San Juan Islands Story Ideas

From sleeping in treehouses to kayaking with the stars (not that kind), the magic of the San Juan Islands will bring your stories to life.

  

Eat and Drink Like a Local

With fresh fish at their fingertips and island farms producing everything from kale and goat cheese to lamb and Wagyu beef, it’s no wonder chefs and other locavores find their niche in the San Juan Islands.

Tastes That Define the Gourmet Archipelago

Try wild-caught halibut with a fresh blackberry sauce, grass-fed lamb, or oysters-on-the-half-shell fresh from a pristine, cold bay, and handcrafted wine and beer, cider and gins with locally foraged botanicals. These are some of the unmistakable flavors that define island cuisine. You can get a taste of one of the quintessential foods of the Pacific Northwest, the sweet and flavorful Dungeness crab, at a variety of restaurants on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Islands. Always served in season, crab is often simply steamed and served with melted butter, but some chefs also prepare it in creative ways with fresh local seaweed, forest-foraged chanterelles, or on a bed of ancient grains.

You can also buy seafood directly from seafood vendors on the docks at Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor. Learn how you can Leave No Trace during your visit, and talk to your chefs about where they obtain their fish, meats and produce, and whether they recycle and compost. We can all do our part to encourage a food system that is vital and clean, while still enjoying the freshest sustainably harvested seafood. For more information: www.visitsanjuans.com/what-to-do/experiences/13-tastes-define-san-juans

Bountiful Lopez

A few days on Lopez is a dreamy escape, with historic barns at every turn, and a quiet landscape of sheep pastures and farmland. So much so, that the community got together and created a website and book about Lopez's cherished farmers and food purveyors called "Lopez Bounty." The project features the family farmers of Lopez, from Andre Entermann and Elizabeth Metcalf of Sunnyfield Farm, the island's only goat dairy, to Nick and Sara Jones of Jones Family Farm and Sweetwater Shellfish Company. Their stories are full of the hard work, challenges, and joys of providing food for their community and beyond.

Foraging Ahead – A Sampling of San Juan Islands Products

From nutrient-packed kelp fronds from the Salish Sea to sweet pears from abandoned orchards and savory lavender in purple fields, the beaches, fields, and forests of Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Islands offer up an amazing array of flavors.

Island Chefs Dig Deep

Foraging is an island tradition, and you can find foraged (and island farmed) special ingredients, from figs to quince, oysters to seaweed, sorrel to chanterelles, on the menu at several island restaurants, including Hogstone’s Wood Oven (chef/co-owner Jay Blackinton is a James Beard Award Nominee), Friday Harbor House (chef Jason Aldous is a Willows Inn alum), and Doe Bay Café (Chef Jon Chapelle’s crew gathers organic produce from Doe Bay’s garden, wild Nootka rose petals from roadside hedgerows, and oysters from just down the road at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm).

San Juan Sea Salt

As a child, Brady Ryan decided one Christmas to save money and make homemade sea salt for his family. This little mad scientist found that the process made a huge mess and used a lot of electricity. Later in life, he created San Juan Sea Salt, using the power of the sun to slowly evaporate large ponds of sea water inside greenhouses on his family’s property. He infuses the large, flaky crystals into a briny mineral rainbow of flavors such as Wild Bull Kelp and Madrona Smoked Sea Salts. His salts (and local honey) add flavor that takes you to the shores–literally–of the Salish Sea. www.sanjuanislandseasalt.com; Brady Ryan (360) 840-3202; [email protected].

Girl Meets Dirt

After 10 years on Wall Street, Audra Lawlor walked away to it all. She and her husband landed on Orcas Island, eager to create their island story. After hearing about Orcas Island’s rich agricultural history as the largest fruit producer in the state before the 1930s, they began to forage abandoned orchards for heritage fruit. Lawlor created Girl Meets Dirt Archipelago Preserves, from pears, apples, quince, plums and a variety of island herbs. All are classically prepared by hand–in seasoned copper pots–in Lawlor’s island kitchen, where you can visit to see (and smell) a new island tradition. www.girlmeetsdirt.com; Audra Lawlor (360) 375-6269; [email protected].

Pelindaba Lavender Farm

A simple retirement plan to protect a quiet valley on San Juan Island became Pelindaba Lavender—now a premier grower of lavender plants, distiller of essential oil, and producer of more than 250 products using both culinary and botanical lavender. Their culinary lavender products include teas, oils, vinegars, chocolates, coffee, ice creams, and herb blends, from classic Herbes de Provence to zingy Lavender Lemon Pepper. www.pelindabalavender.com; Amelia Powell Baggett (360) 378-4248; [email protected].

The Chicaoji Story

Known locally as “the Hot Sauce Guy,” Randall Waugh of Lopez Island has been experimenting with different ingredient combinations for years. But it was a late afternoon snack of goji berries and cacao nibs that caused inspiration to strike in 2007. On their own, the goji and cacao made a great combination, but what would happen with a little heat? A quick trip to Blossom Grocery for chile peppers (all seven varieties in stock!), plugging in the blender, and the culinary alchemy began. Slight tweaks over the summer with sea salts, vinegars, pickling spice, and a whole lot of second opinions, and the recipe for Chicaoji (CHIpotle, caCAO, goJI) hot sauce was perfected. Chicaoji is available at retailers throughout the islands and makes a superb addition to everything from omelets to hummus. www.chicaoji.com; [email protected]

Watchable Wildlife

The San Juan Islands are a veritable mecca for wildlife lovers, with a variety of birds, invertebrates, and mammals mostly of the marine persuasion. Visitors can create their own version of the Big Five with bald eagles, western bluebirds, orcas, Steller sea lions, and red foxes, among other notable species.  

Miniature Communities: The Mysterious World of Tide Pools

When meandering down a pebbly shoreline, most visitors are looking for signs of the megafauna–the whale spouts and telltale fins among the waves, the seals basking in the sun, even the jellyfish drifting in the kelp attract attention and shouts of “Look!” But there are several hundred other creatures eking out an existence clinging to the rocks beneath your feet. Tucked into crevices sometimes as small as a bathroom sink, a single tide pool can hold more than a dozen species. Their appearances as varied as their habits, they depend on the capriciousness of the tides for prey.

Sea stars ranging in size from the robust ochre star (about 10 inches across and weighing in at close to a pound) to the delicate blood star (maximum 6 inches across) use dozens of suction-cup-like appendages to maintain purchase while crustaceans like the acorn barnacle “glue” their heads to the surface and remain permanently fixed, waving their feathery legs to catch plankton when the tide comes in. Other creatures might prompt a call to the Men in Black, they appear so alien. Chitons and nudibranchs, sea cucumbers and marine worms, even some crab species look like they came from outer space. But that’s what makes tide-pooling or looking underneath docks such a fun adventure, you just never know what you might find.

The Humpback Comeback: The Other Cetacean Citizens of the Salish Sea

With images of orcas gracing everything from postcards and coffee mugs to license plates and business logos, it’s easy to forget that there are other whales that call the Salish Sea home. Humpback and minke whales, distant cousins to orcas but with baleen instead of teeth, can often be found cruising through these inland waters. The humpbacks, the largest of the Salish Sea’s cetacean citizens at 60 feet long, migrate biannually, heading north towards Alaska in the spring from more tropical climes, and returning south in the fall. Hunted to near extinction, the population began to slowly rebound after the moratorium on whaling went into effect in the 1960s, with record-breaking numbers of sightings reported by researchers and whale-watch captains in recent years. San Juan sightings started with a female affectionately known as “Big Mama,” who brought her sixth calf to visit in 2016.

Minke whales are the Hobbits of the Salish Sea—dwarfed in size by the larger humpbacks and shyer than the energetic orcas, but no less impressive in their own right. Seldom hunted by humans, this second-smallest of the baleen whales is the most abundant in the world’s oceans. While generally solitary in nature, groups of minkes can sometimes be found in the so-called “Minke Lake,” the nutrient-rich waters between Spieden and Jones Islands favored by these filter-feeding whales. If you watch closely, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the telltale white bands slashing across their dark pectoral fins before they descend into darker water.

Outdoor Adventures

With roughly half the rainfall of Seattle, the San Juan Islands are an adventure seeker’s haven. The calm inland waters are ideal for sailing and kayaking, and the glacier-sculpted summits are superb for day hikes.

Gourmet Kayaking: Paddles, Pints, and … Polenta?

World-class landscapes and a calm inland sea make the San Juan Islands of Washington State a prime kayaking spot for adventure seekers. But wait, there’s more! Many guided multi-day trips have gone gourmet—offering meals made from ultra-local ingredients like freshly caught seafood and seasonal vegetables from the farm stand down the road. Feast on salmon, salad, and fresh fruit after paddling the straits to Sucia Island, a marine state park almost uninhabited by humans.  And there’s always the option of locally brewed beer or wine to toast the lingering summer sunset. It won’t be a protein bar that starts your next day of paddling, but a yogurt parfait or bagel sandwich. Superfoods for a super kayak trip!

Stars Above, Bioluminescence Below

Vacationing in the San Juan Islands means getting away from it all, including those troublesome city lights. It’s an opportunity to get out and thoroughly investigate the cosmos for yourself, with or without a telescope. Trace humankind’s story in the stars and planets, and wish on a falling star or two. But you don’t have to always look up to see stars. Wait for the sun to dip below the horizon, and head to the shore. Swirl a stick in the water, and watch one of Mother Nature’s best glow-in-the-dark tricks.  The sea has its own galaxy in the summer, often best seen on moonless nights. Scientifically called bioluminescence, thousands upon millions of phytoplankton (microscopic organisms normally invisible to the naked eye), cause the sudden glow.

Passport into History

Like many Pacific Northwestern outposts, the San Juan Islands are a mixture of Native American heritage and frontier spirit. Both are honored in a myriad of ways, with contemporary Coast Salish house posts overlooking the Port of Friday Harbor near the Town of Friday Harbor. The Town is a Destination of Distinction from the National Trust for Historic Preservation with streets lined with historic edifices dating back to the mid-19th century.

Haunted Island Hotels

The San Juan Islands are well known for wildlife watching, adventure sports like sea kayaking, and fresh, local food. What you won’t see in the guidebooks are the ghosts. Stories abound, but the better-known apparitions lurk in the hallways of island hotels. Fact or fiction, these stories add a certain spice to the islands’ already fascinating history.

The Lady in Red

The ghost of Alice Goodfellow Rheem, known as the Lady in Red, is said to haunt the Mansion of Rosario Resort on Orcas Island. Her presence is most often felt in the mansion’s former living quarters on the second floor and occasionally other spots in the Mansion (there are no longer guest rooms in the mansion).

Mrs. Rheem was the colorful and somewhat eccentric wife of the mansion’s second owner, industrialist Donald Rheem (of Rheem hot water heaters). While Donald spent much of his time tending to business in California, Alice enjoyed her freedom at Rosario where she is rumored to have enjoyed motorcycling into Eastsound in a flaming red nightgown to play cards with the locals.

Mrs. Rheem’s ghost is considered harmless if a little mischievous. Visitors and employees report feeling pushed, hearing footsteps, or seeing peripheral flashes that look like someone is passing when no one is around. The staff has also reported faucets turning on and off on their own and laundry being messed up by unseen hands. Ghost or not, it’s worth a visit to the Mansion to see the museum and take in a free history presentation by the resorts longtime general manager, Christopher Peacock. www.rosarioresort.com

Octavia

The ghost of Octavia van Moorhem, one of the first innkeepers of the Orcas Hotel in 1904, haunts the second floor. Octavia was an excellent cook and cooked for grateful guests and travelers. Guests have reported hearing footsteps overhead where there are no floors, just joists, lights and faucets being turned on and off, and one woman mentioned seeing a reflection behind her in the mirror with no one in the room, and strange sounds coming from the walls. Each room of the hotel has a journal for guests to record their experiences. The hotel's restaurant, Octavia's Bistro, keeps the spirit of this talented cook alive, serving traditional fare and entertainment overlooking the Orcas Ferry Landing. www.orcashotel.com

Ada Beane

On San Juan Island, the Hotel de Haro in Roche Harbor has its own spectral occupant – the ghost of Ada Beane, governess and secretary to the McMillin family, who owned the local lime works around which Roche Harbor was founded. Though there were rumors she committed suicide, it was determined she died of natural causes. The McMillins had her cremated. She is now interred in the family’s Afterglow Mausoleum. Employees have reported a store room door open on its own, appliances turning on and off and items in a store room shifting from time to time and the sound of rustling clothing when no one was there. The gift shop is part of Ada’s territory too—an employee reported several glass shelves cracking and shattering one at a time. One woman’s hands went numb when she went to enter the lobby because “the hotel is so haunted.” She couldn’t go in. www.rocheharbor.com

New Life for Historic Landmarks

Even in the 21st century, the San Juan Islands haven’t lost their pioneer core. Many contemporary attractions have been reincarnated from their past lives, some of which may surprise you.

The Whale Museum

Housed in an 1892 Odd Fellows Hall overlooking Friday Harbor, The Whale Museum is the local center for Salish Sea stewardship and research since 1979. Many early notable events took place at the Hall, including the year-long murder trial of Richard Straub in 1895, the only person ever executed in San Juan County. In May of 1910, baseball player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday used the hall to thunder against “demon rum.” The next day voters declared the town dry.

Now you can see a young orca skeleton, watch free videos, and find treasures in the museum gift shop. Upstairs, visit the Gallery of Whales and learn about how you can adopt an orca to support the Southern Resident orca whales that inhabit Northwest waters. www.whalemuseum.org

Brickworks

For decades, the dilapidated Friday Harbor Brick and Tile Company, built in 1921, cowered in the hidden backstreet of Friday Harbor’s Sunshine Alley. The last standing industrial building in Friday Harbor, many people wanted it to be torn down. In the meantime, the San Juan Island Farmers’ Market was growing in size and a new permanent home was needed. Enter a determined group of locals who began restoring this faded lady.

The building took shape as “part small park and part town square.” Designed by local architect David Waldron and built by local volunteers, the building’s lofty raised- beam ceiling, rows of high windows, glowing Douglas fir floors and commercial kitchen have made it a well-utilized and loved space. Not only a permanent home for the bustling farmers’ market, this beautiful building is a versatile host for wine and beer dinners, fundraisers, galas, an Old-Fashioned Christmas Market, concerts and more, truly transforming the cultural landscape of this small coastal town. http://fhbrickworks.com/

Orcas Artworks

A treasured Orcas Island destination for visitors and locals alike, the Orcas Island Artworks offers one of the finest selections of local art and crafts in the San Juan Islands. Originally built in 1938 as a strawberry barreling plant, the co-op represents forty-five Orcas Island artists and craftspeople, working in pottery, sculpture, jewelry, glass, wood, paintings, prints, wearable art, fiber and more. Established in 1981, the gallery is one of the oldest cooperatives in the country. As the gallery is owned and operated by the artists themselves, there is the unique opportunity to meet one or more of them on any given day. When a fire in 2013 threatened the co-op’s future, the community came together to move the Artworks temporarily into Eastsound and begin rebuilding. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, the Artworks reopened its doors in 2015. www.orcasartworks.com

Lopez Library

The Lopez Island Library started in the home of Otis and Nan Perkins as a way to honor their son Warren, who was killed in World War II. It would travel among other residents’ homes for almost two decades before fate brought it to the Little Red Schoolhouse in 1977, a 70-year-old building that had also served as a restaurant and fire station before becoming the library. It was initially leased from the fire department, who transferred ownership of the Little Red Schoolhouse in 1983 on the condition that it be moved. An outpouring of time, materials, and other donations from the Lopez community brought the schoolhouse-turned-library to the center of Lopez Village, where it opened in 1986 and has remained the intellectual hub of Lopez ever since. http://lopezlibrary.org/

World-Class Artists

Artists looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of mainland life often find themselves drawn to the San Juan Islands for inspiration. Materials and methods are as varied as the islands themselves. Visitors can immerse themselves at island museums and galleries, but not all the art is indoors. Sculptures, murals, and woodcarvings are among the Islands’ not-so-hidden gems.

San Juan Islands Sculpture Park

The park was founded in 1998 and originally called the Westcott Bay Institute for Art & Nature. Today the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park has evolved to offer visitors a quality experience of nature and art working in harmony. The works of well-known, as well as unknown sculptors, are equally welcome. The Starfish Project—a large starfish shaped sand area provides materials such as shells, driftwood, floats, and other found objects for families to design and construct their own sculptures—based on the belief that every effort should be made to create an environment of participation in the process of art beyond simple viewing. http://sjisculpturepark.com/

Anthony Howe

While perhaps currently best known for creating the kinetic metal cauldron for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Anthony Howe did not start out working with metal. After attending Cornell University and the Skowhegan School of Sculpture and Painting, he painted watercolors from his house in New Hampshire. A sense of unease in both the isolation and the subject matter of his paintings resulted in the selling of the house and a move to Manhattan. His new, part-time occupation of erecting shelving for the storage of office records resulted in the discovery of a new medium, metal. Further exploration combined with previous interests in the wind and movement led to the making of kinetic wind sculptures. His work is sold internationally and has been showcased in palaces, sculpture parks, and the Barneys Christmas window in Manhattan. A permanent, outdoor version of the Olympic cauldron has taken up residence in downtown Rio. http://howeart.net/ Contact: [email protected]

Matthew Gray Palmer

Self-taught sculptor Matthew Gray Palmer began making his first life-size creatures out of available materials such as newspaper and masking tape at the age of 8. In 1995, Matthew started Parallaxis, an endeavor dedicated to educating people about natural science and conservation through public works of art and multimedia events. In the past several years, Matthew has established himself as a sculptor for the National Park Service with installations at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California and Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana. His work can be seen around San Juan Island—the life-size granite model of Popeye, the seal mascot of the Port of Friday Harbor, and the model of an orca’s dorsal fin (based on Ruffles, J1) in the Interpretive Center at Lime Kiln Point State Park. www.matthewgraypalmer.com/  Contact: [email protected]wgraypalmer.com

Blissful Nature

While well-known for her ethereal paintings of Northwest wildlife, Jill Bliss of Orcas Island also creates art from an unlikely medium—wild mushrooms. It started when she’d go for rambles in the woods, waiting for her latest painting to dry. Collecting items that drew her eye, she’d make color studies. It wasn’t long before she realized the items were mostly mushrooms, particularly purple ones like amanitas. Now she leaves these Mushroom Medleys along the trails, taking only a photo for her Instagram fans. Bliss refers to the medleys as tiny shrines to Mother Nature, because she says creating one of these masterpieces feels a little like praying. Sometimes Mother Nature adds her own touches to the medleys, as in the case of the red fox who elected to defecate in the very center of one, and makes the ultimate decision how long they will last. http://jillbliss.com/

Sustainable Travel

 

Make Memories with Minimal Impact

Getting to the San Juan Islands is half the fun, especially when you can travel with a low carbon footprint. Instead of joining the summer tourist crowd, make plans for the late spring or early fall. The weather’s often in the Goldilocks zone in May and September. Here are some ways to lower your impact while you travel the San Juans:

Take the Shuttle

Rather than rent a car and get a headache fighting traffic, not to mention adding more carbon emissions to the atmosphere, let someone else do the driving and take the Bellair Airporter shuttle bus. It leaves right from Sea-Tac and has a scheduled stop right at the ferry terminal in Anacortes. Shuttles also leave, less frequently from downtown Seattle.

Walk onto the Ferry

Sit back and enjoy the ride. If you go all the way west to Friday Harbor, the ferry unloads right in town, making it an easy walk to everything or take a shuttle to see the rest of the island. 

On-island Transportation

When you’re ready to explore the rest of the island, hop on either San Juan Transit or the Jolly Trolley and enjoy the scenic route of all the island has to offer along the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway. A stop at Lime Kiln Point State Park is a must. It’s one of the best places in the country to see whales from shore—the lowest impact way to whale-watch. The rocky shores, abundant kelp, and deep upwellings make it excellent habitat for all kinds of wildlife, so be sure to take some time to explore.

Leave No Trace

San Juan County is the country’s first Leave No Trace County; please be mindful of the seven principles as you discover the natural wonders of the Islands. https://www.visitsanjuans.com/leave-no-trace

Walk onto the Inter-Island Ferry

San Juan Transit also runs on both Orcas and Lopez Islands on the weekends in summer. When you want to explore the other jewels in the Salish Sea, walk onto an inter-island ferry (there’s no charge!) and discover the complete island experience.

Eat and Buy Local

No matter which island you’re on, visit a Saturday farmers’ market in summer and sample the bounty of products grown, raised, or foraged on island farms, fields, and forests. Find out more about the Island Grown in the San Juans program.

Two- (or Three-) Wheel it

Rent a bicycle, or bring your own, and see the islands from two wheels rather than four. Some companies even rent electric-assist bikes. If bicycling isn’t your speed, rent a moped or zippy three-wheeled scoot-coupe instead of a car and save on fossil fuels.

Volunteer Vacation: Giving Back on a Getaway

Nothing makes you feel more like a local than joining a crew of dedicated residents on a work party for a day or two during your vacation. Opportunities abound in the San Juan Islands. From clearing blackberry branches and nettles away from trails and campsites in a park to crewing on a Soundwatch vessel. Soundwatch, a program of The Whale Museum, schools boaters on how to Be Whale Wise (www.bewhalewise.org/). Whether you’re on a gap year before college or embracing a retired second life, there’s a program for you. As the saying goes, volunteers are not paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.

Unique Places to Sleep

There is something to be said for thinking outside the box when it comes to vacation accommodations.  In an idyllic setting like the San Juan Islands, some lodging options are anything but run-of-the-mill.

Glamping on Orcas Island

Looking for some serious me time in the wilderness but dread the thought of sleeping on the ground? Try glamping! A deluxe way to experience the San Juans. LEANTO, on Orcas Island, is nestled in Moran State Park, over 5,000 acres of wilderness with five freshwater lakes (perfect for those who like a brisk swim before breakfast) and more than 30 miles of hiking trails. Not to mention the views from Mt. Constitution (the highest point in the islands) are ideal for a session of sunrise yoga. Orcas Island moves at a slower pace, and the abundant forests give you an almost fairy-tale feeling, especially when the morning fog curls its smoky tendrils around the evergreens. But without the fear of trolls or other nefarious creatures. Just the fabled piebald deer. It’s a perfect opportunity to unplug and unwind. www.stayleanto.com/moran-state-park-glamping/ Contact: Scott Hale [email protected]

Vintage Chic at Lakedale Resort

Glamping takes on a whole new meaning when the option is a fully restored 1978 Airstream trailer complete with double bed, kitchenette, and a foldout sleeper couch for the wee ones. No kids in tow? The Airstream makes an equally cozy honeymoon spot whether you’re just married or taking a couples’ weekend. Lakedale Resort is surrounded by 82 scenic acres, providing guests with a range of outdoor activities including hiking on a number of trails and paths, nature-watching, playing horseshoes, barbecuing, and more. There are three fresh spring water lakes for swimming, as well as paddle boat, row boat, and canoe rentals. Or try your hand at fishing in one of the stocked lakes (Lakedale fishing permit purchase required). Catch a trout or largemouth bass and grill it for dinner! Lakedale’s lake-side canvas cottages also take glamping to a new level with electricity and en-suite bathrooms. www.lakedale.com/ Contact: [email protected]

Sylvan Charm at Doe Bay

Ever wanted to play real-life Swiss Family Robinson, but not give up amenities like running water? Then check into the Treehouse at Doe Bay Resort & Retreat on Orcas Island. It’s not just a cabin, it’s an experience. A wrap-around deck offers views across the Upper Field to the waters of Rosario Strait and indoors has a sitting room with a pullout futon and a loft with a queen bed. This rustic two-room unit was designed and built to be featured on the new DIY Network television show The TreeHouse Guys. Doe Bay Resort and Retreat is a hidden gem of a resort, situated on 38 acres of pristine waterfront on the southeast tip of Orcas Island. The relaxing clothing-optional soaking tubs and sauna are set over a waterfall, and guests can sit in one of the tubs and look out over the cove, a view that many millionaires would envy. The menu at Doe Bay Café is packed with produce from the one-acre organic garden onsite that’s filled to the brim with vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruit trees, bees, and chickens. Contact: Jen Edington, (360) 376-2291, [email protected]

Forest House: Real-Life Lothlorien

(Nerd Alert: We had to put this one in here, cuz we live here and love it!)

If the Wood-Elves from Middle-earth moved to Washington, they would probably take up residence in this extraordinary vacation rental on beautiful Orcas Island. This unique home is a work of art with rounded walls, a vaulted ceiling, and a Japanese sunken tub. Built with care and craftsmanship by Sunray Kelley, a native of the Pacific Northwest who prides himself on working with the land and the environment, the Forest House is an organic structure with multiple decks. One connects to a two-story tower from which guests might expect Lady Galadriel to descend at any moment. Only a few minutes away from the village of Eastsound, it feels like another world where all you hear are birds.  An enchanted Forest House weekend may be so renewing that you feel yourself to be immortal. www.templedreams.org/Orcas_Island_Retreat/Vacation_Rental.html Contact: [email protected]

Wellness in the San Juans

 

Holistic Healing: Doe Bay Resort and Retreat  

Doe Bay, once a secret gem of the Pacific Northwest, has a long, colorful history and a loyal group of fans and followers both local and worldwide. During the late 1960s and through the 70s, it was known as the Polarity Institute, a center for Polarity Therapy, an alternative energy medicine system that was developed in the 1940s by Dr. Randolph Stone, an Austrian immigrant. Although the doctor did not reside at Doe Bay, a loyal group of followers promoted his holistic medical techniques and the use of “complementary forces” of energy through touch, talk therapy, nutrition, and other means, to heal the body.

Today, the accommodations are rustic and charming. The Doe Bay spa features three outdoor saltwater soaking tubs set over a waterfall, a dry sauna, an outdoor shower, and on-site yoga studio with regular classes. Deepen the relaxation by getting a massage in one of the on-site treatment studios. Complementing the holistic healing experience, fresh-as-it-gets food from the onsite one-acre organic garden is served in the renowned Doe Bay Café. A stone’s throw away, beyond the cabins, yurts or tents lies Moran State Park. Here the serene forest setting expands the opportunities to heal body, mind, and spirit. Contact: Debra Nordberg, [email protected] (www.doebay.com/)

Oasis on Orcas: Indralaya

Indralaya was founded in 1927 by members of the Theosophical Society as a practical experiment in theosophical living. This intention continues to form the basis of their philosophy, community life, and programs. The name Indralaya is derived from Sanskrit and means “a home for the spiritual forces in nature.” Located on Orcas Island, Indralaya is a sanctuary of natural beauty and peace. The camp encompasses seventy-eight acres of forest, meadows, and trails, situated along three-quarters of a mile of coastal shoreline, and offers a wide variety of programs year-round. There is also daily meditation, trail walks, a small bookshop, and a surprisingly well-stocked metaphysical library. Members of Indralaya or the Theosophical Society are eligible to stay at Indralaya for a personal retreat when there is no other program activity scheduled and weather permits. In this unique environment, individuals and families are encouraged to live in cooperative harmony with nature and each other, experiencing the interconnectedness of all forms of life while exploring individual pathways to wholeness. (http://www.indralaya.com/) Contact: Megan and Barbie Luna (360) 376-4526