Island Life: San Juan Islands

6.12.2013

By Kevin Farrell

Come for the oysters, stay for the whale-watching.

Traveling to the San Juan Islands brings to mind the old Emerson quote: “Life is a journey, not a destination” -- and with good reason. Visitors arrive via one of Washington State’s iconic ferries, which departs daily from the mainland in Anacortes for San Juan, Lopez, and Orcas islands.

Be sure to pack a picnic lunch before leaving Anacortes for San Juan Island since shopping options are sparse. Once docked, check in at the Lime Kiln Lighthouse for information on where the orcas, seals, and porpoises are showing off around the island.

Lopez Island, the most relaxed and neighborly of the group, is the type of place where drivers wave as you stroll about town. Peruse the Ballard Farmers Market for pastries, Washington State cheeses and apples, or Hama Hama oysters on the half shell. Thirsty travelers should save room for a tasting at Lopez Island Vineyards and Winery.

If you’re staying on the San Juans for a bit longer, gay-friendly Orcas Island is the spot to make camp. Doe Bay Resort and Retreat offers a variety of accommodations -- from rustic tents and yurts to classic cabins -- on 30 acres of waterfront property shared by a thriving otter population. Work up an appetite climbing Mt. Constitution, the highest point on the island, which offers views of the entire archipelago on clear days, before an organic dinner at Doe Bay Cafe. Salmon, scallops, and prawns are mainstays on the restaurant’s local seafood-heavy menu.

Then, when it’s time to return home, ease back into reality on the sunset ferry back to the mainland.

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