San Juan Island Gems

There is plenty of sunshine in paradise.

friday shutterstock_189748247   Paradise in the Pacific Northwest is known as the San Juan Islands. Consisting of 172 islands, the area is home to spectacular scenery, wildlife and history. If that isn’t enough, the islands lie in the Olympic Mountain rain shadow, resulting in less than half the rain Seattle gets and an average of 247 days of sunshine a year. From April through September, approximately 90 orca whales make their home in the water surrounding the San Juans. The three main islands are San Juan, Orcas and Lopez.

San Juan Island is the most diverse of the three, combining rocky shores and sandy beaches, prairie and pastureland, lakes and forest.

On the east side of the island is the town of Friday Harbor, a quaint seaport of parks, restaurants, shops and galleries. This historic seaport in the Salish Sea is preserved by its maritime history. There are no traffic lights. The seaport is bustling with visitors, who can enjoy walking tours and visiting the plethora of art galleries, the whale museum, boutiques, and seaside restaurants and pubs.

On the northwest side of the island is another port of entry known as Roche Harbor. Listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, it’s approximately 10 miles from Friday Harbor and will take you back in time to a quiet, relaxed pace as you stroll through the beautiful Victorian gardens and enjoy the ambiance of the historical buildings while watching some of the most spectacular sunsets in the Pacific Northwest. Roche Harbor is also a U.S. Customs Port of Entry for boaters wanting to cruise to and from Canada, which is less than five miles away. Roche Harbor has an airstrip, a marina, lodging, a grocery store, restaurants, a sculpture park, shopping, hiking trails and other activities.

Where to Dock
Port of Friday Harbor Marina is located in the center of the island on the eastern shore. The 500-slip, full-service marina is within easy walking distance to town. There are 150 guest slips able for boats of all sizes. The southern breakwaters are reserved for vessels over 45 feet in length.

Roche Harbor Marina has been a popular boating destination for many years and accommodates vessels up to 160 feet. With 377, slips it’s a favorite location of many traveling dignitaries and has been featured in many movies and travel shows. The marina features the full-service Afterglow Spa offering treatments soothing to the soul, and body. Relax with a massage, or indulge in one of the many signature body treatments.

bi shutterstock_173915495-1Where to Eat
One of our favorites is a Friday Harbor institution. Herb’s Grill — the oldest tavern in town — provides a smoke-free environment. It has a comfortable beach bar feel with a ceiling decorated with orange life rings and inflatable beer paraphernalia. The menu includes such scrumptious items as the Hippie Burger, the Cow-Dipper and the Pile-O-Fries. Rocky Bay Café, another favorite in town, has a great selection of American breakfast and lunch favorites, but note that it closes early, at 2 p.m.

The Roche Harbor village offers several dining options, including McMillin’s Dining Room for fine dining at its best, overlooking the beautiful harbor and sunset. You can enjoy colorful cuisine at the Madrona Grill in the gazebo or on the waterfront deck. For family oriented dining, Lime Kiln Café will serve up a hearty breakfast and a number of lunch options.

What to Do
In Friday Harbor the Whale Museum is a great place to learn more about orca whales and other whale species, along with porpoises, sea lions, seals, river otters and more than 250 species of birds, including bald eagles and other raptors.

Listed on the National Register of Historical Sites, the Roche Harbor Hotel de Haro, built in 1886, has many rooms appointed with original antique pieces and offers the traveler an opportunity to step back in time and enjoy country ambiance and Old World charm. One of President Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite vacation spots, Roche Harbor continues to welcome visitors with its charm and sense of history.

Orcas Island is considered to be the most spectacular of the San Juan Islands, and with more than 36,000 acres it is the largest. The horseshoe-shaped island is a magical mix of lush forest, rolling farmland, placid lakes and stunning mountains, making it a favorite for generations of visitors from all over the world. The population is widely spread out, adding to the feeling of peace and tranquility.14 Relax with a view of the harbor and Winslow Warf Marina

Where to Dock
Deer Harbor Marina is a charming marina located in the heart of the San Juan Islands. The full-service facility offers numerous amenities and attractions that make it a major boating destination for both large and small vessels.

Rosario Resort & Spa is located in beautiful Cascade Bay halfway up East Sound’s eastern shore. This historic resort and marina was originally Robert Moran’s estate and offers guest slips and mooring buoys. Also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the resort features the 54-room Moran Mansion, a museum and restaurants. Original decorations and period construction including Tiffany accents contribute to its elegant ambiance.

Where to Eat
Dinner at the Deer Harbor Inn has been an island tradition since the 1920s. Begin the dining experience with homemade bread and soup or a salad with the special house dressing. Entrée selections include fresh local salmon or halibut, shellfish, steaks and chops or vegetarian specialties. The inn offers a variety of homemade desserts to finish the evening. Enjoy the deck dining area in the summer.

What to Do
Morgan State Park on Orcas Island is a 5,252-acre park with five freshwater lakes and more than 30 miles of hiking trails. Atop 2,409-foot-high Mt. Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands, there stands a stone observation tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. The tower provides panoramic views of the surrounding islands, the Cascade Mountains and Canada.

Lopez is the most rural and, according to local legend, the most friendly of the three major islands, covering 29 and a half square miles. The landscape blends forest with rolling farmlands and open space with shimmering vistas. Watch for bald eagles, herons, seals and otters. Don’t forget to wave at the passing motorists — a local custom. There’s a genuine spirit of community here.13 Outdoor dining at the Lopez Islander Resort

Where to Dock
The Lopez Islander is located on serene Fisherman Bay on the west side of the island. The 60-slip marina has everything you need for a great stay.

Where to Eat
A 15-minute stroll to Lopez Village will bring you to Holly B’s Bakery, a small bakery celebrating 40 years of love and butter. Just up the street is the Bay Café, serving American fare for lunch and dinner while overoverlooking the entrance of the Fisherman Bay and awesome sunsets.

What to Do
Take advantage of the Islander’s outdoor pool, which offers a view of the bay, and the spa and wellness center. Rent a bicycle from Lopez Bicycle Works and explore the island, or visit the Lopez Historical Museum.

San Juan Island

Orcas Island

Lopez Island


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