Gateway to Adventure…The San Juan Islands

As published in The Florida Villager

Off the coast of Seattle, Washington lays 172 islands known as the San Juan Islands, the gems of the Pacific Northwest, and there is where my journey begins. Boarding Kenmore Air at Sea-Tac for my quick 40 minute flight over to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island I felt an extreme sense of anticipation. The beauty and the serenity of the snow tipped mountains fading into the deep green forests, which in turn melded with the sparkling blue water below was my constant companion from the cockpit. Ahead lay a world unknown to me and one I ended up not wanting to leave.

Nestled in at the Tucker House Inn/Harrison House with all its flowers blooming, I stepped out onto my little balcony and gazed out at the rooftops of town and the harbor below. The weather in May was glorious so off I strode to the local farmer’s market where I caught my first glimpse into the island life style that is constantly reflected back at you by the flowers, the friendly faces and the quaintness of Friday Harbor.

From there I drove to Cattle Point and hiked to the lighthouse for a breathtaking view of South Beach with its mammoth piles of driftwood lining the shore. Onward and upward, I made my way to the American and English camps. Back in the 1800’s there was a 12-year standoff between the two groups known as The Pig War. Today, these camps are national historic parks with historic buildings, nature trails and wildlife.

Next stop was Pelindaba Lavender Farm. Fields and fields of organically certified lavender is harvested and handcrafted into products of every type, which you can purchase in their store. Beware, you have been warned, this store is dangerous to your wallet. Before stopping for lunch at Roche Harbor, I made a pit stop at San Juan Island Distillery for a few swigs of their gold medal apple brandy.

Established in 1886, Roche Harbor is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The intimate feel of Hotel de Haro’s lobby with its fireplace and creaking floorboards only added to its charm. The view of the marina and the prevalence of topsiders disembarking from sailboats drove home the seduction of “Island Time.”

My walk into town for dinner at Vinny’s Restorante left me ready to call it a night. Tucked under my big quilt with the distant sound of the ferry horn, I fell into a deep sleep. Not sure if it was the sunlight streaming through my window or the church bells from town that woke me, but a new day had dawned in Friday Harbor and I didn’t want to waste a minute. Breakfast at the Tucker House was a gastronomic delight: homemade biscuits, gravy, scrambled eggs and salmon. The chef had made the granola that morning and I left with two bags to bring home. Grabbing my windbreaker, I meandered down Spring Street to the landing to catch my boat for the big event today: Whale Watching!

There is nothing quite like being out on the water when the seas are calm, the sun is out and the scenery is breathtaking. So was my trip that day. Harbor seals, sea lions and porpoises kept us entertained as we continued to scout for whales. So much left to do: visit the alpaca farm, kayaking, exploring all the shops and galleries in town, bike riding, but my time had run out as my ferry was set to pull away from the dock at 5:45. I watched the town fade from view, closed my eyes and felt the breeze ever so gently brush across my face. “What could be better than whence I came?” Glancing at my itinerary I read, “Next port, Orcas Island.”

Well, we shall see.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *