Boating the San Juan Islands

October 13, 2010

Sheesh… it is about time I posted my San Juan Island blog post! 

Before the end of Summer Sean and I decided to explore the San Juan Islands. Sean’s parents were kind enough to let us borrow their boat for the week. His Dad took us out the week before to show us how to use the GPS/Depth Finder and other misc… man gadgets. We reviewed the maps and planned the ports we wanted to stay in. The next week we left from the marina in La Conner and made our way north. We slept onboard in a different port each night. Most days we had picnic lunches while buoyed off an island near the border between the Canadian Gulf Islands and the U.S. San Juan Islands. We took naps in the sun, read and sat on the dock overlooking the islands with a bottle of wine and a blanket. It was perfect.

I was the navigator (and driver depending on the day). I did not, however, dock the boat. Ever. I’m scared of accidentally hitting the throttle the wrong direction! My other duty was to continuously yell “I’m on a boat!” It never got old, at least for me.

Me at the helm

Check out all of my photos here.

Here is our itinerary:

Day 1) La Conner to Deer Harbor (Orcas Island)

I didn’t realize how close the islands were together. It took less than 2 hours to get out to Deer Harbor from La Conner. This ended up being one of our favorite stops. We walked 1/4 mile up the road from the marina to have dinner at the Deer Harbor Restaurant overlooking the harbor. It was beautiful. They also had a latte stand. Enough said.

Day 2) Deer Harbor (Orcas Island) to Stuart Island for lunch and a hike then to Snug Harbor (San Juan Island)

We left Deer Harbor after a lazy morning and a breaky sandwich from the marina store and headed to Stuart Island for lunch and a hike. There is a state marine park on Stuart Island in Reid Harbor and from there you can hike 2.5 miles to past the old schoolhouse to Turn Point lookout. Stuart is the westernmost island in San Juans. We weren’t really prepared for hiking. We both wore flip-flops. It was a pretty hilly hike actually, but the payoff was an amazing view at the Turn Point lighthouse. Oh, and then there was the seal that looked up at me with a salmon in his mouth just as I looked over the cliff. So cool! We left Stuart late in the afternoon and headed to Roche Harbor & Snug Harbor. Roche was beautiful and they had a few restaurants so we stayed for dinner before heading to Snug Harbor to sleep. We got to Snug Harbor and it was tiny. There is only 1 shower/bathroom and it wasn’t very nice. Okay, it was pretty gross. Snug was my least favorite marina, but the harbor was pretty.

Seal with a Salmon at Turn Point Lighthouse. So cute!

View into Canada from Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island

Day 3) Snug Harbor/Roche Harbor (San Juan Island) to Sucia Island for lunch then to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island)

We woke up in Snug and decided to head back to Roche Harbor for breakfast and showers. Every marina we stayed at (with the exception of Snug) had pay showers. Most of them were $1 for about 5 minutes.  Roche had cute stores, a few bocce ball courts, and the old Lime Mines. We went up to Sucia Island for lunch and decided to tie off to a buoy in Ewing Cove. It was gorgeous. Sucia is one of the northernmost islands in the San Juans, just a little southeast of Patos Island. After lunch we headed to Friday Harbor for the night. We got there in time for a cocktail before dinner and then we walked around the town. We asked a local about a great place for dinner with locally grown/organic ingredients. They told us about Backdoor kitchen. We walked around the property, which is off the beaten track and it was beautiful. The menu looked amazing, but they were closed, unfortunately, so we couldn’t try it. Next time! If you go, you’ll have to tell me how it is.

Roche Harbor

Sean in Friday Harbor

Day 4) Friday Harbor (San Juan Island) to Jones Island for lunch then to West Sound (Orcas Island)

Friday Harbor was beautiful, but I was excited to head out to Jones Island to relax and have some lunch. Jones Island was my favorite lunch spot. We tied up to a buoy in the bay and took a nap in the sun. There is something about sleeping on a boat. It is like getting rocked to sleep. We watched a group of Kayakers explore the island and noticed lots of jellyfish coming in with high tide. When the sun started to head toward evening we got on our way to West Sound. West Sound is another small marina like Deer Harbor. We had an amazing dinner overlooking the harbor just up the street at The Kingfish Inn. There isn’t much to do in West Sound, so we set up our camping chairs at the end of our dock, grabbed a few blankets, opened a bottle of wine and watched the sun set. Awesome.

View from the Kingfish Restaurant

Day 5) West Sound (Orcas Island) to Rosario Resort/Spa (Orcas Island)

The morning was cold and cloudy. West Sound, while it was my favorite stop, did not have coffee. So needless to say we left pretty early and headed to Rosario Resort. I’d driven by Rosario when I first moved to Seattle. I went camping in Moran State Park. From Mt. Constitution lookout you can see all of the surrounding islands. It is breathtaking. Rosario Resort has changed hands a time or two since then. The restaurant at Rosario is called the Quilted Pig. The food was pretty good, but the view was the best part of the meal. Most of the ports you pay about $1/foot for moorage at the marina and then pay to use the showers. At Rosario you pay per foot for moorage and then $20 or so to use the property. We were able to use the spa pool and hot tub, or either of the outdoor pools and any of the showers. The facilities were by far the best. Since it was cold, we spent most of the afternoon in the lodge in front of the fireplace reading our books on large comfy couches. I know I keep saying this, but it was so relaxing.

Spa pool at Rosario

Day 6) Rosario Resort/Spa (Orcas Island) to Olga (Orcas Island) then home to La Conner

We woke up in Rosario and I was so sore from sleeping in a cramped space. I told Sean I didn’t think I could sleep on the boat for another night. We had already gone to all the ports on our list, so we decided to head home a day early. On our way back we stopped at Olga. Olga is so flippin’ cute. Not only is long dock into the bay picturesque with starfish in the water and an amazing view of the islands, but the tiny little town is super charming. The store right in town at the top of the dock has closed, but if you walk down the road a bit the Olga store/cafe’ is still open. They sell a large variety of arts/crafts from local artists and have a nice cafe’. Walking back to the dock I didn’t want to leave to go home. It was really pretty and peaceful. When we got back to La Conner, we had fresh crab for dinner with Sean’s parents in Anacortes. Yum.

View from dock in Olga

Fresh crab for dinner in Anacortes

It was a fantastic trip. Next summer, we want to explore the Canadian Gulf Islands, north of the San Juans. I can’t wait.

hori hori dig dig!


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