Island Blog

Visiting the San Juans During the Quiet Months

I am banking on this one.  That my family will have these trips imprinted in their hearts.  Maybe not the details but the feeling.  Getting away together, away from our daily grind and chores - oh the whines.  Finding joy in searching for sea creatures well past dark.  Strolling down the brick lane to get hot fresh donuts.  Acting out dreamed up adventures among historic landmarks.  Not even having wifi, gasp.  Making due with Uno, and the belly laughs that deck of cards produces.  To breathe in the sea air, to revel in the history, and ponder what the future holds.

For us getting away to San Juan Island is the perfect reset, and calm before the holiday storm.   

Papadopulos kids at Roche Harbor, photo by Kirsty Papadopulos
Papadopulos kids exploring, photo by Kirsty Papadopulos

Almost anyone in the PNW knows that the San Juan Islands are a magnificent gift that mother nature has given us.  The little secret is that the off season on the islands is incredibly majestic.  Fun Fact: the San Juan islands enjoy an average of 247 days per year with sunshine and receive half the annual rainfall as the Seattle area.  Thanks to the Rain-Shadow.  And during the non-summer months it's incredibly quiet and calm, exactly what my family needs.  Plus you don't have to plan weeks ahead with ferry reservations and lodging.  Also what this mama needs.  There are also wonderfully charming and welcoming small town events happening, our favorite tradition is the Island Lights Festival that kicks off Friday Harbor Winterfest.

Some of our other favorite San Juan Island highlights...

Watching the ferries in Friday Harbor, photo by Kirsty Papadopulos
Girl Meets Dirt snack, photo by Kirsty Papadopulos
Breakfast with a view, photo by Kirsty Papadopulos

We always visit the San Juan Island Food Coop for locally madetreats, and pick up some homemade bread or pizza from Friday Harbor Bakery right next door.  A must is Girl Meets Dirt jams with island made cheese and bread.  Sitting on the patio wrapped in blankets with a glass of chilled bubbly in hand watching the ferries float by...oh my gosh why am I not there right now!

Taste testing at San Juan Distillery, photo by Kirsty Papadopulos
apple brandy bottle at San Juan Distillery

Tasting at San Juan Island Distillery.  Particularly their gin.  During the off seasons a simple email will usually secure that someone will be there to open up and talk shop.  They also partner with Westcott Bay Cider and Kari's Island Elixirs.  I highly recommend the Nettle Gin.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse, photo by Kirsty Papadopulos

We always try to adventure out to Lime Kiln Point State Park lighthouse, which just turned 100 in June of 2019!  Stopping at the old lime kiln sights along the way, wondering about the brick-makers and the adventures they may have had.  There's nothing quite like that Salish Sea air, except adding an Orca pod sighting.  That is nature's majesty at it's very best.  

Lime Kiln Cafe at Roche Harbor, photo by Kirsty Papadopulos
Fresh donuts from Lime Kiln Cafe at Roche Harbor, photo by Kirsty Papadopulos

A quiet morning stroll for fresh donuts at the Lime Kiln Cafe and a late night walk to The Company Store for Lopez Island Creamery ice cream.

Roche - McMillin's at night Clane Gessel.

One of our very favorite family traditions is walking the docks at Roche Harbor after dark.  With the backdrop of the Resort all aglow with holiday lights, trying to decide which boat wins for best in show, and searching for sea creatures that illuminate when you shine your phone light on them, it's magical - and totally fills this biology-major-science-loving heart of mine.  Bonus: it's a great way to get the energy out before snuggling into bed.

Hotel de Haro Holiday lights

Attending the Island Lights Festival activities.  First stop is the Whale Museum before watching the tree lighting in Friday Harbor.  The museum is full of welcoming smiles, hot cocoa, too many cookies, and ornament making.  Then we walk down to the ferry dock for holiday carols and twinkling lights.  Find a full list of island holiday events and specials HERE!

Holiday Lights, Friday Harbor, John Sinclair
Friday Harbor Holidays 2016 by Robert Harrison

This post is well planned for me, as I have been missing my youngest's joyful smile.  Such a good reminder to stop and enjoy each other and every day.

Thank you for reading.


The Kirsty Files