You didn’t really think we could so easily leave behind the magic of the San Juan Islands, did you? Most definitely not, especially given that our daughter and grandson live on San Juan Island. I know, that’s a bit confusing, right? The entire archipelago (more than 400 islands and rocks) is known as the San Juan Islands; and then there’s San Juan Island, the second largest of the group and the most populated, with almost 7,000 residents.
We sailed away from Lopez and one hour later, docked at Friday Harbor, the port of San Juan Island. Unlike Lopez, which has nothing at the harbor landing, Friday Harbor is a bustling little town. It boasts a large harbor filled with interesting boats, nice shops and art galleries, the best bakery in the islands, and several of our favorite restaurants in the islands. Because there’s so much to do in town, it’s easy to visit San Juan Island without a car. You can walk on the ferry in Anacortes for a small fee, or if you’re staying on another island, travel inter-island for free.
Our primary attraction on San Juan Island is spending time with Amanda and Findlay. Although we saw each other just about every week during our two months on Lopez (we went to San Juan or they came to Lopez), we were looking forward to a few days of hanging out with them with no other responsibilities. Sadly, Amanda came down with a bad cold and spent much of the time resting. Findlay, however, was available after pre-school and was raring to go.
The mind of a four-year-old is inquisitive, creative, hilarious, and slightly insane. He is aware of everything, all of the time. (When I said sotto voce to Eric as we were driving, “He doesn’t miss a trick,” a couple of minutes later a little voice piped up from the backseat—“Abba, what does that mean, ‘doesn’t miss a trick?’”) He’s going through a stage of empowerment, where he grandiosely informs us of all of the things that he’s built. Admiring a boat at the docks, he says, “I built that!” “Really!” we say. “What a wonderful job you did!” At the sculpture garden, he ran delightedly through the grounds telling us of each and every sculpture he had created. I couldn’t help laughing when he told me that he had put together a very large and intricate orca whale sculpture from a kit that arrived in the mail. “How beautiful!” I said. “How long did it take you?” According to Findlay, he whipped it together in two hours. (My apologies to the artist.)
We played together, ate together, went on little adventures, talked, laughed, and wished that we had more time together. It’s always like that.
Here, a few of our favorite things on San Juan Island from this visit:
In Friday Harbor:
• The Waterfront: Wander the waterfront, stroll down the docks, and admire the beautiful carved totem arch. During the summer, there’s often live music at the waterfront park.
• Explore The Shops: A few of our favorites include Arctic Raven Gallery (authentic Northwest Coast Native art), Pelindaba Lavender (a fragrant and lovely shop of island-grown lavender products), and Island Studios (excellent local artists’ cooperative).
• Café Demeter: Our favorite bakery in the islands; they craft fine European-style pastries, including the best flourless chocolate cake imaginable.
• Restaurants: There are some great choices within walking distance of the harbor. We often have lunch at Market Chef, which consistently offers a tempting and ever-changing selection of locally grown, perfectly prepared foods. We also like The Backdoor Kitchen, primarily a gourmet dinner venue but also offering lunch on “Noodle Bowl Mondays”— delicious Vietnamese inspired noodle bowls brimming with local veggies, meats, and seafood.
Further Afield: (You’ll need transportation, either your own vehicle or you can rent a moped in Friday Harbor.)
• Hiking Mt. Finlayson: A beautiful 3.5-mile round-trip hike on the southeast side of the island leads to the highest point on San Juan Island. The trail winds along the shoreline through golden native grasslands with a terrific view of Cattle Point Lighthouse and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
• Lime Kiln Point State Park: Located on the west side of the island, Lime Kiln Point is one of the best places in the world to see whales from land. Orcas are the main attraction, but you can also see minke whales, otters, porpoises, seals, and sea lions. We’ve been several times and have never seen whales. We’ve decided that next year we’re going to hang out at the park, returning as often as necessary, until we see orcas. The peak whale-watching season is May-September, with June and July the most likely time to see whales. They can pass by within a few feet of the shore! Even without whales, the park is worth visiting, and the hiking is strikingly beautiful along the rocky shoreline. There’s another picturesque lighthouse perched on the rocks at Lime Kiln, built in 1919 and still serving as a beacon for ships in the Haro Strait. And there’s an excellent small visitor’s center with a very good film on the orcas.
• Wescott Bay Sculpture Garden: On the northwest corner of the island is one of the largest—and possibly the finest—sculpture gardens on the West coast. Twenty acres of lovely parkland is home to more than 100 works of art crafted in bronze, ceramic, glass, metal, stone, and wood. Wandering the trails is a delight. The park is open every day from dawn to dusk.[portfolio_slideshow]
What adorable photos of all of you…
love hearing about Findlay’s comments, he is such
a joy, children and their zest for life – amazing! That is why I adore young children. Glad you got to spend quality time with Amanda, Findlay and Jason. Luckily you were able to help out when
sweet Amanda was ill.
Looking forward to seeing you both soon. Peggy
We’re looking forward to seeing you soon, too, Peggy. We had such a wonderful time with A & F, we’re really missing them. He is absolutely hilarious and adorable, as you well know! xo
What a great place to live and to visit. Unfortunately for me my daughter works in DC and lives in a suburb. Not so much fun to visit. You two have such artistic eyes. Your photographs are such a delight. So rich in color, each one telling a little story of its own. While I’m just busy snapping away you are carefully selecting. The pictures of the people never seem “posed”. The ones of your grandson especially with the “bouquet” show his unique spirit so well. Love the noodle bowl. Well I just love your blog period and can’t wait to see where you go next.
Sherry, we feel so fortunate that we have family in beautiful places! I’m glad you enjoy our photos — I love telling stories with photos. Of course, that also means that I have hundreds of photos to sort through for every post. Thank goodness for the “delete” button!
Time spent with family sure is a bonus of this nomadic lifestyle. Amanda was fortunate to have you two around when she got sick, a little more rest for her!
San Juan Island looks lovely through your lens!
San Juan is lovely, Lisa, although Lopez is still our favorite. But the main attraction for us is Amanda and Findlay. You’re right, being nomadic makes it easier for us to spend more time with family.
How wonderful that you were able to spend a few last days with your daughter and grandson. Four year olds are so much fun and curious. Findlay is adorable:) I am sure your daughter was thrilled that you were there to help when she wasn’t feeling well.
Thanks, Pam — four year olds are definitely a lot of fun! The amount of energy he has and his curiosity about everything is boundless.
Funny–we’ve never even known Mt. Findlayson’s name, though we keep looking across the water and saying, “We oughta hike that!” So, thanks for the info. (Kind of like a New Yorker who’s never been up the Empire State Building…)
Gretchen, you would love the hike! So much variety in only 3.5 miles — great views of the coast and lighthouse, then through a fir forest and past three lagoons. Would be fun to hike together next summer as well as play music.
Glad you had a wonderful time with family. Grandkids are so much fun. We are now attending football games with one of our grandsons who plays for the Mazama Vikings in Klamath Falls. This weeks game is bound to be cold in the basin. Have a safe journey.
You’re right, Brenda, grandkids are wonderful! It must be a lot of fun watching your grandson play football. Heading home to a beautiful fall in Ashland! See you there.
Laurel & Eric,
Thanks for the mention! It sounds and looks like you two had a wonderful visit on the island. Thanks for visiting our Friday Harbor shop.
We love your beautiful gardens, too — next year we’ll try to get there while they’re in bloom!
Sweet! Miss you!
We miss you, too! It was so much fun being with you and Fin. xoxo
I’m sure I may have mentioned to you that we biked San Juan Island and I have not forgiven Steve for planning it. It took us all day to bike and never had a chance to grab a snack as we barely made it to the last ferry of the day. Your pictures brought back those memories and maybe one day we’ll enjoy the island again, driving not biking.
I agree with Sherry, your photos are a great storyteller.
Haha, that is hilarious in a really awful way! I wouldn’t forgive Steve, either. :-) You must have been exhausted. San Juan Island is not an easy place to bike. Glad you enjoyed the photos, ML.
How fortunate that you were able to spend a few extra days with your daughter and grandson. What an adorable little man he is! You have whetted our appetites for spending time in the islands. Thanks for your wonderful posts of this part of the country. :)
Thanks, LuAnn — we think he’s pretty darned cute, too. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed our tour of the islands–we would love to see you in the San Juan’s! :-)