One of the best parts of growing up in Victoria was being so close to the Gulf Islands—an archipelago in the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and the mainland. If you’re into camping oceanside, hiking through dense forests covered in moss, checking out paintings and pottery in artist markets, hanging out in cozy cafes (that serve organic, delicious everything) and buying fresh berries and flowers from little roadside stalls, the Gulf Islands are pretty much heaven.
The one closest to Victoria is called Salt Spring, and it’s a place my brother and I visited with my mom when we were kids. She hadn’t been back in decades, so for her 60th birthday, we decided to surprise her with a weekend trip. I found this super cute cottage called Tantramar…
and we booked it. The problem was, her birthday was last December, and at the time I was still waiting on my green card, which meant if I left the US, I wouldn’t be allowed to re-cross the border and get back in. (Side note: if you ever plan to immigrate to the US, prepare to not book dates for anything for a good year and a half. Just put your life on hold and pray to the green card Gods.)
When we realized my visa issues wouldn’t be sorted out in time, we postponed the trip, re-booked the cottage, and finally went this past May. The weekend we chose turned out to be Mother’s Day, so the timing was perfect. Joe and I rented a car in Portland and drove to Port Angeles (only a 3.5 hr trip!), then caught the ferry to Victoria, spent the night at my mom’s, and whisked her away the next afternoon. She was told to pack a bag and that we were meeting Noel (my brother) and Johanna (his fiancée) for two days and two nights. The destination was kept top secret…until we got to the ferry and parked in the lane headed for Salt Spring.
My mom was thrilled.
She loves Joe. Couldn’t be happier with who her daughter married. It’s very sweet.
Having a “I love where I’m from” moment on the ride…
On the drive to the cottage, my mom kept saying, “Oh, I love it here. I could live here.” I was excited just to see her enjoy a weekend of nature and family time, eat some great food, and relax on a porch with ocean views. Tantramar is on Vesuvius Beach, on the northwest side of the island.
I wish I had taken some interior shots to show you guys! It was beautiful and homey, with hardwood floors, a glassed-in porch, and wood-burning fireplace. It sleeps up to 6 people and they allow dogs. (Noel and Johanna brought their pooch Rose.) I would definitely recommend it for a family trip or getaway with friends. You can see more photos on the website here, if you’re interested.
Joe and I went for a little stroll soon after arriving… And that night we grilled prawn and veggie skewers and lemon garlic potatoes on the BBQ. Johanna is a trained chef, and we knew she’d be cooking some delicious meals the next day, so Joe and I did our best to impress on the first night.
Saturday was gorgeous…the beginning of amazing weather we lucked out with for the rest of the week. Johanna whipped up a breakfast frittata for everyone and then we spent a few hours in Ganges, the town on Salt Spring, checking out the weekend market and stopping for gelato. My mom had told me a week or so earlier she’d been craving curry, so Johanna treated us again with her skills, making a huge pot of spicy curry and a salad with strawberries, greens and goat cheese for dinner. We’re all pretty stoked to have a chef in the family! Sunset chats on the deck after dinner. (Island life at its best.)
On Sunday morning we decided to take my mom to the top of Mt. Maxwell, one of the highest points on Salt Spring. But not before setting up the self-timer for a family pic…
We didn’t realize how steep (and bumpy) the drive up Mt. Maxwell was going to be—the gravel road was a bit much for our rental car!
But the views were worth it.
One of my secret dreams is to have my own little cottage on one of the Gulf Islands…or some other magic spot by the sea. (I could live in Indonesia very, very easily.) I think my mom has the same dream. I knew she’d be sad to leave Tantramar, and she was, but she said a few days later that the trip had kickstarted her life again, given her a fresh spark to pursue the things she loves to do.
Do you have a favourite place you love going back to? Somewhere that recharges you? (I’d love to hear in the comments!) I like the idea of returning to the same cottage year after year, but for me, discovering new places always seems to win over. Though Joe and I really loved one of the campgrounds we stayed at on our honeymoon, so much so that we’re going back with friends in a couple weeks. (The first time we rented a yurt, but this time we’re tenting it.)
After Salt Spring, we spent six days in Victoria, so a few more “Going Home” posts to come. :)
*First Tantramar photo via Salt Spring Cottages