The name San Juan rings tropical bells. It drips with the allure of palm beaches and crystalline Caribbean water… But those who make it to these isles of Washington’s Pacific coast will find something opposite, and quintessentially northwest:
Forested islands with fields of grass and lavender, rocky shores with tide pools and coastal kelp, seals and orcas, harbors full of sailboats and salt-crusted dinghies, and driftwood beaches.
I’m still glowing from the sun soaked weekend I spent in the San Juan Islands with my mom and sister a month ago.
We flew into Seattle on a Thursday night, picked up a rental car, and early the next morning we started our journey north on this magical coast.
First stop: Whidbey Island’s charming town of Coupeville, founded by Captain Thomas Roger Coupe in 1852 (maybe related to my Grandpa Thomas Roger Coupe? Whaaat!) We spent some time wandering its historic waterfront streets and headed to Deception Pass State Park.
Between the state park and our final destination of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, was a ferry. And we took a too-long coffee break in Anacortes to get on said ferry… whoops.
Although we arrived at the ferry terminal 90 minutes early, we missed our planned 4:40 ferry by two cars and had to wait until 8pm. So, we spent our first evening in this beautiful place reading books in our parked car, eating hot dogs from the terminal cafe, laughing, and wandering to the beach before our sunset departure.
When we finally arrived at Friday Harbor, we stayed at the Earthbox Hotel & Spa just up the street from the ferry terminal and off one of the port town’s main streets of shops and restaurants. Then, with this adorable town as our base, we explored San Juan by car and bicycle.
From foggy dawn walks on the harbor docks we floated through two glittering days window shopping, mimosa sipping, blackberry picking, failed whale watching (there was some seal spotting though!), antique store browsing, exploring the Whale Museum, enjoying patio drinks overlooking the harbor, walking the waterfront streets with ice cream cones, and driving past a lavender farm into one last sunset from the ugliest lighthouse we’ve ever seen.
It was everything we wished for.
These islands are undeniably charming. Colorful buildings, bustling harbors, lush fields and forests, wild blackberries… It’s the kind of place that feels too perfect to be real, but there it is.
It’s a place to pass through and soak up, and then return to when your restless soul needs both salt water and pine… and maybe a mimosa and massage too, while we’re at it.
Have you been to these islands before or are you planning to go? Do you have a special place where you travel with your best girls/guys/gang? I’d love to hear about it in a comment below!