San Juan Island 2013

Looking for a well-rounded and romantic 3-day weekend in the Pacific Northwest?  Visit San Juan Island!  San Juan Island is the largest island of what is considered the San Juan Islands.  It is located in the northwest corner of the United States with views of neighboring Canada.  No matter the weather, this can be the perfect Northwest outing.  A possible itinerary to consider is:

Day 1:

Arrive early morning and take the ferry from the Anacortes Ferry Terminal.  Take a tour of the ferry, pick your spot, and enjoy the ride. You will dock at Friday Harbor – you’ve arrived!  In Friday Harbor, take some time to walk the town.  While you are there, stop in at King’s Market.  This is a great place to grab a gourmet sandwich, a good wine, your favorite periodical, and more.   You’ll find a variety of shops and if you are there on a Saturday morning during the summer, check out the farmers market.

From here, head to Roche Harbor where you’ll be staying at the Quarryman Hall luxury suites.  On your way there, stop by San Juan Vineyards for wine tasting.  In Roche Harbor, see about checking in and take a walk around town.  You’ll find old Kilns, play bocce ball, and you’re probably ready for a bite to eat by now.  Check out the Lime Kiln Cafe and share a sandwich, as they are good in size.

On this first night, you may want to try dinner at the Fireside Lounge at McMillin’s.  But, before you head out for dinner, stop by the Hotel de Haro front desk and rent a DVD for the evening.  If you are in need of snacks (ie. ice cream, popcorn, other…), visit the Country Store, the town grocery.  Note:  For us,  this will have to wait until next time, but make reservations at Duck Soup Inn, it’s just outside of Roche Harbor and is highly recommended by the locals for a gourmet meal.

Day 2:

Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm and Country Store – this is a great stop to get out and roam the farm.  There are three+ areas where the Alpaca’s roam.  Take a few pics and stop in at the General Store.  The General Store offers an array of Alpaca goods like scarves, hats, shirts, wraps/blazers, blankets, toys, and more.  Two scarves were purchased here.

English (British) Camp – Take the trail down to the left and you’ll experience views of the waterfront, garden, and blockhouse…the view is from where the quarters of the generals stood long ago.  The formal garden is patterned after the original one planted in 1867 for the captain’s homesick wife. English Camp is situated on Garrison Bay, an ancient home of the Coast Salish people.

Lime Kiln Point State Park – maybe my favorite stop of the trip. Lime Kiln State Park offers beautiful views, whale sightings are recorded by/at the lighthouse (or maybe you’ll catch a pod), walk amongst the trees to the restored lime kiln and limestone that was.  You may see kayakers paddling by, stay for a picnic, or take that nature walk that you’ve been yearning for.  Stop by the gift shop for a map.  Truly Northwest.

Hike Young Hill (or Mount Young) 650 ft and experience views of the inlets, waterways, Vancouver Island, the Olympic Mountains, and Haro Strait . Victoria BC is just on the other side of the water.  Even if you are not in shape, this is certainly doable.  While you are up there, take the short intersecting trail and check out the British Camp Cemetery.

Sculpture Park – this interesting park allows you roam the acreage, down to the water, past the lake, and into the woods to view various types of art, statues, and the like.  My all-around favorite was the easel with a mirror as the piece of art or I guess you could say that “you” are the piece of art.  Others I enjoyed was the dragonfly, a spoon tottering, and chainsaw made of wood.

If you are looking for sportswear (clothing, jewelry, handbags), stop in and see Roche Harbor Sportswear, you’re sure to find something you’ll like.  A stop in at Dominique’s House is a must-see as well.

To end the day, have a late afternoon therapeutic massage for two at Afterglow Spa, which is located on the side/bottom level of Quarryman Hall.  Enjoy dinner at Madrona Cafe on the deck and if you are visiting in late Spring or Summer, you’ll more than likely experience the nightly lowering of the flags at sunset.

Day 3:

After checking out of the hotel/suites in Roche Harbor, a drive through the island to the other side just might be the ticket.  On your drive over, did you happen to see the camel out and about?  You might want to try the following:

American Camp dates back to 1859.  There are a few renovated buildings standing.   Camas bulbs have been harvested here for over 2,500 years ago; Camas and buttercups highlight one of this region’s last remaining natural prairies.  There is a visitor center but it was closed on the day we visited.  In the mid-1800’s, Great Britain and the United States settled ownership of the island through peaceful arbitration.  This island is full of interesting history.  One thing I wanted to note about this area, at both the American and English Camp, were the number of caterpillar nests in the trees on the property…fascinating.

A stop at Cattle Point Lighthouse is enlightening in that you get a whole different view from this side of the island.  This side has vast sea views, rocky cliffs, wheat colored grasses, wildflowers, seagulls and you might even see a river otter.  In order to get to the lighthouse here, we parked at the Interpretive Center down the street and walked to the trailhead up the street.  Stop by South Beach while you are in area as it is a beach with driftwood, beach rocks, beach grass and of course, sand.  Walk the beach, cook s’mores at the already present fire pits, or take a seat and read a book while letting the sand flow through your toes.  You’ll see ships and sailboats there and yonder.

It’s amazing how much was seen in the two full days (three-day weekend) on San Juan Island.  It’s time to head back to Friday Harbor to get in the ferry line for the mid-afternoon sailing.  Depending on how much time you have for a wait, you can either stop by King’s Market to grab a sandwich for the car/ferry or try out a restaurant in town that is waiting for you.

All and all, this is a great trip to consider, whether it be for a honeymoon, anniversary, recreational weekend away, first time visit to Washington State and more.  And if you are staying a bit longer, you’ll want to take the inter-island ferry to visit a different island within the San Juan Islands chain, perhaps Orcas Island.  There are many things to do in the San Juan Islands such as whale watching tours, kayaking, biking, camping, glamping, and of course boating.  One could write a book about living and experiencing the San Juan Islands…and they are out there.

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For more information or a different write-up, see the September 2011 San Juan Island posting here at

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