Canada’s creative island escape
But there is a tastier side to Salt Spring creativity, with a growing menu of artisan food and drink producers on the island.
Just 6km northwest of the village, Mistaken Identity Vineyards is one of several small wineries. A sun-dappled spot for leisurely tastings (the highly quaffable Bianco is a top seller), sip a glass or two and nibble on local cheese at a picnic table near the vines; expect an inquisitive visit from Summerdale, the winery’s friendly black Labrador.
Beer nuts are well served over at Salt Spring Island Ales, occupying a rustic, cedar-built shack hidden between trees 11km north of the vineyard. Its funky little tasting room offers a friendly welcome (and free samples), plus a roster of all-organic brews, ranging from malty Extra Special Bitter to smooth Heatherdale Ale. The brewery recently introduced refillable “growlers” (1.89-litre brown glass jugs) that make picnicking in nearby Ruckle Provincial Park an enticing idea.
Nearby Salt Spring Island Cheese provides further sustenance. A cute farmstead with strollable gardens, wandering chickens and a winery-style shop and tasting room, it produces goat and sheep milk chèvre, feta and Camembert styles – the bestseller is Ruckles, soft goat cheese rounds in herbs and garlic. You can watch the handmade production through windows in the back of the farmstead.
For cheesemaker David Wood, the island’s art and culinary scenes go hand-in-hand. “Salt Spring is on the cusp of becoming a foodie destination – I think we've reached a critical mass,” he said. “Many people move here for the lifestyle, but then they have to either get a job or figure out how to make something. It is why we have such a creative community.”
According to local artist Ron Crawford, this is an impulse that shapes the island. His works – including a monumental Stonehenge-style rock ring that overlooks the waterfront outside Ganges – can be found on Salt Spring and around the world. “There's a creative energy here not present in many other places,” said the 26-year veteran of island life. “When I first moved here, there were no galleries. But now there's a rich community of artists.”