Salt Spring Island is the largest of the Southern Gulf Islands and your most likely place to begin a tour by kayak of the surrounding areas. I am often asked by boaters as to where the available boat launches are located around the island. I suppose the pair of kayaks on my roof rack are a sign that I might be in the know, and they made the right assumptions. For them, the issue is boats and boat trailers and the scarcity of public boat ramps available on the island. As I write this post I am scanning the shore line of my home island in my mind’s eye and can only come up with four. Those being Hudson Point, which I will talk about later, the ramp behind Moby’s Pub at the end of Ganges Harbour (pay use at wharf office), a small ramp adjacent to Centennial Park in town (pay use at the Harbour Master’s Office), and a small ramp only useable at high tide in Drummond Park at the end of Fulford Harbour.
For kayakers the opportunities are much more plentiful, and with a bit of exploration will get you to many water access points suitable for the needs of a paddler. Here are some of the better places to put in for a day trip or a longer excursion leaving from Salt Spring.Starting at the north end of the island where driving north gets you to a place called, Southey Point. Driving northward from Ganges to the four-way stop where you have the choice of two paths. I would take the most direct route, going straight through and following North End Road until arriving at an intersection with a large rolling pasture to your left and Southey Pt. Road upward to your right. Take it, and go up and then down turning left onto Arbutus Rd. Travel slowly to the end and you will find that the road dead-ends at the water. Parking is at a privilege and be mindful of those that live on the point keeping their driveways clear. The beach is a small wedge of stones in between ridges of sandstone that is eroded and well-featured. From this launch most of the northern islands are within reach in a few hours for terrific camping opportunities, starting with Wallace to the East and the Secretary Islands, then further northward is Valdes and its amazing Blackberry Point as well as Decourcey and others.
Heading southward along the east side of Salt Spring Island you will find Fernwood Dock. There is a nice cafe there to get a cup of coffee and relax before or after a paddle, and you can grab dinner next door at the Raven Street Market Cafe with its wood-fired pizza. The dock is too long to be an easy launch with kayaks and gear, but just north of the dock about a kilometer is Hudson Point. This is a nice access for both sports fishers and paddlers. I use this one for a quick couple hours paddle around Wallace Island. Great for a camping trip to the island as well. The ramp is steep but at mid and low tides the beach is spacious enough to allow for easy loading and unloading of your stuff. Keep in mind, this is a well-used boat ramp. There is some parking available on either side of the ramp area.
Coming back to the village of Ganges there is not a lot in the way of water access. However, there is a rough access across the creek outflow adjacent to Island Escapades (local kayak shop) on the Gasoline Alley side. There you can launch for an afternoon of exploring the Chain Islands in the harbour or even further to camp at Prevost Island. Parking is available here, as well as encounters with local characters.
The south end of the island offers many small islands and ample day trips with overnight camping possibilities as well. To visit these islands or to explore the featured shores of Ruckle Provincial Park there are a couple of places to put in. The village of Fulford is bustling and tight for space. Using the Government wharf here is tricky so I go across to the other side of Fulford Harbour to Isabella Point Road. Do not be fooled into using the boat access at Drummond Park as at low tides the area becomes a formidable mud flat. Only consider this if you are planning to leave and return at high tides. Instead, follow the road a short distance until you come to a low stretch at the water’s edge. It should become obvious to the passer-by as a place to launch a kayak. There is a dirt slope that the braver fishers use to lower boats on trailers, however logs often wash ashore blocking the slope. Not a problem for the paddler. At high tide this is a great spot to leave from, and at lower tides you will have to navigate over some mud and oysters.
From this beach you can be exploring the trails on Portland Island in less than two hours on the water. Keep an eye on ferry traffic while crossing and check the schedule prior to heading out if the southern islands are on your agenda. Otherwise, the wake from the ferries is nominal.
Paddling from Salt Spring Island will take you to world-class kayaking areas of the Southern Gulf Islands. Scenic shores, encounters with seals, eagles, ravens, porpoises and if you are as fortunate as I, perhaps even a visit from a whale. Whether planning a week of camping, or just island hopping day paddles these are just some of the best spots to put your kayak in with ease.