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Five You Can Drive: Salt Spring Island's hidden treasures

Lee Carney, Food Editor for Vancouver Observer, escaped to beautiful Salt Spring Island, home to some of the best hiking trails in the Gulf Islands, unique farmers' market, excellent wineries and a network of fine hotels. "It's the place to be on a summer weekend," says Lee. This is the fourth of VO's "Five You Can Drive" series: amazing vacation destinations you can reach within a day from Vancouver, BC, sponsored by Ford Escape.

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The organic farm at the Harbour House Hotel, Restaurant & Organic Farm -- Canada's only farm-to-table hotel

Across the street from Moby's is The Harbour House Hotel, Restaurant & Organic Farm, a great place to stay and one of Salt Spring's many restaurants offering freshly prepared organic dishes.

Much of the food served here is grown on their own mini-farm located directly behind the hotel. The fields are open for anyone to visit and a quick stroll between the rows of organic produce is a terrific way to build an appetite.

The Harbour House Hotel, Restaurant & Organic Farm is a popular choice for those looking for a unique farm-to-table hotel experience.


The T & A Cafe punches way above it's weight

A new addition to the food scene on Salt Spring is The T & A Cafe, a shipping container converted to a food truck without wheels. Taylore Darnel and her partner established a reputation right out of the gate for high quality food at reasonable prices. There are interesting (and delicious) daily specials but the staples alone - burgers, dogs, fish & chips and an all-day breakfast on the weekend - are worth braving the weekend line-ups. 

One Salt Spring Island farm stand you probably don't want to visit

City dwellers who visit Salt Spring are amazed at the ubiquitous farm stands that dot the island. At last count there were more than 80 offering local eggs, produce, baked goods and flowers to passing motorists on the honour system. Between the creativity displayed in their design and the faith in humanity displayed by their owners, the farm stands are a perfect metaphor for how Salt Springers choose to view the world.

Hastings House Country House Hotel on Salt Spring Island

Overnight visitors to Salt Spring have a wide range of choices. For the ultimate in luxury, look no farther than Hastings House Country House Hotel, a member of the worldwide Relais & Chateaux network of fine hotels. Perched on a hill overlooking the Ganges harbour, this 22 acre property features gorgeous rooms, a health and wellness spa and one of the best restaurants in the Gulf Islands. Keep your eyes open for special food events held at Hastings House, like the Chef's Across The Water series.

The vineyard at Garry Oaks Winery

Salt Spring is home to some excellent wineries which you should not miss during your visit. Aided by the looming Mt. Maxwell behind it and the warmer temperatures of the Fulford Valley, The Garry Oaks Winery has won numerous awards for it's locally produced vintages. Be sure to sample the 2013 Pinot Gris which took the Silver Medal at the 2014 Great Northwest Wine Competition. The Mistaken Identity Vineyard is a smaller producer located in a slightly less amenable climate but new ownership has overhauled the business and looks poised to follow Garry Oaks' examples of creating excellent wines from local grapes.

One of the many Fairy Doors found on Mount Erskine's hiking trails

Salt Spring has some of the best hiking trails in the Gulf Islands so be sure to bring your boots with you. Wander through Ruckle Park, explore the meadows and enjoy a sunset in Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park (many of the locals believe the park contains a tree with healing powers) or hike to the little-known waterfall in the Mount Tuam Ecological Reserve on the south end of the island. If you're hiking with children, a great choice is Dodds Trail, the easy way up to the top of Mount Erskine (access the trailhead from the cul-de-sac at the end of Trustees Trail). The kids will love hunting for the "fairy doors" cleverly hidden along the trail and the view from the top is spectacular.

With it's unique culture, the community of artists and craftspeople and the spectacular landscapes Salt Spring Island is a destination you definitely don't want to miss. 

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