When the ferry lands on San Juan Island, you can walk off or drive and immediately you’re in the town of Friday Harbor. Although Orcas is the largest island in the archipelago, San Juan Island reports the largest population – 7,700 people. Exploring the shops and galleries in Friday Harbor is sure to lighten your wallet a little because it will be difficult to resist the local artisans’ handmade gifts and décor pieces.
Where to shop: San Juan Island hosts numerous galleries, many of them within walking distance of the Friday Harbor ferry dock. Try the Arctic Raven Gallery if you desire authentic Native American art.
Sweaters, accessories and home furnishings made from the finest alpaca wool fill the Country Store at Krystal Acres (www.krystalacres.com) and the cute and cuddly alpacas outside provide all kinds of photo opps.
Visiting the Gatehouse Store at the Pelindaba Lavender Farm (www.pelindabalavender.com) gives you a chance to stock up on some of the finer bath and beauty items you might want to try while on vacation, but definitely will need as soon as you get home. If you cook with lavender, you’ll want to take a look-see at the store’s offerings of cooking products.
What to see: No trip to San Juan Island is complete without visiting the Whale Museum (www.whalemuseum.org). Absorb the entertaining and illuminating history of local marine life before boarding a boat to experience live whales on a whale-watching excursion. Or drive to Lime Kiln Point State Park on West Side Road and view the Northwest’s whale population from the outlook.
If you’re a military buff, American Camp, on Cattle Point Road, displays more than 100 Pig War artifacts in its visitor’s center.
Where to stay: Drive the expanse of the island and you’ll wind up in Roche Harbor. There Quarryman Hall opened its doors in July 2007 and boasts state-of-the-art everything through and through. My personal favorites include the heated bathroom floor and the gas fireplace. Just a few steps from the elevator you’ll find the Afterglow Spa, which offers spirulina wraps, Turkish salt scrubs, therapeutic mineral baths, island stone massages and one of the most relaxing European deep cleaning facials I’ve ever experienced.
Where to eat: Downriggers Restaurant in Friday Harbor, one of the locals’ favorite places to dine, has scrumptious seafood and is kid-friendly. Besides a children’s menu, kids can color on the paper tablecloth.
McMillin’s Dining Room, in Roche Harbor, specializes in Northwest cuisine focusing on fresh local shellfish and salmon plus island-grown organic meats, vegetables, herbs and greens. I highly recommend the Maytag Blue Cheese Salad and McMillin’s signature dish, Mama Shaw’s Meatloaf, which rivals any meatloaf you’ve ever tasted.
On San Juan Island, you’ll experience spectacular panoramic water and mountain views. You’ll think you’ve entered an exotic country, but no passport is required, just a willingness to take it easy.
For more information, visit www.VisitSanJuans.com.