Arts and Outdoor Weekend Getaway in the San Juan Islands
1The ferry drops off passengers at Friday Harbor, the islands' largest village. Unwind from the week with a glass of Washington syrah and a bite at Downriggers, which overlooks the ferry terminal and marina. After your pre-dinner snack, stroll this quintessential Washington harbor town, featuring compact, walkable streets filled with boutiques and cafes.
2For dinner, slip into the Backdoor Kitchen for a meal of free-range chicken or organic Oregon steak. This restaurant focuses on regional ingredients, gently prepared and served in the bright dining room or on the outdoor patio, shaded by umbrellas.
3Several old-fashioned evening options may entertain, including a flick at the Palace Theater, or the bowling pins at Paradise Lanes. Or head to the Rumor Mill for live music and more than 20 beers on tap.
1Pick up a carb-friendly breakfast at Cafe Demeter, the town's artisanal bakery. Sip a double-shot latte and slowly savor a flaky cinnamon roll or chocolate croissant in the cozy café, which bakes everything on-site.
2Come on in, the water's fine. In Friday Harbor, you can rent electric boats or Hobie pedal kayaks from Friday Harbor Marine Center and explore life-filled inlets around the calm harbor — or just enjoy the peace of the water as it laps the boat.
3And what lives in those waters? After your boat rental, return to Friday Harbor to learn more about the graceful denizens of the local Salish Sea at The Whale Museum. Here, a whale skeleton hangs in the air while you eavesdrop on whale conversations in the "whale telephone booth" and find out what resides in a whale's stomach.
4Now it's time for a drive. Head out of Friday Harbor on Tucker Avenue, which becomes Roche Harbor Road; pull over to sample wine at at the San Juan Vineyards tasting room, about 10 minutes out of Friday Harbor. Another 10 minutes north, past the rolling countryside and farmland of Roche Harbor Road, you'll take a left after the Roche Harbor welcoming arch, where you'll find the Westcott Bay Nature Reserve & Sculpture Park, an unusual outdoor collection of sculpture art. If it's a bit wet out, set out in rain boots (some of the park is in a wetland, after all) and explore the 19 acres of works that sprang from artists' minds. Birdwatchers will delight in the 120 species that touch down here, as well.
5Continue along Roche Harbor Road for a few minutes, take a right on Reuben Memorial Drive to arrive at Lime Kiln Café, which serves salads, giant sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and "world famous" doughnuts. Eat indoors at the café and watch boats and seaplanes arrive on Roche Harbor. On sunny days, take your lunch outside or to the next stop for a picnic adventure.
6Now you'll head south along Roche Harbor Road for 5 minutes, take a right onto West Valley Road; after 5 minutes turn right on Mitchell Bay Road, then left at West Side Road for 10 minutes to arrive at your next destination. Lime Kiln Point, a 36-acre day-use park that offers some of the best whale-watching in the lower 48 states. Survey the waters to the west for orca, minke, and porpoise fins; naturalists may be available to help you spot whales.
7On your way back to Friday Harbor head south on West Side Road take a left on Wold Road, stop by Pelindaba Lavender Farm to browse the store and learn about lavender, one of the island's top crops. Don't miss the cookies — they're pretty amazing. Then head five minutes east back into Friday Harbor: take a left onto West Side Road to head south (it becomes Bailer Hill Road at this point) take a left onto Douglas Rd and right onto San Juan Valley Rd, back into Friday Harbor on Spring Street for a hearty pub-inspired dinner at Cask & Schooner, with specialties like shepherd's pie, spicy braised short-ribs, and bangers and mash.
1Grab a latte and pastry breakfast in Friday Harbor, then ride the ferry from San Juan Island to Orcas Island. Disembark, then drive for about 20 minutes along Orcas Road until you reach the 5,252-acre Moran State Park, where you'll find more than 38 miles of trails and the stately, 2,409-foot high Mount Constitution, the islands' highest point. Atop the mountain, clear days offer panoramic perspectives of surrounding British Columbia and Washington peaks and cities.
2Drive south along Olga Road to the artists' enclave of Olga, or head north again for Eastsound, where galleries burst creative expression. At Orcas Island Artworks, more than 40 artists display sculpture, glass, jewelry, and wearable art, along with paintings and prints. Crow Valley Pottery exhibits a mix of locally produced oil paintings, pottery, woodcuts, and jewelry.
3While in Eastsound, make sure you snag a table at the New Leaf Cafe. Have a bite of the duck mac n' cheese with toasted hazelnut crust or the house smoked Sockeye salmon pasta with scotch cream and parmesan. An extensive regional wine list is a welcome top-off to the locally-sourced dinner menu. There's no rush to drive back to the ferry dock, which will return you to Anacortes, and then Seattle.