There are flashier destinations than the San Juan Islands. There are date getaways more remote. But few places are friendlier, prettier, and sunnier than Washington’s archipelago food haven. Nestled in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juans receive an average of 247 days of sunshine a year.
By their isolated nature, the restaurants embrace a farm- and sea-to-table mentality. Artists come here to thrive. Nature enthusiasts relish in beautifully preserved habitats. And, lovers savor simple moments kissing by the sea. Because the San Juans aren’t just a place to visit. They’re a way of life.
And if you’re lucky, they can be yours – even if for only a weekend.
Cider Sipping & Outdoor Gallery Perusing at Roche Harbor
In this famously elegant boater’s paradise you’ll find much more than just a beautiful marina. The northern side of San Juan Island touts one of the region’s top ciderworks and distillery, a mausoleum rumored to have ethereal residents, and some of the best donuts around.
Start at the San Juan Island Sculpture Park – an eclectic intertwining of nature and art. Spanning 20 acres, this outdoor art gallery features more than 150 installations and five unique walking trails.
Work your way to the San Juan Island Distillery, located just a mile from Roche Harbor Resort. They released their first batch of apple brandy in 2014 and immediately won gold and best-in-class from the American Craft Spirits Association.
Then finish with dinner McMillin’s where they specialize in 40-day aged prime rib paired with housemade horseradish.
Hiking & Nibbling
A plan for this island town might include a trip to one of the clothing-optional spas, browsing farmers markets, and sampling beer at the local brewery. But as home to the San Juan’s tallest peak, you might consider soaking in the view, while also creating the perfect excuse to retire early…
Spend the morning getting some fresh air on one of the multiple trails. Then head to Eastsound, the island’s town. Start at Brown Bear Baking – where the scratched made goodies are so mouthwateringly beautiful you’ll almost think twice about digging in. (Almost.) Across the street you’ll find Kathryn Taylor Chocolates, known for their unique flavors and fillings. Head north to The Kitchen, where a walk up window joint proves it’s not the size of the kitchen, but the punch of the flavor which makes for a memorable bite.
If you’re in the mood for a cocktail, pop into The Barnacle. Located in the same grassy lot as The Kitchen, this swanky little joint infuses its creative cocktails with locally grown herbs and flowers. Finish with dinner at Hogstone’s Wood Oven. A James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef in the Northwest, the menu is dependent on the island’s bounty and the restaurant’s own farm.
Moped Riding & Farm-to-Table Dining
The hub of the San Juans – filled with restaurants, museums worthy of national recognition, and quaint galleries – Friday Harbor rests between a ferry dock and a camel pasture. Here you’ll find a cheese shop showcasing exotic choices next to island-crafted gems, restaurants so beloved by locals it doesn’t matter their signs are nearly hidden (hello Backdoor Kitchen), and a used bookstore where the stacks reach to the ceiling and the staff seems to somehow still know every available copy.
Start by visiting Susie’s Mopeds to pick up a moped or Scoot Coupe. Explore the island, as fast (or slow) as you would like. Make sure to visit Mona the camel. She’s located in the field across the street from San Juan Island Vineyards. Pelindaba Lavender Farm and Krystal Acres (the island’s alpaca farm) are also fun.
Then, head back to Friday Harbor for dinner at COHO. In the kitchen, Chef Bill Messick highlights farm-to-table cuisine with an emphasis on letting each flavor shine.
Slow Dining & Gentle Bike Riding
Don’t underestimate under-the-radar Lopez Island. With its relatively flat topography and tolerant drivers, it is a bikers’ paradise. Here paved roadways meander past lush farmland and breathtaking coastlines.
Book a room at The Edenwild – a boutique inn located at the edge of Lopez Village. In the morning savor their scratch baked goods and island-roasted coffee. In the afternoon, take advantage of their onsite bicycle rentals for a tour around the rock. End the evening with dinner at one of the popular farm-to-table restaurants, like Haven. The inventive menu changes seasonally, often putting vegetarian-friendly twists on classics. You might find hearty Portobello’s paired with a veggie au jus for a meat-free French dip. Or satisfy your taco cravings with a soy-chorizo, caramelized onions, and creamy avocado treat.