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