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With a year-round population of 10,000 residents, Salt Spring is served by three ferries, making it by far the easiest of the Gulf Islands to visit. Not coincidentally, Salt Spring also has the most facilities for visitors. The center of island life is Ganges, a little village with gas stations, grocery stores, and banks, all overlooking a busy pleasure-boat harbor. You can easily spend an hour to most of a day poking around the art galleries, boutiques, and coffee shops here.

In fact, the island is famed across Canada as an artists' colony, and many people visit expressly to see the studios of local artists and craftspeople. Stop by the visitor center for the Studio Tour Map (or download a copy from www.saltspringstudiotour.com), which pinpoints over 30 island artists -- glass blowers, painters, ceramists, weavers, carvers, and sculptors, many of whom are available for visits.

Pegasus Gallery, Mouat's Mall, 1-104 Fulford-Ganges Rd. (tel. 800/668-6131 or 250/537-2421; www.pegasusgallery.ca), displays a mix of contemporary Canadian painting and sculpture as well as Native carving and basketry. On Fridays from 5 to 9pm, a dozen Ganges galleries remain open late for the Gallery Walk. From mid-May to mid-September, ArtCraft (tel. 250/537-0899; www.artcraftgallery.ca) features the work of more than 250 local artists at Mahon Hall, just north of Ganges at Park Drive and Lower Ganges Road (WinterCraft is the holiday version of this market, held in Dec).

Not to be missed is Market in the Park (www.saltspringmarket.com), held April through October, Saturdays from 8am to 4pm, on the waterfront's Centennial Park. The market brings together a lively mix of craftspeople, farmers, musicians, and bakers. It's great fun, and a good chance to shop for local products.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.