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As you may have seen on social media, we recently took an amazing weekend away to the San Juan Islands just off of Washington. Did you even know there were islands off of Washington?! To be exact, we stayed on San Juan Island itself. There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County, however the four ferry served Islands; San Juan Island (with the county seat Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island are the most populous and host the vast majority of tourism activities.
Winter is a “quiet” season for the San Juan Islands. Which is true for a lot of popular summer vacation spots, however, we found it to be the perfect winter getaway from Phoenix (where this time of year is crazy busy). Check out the San Juan Islands official visitors site for some great info on how to get there, where to stay, what to do… Since we had never heard of the islands before we were open to anything including our first ride on a seaplane with Kenmore Air (see a little video of our flight here).
It was SUCH a fun experience. The ride is smooth and the view can’t be beat! One thing to note – your luggage (in total) needs to be around 25lbs per person. It was the perfect way to see Seattle since we weren’t staying in the city. Both pilots we had were awesome and it was just an overall great choice. I definitely recommend getting to the island this way at least once!
We stayed at Lakedale Resort which is on 82 gorgeous acres. Lakedale has some great lodging options including a 10-room hotel, real log cabins, seasonal canvas cabins for some glamping, and camping. Visiting in winter means the campground is closed which gives the property a bit of a different personality than it has in the summer I think.
I think the photos showcase how the property felt while we were there. So serene, gorgeous and relaxing! They offer a complimentary breakfast each morning for guests of the Lodge (must be 16 years or older) and it was fantastic! Great gluten free options (for me) and we even got an omelet each morning. They also have many activity options on property.
The room was clean, comfortable and felt just enough like a log cabin without being too rustic. If you’re visiting, like we were, for an anniversary or just a fun adult getaway, I definitely recommend checking out the Lodge at Lakedale. I’ll share a bit more about the cabins and camping next week on All for the Boys because that’s where we want to take the boys when we return!
The island itself has a very “island” feel but is definitely Pacific Northwest if that makes any sense. We absolutely loved exploring with no real agenda other than to see the area. The trails and parks on the island were some of the best we’ve been to with Lime Kiln Point State Park being towards the top of the list.
This is considered one of the best places in the world to see whales from land and while we didn’t see any because of the time of year, MANY people have commented that they love whale watching here during the peak seasons! Whales or not, it is absolutely gorgeous and I wish I could bottle up the smell of salt water + cedar.
The trail to Dead Man’s Cove was our favorite. It’s marked as difficult but wasn’t a tough hike, just a small walkway that wouldn’t be good for small kids or people who need some assistance.
We brought a lunch with us (meat, crackers, cheese and fruit) and enjoyed the view for quite a while.
We also loved The San Juan County Park, South Beach and Cattle Point.
And honestly, the pictures don’t even do these places justice. There is so much color to take in. It’s gorgeous! The weather was in the 50’s (which humid and in the 50’s and dry desert in the 50’s feels very different – much milder when it’s humid) and sprinkling on and off. We got some sun but were prepared for anything with rain coats so we were always comfortable.
If you like to check out local history while you’re visiting, like us, you can stop at the English and/or American camps and learn about the history of the islands!
Since it is a slower season some businesses were taking some time off while we were in town, but we found plenty to eat and see in the city of Friday Harbor. We had some amazing sushi at Tops’l, good nachos and cider on tap at Haley’s, and delicious dishes at Cask and Schooner. I stopped at Kings Market right in town to pick up some snacks and lunch fixings. They have tons of gluten free and local options which I loved.
The Whale Museum is a must do. I recommend doing it when you first get to the island. You’ll learn so much about the area and “resident” whales!
There are even more things you can do and see on the island but we were really looking for a great getaway for some gorgeous scenery and fresh air which is exactly what we got. We had an amazing weekend and were talking about how to come back in May with the boys (early May would be a great time to visit with the kids for awesome weather and activities). The official travel site has lots of great info if you’re wondering what else the islands offer.
- Stop and grab snacks and waters at one of the markets when you first get into town. Even if you’re not eating step into one of the local bars, bookshops or coffee shops to grab a drink and strike up a conversation with the residents. It’s so fun to hear about the island, why they’re there, where they’re from etc. That’s one of the best parts about traveling and everyone we talked to was very interested in why we were visiting as well.
- You won’t see any fast food joints on the island (which I love) so plan ahead if you’re used to just driving through to grab some food.
- Watch your phone carefully (or just turn data off and only answer for emergencies) when you’re on the west side of the island your phone may think it’s in Canada as ours often did. You don’t want to rack up accidental charges! Use it as an excuse to unplug for a bit.
- Some spots in the middle of the island didn’t have any cell reception so just make sure family knows how to reach you in case of an emergency. Lakedale had free wifi (in addition to the obvious land line phones in the rooms) so there was no issue in the boys getting a hold of us through iMessage when they wanted to.
- Bring your camera because you’re going to want to take pictures of everything.
- There are 247 days with sunshine annually here with 1/2 the rainfall of Seattle so you’re bound to get some sun, but just be prepared for anything so you can enjoy your time on the island no matter what the weather is like.
- Slow down, this is really a place to slow down and enjoy where you are, what you’re seeing and just soaking up the gorgeous nature!
Have you ever been to the San Juan Islands?
Great piece Allison! Nice shots and looks like you hit up all my favorite spots up on SJI. Let me know if you’re ever back up this way and want to take a whale watching trip up to Friday Harbor direct from Seattle. Cheers!
Thanks so much Scott! That sounds like a blast, we may just have to do that.
This getaway sounds like it was so much fun! I am planning something similar for an anniversary in the coming winter months, but in doing some research have found that transportation around the island is pretty limited during the colder months. Since you arrived on Sea plane, what ways did you find it best to travel around the island?
Hi Zach! We rented a car from http://www.sanjuanauto.com/car-dealership-friday-harbor in order to get around a bit easier. We used it to drive to town to eat and to drive all around the island to explore! It was definitely the easiest way for us.