The charming seaside hamlet of Ganges is the largest village on Saltspring Island, and the business centre and hub of the Gulf Islands of BC. Ganges is the primary location of most of the island’s shops, stores, galleries, restaurants and services.
Throngs of visitors and local residents converge on Ganges for the popular and colourful Saturday market in Centennial Park. The streets are abuzz with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, and marinas, restaurants, bakeries, craft stores and the many quaint little shops in Ganges all do a brisk trade during the summer season.
Ganges was named after HMS Ganges, the flagship of the Royal Navy’s Pacific Station between 1857 and 1860. Built in 1821, the Ganges was the last British sailing battleship commissioned for duty in foreign waters.
Ganges Harbour, previously named Admiralty Bay until renamed by Captain Richards in 1859, provides a tranquil summer anchorage for boaters wishing to explore the village of Ganges. The anchorage can be very busy and crowded in summer, and a breeze can pick up in the afternoons, so mariners are cautioned to keep an eye on the weather or book into one of the marinas in Ganges Harbour.
The Gulf Islands are known for being artisan enclaves, with laid-back communities of artists, poets, and gifted craftspeople. Ganges leads the island communities in this respect, with local artisans offering unique, hand-made crafts and treasures. You’re bound to find something original to take home with you.
The local economy of Saltspring Island is service-oriented and heavily reliant upon the tourist industry. The high level of services on the island are mostly concentrated in Ganges, and the majority of residential developments are also centred around the village of Ganges.
A public bus transit system covers the main routes on Saltspring Island, and the Ganges Faerie MiniShuttle service operates between the ferry terminals (Fulford, Long Harbour, Vesuvius) and Ganges, Ruckle Park, and Fernwood. Visitors can also hire a taxi or rent a car, motorbike, scooter or even a bicycle to take in some of the breathtaking views to be seen on Saltspring Island. Cycling is popular, but most roads are narrow and none have shoulders.
Location: Ganges is located in the geographical centre of Saltspring Island, in the sheltered waters of the Southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Saltspring is the most accessible of the Gulf Islands, with the most frequent ferry sailings on three routes to three ferry terminals. BC Ferries links Fulford Harbour (7.5 miles / 12 km south of Ganges) with Swartz Bay (near Sidney), and also links Vesuvius to Crofton on Vancouver Island. There’s a BC Ferries dock in nearby Long Harbour with links to both Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island and Tsawwassen on the BC mainland. Floatplanes also link the village of Ganges to Vancouver and Seattle.
Saltspring Farmer’s Market: Head to the heart of Ganges every Saturday to see the wares and talents of the islanders on display at Centennial Park, from April to the last Saturday in October. The colourful event offers arts and crafts, pottery, jewelery, woodworkings, fine decorative arts, farm produce, farmstead cheeses, and organic foods, and includes a variety of impromptu musical performances and the occasional theatrical or dance exhibition.
Artcraft is located in the historic Mahon Hall near the harbour in downtown Ganges, featuring works by more than 200 Gulf Island artists and artisans. Open daily from May through to Sepember.
Even non-shoppers will enjoy historic Mouat’s Mall, a rickety white-and-green building where you can browse a fine collection of arts and crafts. After browsing the galleries, walk down to the water for lunch.
Enjoy theatre and live entertainment throughout the year at the ArtSpring Theatre in Ganges, Saltspring Island’s premier venue for concerts, theatre, exhibitions and much more. Graffiti Theatre Company utilizes the talents of island artists whilst engaging theatre professionals from away to enrich and broaden their work.
Arts & Crafts: Saltspring is also known as a centre for arts and crafts. Many local artisans open their studios for tours, including spinners and weavers, sculptors and glass blowers, painters and potters. Studios showcase ceramics, woodcraft, jewellery, furniture, metal craft, stained glass, moulded candles, wool and fleece products, and many other unique island products. Pick up a Studio Tour Map from the Visitor Centre in Ganges. The unique tour is a self-guided visit to over 30 resident properties of artists and artisans, showcasing their individual talents and creations for your enjoyment and purchase.
Annual Events: One of the biggest events of the year on Saltspring Island is the annual Fall Fair, held on the third weekend of September just outside the village of Ganges. The two-day fair attracts thousands of visitors who attend the event to see award-winning displays of fruit and vegetables, prize-winning livestock and riding exhibitions by local equestrians.
Golf: Tee off on either of the island’s two golf courses. The challenging 9-hole Saltspring Island Golf Club on Lower Ganges Road welcomes the public and operates on a first-come-first-served basis. Ten minutes south of Ganges is the Blackburn Meadows Golf Club.
Mouat Regional Park in Ganges is just a short walk uphill from the commercial heart of Saltspring and provides a relaxing break amongst its beautiful trees, streams and enormous ferns. Once a popular camping location, a Disc Golf course now occupies the old camping oval. Located just behind ArtSpring, this park is named after one of the founding families of Saltspring Island.