San Juan Island:
A Time from Long Ago
Part 3 of 3
By Kathy Chin Leong
I cannot remember ever letting my kids walk about without my watchful eyes upon them every moment, except when they were at school or under the attention of another adult. In California, with kidnapping news occurring several times a year, I was vigilant.
But here in Friday Harbor, the main town on the edge of San Juan Island, I could imagine my beloved ones weaving their bikes in and out of the streets with complete freedom from sunup to sundown. Oh, what an existence.
During a recent family vacation, we finished off our 9-day excursion to the state of Washington with 3 days on San Juan Island, one of the many islands in the famed archipelago. There are, at last count, 172 of them, but only three -Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan- offer lodging, food, and attractions. San Juan Island is 55.3 square miles, with Orcas a bit larger at 56.9 miles. Lopez measures 29.5 square miles, a tiny thing with only 2,506 inhabitants.
We opted for San Juan Island as the luck of the draw, and with so much to do and see, we could have stayed two more days to fully indulge in the great restaurants, traverse more biking trails, and shop to our hearts delight. I think of San Juan Island as a type of Mayberry RFD (former TV show from the 1960s), where folks in town knew all the local gossip and banded together in times of need. To see more and learn more, call 888/468-3701 or visit http://www.visitsanjuans.com/.
Travelling from Anacortes, we boarded the ferry with our car to San Juan Island. It takes only 65 minutes, but you have to line up your car an hour ahead to make sure you get on the ferry in time. The ferry ride is exciting for those of us who never take ferries anywhere! Taking the car on board is quite cool, and then being able to drive it off the boat back onto land again is something that makes you smile. It is so convenient.Washington State Ferry, 800/843-3779.
The Tucker House Inn is a resplendent inn, great for families because of its proximity to the main town of Friday Harbor. It also has all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay such as a full kitchen with refrigerator, gourmet breakfast (with dessert, too), complimentary kayaks and bicycles, and a common patio area with a gas grill barbecue available for the customers to use. The innkeepers are kind enough to stock each person's kitchen wih mlke, juice, coffee, teas, and spices. Guest laundry is also available.
In addition to the extras, the inn is quite lovely with upscale country decor throughout. The premises are pretty with burbling fountains, healthy plantings, vibrant flowers that offer a feast for the eyes. Service is tailored to guests with a flexible staff. When we had to leave our last day, the innkeeper was happy to pack us To Go boxes of the gourmet breakfast that kept us full for hours afterwards.
Rates for the Tucker Inn's Roche Harbor Cottage (where we stayed) were $330 per night for a family of four. Tucker House Inn, 275 C. Street, 360/378-3587.
We were fortunate enough to be able to use the free bicycles from our inn, but there are bike rental agencies in town. With country roads all around us, we took in a flat two-hour ride around the perimeter of the island, which gave us a great overview of the coastline, historical park, harbor, and farm lands.
POINTS OF INTEREST
During our bike around the island, we passe dby several points of interest, and after we got tuckered out, we drove around to pick up where we left off. These cool spots included: the San Juan Vineyards, noted for its historic white steepled church, Lakedale Resort, English Camp, Mount Young for hiking, Lime Kiln Point State Park, and Cattle Point, a picturesque southernmost tip of the island anchored by a lighthouse.
When not biking, we took part in a kayak and foot tour from Evergreen Escapes. They picked us up at 10 a.m. and drove our small party to go to Roche Harbor around the north side of the island. Our guide led us on an easy kayak expedition, and we enjoyed the bay and its sea life. Unfortunately, no whales were out that day.
After that, we jumped back into the van to see some coastal sights and learned more about the area from our guide. The tour was finished with a great lunch of sandwiches, chips and drinks at a nearby park at Friday Harbor. Evergreen Escapes is a fantastic outfitter that offers an assortment of half-day, full day, and multi-day tours in Washington and Oregon. The guides are experienced, passionate, and environmentally sensitive in all that they say and do. Evergreen Escapes, 1- 866-203-7603, http://www.evergreenescapes.com/.
Near Roche Harbor is the Westcott Bay Reserve Sculpture Park. It is admission free and features a host of unusual outdoor sculptures that are interesting to see and fun to walk up to. Some are interactive, others are there to be looked at with awe. Reserve about an hour to walk through or run by here if you decide to come.
Everyone loves animals, and you'll find the Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm. You'll see these relatives of the camel with their big, gentle eyes and long lashes, and you can wader through the gift shop to purchase all things with alpaca fur - very, very soft for sure. Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, 3501 West Valley Rd., Friday Harbor, 360/378-6125.
Our brood loves adventure, and for that reason, we decided to go zip-lining through the forest. Lucky for us, a new zip-line outfitter called San Juan Zip Line. The activity was fabulous, easy for the four of us, and careening amidst the trees was exhilarating. San Juan Zip Line, 360/378-5947, http://www.zipsanjuan.com/.
We made our third and last day count with a little Scootcoupe rental - a bright red, gas-powered number with handlebars from Susie's Mopeds. Part scooter, part car, the zippy little thing offered us two seats, ran low to the ground, and sported a big windshield, and literally made a buzzing sound. It looked like the little cartoon cars on the Chevron gas commercials. Wearing helmets, we felt like astronauts on wheels. Fun to drive and ride, we enjoyed our jaunt thoroughly. Susie's Mopeds, 125 Nichols, 360/378-5244, http://www.susiesmopeds.com/.
A bit of shopping was in store for us at the Pelindaba Lavender Farm, known as the farm with the most lavender goods produced compared to anywhere in the nation. At last count, the company said it makes over 240 products at its Gatehouse Farm Store. From lavender short bread to lavender jewelry to lavender bed spray, the gift shop is prolific, lovely and fragrant. The outside has picnic tables, more gifts for shopping, a lavender still, and an area where you can see the 50 different varieties of lavender grown. Classes are available too. Pelindaba Lavender Farm, Wold Road, off of Bailer Hill Road; store is at 33 Hawthorne Lane, Friday Harbor. 360/378-4248, http://www.pelindabalavender.com/.
The kids loved the bookstores in town. And unlike where I live in the Bay Area, my town of Sunnyvale has only one bookstore. But in Friday Harbor, we discovered three bookstores! The Griffin Bay Bookstore is a great place in the center of downtown with plenty of gift items, journals, and new books. Griffin Bay Bookstore, 155 Spring St., Friday Harbor, 360/378-5511.
The other one is Serendipity The Used Books Place which my daughter loved because it is a former home. Unlike the sterile bookstores of today, this magical rescue home for beloved tomes has books stacked in every nook and cranny, and piled up above the door jams on shelves and even organized by theme forming pillars erupting from the floor. Quirky and homey, this place is unique and instantly beloved! Seredipity The Used Books Place, 223 A Street, Friday Harbor, 360/378-2665.
Our trip to the San Juan Island ended too early. I would have loved to see more of the
island at a leisurely pace, visit some of the local artists, or tried out more coffee houses of which there are several. Loading our car back on the Washington State Ferry, we all knew we would be back again.
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Kathy Chin Leong is executive editor of Bay Area Family Travel.com and would not mind spending a summer living in Friday Harbor.