Written by Rock Earle on 24 Aug, 2000
Getting to the San Juan Islands involves getting to Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma International), which is pretty easy. I flew America West Airlines nonstop from Phoenix for $271; my e-ticket from Expedia worked just fine. Next, it's a matter of either taking the fine…Read More
Getting to the San Juan Islands involves getting to Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma International), which is pretty easy. I flew America West Airlines nonstop from Phoenix for $271; my e-ticket from Expedia worked just fine. Next, it's a matter of either taking the fine Washington State Ferries system from Anacortes (which, including a 30 minute drive north from Sea-Tac, takes an entire day, whether you're on foot, or with wheels) or dropping in on them via any one of several small airlines (see the Port of Friday Harbor website).
We used Harbor Airlines (800-359-3220), which doesn't seem to have a website, but is an Alaska Airlines 'Commuter' Flight, and can be ticketed along with your other connections-with baggage handling/ transfers to Friday Harbor. Flights leave right from the B Terminal at Sea-Tac. If you like seaplanes, another good option is Kenmore Air, which leaves from Terminals at either Lake Union (near downtown Seattle) or the north end of Lake Washington (much farther north), but it is not as convenient as Harbor.
Lodging: several of the hotels in Friday Harbor claim to have harbor views, but that's stretching it. 'Water', or 'Ocean', maybe-but hardly 'Harbor'. Several can be found in Expedia, but we got really lucky with our apartment through San Juan Central Reservations (360-378-8773, firstname.lastname@example.org ), which can also arrange accommodations at any of the in-town hotels, resorts tucked away around the island, or scads of B&Bs.
Climate: summer is sunny with scattered showers; high-low 85-62 degrees F. Winter is cloudy and cold; high-low 45-20 degrees F
Other Information: www.sanjuanjournal.com or www.islandcam.com
Written by El Gallo on 06 Sep, 2000
First of all, there are about 750 islands in this archipelago (both Canadian and American) at low tide, around 175 at high tide. Of those only about 60 have any inhabitants at all--most of those are privately owned by hermits, religious orders, wild game…Read More
First of all, there are about 750 islands in this archipelago (both Canadian and American) at low tide, around 175 at high tide. Of those only about 60 have any inhabitants at all--most of those are privately owned by hermits, religious orders, wild game parks, and Paul Allen. Only four are reachable by public transportation. So the REALLY fun way to go is by private yacht.
If you were improvenant enough to have left your yacht at home, don't worry; there are other ways to arrive. And however you do it, you find it one trip that is absolutely as worthwhile as the destination. The islands are scattered across the Sound like emeralds--little hummocks of lush green that seems to swarm down to the water and hang over like gardens. Moving through the isles gives a constantly changing set of views of coves, harbors and framed shots of the mainlands. And the waters are not empty--you are very likely to see seals and sea lions, fishing eagles, or even pods of the killer whales that gave Orcas island its name.
By seaplane, for instance. Is that a cool way to drop into a paradise island? Set it up in Seattle with Kenmore Air--(206)364-6990--who not only charter, but operate scheduled service from Lake Union to the San Juans, as well as Vitoria and British Columbia's Inside Passage. Fares range from $150 to the closer islands, to $186 all the way to Victoria. Five flights a day in the summer, three in winter. Across the lake, Seattle Seaplanes also has aircraft available for fishing, sightseeing, lessons, and landfalls in the San Juans--such as Rosario Resort or Roche Harbor. A 4 seater runs about $500 to Roche Harbor (therefore around $125 per person, if loaded. You can stay the night and get picked up later, or they'll wait while you eat lunch--at $60 an hour, which might mess with your relaxation. But of course, a charter enables you control over sightseeing and spontaneous routing.
If flight is beyond your budget--or if you just want to see the scenery closer down--take the Washington State Ferries out of Anacortes (80 miles North of Seattle) for a lovely mini-cruise. The ferries are big, fast, and comfortable, but fill up in the summer months, so get there early if you have a car. On board, you can check out the passing panorama from the top decks (under glass awnings in case of wind, and heaters in case of cold) or even from the sealevel exposure of the automobile deck, where it is all just ramjetted right into your face. Or sip an espresso in the lounges, where huge, clean windows give you ample view of the shaggy islands drifting past. If you're a biker, you'll be in a lot of company--you can just walk your bike on for the price of foot admission plus $3. You can even carry on a kayak or canoe, unload it at Deer Harbor or Friday Harbor, and cut loose--$7 extra fare for the boat.
Ferry fares are complex, but in high season the run from Anacortes to Friday Harbor (the last U.S. stop) is $5 for walk-on passengers, $22 for a car and driver. Fares are only charged going west (outward bound), you can go back for free and island hop for free as long as you're heading east. You can continue on to Sidney, British Columbia for $4 walk, $20 per car/driver, but his requires prior reservations. There are also runs directly from Seattle to Victoria for around $60 a head (not used in its nautical context). Call (206) 448-5000. For other questions about ferries call 464-6400 in town, 1-888-808-7977 elsewhere.
Orcas is the Queen of the San Juans, an incredible concentration of beauty and attractions that seems to have been designed by Disney, or a left-over Spielberg Never-Never Land set. For instance--how does a little island out in the middle of the straits have…Read More
Orcas is the Queen of the San Juans, an incredible concentration of beauty and attractions that seems to have been designed by Disney, or a left-over Spielberg Never-Never Land set. For instance--how does a little island out in the middle of the straits have a 2400 foot mountain on it? With, of course, a big stone castle on top to give you an even more breathtaking 360 view? And waterfalls? And hot springs? And a rambling old resort built to look like the interiors of Jules Verne steamships? It's pretty preposterous.
The resort can be explained easiest--extremely rich shipbuilder Robert Moran (who built about half of the Great White Fleet) build the white mansion and spacious grounds as a summer home (reachable, of course, in his private yacht, which could have won the Spanish-American war itself). The mansion amazing: room after room of hardwood designed to look like salons on the Titanic, with curved stairways, elegant alcoves, and baronial ballrooms. I remember when it was a private house, and kids would go over to play and see movies in the plush little theater. Now it's a resort--and a pricey one it is, with spas and chefs and massooses and the whole nine yards. But you can still go see it--you just can't do belly slides down the polished hardwood halls anymore. Well, actually, I suppose you COULD... Anyway, you can do the Sunday brunch in a dining room that looks like Victoria and Albert could drop in any minute--a brunch of staggering proportions and luxury. Rooms--1-800-562-8820
But what's a home without a garden? And Moran's little peapatch is now Moran State Park, acres of dusky madrona groves, soft cool paths, and even waterfalls. It also includes the aforementioned mountain, Mt. Constitution, with, to put it mildly, territorial views. This is supposed to be one of the two best marine views in the hemisphere--the other one being from atop Sugar Loaf in Rio. But, hey, in Rio you can't see 360 degrees, and into another country. You can see Mr. Rainier from here, 150 miles to the South, Mt. Baker, Vancouver, and--on a clear day--the back of your own head.
Then, there's Eastsound, about ten miles from Deer Landing. Think Carmel, Cape Cod, Nantucket. It was always a pretty charming little town, but now it has art galleries, tearooms, bookstores, restarutants and, of course, a real estate office for every three inhabitants. Try Crisitina.s on Beach Road for a very romantic little restaurant with a dining porch right out over the water. In fact, try the oysters. Reservations--(360)376-4904)
Nearby, in Doe Bay Resort, 45 acres of hot spring, massage, clothing-optional heaven with accomodations ranging from hostel beds to greenhouse cabins with woodstoves--even yurts! And in price from $15 to $100 US. Reservations--(360)376-2291.
You see what I mean about Orcas? There just can't be all this stuff on one little island. It's the most spectacular of the islands, and if you have to choose just one, this would be it.
Orcas Island is the largest island in the group (barely larger than San Juan Island at high tide-or is it the other way around?), and the hilliest. There is actually a state park with a lake hidden in forest on top of the mountain…Read More
Orcas Island is the largest island in the group (barely larger than San Juan Island at high tide-or is it the other way around?), and the hilliest. There is actually a state park with a lake hidden in forest on top of the mountain rising from the east shore of East Sound. Robert Moran, a wealthy Seattle shipbuilder who built a palatial estate on the island in the early 1900s, gave the 5000 acres comprising the park. His home has become the Rosario Resort and Marina, which was our destination by taxi after being dropped off in town (Eastsound) by our friends.
The estate was undoubtedly once a grand affair. Part of the main house has been left as a residence and restored to its original condition, and it is spectacular. Done in a strange style, I thought of 'Prairie' meets ''30s Nautical', and they like each other, but not enough to get married... All of the furnishings were custom built by hand by shipwrights, so every fitting is recessed brass, and all the wood is mahogany! Quite an improbably rare treasure our in the middle of nowhere!
On the other hand, as a resort, well... Orcas Island isn't all that big, and once you're at Rosario, you're...at Rosario! We walked the tired grounds in about an hour, looking for the deer we were told fed on the lawn every afternoon-didn't see any. Observing all of the maintenance-recently done, not recently done, deferred, and not done at all-hurt the money part of my brain. The guests carried on rather like the band playing on the deck of the Titanic as it was sinking-they preferred to not notice that this was a dowager resort, with perhaps a claim to age-old (or old-age?) class, but not showing much at the moment. Maybe it was more like the Emperor's clothes-having paid so much for their stay, they simply could not acknowledge that the place was, well...shabby! Nonetheless, it's a very interesting place (www.rosario-resort.com). The thing we liked the most was the color of the walls in the little waiting room to the fore of the main restaurant.
Lopez is the oddball, academic, ecofreco island. It has almost no 'town' and thrives on quiet bucolic sights and times. If you like the idea of poking along country lanes (this place is a mecca for bicyclists) looking at sheep or fields of…Read More
Lopez is the oddball, academic, ecofreco island. It has almost no 'town' and thrives on quiet bucolic sights and times. If you like the idea of poking along country lanes (this place is a mecca for bicyclists) looking at sheep or fields of flowers of just miles of green, this is the spot. There are four state parks, all of which are great, beautiful places, but not the sort of high-concept sites that inspire jaded travel writers. You might see seals and eagles at Shark Reef, and will like the agate beach at Agate Beach, your kids will love it, you will be tranquilized and inspired. Is that enough?
If you didn't bring a bike, rent one at in Lopez Village or Fisherman Bay--or arrange for Cycle San Juans--(360)468-3251--to have one waiting for you at the ferry dock or your hotel. They also do guided tours, but if you can't amuse yourself with a thirty mile loop touching on four state parks and threaded through unspoiled raving greenery, you got no business.
The place is spangled with B&B's, Inns, Resots, Cabins, anything but a Hotel. We're talking $100 a night territory. Best bet for Lopez is to hit it early, bike around, then hop the ferry to Orcas of Friday where you will sleep. Or...stay here a week and just melt down into a puddle of country comfort. Close
San Juan (generally called 'Friday' by locals after it's largest small town, Friday Harbor) is the funky, laid-back island, where tourists and cottagistas haven't yet dominated the fishermen, urchin divers, and hippie carpenters. It's very flat--which makes it fun for bicyling, if you don't…Read More
San Juan (generally called 'Friday' by locals after it's largest small town, Friday Harbor) is the funky, laid-back island, where tourists and cottagistas haven't yet dominated the fishermen, urchin divers, and hippie carpenters. It's very flat--which makes it fun for bicyling, if you don't get doorknobbed by locals angry at having their paradise shanghaied by city slickers on Mountain Bikes. And it doesn't have the dazzling array of sights that Orcas has, but the parks and beaches, if not fun to write up, are just fine for relaxing and communing with nature in its misty, mystic, green/grey San Juans mode.
'Save the Whales' fan will want to beat a path to the Whale Museum--62 1st St in Friday, (360)378-4710. To see a wonderful display on whales and porpoises, including skeletons of orcas, minke whales and a baby gray whale. There's also a local historical museum oat 405 Price St. with the usual old stuff.
And while there is no Rosarios on Friday, there is the luxurious Roche Harbor Resort, perched over a painterly view of the eponymous harbor--which gives it a run for the money (and less money at that, with rates as low as $80 a night double and cotttages runing only $200 a night). The old Hotel de Haro (Washington's first hotel) has grown into a fine, gracious seaside resort reminiscent of Cape Cod. The white clapboard hotel is a trip back to the past when national dignataries (like Teddy Roosevelt--just check the guest book) sipped tea on the darling porches or among the formal rose gardens, looking out at the swaying masts of pleasure craft. It's a fine place to stay or eat, and a favorite place for Seattlites to seaplane in for lunch. No trip to the Resort (enshrined in the National Register of Historic Places) would be complete without visiting the slightly macabre family mausolem, named with Steven-Kingian aplomb, 'Afterglow Vista' and containing the family member's ashes in chairs around a table. The combination of cemetery chic and decay make this a delicious piece of kitsch/creepout.
Right out of Roche Harbor are the San Juan Vineyards, where vines are grown and wines are sold out of a century old schoolhouse building. Those who really dig their wine will also check out the Island Wine Company, just behind the ferry dock in Friday Harbor. (800)451-8910.
Naturally there are a slew of cute eateries in a place like this, but you can get a good, reasonable breakfast, lunch, or expresso and rub elbows with locals (or vacation owner local wannabees) at the Front Street Cafe (101 Spring St) in Friday or the Fat Cat cafe (1 Nichols St) It's fun to eat on the picnic tables outside the Cat and grab an espresso (and internet hit) at Gray Matter next door.
And if you happen to be thorugh in late July, get reservations for the Dixieland Jazz Festival for a rollicking good N'Walins style time.
Written by Ms Traveler on 23 Sep, 2003
The San Juan Islands were the destination of choice for a friend’s birthday getaway. Four gals traveling together for a week of fun and adventure. The plan was to spend 4 days touring the larger San Juan Island and Orcas Island via ferry and car,…Read More
The San Juan Islands were the destination of choice for a friend’s birthday getaway. Four gals traveling together for a week of fun and adventure. The plan was to spend 4 days touring the larger San Juan Island and Orcas Island via ferry and car, then spend 3 days touring the outer, more remote islands by private boat, complete with Captain and Chef.
Our first stop on the Birthday Girl Tour was Orcas Island, where we spent the next two days hiking, shopping, and kayaking. Accommodations on the island vary from B&B to resort hotel. We chose to stay in a two-bedroom condo so that we were all together. Hiking Mt. Constitution and kayaking the many bays of the island could have kept us busy for an entire week. Art galleries, fine dining and shopping were also activities of choice.
The ferry from Orcas took us through the magical Wasp Channel on the way to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Friday Harbor is a delightful mix of old and new. An easy walking town with numerous shops, galleries, restaurants and accommodations. On the west end of the island is Roche Harbor, which was our base for the next two days. An easy 10 mile drive through pastoral countryside brings you to the quaint Roche Harbor Resort.
Relics of an era gone by mingle with the trappings of a modern day resort. Visitors register at the Haro Hotel, which served as a Hudson's Bay trading post in the early 1850s. The resort boasts a very modern marina, which can host yachts, some as large as 100 feet. From the waterside restaurant, we watched the evening flag ceremony, complete with pomp and music.
No trip to the San Juan would be complete without a whale watch tour. While there are many choices in the islands, we chose a charter out of Snug Harbor on San Juan’s south side. Captain Jim Maya of Maya's Charters took us on an unforgettable three-hour trip. The whale watch boat was only 22ft and flew like the wind. We ended up 20 miles north in Canada with Captain Jim finding three of the four resident pods traveling together. Over SEVENTY, yes 70, orca whales frolicking, spy hopping, and breaching. An endless parade of dorsal fins as far as the eye could see. Certainly one of the highlights of our trip.
The last leg of our trip took us to Lopez Island, where we boarded the Countess, a 65 foot motor yacht. From the time we boarded Countess, our hosts Patrick and Dana Cotten made us welcome and comfortable. After a delicious lunch of fresh baked bread, salad with organic greens from Dana's garden, clam chowde,r and homemade cookies, we got under way. Our first night was spent in a sheltered cove where we were lulled to sleep by the chatter of gulls at the nearby oyster farm. Our next two days were spent cruising the outer islands, crabbing, viewing wildlife on Spiden Island, hiking and kayaking on Stuart Island, all the while being pampered with three gourmet meals a day. Our final stop before heading back to Lopez Island was a small 188 acre island that is home to a herd of very friendly black tailed deer. Jones Island Marine Park can only be reached by boat and is a favorite among pleasure boaters and kayakers. Calm water and clear blue skies saw us back to Fisherman’s Bay, which is the winter port for the Countess.
With many new memories and countless photographs, this was a trip to remember.
What the hell are you DOING here? Hurry up and get back on the ferry before it pulls out and leaves you on a place mostly owned by three orders of nuns, with no hotels or rentals permitted by law except a general store…Read More
What the hell are you DOING here? Hurry up and get back on the ferry before it pulls out and leaves you on a place mostly owned by three orders of nuns, with no hotels or rentals permitted by law except a general store with the prophetic name 'little Portion'? Want to go to a museum of a place where nothing ever happened? A university biological preserve dedicated to making sure nothing happens in the future? You'll live it. Seriously--this is a lovely island but offers little to the casual tourist. Hug some trees, buy a beer from the nuns, and split, I'd say. Close