It’s Friday before a long Memorial Day weekend and in a few hours we are taking the dogs and heading North on the Pacific Northwest coast, almost to Canada basically. We always get an itch to travel on this weekend and get out of Seattle. It’s a great bookend to all the hours worked in the winter and we like to spend it relaxing and having fun welcoming in summertime. The Northern coast of Washington is one of my favorite parts of our state with its dark beaches and islands. I’m more of a beach person than mountains, but I appreciate a beach with a mountain view. There are a lot of small islands dotting the Sound that provide all the above, but the coast does too.
There are actually 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County in the Northwestern part of Washington, however only a handful of islands are accessible by ferries: San Juan Island with the largest town of Friday Harbor, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island are the most populated.
I’ve been to San Juan Island twice, one with my mom the last time she was in town. It was early Spring then, so not as warm or sunny. We took the Anacortes ferry over and stayed at basically the only large hotel in the islands, the Roche Harbor Resort and it was wonderful. Established in 1886, the property provides a quaint getaway on the water, with nice suites with updated amenities like a fireplace and bathrooms with heated floors. If you’re not into camping, it’s the place for you. They also have a great restaurant with ocean views. We had a delicious seafood meal and cocktails while watching seals play in the harbor. On that trip we only spent one night and a day driving around and exploring the island’s parks and beaches, even catching a glimpse of beautiful red fox. We spent most of our time in South Beach and Lime Kiln Point State Park (below), hoping to catch sight of some killer whales. When you go, remember that these areas are remote and definitely operate on “island time” and a slower pace of life. It’s not uncommon for electricity issues to come and go because of their distance from the mainland.
At the end of last summer, we were lucky that a friend of a friend’s parents have a working farm on San Juan Island that they let us camp on with our crew. They had a huge chicken run, two old rescued billy goats, some cows and a massive greenhouse where they grow a lot of their own food. It was magical waking up in the sun and long grass next to the animals every morning. Besides Paisley Mae Mae breaking into the goat pen and herding them like a maniac until they were both cowering in their stalls, it was very peaceful. They were even kind enough to take us out on their boat. Before we head back up that direction today, this time to kick off the start of our summer on the mainland overlooking the islands around the Chuckanut Mountain / Fairhaven / Bellingham area, I wanted to recap the trip we ended our last summer with.
There are some nice and easy hiking trails on San Juan Island that lead through the island’s interesting terrain of old forests, lagoons, small mountains and beaches. We hiked Jakle’s Lagoon, which is where these photos were taken. The hike is south of the Fourth of July Beach on Cattle Point and is part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park. A forest loop hike takes you to the top of Mt. Finlayson, the highest point on San Juan’s south end, with a beautiful view of Cattle Point Lighthouse towards Lopez Island.
I still can’t get over how amazing their farm was – I mean just look at these photos! Veggies and flowers and eggs everywhere.
The San Juan Islands are such a gem and this area has always been good to us. Fresh air, sun, and a general culture of relaxation and small town life. In a few hours we will hit the road to our little rental farm cottage with the dogs and snacks. The VRBO post promised it was remote, by the Sound, set into the woods with a waterfall (!) in the backyard and a stream and pond for Porter to swim in. They also have a small farm with donkeys and chickens, so Paisley is really going to have to be on her best behavior. (I swear she was a cattle dog in another life before she became a Chinese Crested Powderpuff.) We can’t wait to explore all the restaurants, coffee shops and breweries that Fairhaven and Bellingham have to offer this time around. Drop some recommendations in the comments if you’ve got’em!
Here’s to long weekends, soaking up the sun, feeling the ocean breeze and getting out of the city! Happy Memorial Day! ~ Amanda