The San Juan Islands

By March 31, 2015Travel BC, Travelogues

By Arts Editor, Doreen Jung. A visit to the San Juan Islands is a great way to get in touch with your inner explorer and recharge your batteries. Once a mountain range but now an archipelago, the San Juan Islands number between 428 to 743 islands, depending on the tides.

First published in July 2010.
Cover Photo courtesy of San Juan Islands VB

Spread between Washington and Vancouver Island they bask in about 247 days of sunshine annually thanks to the “rain shadow” effect of the Olympic Mountains to their south.

Beautiful Mountain Vistas
The trip from Abbotsford takes about 3½ hours if there are no delays at the border crossing. With our destination being the island actually named San Juan, three friends and I headed out for some adventure. We drove to Anacortes and then took a ferry ride to San Juan Island. The ferry took us through passages between islands of the archipelago. We saw summer homes on rocky outcrops, sandy beaches, and lush green forests. There were beautiful mountain vistas in the distance. The ferry followed the historic canoe pathways of the original inhabitants of the San Juan Islands, the Coast Salish people.

We arrived at Friday Harbor and chose a cozy cafe for lunch. Chatting to the friendly hostess, we discovered that The Cannery House offered delicious gourmet sandwiches and soups along with a breathtaking view of the Harbor. We enjoyed our lunches on a large outdoor patio where we could see sailboats bobbing on the waters, the Washington State Ferry departing, and the landing of float planes. With a backdrop of clear blue skies and the sparkling ocean waters, we enjoyed our lunch while dragonflies hovered over the hanging flower baskets.


Following lunch, we set out to explore Friday Harbor and discovered that it is home to museums and art galleries showcasing works of talented local artists. Contemporary Native art captured the spirit of the Northwest Coast, Alaskan and Inuit Native cultures. Local artists exhibited original paintings and prints, pottery, sculpture, jewelry, weaving, glasswork, photography, and more. After we satisfied our appetite for art, culture and shopping, we decided to drive around the island and enjoy its natural beauty.

A Chorus Of WOWs
San Juan Island is circumnavigated by a road that takes you along rocky coastline and cliffs as well as through farmland and meadows. We stopped at several beaches, explored rocky shores, and gazed at breathtaking ocean vistas. Rounding a corner we let out a chorus of WOWs as we came upon lavender stretching out in rolling fields.

Pelindaba Lavender Farm

Hidden from view until you arrived, Pelindaba Lavender Farm is a wonderful surprise for travelers. We walked along rows of fragrant lavender, marveling at the many varieties that existed. A gift shop provided visitors with lavender in many forms from sachets and lotions to teas and honey.


Continuing on our journey, we stopped at Lime Kiln Point State Park. We walked along a trail that led to a lighthouse and a marine animal viewing area. There it is possible to see whales from shore as several pods of killer whales swim regularly through these waters of Haro Strait. The trail wound through a forest of Madrona, Arbutus, and tall Douglas fir trees ending at a rocky shore. Although we did not see whales, there were great views of the Olympic Mountains and we could see kayakers hoping to get up close and personal with whales.

Further along the trail, lime kilns, which were built in 1860, were still standing. They were used for almost 90 years to produce lime. Limestone was extracted from quarries and then heated in the kilns to over 1800 degrees F to convert the calcium carbonate into calcium oxide. In this form, lime was shipped to different points in the USA for use in the manufacture of many products including paper, steel, sugar, plastics, and paint. Impressed by this history, we returned to our journey around the island.

A Cacophony Of Eagle Cries
As we drove along the island road, we came to a long meadow. Suddenly from the opposite direction five eagles swooped down and alighted on the meadow. We pulled over and jumped out of the car with cameras. Trying to get as close as we could to the eagles we admired their size and beauty. Before anyone could photograph the eagles, they spread their wings and flew up into the tall Douglas firs. Too far to capture on camera, we stayed to listen to a cacophony of cries as the eagles voiced their views on the odd creatures gazing up at them.

Further along, we arrived at Westcott Bay Reserve Sculpture Park. The park is a 19-acre nature reserve with forests, meadows, wetlands, and rocky outcroppings. Along with the diverse wildlife, the park housed over 90 sculptures in bronze, stone, wood, metal, glass and ceramics. The works were created by artists from all over the Pacific Northwest. A self-guided tour map allowed visitors to meander through the park enjoying the beauty made by both man and nature.

Historic Hotel de Haro in Roche Harbor

Our next destination was Roche Harbor, a historical company town that was built to house the people that produced the lime quarried nearby. We saw the old Hotel de Haro which was built in 1886 and is still furnished with many of the original antiques.


The charming hotel had noticeably slanted floors and crooked windows bringing an old world ambiance to this seaside village. After walking along the cobblestone streets of Roche Harbor, enjoying the view of the marina, and exploring the shops, we headed back to Friday Harbor to catch the ferry back to the mainland. With tired feet and sunburned faces, we had satisfied the explorer within.

Doreen Jung

Doreen Jung

Editor’s Note: Doreen Jung is a member of the Abbotsford Arts Council and former Arts Administrator. Her column on The Arts in Abbotsford appears here regularly. She has kindly agreed to share with us her travels this summer. All Photos By Doreen Jung. Click On Images To Enlarge.

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