub for the wee ones to splash in. Beyond laps and leisurely swims, the pool also offers group and private swimming lessons, and hosts a variety of programs (such as Friday Night Madness for youth 12 and up) and water fitness classes. Find more information on the pool and it’s programs and schedules here.
Catch a Movie
The Fritz is a small and quaint movie theatre, showing films as well as hosting local theatre. A great choice if you’re looking for some things to do on Salt Spring Island that is out of the sun or rain. For show times and more information, go here.
Explore the Toy Store
A toy store can be a magical place for children (and adults), and West of the Moon truly fits this profile. An afternoon can easily be spent perusing the very wide variety of dolls, art and science kits, games, toys, and so many more fun and interesting items. There is a train table set up, and a cozy area to sit in the book nook. With prices ranging from less than a dollar to more than a hundred, a learning experience can be made of setting a small budget for your child to shop with if you are able and willing to do more than window shop. There is also an area where many inexpensive items (most under a dollar) are grouped together that provides a “safe-zone” to choose from for families with a smaller budget. Because the store is located next to Glad’s ice cream shop, following up a trip here with a scoop or a Fruitsicle always makes for an extra special adventure. Find out more about this fantastic toy store here.
Visit the library
The Salt Spring Island Public Library is always a go-to for things to do on Salt Spring Island on rainy days. There are all sorts of entertaining and informative materials to be found for any age or interest. The children’s section not only stores and lends a variety of books, but also music, videos and story packages. There are toys to be played with, cozy child-sized seating and interesting installments mounted on the ends of aisles to be explored. The train table is also a popular place to stop by for a play with kids on Salt Spring. If you time it right, you could even be lucky enough to enjoy a song, story, or activity that is hosted by the library, often for free. Check here for the schedule of events like Story Time, Toddler Time, and kids’ book camps.
Drop In at Family Place
Providing support and resources for families with young children is what The Family Place, a community services effort, is all about. Caregivers with children under 6 are welcome to come by for the Stay & Play drop-in program, as well as other events such as the Dad n’ Me Pancake Breakfast on Saturdays, all of which are free. The Family Place is also home to a clothing exchange, toy library, and access to a community kitchen and laundry. For more information and a schedule of activities visit the website.
Learn, Play and Interact at ELF
The Early Learning Family Centre (ELF) is a Strongstart program that invites parents and children 5 and under to drop in at either Salt Spring Elementary or Fulford Elementary to participate in songs, stories, and finger-plays, explore art, experience sand and water play, build with blocks, learn about their bodies through active play, engage their imaginations through pretend play, and enjoy a nutritious snack provided. The programs run Monday-Thursday during the school year, from 8:30-11:30am at both schools, as well as Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons at Fernwood Elementary. Go here for more details.
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As you can see, while there may not be as much infrastructure built, there are still a lot of things to do on Salt Spring Island for kids and families. What do you like to do on Saltspring? Share in the comments or connect on Facebook or Twitter. You may also like to check out my Instagram account, where you can see lots of pictures of what things to do on Salt Spring Island we enjoy as a family, and also take a peek at my other Instagram account specifically sharing the best of Salt Spring Island, BC. Want to read more of my posts about Salt Spring Island? Head to the SSI category page now.