The Islands of Washington
The anticipation to travel is growing with intensity as the post-pandemic world teases us with the hope of opening up. I can feel my resting heart begin to pound as I compulsively open and reopen my blocked-off calendar dates. In bright bold writing, I read, San Juan Islands!
The San Juan Islands make up San Juan County, located in the Salish Sea on the northwestern corner of the state of Washington. Of San Juan County’s 621 square miles, 72 percent of the area is water, and 400 islands make up the rest. Boasting 408 linear miles, San Juan County has the longest marine shoreline than any other county in the country. With four ferry served islands— Lopez, San Juan, Shaw, and Orcas—San Juan and Orcas Island are the most populated and see the highest volume of tourism. On my next trip, I will be visiting these two islands.
Depending on my travel mood, Pebble Cove Farm and Rosario Resort and Spa are two of my favorite places to stay while on Orcas Island. Pebble Cove Farm is an active organic farm hidden on four acres with its own private beachfront. Friendly animals may join you in the yard, and you are welcome to pick a vine-ripe tomato while on a leisurely walk.
In contrast, Rosario Resort dates back to 1906 when Seattle Mayor Robert Moran built a mansion next to the water in hopes of improving his failing health, and it worked. Later, in the 1920’s, he donated approximately 3,000 of his acres from down the road, on what is still Moran State Park today. The historic Rosario Resort is also home to the Moran Museum and Music Room, which features a two-story pipe organ dating back to 1913. Lucky modern-day travelers, like me, can enjoy a concert performed on the vintage organ or on the 1900’s grand Steinway piano.
On one of my travel days, I’m certain to roll down the windows, turn up some Brandi Carlisle and drive the entire Orcas Island Scenic Byway. The island speed limit is 40 miles per hour, thus
I’ll take quick stop at the top of Mount Constitution for some scrapbook worthy photos of Canada-inthe-distance and attempt to name all of the mountain peaks I can see. I’ll then finish the day with some wine sipping of The Orcas Project wines at Doe Bay Wine Company in downtown Eastsound.
San Juan Island
After a quick ferry ride from Orcas Island to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, the fun continues. With Friday Harbor having the most populated town at 2,500 residents, the activity level can feel almost buzzing. I look forward to the bustling Farmers Market for Westcott Bay Shellfish, grilled fresh with garlic and lemon. Perhaps I’ll hop on Susie’s Moped Rentals and zip around the island on a scooter or better yet, a Scoot Coupe.
The art scene is worth noting too. In addition to painting, pottery, leather and glass blowing, it’s hard to top watching Beauty and the Beast performed at the San Juan Community Theater from the front row. There is a high caliber and quality of actors living quietly on these islands, and they periodically come out and showcase their well- crafted talents to unsuspecting audiences. I was once moved to tears watching a production and eagerly look forward to the day when I can see another performance from this stage.
Three Southern Residents Orca pods live in the waters of the Salish Sea, which makes whale watching an exceptionally popular tourist activity. After discovering these whales are endangered, I always do my best to learn more each trip with a visit to the Whale Museum. Did you know that you can Adopt an Orca? Tempting! No trip to the island of San Juan is complete without an afternoon of walking around Roche Harbor, a marina also home to the first Lime Kiln. Roche Harbor Marina offers 377 slips and can hold 150-foot vessels, and for the sightseer, like me, there is something special when walking along the docks and sneaking peeks into these magnificent yachts.
Oh, so soon
I long for travel. Travel fills my soul with wonder, experience, and understanding. It touches my hands and feet, and my heart. Travel introduces new textures, smells, sounds, and, when I am lucky, new friendships. Now, excuse me while I go look at my calendar once again.
Photos, clockwise from top left: Doe Bay Wine Company; Roche Harbor; Pebble Cove Farm; Westcott Bay shellfish; Roche Harbor