San Juan Islands 2019

San Juan Islands, 4 days 3 nights

Being situated in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains, San Juan Islands are known as a “dry pocket” of coastal Washington state – this is why I chose it for a short getaway in mid-April of 2019, when it was raining almost non-stop in Seattle. This is a very relaxed, slow pace itinerary covering only San Juan and Orcas islands.

My itinerary (4 days 3 nights):

Ferry "Yakima" going from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA
Ferry from Anacortes to San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor
Main cabin
Beautiful day, beautiful views from the deck.

I arrived to Friday Harbor on Friday (no pun intended), on an early afternoon ferry, and spent the rest of the day enjoying the magnificent scenery of the southern tip of the island, from American Camp to the Cattle Point Lighthouse. It’s my favorite part of San Juan Island, I love the dramatic coastal landscape, the sweeping ocean vistas, and the foxes that you can almost certainly encounter here.

The next day (Saturday) it was raining – even on San Juans – so I decided to take it easy and spend some leisurely time exploring the souvenir shops of Friday Harbor. Fortunately, souvenir shopping itself is one of my favorite pastimes, so I was able to entertain myself for a couple of hours, and then had some yummy oysters and desert at Downriggers restaurant with nice harbor views.

Downriggers restaurant baked oysters (Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA)
Baked oysters at Downriggers
Downriggers restaurant Panna Cotta (Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA)
Panna Cotta at Downriggers

After that I headed to the Krystal Acres Alpaca farm, where it was raining really hard (poor wet alpacas). But alpacas are super cute even when wet, plus the farm has a lovely shop with quality alpaca goodies, so it was totally worth it.

Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm (San Juan Island, WA)

When I was done with alpacas, it was still raining. I reviewed my options and decided to head back to Friday Harbor for the Whale Museum, which turned out to be really nice – informative, educational, and another perfect stop on my rainy day itinerary.

Later in the afternoon the weather made a sudden turn, and it was time for some scenery again. I drove to the Lyme Kiln Point State Park and strolled along the coast under bright blue sky. No luck seeing orcas (after visiting the museum, I was really hoping for it), so I consoled myself by taking lots and lots of lighthouse shots.

A short drive up the road there’s another scenic spot with views, San Huan County Park. Pretty much the same scenery as at Lime Kiln – minus the lighthouse.

San Juan County Park
San Juan County Park
Spring in full swing.

I finished my day at Roshe Harbor (skipping the popular English Camp, which is along the way, but I’ve been there before). The tiny village at the northern tip of the island is picture-perfect, I’d love to spend the night there sometime.

Roche Harbor Marine (San Juan Island, WA)
Roche Harbor Marina
Roche Harbor Marine (San Juan Island, WA)
The village
Hotel De Haro in Roche Harbor (San Juan Island, WA)

On the third day, before catching the 11:30 ferry to Orcas, I dropped by the Pelindaba Lavender Farm, mainly to visit their gift shop (the fields were not in season at that time of year). Again, didn’t leave empty-handed. Nice conclusion to my stay on San Juan. Next stop – Orcas Island.

View of Friday Harbor from the ferry on my way to Orcas
The passage between San Juan and Orcas is dotted with many little islands. The scenery is best on a sunny day, when the water is blue, not grey – but I still enjoyed it.

The ferry ride between San Juan and Orcas (about 40 minutes) is very scenic in its second half. It was rather cold, but not raining, so I took the scenery in from the open deck. Once on Orcas, I headed to the pottery shop on West Beach – I read good stuff about it and it didn’t disappoint. Everything about this place is magical – from the setting in the middle of the woods, to the beautiful garden with amazing outdoor pottery display, and, of course, all the things inside. I love pottery from every part of the world, but only allow myself to buy it when on a road trip in North America – otherwise it’s too heavy for me to carry, and there’s always a chance of it breaking during the flight. So, I bought some pottery here.

I spent my afternoon exploring Eastsound village – souvenir shops and waterfront dining again (never get tired of this), and the bay here is very scenic. I finished my day at Rosario Resort, which is a hotel, a spa, a museum, and a fine dining experience all in one. It was my first time here, and I will definitely be back.

Rosario Resort on Orcas Island
View of Rosario Resort historic main building from guest rooms (which are located a little bit up the slope).
View from the top of Mt Constitution on Orcas Island
Next morning, view from the top of Mt Constitution in Moran State Park.

Monday morning started with the drive up to the top of Mount Constitution. The weather cooperated, and the view was as magnificent as I remembered from my previous visit. Then I headed in the direction of Doe Bay, making a short stop in Olga to visit a local artists co-op. I wasn’t really planning on going into hot-tubs at Doe Bay, but I still had some time on my hands before the ferry and couldn’t think of anything better to do, so I went – and it was wonderful. I’ve stayed at Doe Bay a few years back and wasn’t much impressed by the hot-tubs then (probably because it was too crowded during a long weekend). Apparently, a weekday makes all the difference. Of course, it’s not a mineral spring, and even if it were – no one does mineral springs better than Japanese, but in terms of location and surrounding scenery a place like this in Japan would make for a highly regarded onsen.

Outdoor bath at Doe Bay Resort on Orcas Island
Outdoor bath at Doe Bay Resort
It stands right next to a small waterfall, and there are views of the bay too.

Before I knew it, it was time to go back to the ferry. I said goodbye to beautiful Orcas Island, promising to be back again. On my way back home I made a quick stop at Cap Sante park at Anacortes and caught some glimpses of the sunset.

Anacortes downtown and marina at sunset, view from Cap Sante park
Anacortes downtown and marina from Cap Sante park
Mt Baker visible across the bay on the other side.