Time and time again, we sing the praises of traveling during the off-season. Sure, the weather is not always as stellar as the more popular travel times, but if there is one thing you can’t count on when you live in the Pacific Northwest, it is the weather. We have experienced better weather in April than July and better weather in October than June. As long as you dress in layers and pack a sense of adventure, you’ll find the beaches, restaurants, and shops are the same, minus the crowds. One big perk of traveling during the off-season is reservations are easier to come by, and everyone, in general, has a more laid-back attitude. Springtime on the islands is filled with flowers, sunshine, rain, and anticipation as the days become longer. Between beach hopping, cruising around the island, and stopping to take photographs, before you know it, the day is half over. But if you’re looking for other things to do, might we suggest the following…
A San Juan Island Spring Itinerary
Morning: First stop, Roche Harbor, for fresh donuts at the Lime Kiln Cafe. After an indulgent breakfast, head out to Cattle Point for a gorgeous bluff hike, eagle spotting, and serenity. If it’s a Saturday, make sure to swing by Friday Harbor’s Farmers Market for fresh produce, locally made cheese, and picnic essentials. If it’s a weekday, do some shopping in town, then munch on delicious fish and chips at Bait. Drive to San Juan County Park for a picnic, a rock-throwing session, and launch your kayak there for an afternoon paddle.
Afternoon: After working up an appetite out on the water, stop by Westcott Bay Shellfish for a late afternoon snack or San Juan Island Brewery for a mid-day pick-me-up. If your legs are up for it, walk along South Beach for beach exploration, rock collecting, and a bonfire at the beach.
Evening: Make reservations for an Italian-inspired dinner at Coho restaurant in town or meander your way back across the island for gourmet fare at Duck Soup Inn. Finish off your busy day at Lime Kiln Lighthouse for a gorgeous sunset, whale spotting, and plenty of photo ops. If you’re more interested in thoroughly planning your itinerary ahead of time, here are few places to consider:
San Juan Island Farmer’s Market:
April-October 9:30 am-1 pm every Saturday November-December 1st and 3rd Saturday
Visit the San Juan Island Farmer’s Market every Saturday from April to October. Attending the local Farmer’s Market is an excellent way to get a sense of local cuisine and interact with the locals. It also allows you to sample local food you might not be able to try any other way. You might taste everything from your first barbecued oyster, which might result in a subsequent trip to Westcott Bay Oyster Farm, or sample some of the season’s first raspberries that inspire a raspberry cream pie once you arrive home. Pick up some beet and radish seeds to fill in the empty spaces in your garden, or purchase one of many heirloom tomato plants or blueberry plants for sale. Between all the color and variety available at the market, it’s easy to get very excited for the bounty we call late spring/early summer.
Insider tip: Go early (before 11 am) for the best selection. Bring one basket and one bag to carry around easily and separate your perishable and non-perishable purchases.
Kayaking (May through September for best orca viewing):
Experience Washington’s sea life from the best possible place – the water. Rent your own or join a kayaking outfitter for a few hours. If you’re craving a real adventure, plan a long weekend of paddling. Kayak along the rocky shorelines and coves, get up close, and personal with local sea life such as sea lions, seals, porpoises, eagles, etc. Kayaking is a fantastic sport that you can learn quickly with a short lesson and safety briefing. The outfitters will provide you with gear, so all you need to do is bring your adventurous spirit, a hat, sunscreen, and a water bottle. Whether it is your first time or tenth time kayaking, there is nothing more thrilling than paddling alongside a group of sea lions, quickly getting out of the way of a Washington state ferry, or watching a whale or sea lion swim right under your boat.
Insider tip: Dress in layers and always bring a waterproof jacket. The mornings can start cool, and before you know it, the sun will warm you up, or the rain will cool you right down.
Whenever you visit the San Juan Islands, it’s wonderful to get out on the water as much as possible. There are many outfitters on the island, and San Juan Safaris is one of our favorites. San Juan Safaris doesn’t just provide whale watching excursions but an opportunity to learn from the experts. Brian and his team offer a wealth of knowledge when it comes to sea life. The entire San Juan Safari team is eager to talk about everything they know, from whale behavior to swim patterns. Their guides and naturalists are professional and possess an enthusiasm for their jobs that is unmatched. On the off chance you don’t spot whales on your trip, don’t worry because you’ll still be able to witness an abundance of wildlife in its natural environment. Aside from whales, you might see bald eagles, porpoises, and seals, to name a few. The San Juans are such a rich environment for wildlife in addition to being an absolutely beautiful place. There is nothing quite like being out on a boat with the sunshine warming your body, the wind whipping your hair, and the thrill of spotting animals you’ve never seen before. Each trip is unique and truly a feast for the senses.
Insider tip: Animals are often most active in the morning when fewer boats have been out. Be sure to bring a good pair of binoculars if you have them.
Mopeds and scooters:
Did you know you can get around the island without a car? Susie’s Mopeds offers rentals of all kinds, from mopeds to scoot coupes and electric bicycles. One of our favorites is the scoot coupe, which comfortably fits two people and is a fun way to spend the day together while seeing the island. There are endless routes and roads you can take around the island, but one we recommend is to head out to Cattle Point for a bluff walk, stop at the lavender fields if they’re in bloom, look for whales at Lime Kiln Lighthouse, drop into Westcott Bay Shellfish and motor on to Roche Harbor for dinner. These are just a few highlights, but it’s also fun to take random roads and meander your way around the island. We regularly add and subtract items to our list with fun outings to farm stands or an excursion to see the Sponge Bob Squarepants Pineapple. Susie’s Mopeds offers a fast, friendly, reliable, and fun way to see the island.
Insider tip: Book well in advance because on busy weekends and during the summer, Susie’s is known to sell out quickly!
Three Lakes Triathlon and San Juan Island Marathon, Half Marathon and 10k at Lakedale Resort: June 19th-20th, 2021
The perfect choice for your first 10k or your 10th marathon, this race weekend promises fun and adventures for athletes of all ages and abilities. Nestled in the heart of San Juan Island, Lakedale’s family-friendly atmosphere is the ideal spot to start and finish a race and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for all.
Fourth of July Fireworks: July 4th, 2021
There will be fireworks displays at both Roche Harbor and Friday Harbor on the 4th of July. The fireworks will start shortly after 10 pm on Independence Day. To safely watch the extravaganza, spread out on the docks, the shoreline, or view them from your car.
Insider tip: If you want to avoid the crowds when the fireworks start, head to 4th of July Beach at the south end of the island and watch not only Friday Harbor’s but Lopez Island’s displays while relaxing on the beach.
Lakedale’s 4th annual Music Festival: August 27th, 2021
Lakedale’s Music Festival features renowned jazz virtuoso Brian Nova and his Trio. The Music Festival is an idyllic way to savor the last bit of summer and welcome fall. Enjoy a leisurely day listening to music and stay in a yurt (check that one off your bucket list!) The Music Festival benefits the San Juan Islands School Music programs and Terry’s Kids, a wonderful organization that brings children together through music. Terry’s Kids provides free music programming to schools and care facilities worldwide, with performances, concerts, clinics, and lessons. The Music Festival is open to music lovers of all ages and registered guests at Lakedale. Admission price is included in the nightly rate, and a limited number of tickets will be available at the gate for $25 per day. Gates open at 10 am.
Open all year:
Lime Kiln Point State Park:
Often referred to as Whale Watch Park, Lime Kiln State Park is a 36-acre day-use park with a lighthouse, walking trails, picnic areas, and restroom. The park is a favorite location to see wildlife and is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from land. For gorgeous sunsets, whale spotting, and unique photographs, Lime Kiln Lighthouse is the best place to be at the close of a day.
South Beach and American Camp:
South Beach is located at American Camp in the San Juan National Historical Park. It is the longest public beach in the islands, with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and two miles of rocks, sand, and driftwood just waiting to be explored. Go beachcombing and soak in the island life while building a driftwood sculpture.
One of the most beautiful places on San Juan Island is Cattle Point. Located at the south end of the Island, it consists of low rolling hills, cliffs covered in prairie grassland, gravel beaches, rock outcroppings to explore, and several protected sandy coves. Cattle Point is a short drive from Friday Harbor, and yet it feels as though you are miles away from everything. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Canada. This quiet park is a prime example of how easily accessible some of the most breathtaking places on San Juan Island are. Far enough away from town, with no restaurants or tourist attractions other than spectacular beauty, you’ll often have the place to yourself.
Springtime is one of our favorite times at Roche Harbor. The weather usually cooperates, flowers boxes and hanging baskets are bursting with color, and it is generally a much quieter time than the hustle and bustle of the summer. Check out all the boats and yachts while walking the docks and take time to read their clever names; it’s a highlight of every trip. Plan to spend at least an afternoon or evening at Roche during your stay. The appeal is understandable with the laid back, leisurely pace (think no ferry traffic or hurried Friday Harbor tours.) Take a kayak trip from Roche Harbor docks, then eat at one of our favorite restaurants, Madrona Bar and Grill.
Insider tip: If donuts are your thing, no visit to San Juan Island is complete without a stop at the Lime Kiln Cafe in Roche Harbor for some of the freshest donuts you’ll find on the island. If heaping salads are more your speed, check out Madrona Bar and Grill.
San Juan County Park:
Another great outing is San Juan County Park on the west of the island. There’s a small beach, a short hiking trail, campsites, and plenty of beautiful views to enjoy. If you have kids, this is an ideal spot to let them explore and run off some energy. You can easily spend an afternoon examining bugs, eating a picnic lunch, and enjoying the warm sunshine on your face.
Insider tip: If you own a kayak, canoe, or small raft, this is the perfect place to launch it.
Do you ever want to visit a place where you can unplug? Where you can enjoy the great outdoors during the day and come back to modern conveniences at night? A vacation where you feel like a kid again, either with or without your children? A retreat to reconnect with your special person? A getaway where you can enjoy quality time as a family or enjoy the serenity of nature alone? If you answered yes to any of these things, then Lakedale is the place for you. We hope to see you the next time you visit the San Juans!
Now that we’re heading into the season of long-shadowed days, chilly cheeks, and splashes of red streaking through maple trees, you may think summer is over and autumn has arrived. But never fear, you can recreate summer and still savor the San Juans with an online trip to our favorite artisan producers. On your mark, get set, shop!
San Juan Island Sea Salt is the baby of Brady Ryan, an islander who started his business in 2012 and now produces around 5000 lbs. of salt a year in 7 evaporation houses. From one or two products, their line has evolved into 30 unique offerings, in addition to honey, which always sells out quickly. We swoon over the Madrona Smoked Salt and the Popcorn Blend, but the salt masters still surprise us with new flavors…Dill Pickle or Scorpion Salt, anyone? And at the end of the day, there’s nothing better than a luscious Salted Honey Caramel!
Photo thanks to San Juan Island Sea Salt
No visit to the San Juans is complete without a stop at Pelindaba Lavender, whether in the summertime at their organically certified farm or the rest of the year at their storefront in Friday Harbor. Founded in 1998 to preserve open space, Pelindaba is now a “premier grower of lavender plants, a distiller of essential oils, and a handcrafter of lavender-based products.” They have also expanded beyond the island to 8 other locations around the country. With products for the kitchen, personal care, your home, and yes, even your dog, Pelindaba wins our best-smelling online shopping award.
San Juan Vineyards produces award-winning estate grown wines with grapes grown on San Juan Island, the coolest-climate growing region of Washington State, the Puget Sound AVA. The vineyard was recently purchased by the Corliss family, who own wineries and vineyards in Eastern Washington, so their already good wines are bound to get better. Take a break from Chardonnay and try their Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine wines; both pair exceptionally well with seafood from the island.
Photo thanks to San Juan Vineyards
Inspired by French Champagne, dry Rhones, and Bordeaux Reds, the young owners of Madrone Cellars, Shaun and Amy Salamida, are bringing a taste of Europe to the wine scene of the San Juan Islands. Favoring the natural style, Shaun’s wines are made with minimal intervention and are unfiltered. Their goal is ultimately to have a bio-dynamic vineyard on San Juan Island, but for now they’re sourcing grapes from Eastern Washington. Madrone Cider was born in 2017 and uses the same process as French Champagne to produce a delightfully dry and refreshing “hard cider” with fruit from local farms.
Photo thanks to Madrone Cellars
A newcomer to island food artisans, Tea Salish Sea is owned by the Compton family who brought tea-growing to San Juan Island in 2017. They are the first island farm to produce tea commercially and were instrumental in the creation of the San Juan Tea appellation. Tours of the plantation will start sometime in 2020, but in the meantime, in addition to ordering online, you can pay a visit to their new Tea Salish Sea Picoshop in Friday Harbor on select Saturdays. Make a cup of Lavender Earl Grey or Island Basil Chai and transport yourself right back to the island!
Photo thanks to Tea Salish Sea
High Seas Tuna, based in Anacortes (jumping-off point for the ferries to the islands), has been in the family fishing business since the early 1960s. They “troll catch” young sashimi-grade albacore tuna, which are blast-frozen at sea. After hand-filleting and hand packing the fish, the can is cooked only once, unlike commercial processors. No water or oil is added, and the outcome is simply delicious. In addition to being dolphin-safe, their tuna has five times the Omega-3 oil of other brands and less than half the sodium. Add this staple to your pantry this winter, and you won’t be disappointed!
Photo thanks to High Seas Tuna
Girl Meets Dirt is the tale of an island girl who, upon returning home after a career in Manhattan, makes good by producing heritage preserves sourced from historic orchards on Orcas Island. These award-winning jams, shrubs, and bitters rely on an old-school style that pairs single varietal fruit with organic cane sugar and organic lemon, cooked down in seasoned copper pans. From Cherry Fig Leaf jam to Pink Bartlett Cutting Preserves to Island Plum Shrub, the results are pure magic.
Photo thanks to Girl Meets Dirt
Last, and certainly not least, of our island purveyors is Island Thyme, based on Orcas Island since 1996. Their farm and gardens provide the basis for an outstanding line of botanically-based skin and body care products, all blended in their apothecary studio. Island Thyme’s soaps (Gardener’s Scrub and Spruce and Cedar are Lakedale favorites), creams, balms, and herbal oils have creative and healthy fragrance twists. They now produce hand sanitizers, and their lip balms regularly sell out in our Lakedale stores.
Photo thanks to Island Thyme
Like many of you, we’ve been frustrated that our travel wings have been clipped this summer (although with more than 80 acres to roam here at Lakedale, we’re fortunate to get our daily dose of nature in). And like many of you, our Instagram accounts are suffering because of this no-travel state of affairs. I decided to take matters into my own hands and take a tour of what I think are the most Instagrammable places on San Juan Island. Our island has natural beauty in spades, from driftwood-scattered beaches to pastoral farms, lush forests, and rocky shorelines brimming with sea creatures…so keeping the list down to 10 was the hard part!
- Lime Kiln Point State Park, on the west side of the Island, has it all. Lime Kiln is where we go to catch a glorious sunset, with the Lighthouse serving as a picturesque backdrop. The 41-acre state park is also one of the best places in the world to watch Orca whales (also humpbacks and porpoises) from the shoreline. Best viewing is usually between May and September when the whales are in residence, so remember your long-distance lens to capture a shot of them breaching!
- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands provides an abundance of photo ops, and it’s the perfect socially distanced excursion. One of my favorite kayak trips is from the Friday Harbor Marina to Turn Island Marine State Park, a leisurely one-hour paddle. Turn Island is only accessible by boat, so once there, pull your kayak ashore on the pebbly beach, have a relaxing picnic, and then hike the perimeter trail around the island (counterclockwise is recommended). You’ll find madrone trees arching over the shoreline, blue herons, and gorgeous views around every twist and turn. First come, first served camping is also allowed here.
Photo courtesy of San Juan Outfitters and Brendan McGarry
- Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor Marinas. I don’t know about you, but “walking the docks” is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. The Friday Harbor Marina is adjacent to the ferry terminal at the foot of Spring Street. It offers panoramic vistas across the Salish Sea to Mt. Baker, ferry boats chugging in and out of town, and floatplanes landing dockside. If you want to photograph yourself alongside sleek yachts and mega powerboats, visit the Roche Harbor Marina. The historic seaside resort at the north end of the island also boasts lush gardens and quaint white turn-of-the-century buildings. (Food photo note: my favorite clam chowder favorite can be found at the Lim Kiln Café.)
- Beaches are plentiful on San Juan Island, from tiny rocky coves to long expanses of pebbles strewn with driftwood. South Beach, in the San Juan Island National Historical Park, is ripe for your Insta-perfect shots. It is a 2-mile stretch of gorgeous, with views to the Olympic Mountains over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and an impressive display of driftwood. Just across the road from South Beach is Fourth of July Beach, on the leeward side of things, so warmer, less windy, and perfect for picnicking. From this view, you can shoot images of the Salish Sea toward Mt. Baker – a combination that will undoubtedly add to your “likes”. Hike the trail south of the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, and you’ll discover a jewel of a beach at Deadman’s Cove. It’s small, sheltered, and is the local’s go-to location for finding sea-glass and taking wedding photos.
- Historical buildings always seem to catch my eye when I’m traveling. English Camp, part of the San Juan National Historical Park, is a day-use area situated on Garrison Bay. Hundreds of British Royal Marines were stationed here during the peaceful 12-year joint U.S./British occupation of San Juan Island in the 1860’s. Some of the original 27 picturesque, white structures are still standing. American Camp, at the south end of the island, is where the Americans were stationed during the occupation. It only has two structures remaining, but is still photo-worthy, with windswept views from the Strait to the bay.
- My favorite forest, especially on a hot summer’s day, can be found on the hike from Jakle’s Lagoon to Mt. Finlayson. It offers massive Douglas firs with peek-a-boo views to the sea and mountains, and lush undergrowth for close-up shots. The last half of the hike provides an expansive view from the Cattle Point Lighthouse across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island and the Olympic Mountains. Stunning.
- The town of Friday Harbor, with its quaint buildings, is always a good source for photos, but head a little farther out of town to Pelindaba Lavender Farm for some guaranteed winners. Summer is the peak of color in the lavender fields…try to schedule your trip for their annual Lavender Festival in mid-July (in a “back-to-normal” year).
- The Washington State Ferries, the most common transportation to the islands, provide a terrific place to take photos of the Salish Sea, it’s picturesque islands, as well as passing sailboats, soaring birds and if you’re lucky, an occasional whale or two. If want to take some incredible aerial shots, book a flight to San Juan Island on Kenmore Air and ask the pilot if you can ride shotgun. You won’t be disappointed with the images you get from on high.
- Food photos. Someone once told me that 75% of the photos taken on iPhones were food images. If so, you’ll have plenty of inspiration on San Juan Island. My favorite foodie photo restaurant is the Duck Soup Inn, which never fails to deliver a beautifully plated, delicious dish and inspiring cocktail. Duck Soup is located ¼ mile from Lakedale in a quaint house shrouded in flowering vines in the summer. A welcome reward at the end of a long photo day.
- And last but not least, we never tire of using Lakedale as a backdrop for our photo excursions. With docks floating atop reflective lakes, verdant meadows, towering pine trees, colorful tie-dye T-shirts hanging to dry, Trumpeter swans in the winter…you’ll get great shots without ever leaving the resort. And your Instagram account will thank you!
Photo courtesy of Lisette Wolter McKinley
I’d been staring bleary-eyed at the TV for weeks…my husband engrossed in the fall game season. Are you ready for…Saturday college, Sunday pros, Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday night, and lest we forget, baseball and the World Series? Not that I don’t enjoy sports, but fall and winter are great times of the year to travel, especially when the San Juan Islands are so beautiful and oh, so close.
I secretly recorded all the games I knew hubby would want, pried the remote from his twitchy little hands and whisked him off to the San Juan Islands for a romantic winter weekend getaway. Once we were on the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, the wind in our hair, gulls soaring above, and islands slowly parading by, the freshness of the salt air eliminated all memories of football. I think.
Weekends in the Pacific Northwest islands are magic, doesn’t matter when you go, but my favorite times are the off-seasons, when summer crowds are nestled at home, kids are in school, leaving the islands to be explored in leisure with the one you love. Full disclosure: I’m completely biased toward San Juan Island, so my romantic weekend getaway starts and ends here. Here’s my favorite itinerary (and full disclosure again…no scintillating details, you’ll have to fill in the blanks):
Drive off the ferry (remember to make ferry reservations both ways at Take a Ferry) park your car and explore Spring Street. Fun boutique shops (no chain stores here), art galleries, the amazing San Juan Islands Museum of Art, and one of my favorites…the upstairs store at King’s Market. It’s chock full of crab pots, maps, fishing gear, shoes, and island-worthy clothing.
Photo thanks to Friday Harbor House
In need of refreshment? The bar at Friday Harbor House showcases a menu of inspired adult libations along with a great view of the Friday Harbor Marina…watch boats and ferries ply the Salish Sea as daylight fades.
Next up: dinner at Vinny’s Italian Restaurant. There’s nothing we like better than being greeted like family by owners Becky and Julie, and tucking in to always delicious Italian favorites and a very good selection of reasonably priced Italian wines. My go-to meal is the house salad, followed by chicken piccata and then, if I’m living dangerously, a Mini-Jack ice cream sundae. Let your conscience be your guide.
Happily full, drive to Lakedale Resort for the most relaxing and romantic getaway around. In the summer, kids in tow, we opt for glamping in a Canvas Cottage or a Log Cabin stay. But when it’s just the two of us, we book a lodge room overlooking the lake, or a luxury yurt complete with its own private hot tub. Every lodge room has a gas fireplace and large jetted tub, and spoiler alert, there will be a major refresh in December that will include luxurious king beds, just for starters!
If you’d prefer to stay in the town of Friday Harbor, our favorite choice is Ferry Landing Suites, literally across the street from the ferry landing. If you decide to ditch the car o your romantic getaway, just walk from the ferry up to the cute white Victorian building that houses the Elwha Suite (two bedrooms, a full kitchen, living room and a private deck), or the Yakima Suite (a studio apartment with kitchenette, living area and 2 small balconies). The Salty Fox Cafe is right downstairs, for the island’s best coffee and morning food, and if you do bring the car, count on a dedicated parking space for each of the units. Hold your sweetie’s hand and watch the moonrise from these front row seats!
Cafe Demetre is Friday Harbor’s best bakery, so knowing you’re going to need some sustenance for the exciting day ahead, swing by for morning buns, ginger scones, a slice of breakfast pizza, other delectable treats, and a killer cappuccino.
Well-fortified, you can now take the best hike on the island, to Jakle’s Lagoon and Mt. Finlayson, at the south of the island on the way to the Cattle Point Lighthouse. Look for the trailhead parking lot on the left, or one of the Lakedale team will be happy to give you directions. The hike encapsulates all that’s great about the islands: hiking through majestic forests, meeting and greeting wildlife on a beach walk, and then encountering majestic vistas, open meadows and views all the way to the Olympic mountains and Canada.
Drive back to town for a quick lunch of fish and chips, clam chowder, and a local brew at Cask and Schooner, or dine on the waterfront overlooking the marina, at Down-riggers.
Take it easy at Lakedale for the afternoon, paddle a canoe, read a book on the deck overlooking Neva Lake, sip a glass of wine by the outdoor fireplace, take a nap…
Or… do more island exploring. For a fun afternoon, head to Westcott Bay Cider and San Juan Island Distillery. They make delicious small batch hard ciders, 14 different gins, liqueurs and an award-wining apple brandy. Their Saturday afternoon tastings are great fun as well as educational – remember to ask to see the gorgeous all-copper still.
Sunsets and romance go hand in hand. On your way back to Lakedale, swing by the historic Lime Kiln Lighthouse on the island’s west side at sunset. Wander to the water’s edge past colorful Madrona trees, sit a spell, and if you’re lucky, an Orca whale might swim by. Kiss, anyone?
What would a romantic weekend away be without a Duck Soup dinner? Located just 1/4 mile from Lakedale, this island classic is housed in a quaint country house overlooking a scenic pond, with comfortable booths, blazing fireplace and twinkle lights galore. The food showcases the bounty of the islands with local produce, meats, seafood and foraged delights…always perfectly prepared. Interesting handcrafted cocktails too. But best news of all, it is now open year-round, and in the off-season from Wednesdays through Saturdays. Reservations are essential!
Sleeping in could be the order of the day, but you’ll want to make it downstairs in time for breakfast in the lodge and one of Mary Ann’s delicious “Momelettes”, along with her entertaining description of what to do on San Juan Island. Use one of her great suggestions, or spend the morning walking the docks at Roche Harbor at the north end of the island. Even in winter, the Roche Marina boasts a serious display of boat power, both the sailboat and yacht varieties. Pick up a few of the famous freshly made donuts at Lime Kiln Cafe at the top of the docks (we didn’t say this was a weight watcher’s romantic weekend) before your walk, and after you’ve worked them off, enjoy a couple’s massage at the AfterGlow Spa, a surefire way to keep the embers burning and ease you back into civilization.
Whether you’re leaving the island aboard an early ferry or later one, there’s always one more chance for romance on the island…and who knows, your significant other may decide to toss the remote control and surprise you with another romantic San Juan Island getaway!
Friday Harbor Marina moonrise
Have you ever sat down and tried to plan the “Perfect Vacation”? If you have, you know that it can be challenging, even stressful in the same way that finding that “Perfect Gift” for a loved one’s birthday, anniversary or holiday event can be. For some, the planets and stars align just for them and the ideas jump right into their laps. That’s great for them, but the rest of us mortals usually have to do a lot of research by looking at websites, reading travel blogs or magazines, and asking friends and co-workers for advice before we land on that great vacation idea. And that’s exactly what you’re doing right now, so we’re happy to share some of our thoughts with you!
We think it would be fair to assume that, since you’re here, you’re thinking of visiting San Juan Island, right? Great, we’ve got the location locked in! And you thought this was going to be hard. For the next part, we like to do a little exercise that involves a little drawing (think stick figures, not the Mona Lisa). Grab a piece of paper and draw a simple triangle, right in the middle of the page. Now write the following three words, one at each corner of the triangle: “Stay”, “Eat”, and “Play”. When you’re planning the perfect vacation, you’ll need somewhere to stay, somewhere to eat, and something to do. The formula is really that simple! We’ll give you our recommendations in reverse order for extra drama and suspense.
Now that you’re locked into San Juan Island as your destination, what do you do when you get here? Well, if you’re like us you enjoy being outdoors, seeing wildlife, and experiencing new things that you don’t normally do on a day to day basis, and we’ve got a couple of recommendations that fit that mold perfectly!
Whale Watching with San Juan Safaris:
The waters surrounding San Juan Island are the #1 place in North America to see wild orca whales, and San Juan Safaris is in the perfect place to provide you with the thrill of seeing them in their natural habitat. San Juan Safaris has been offering the highest quality whale watching tours, with a focus on guest experience and respectful wildlife viewing, for over 20 years. San Juan Safaris works closely with conservation groups to monitor the locations of the orcas and, with the help of their fast boats and experienced captains, they enjoy a 95% whale sighting success rate during peak season, which is higher than any other tour operator!
Of course, these tours end up being much more than taking a boat ride out to look at whales. Every San Juan Safaris tour is accompanied by a marine naturalist who will help you develop a deeper appreciation for the environment and wildlife of our islands. They’re part teacher, part environmental advocate, and part entertainer. Their passion and enthusiasm will have you laughing while you learn, and you’ll leave your tour with a smile on your face and memories of a day you’ll never forget!
Sea Kayaking with San Juan Outfitters:
In addition to our fantastic whale watching opportunities, the San Juan Islands are one of the top sea kayaking destinations in the world. And because Lakedale only recommends the best of the best, we’re going to point you towards what is widely considered to be San Juan Island’s premier sea kayak tour company: San Juan Outfitters. Their reputation is a product of over a decade of the highest level of guest service combined with a variety of tour options that you just won’t find with another operator.
Got kids? Even better! San Juan Outfitters is the only sea kayaking tour company that specializes in family tours with K-12 educators on staff. These tours provide an opportunity for families with children as young as 6 years old to experience tide pools, paddle with harbor seals, and interact with the flora and fauna that call this region their home, all in a safe environment with minimum exposure. If you’re not traveling with children don’t worry, because they offer 3 hour (half day) and 5 hour (full day) tours with professional and knowledgeable guides that are sure to bring out your inner-kiddo! And while San Juan Outfitters is best known for the tours that we just mentioned, they’re the best for overnight, multi-day and custom kayak tours to boot!
We don’t know about you, but being out and about all day, enjoying all that Mother Nature offers, makes us hungry. You’ve experienced the best San Juan Island sights and sounds, so now it’s time to complete the sensory cycle by experiencing the best smells and tastes. It’s dinner time!
Dinner at Duck Soup:
Four and a half miles outside of Friday Harbor, and just across the road from Lakedale Resort, Duck Soup is a comfortable country restaurant that serves fresh, sophisticated Northwest cuisine. Comfortable booths, a fieldstone fireplace, and a beautiful seasonal deck and stone fire pit lounge create an atmosphere that is simultaneously cozy, relaxing, and elegant. Duck Soup’s ambiance and friendly service give it a legitimate “cabin in the woods” feel. Trust us; we know a thing or two about cabins in the woods.
Duck Soup’s menu features local farm produce, meat and seafood, foraged edibles from land and sea, and local goods made by island crafts people. Don’t forget their handcrafted and balanced cocktails, which feature spirits from local distilleries, local seasonal produce, and wild harvested island botanicals. If you really enjoy food, and you’re in search of a uniquely San Juan Island dining experience, a visit to Duck Soup is an absolute must!
Something to do: Check! Somewhere to eat: Check! All that’s left is to find a place for you to call home while you’re away from home. Drumroll please…
You didn’t think we were going to tell you to stay somewhere else, did you? We’d probably recommend us, even if we weren’t us! Seriously though, whether you’re traveling with friends and family, your significant other, or even solo for some special you time, Lakedale Resort has a variety of unique accommodation options that will fit neatly into just about everyone’s idea of a “Perfect Vacation”. Located on 82 acres of lakes, meadows and forest, Lakedale is less than 5 miles from the ferry dock in Friday Harbor, so you’ll be able to escape the hustle and bustle of town while still being close enough for easy access to activities, restaurants, and shopping. Although, with our General Store, Activities Tent, fishing, boating, and outdoor games, you might just decide to stay, eat, and play right at Lakedale!
For our guests that are looking for a more “traditional” experience, we recommend one of our Lodge Rooms for adults, or one of our real Log Cabins for families. If you’re interested in something unique, a real fusion of connection with nature and some of the comforts of home, then we encourage you to try one of our Canvas Cabins or Canvas Cottages, or our vintage Airstream. You could even take it a step further and brag to your friends about how you stayed in one of our new Yurts, and had WiFi and your own hot tub in the middle of the woods!
And there you have it: the perfect San Juan Island getaway. Now, we may not be able to help you with that perfect gift for your loved one’s…wait a minute…do you think your loved one would enjoy a vacation? It’s almost not fair how easy island life is, right? Give us a call at Lakedale and we’ll do all the work for you!
San Juan Island has more than its share of gorgeous natural attractions, which is one reason our guests love to visit. Starting with the ferry ride across the Salish Sea, to the drive through the island to arrive at Lakedale with peaks of Mt. Baker and glimpses of pastoral farmland and forests along the way, it’s easy to lose yourself in the island’s beauty. But we’ll fill you in on a local secret…there are some great events that happen all summer long that you may just have to add into your romantic vacation, weekend getaway, or family adventure!
Here are some of our favorite special events happening on San Juan Island this summer:
Summer Family Art Days – Most Saturdays June 16 – August 25
Sponsored by the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, grab the whole family and spend a summer afternoon with local artists creating your own masterpiece. Set outside at the museum with materials provided, you’ll produce a take-home project that relates to the current First Nation exhibits on view at the museum this summer. For more information on what each Saturday’s theme will be, take a look at the museum’s website. The events are free, with donations happily accepted. San Juan Islands Art Museum
2nd Annual Port of Friday Harbor Pirate and Wooden Ships – June 22 – 24, All day
Aurghhhh mateys! Get your pirate patch on and head down to the docks for the second annual Pirate and Wooden Ships Festival sponsored by the Port of Friday Harbor. Tour historic old ships, take a day sail, enjoy live music, delicious food, games for the kids, and much more! Free admission, and details can be found at Port of Friday Harbor
Music on the Lawn – Wednesdays, from June 27 to August 8, 6:30 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.
Rock your midweek with the summer concert series every Wednesday on the grounds of the San Juan Historical Society (425 Price Street). With bands playing everything from bluegrass to country to classic pop/rock and roll to funk/Latin/reggae, this summer series will get you up and dancing. Bring a picnic, a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy a great evening of free music! For a complete list of all the upcoming concerts, contact San Juan Island Parks and Rec.
Friday Harbor Fourth of July 4
Close your eyes and imagine the perfect small-town Fourth of July celebration…we think Friday Harbor’s is it! The entire town gathers on Spring Street at 10:30 a.m. for the parade…local businesses, community groups, (and whoever wants to join in, including dogs) cheer and throw candy to happy kids. The theme for this year’s parade is “Music of America”, celebrating music through the decades.
After the parade, the Kiwanis Club hosts the annual Pig War Picnic at the San Juan Historical Museum grounds (great BBQ!) with live music. Roche Harbor Resort, at the north end of the island, offers an Old Fashioned 4th of July with a doughnut eating contest, blindfolded dinghy races, and log rolling contests.
At the end of the day, grab your kids, your honey, your blanket and be ready to relax with magical fireworks reflecting over the port of Friday Harbor (and also at Roche Harbor). And if you haven’t had enough fun, head to the “Rock the Docks” dance party at the marina at the end of the night! Learn more about the festivities at San Juan Island Fourth of July Celebration.
Island Stage Left Theater, “The Tempest” – July 11 – August 12
One of the island’s treasures, Island Stage Left has been performing Shakespeare’s plays in the San Juan Islands for the past twenty years. This summer, the troupe presents “The Tempest”, Shakespeare’s last solo work – blending magic, spirits, love, treachery, and forgiveness, and one that will delight all ages. The performances occur on all the San Juan Islands (San Juan, Orcas, Shaw and Lopez) and the suggested donation is $20. Please check with Island Stage Left for times and locations.
San Juan Island Lavender Festival – July 21-22, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The lavender fields of San Juan are one of the island’s most beautiful attractions—and certainly the best smelling! Pelindaba Lavender Farm sprawls across 25 acres of land. Stroll through purple-flowered fields, enjoy lavender-based snacks, ice-cream and lemonade on the lawn, and shop handcrafted lavender products. You can harvest your own bouquet straight from the field, weave a wreath, or watch live lavender-inspired demonstrations. And if you miss the festival, don’t worry—the fields are open all summer. Pelindaba also has a store in town if you can’t make it to the farm. Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera! Leashed dogs are also welcomed. More details can be found at San Juan Island Lavender Festival.
National Historical Park Encampment – July 27 through 29 – 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Many historical reenactment groups recreate famous battles but here on San Juan Island, we reenact peace! This summer will be the 18th reenactment of the joint occupation of San Juan Island by British and American forces from 1859-1872, when a war almost erupted over the death of a pig. The participants live like mid-19th century Royal Marine light infantry members and pioneers, demonstrating blacksmithing, weaving, and black powder muskets, among other activities. The annual Candlelight Ball will be held on Saturday night in the English Camp barracks, where you can party like it’s 1859! All the scoop is at National Historical Park Encampment.
Third Annual San Juan Summer Arts Festival – Fridays, August 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 – 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Why have just one arts festival, when you can have five? Celebrate the creative spirit of the island every Friday evening in August with over 25 art vendors, delicious food from local vendors, local beer, wine and spirits, live music, tarot card readings, henna tattoos, art stations, and so many more surprises. Get in the artsy spirit with this fun-filled event! Check out the details at San Juan Island Summer Arts Festival.
San Juan County Fair – August 15 – 18, all day and into the night
Much like the Friday Harbor July 4th celebration, the San Juan County Fair takes you on a nostalgic trip back to the good old days. For four fun-filled summer days and nights, islanders celebrate with exhibitions (think floral, baking, photography, arts and crafts to name a few of our favorites), 4-H demonstrations and judging (you can buy a pig, cow, or sheep), the Trashion Fashion Show and the Zucchini 500 race (we’ll let you guess about that one).Fantastic food food vendors and live music add to the magic country fair ambiance. Come one, come all to the San Juan County Fair!
Concours d’Elegance of the San Juan Islands – August 26 – 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Sponsored by San Juan Vineyards, where the event is held, the 12th Annual Concours d’Elegance tops off the San Juan Island summer. Admire rows and rows of classic and unique cars (while sipping wine, of course!), eat great food, and listen to live music by the Argyle Street Jazz Band. Sounds like a great way to end the summer to us! Get all the info at Concours d’Elegance.
Always Something Fun Going On!
Check out our summer-long ideas for outdoor activities on San Juan Island, including biking, kayaking, visiting San Juan’s alpaca farm, whale watching, and so much more. There’s always something fun to do on San Juan Island!
And for a relaxing place to return to after your day’s adventures, book your Lakedale lodging now! We’re located in the heart of the island on three gorgeous lakes, and we can’t wait to be part of your summer fun!