Washington Nature August 25, 2016
10 Hidden Gems On Washington’s San Juan Islands
Ask anyone in Washington about our best vacation destination and you’ll find that most of them will say the same thing: the San Juan Islands. This tranquil group of islands is a wonderful place to go to relax and forget your troubles any time of year.
There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County, but the ferry serves four: San Juan Island (home of Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island. These are the most populated places, and that’s where you’ll find the best places to stay, eat and relax.
These 10 hidden gems on the islands sometimes get overlooked by the more popular places… but we happen to think they’re just as incredible.
1. Yellow Island
Yellow Island is an 11-acre preserve that’s located near Orcas Island (you can kayak there from Orcas Island’s Deer Harbor). More than 50 species of wildflowers and the brittle prickly pear cactus grow here, and you might see some exciting wildlife like harlequin ducks, oystercatchers and harbor seals. Yellow Island contains a beautiful and unique ecosystem.
2. Van Go’s Pizza, Friday Harbor
Even in a world of fresh seafood, sometimes you just need some pizza. This little oasis serves it piping hot, and they make their dough fresh daily - in fact, they’ve been known to close early on occasion when they run out of dough.
3. Vita’s Wildly Delicious, Lopez Island
Don’t let the casual appearance of this little cafe fool you. You might order at the counter, but the food quality is anything but fast. Vita’s hosts wine tastings, cooking classes, live music and Friday night tastings of delicacies like paella. Meals are enjoyed on their beautiful outdoor patio.
4. Grandma’s Cove, San Juan Island
This quaint little cove is a true place to get away from it all. You won’t find property developers, snack bars or even restrooms here. It’s just a private place with clean sand, two rocky headlands and a crescent shaped beach with perfect tidepools for exploring.
5. Cattle Point, San Juan Island
You’ll find Cattle Point on the southern tip of the island. With two sandy beaches with rocky edges, some great grassland and stunning views, it’s got some of the best scenery in the area, and that’s saying a lot. Cattle Point also has a lighthouse that dates back to 1888.
6. Judd Cove Preserve, Orcas Island
Most people who visit Orcas Island flock to the beautiful Crescent Beach, but the Judd Cove Preserve is an underrated treasure. You’ll find it on the western shore of Eastsound, and it’s home to 12 acres of forest, shoreline, tidelands and freshwater wetlands. You’ll also find a partially restored lime kiln and quarry from the 1880s.
7. The World’s Skinniest Latte Shop, Friday Harbor
This narrow little “blink and you’ll miss it” coffee shop also happens to serve fresh juice and ice cream. There is no room for seating, of course, so you’ll have to get whatever you’re craving to-go.
8. The Field House on Midnight’s Farm, Lopez Island
Step off the beaten path and right into farm life. The Field House offers a classic farm stay, and as a guest, you’ll be welcome to feed the pigs, help in the garden and walk the surrounding trails. The kitchen is stocked with basics in case you feel like cooking or baking.
9. Reuben Tarte Memorial Park, San Juan Island
Explore two small beaches separated by a rock bluff at this quiet park on the northeast part of the island.
10. Flotsam & Jetsam, Lopez Island
This quirky shop is probably the most fun consignment store you’ll ever experience. In addition to browsing for used clothes, records and movies, the owner hosts “drop by and dye” parties where locals are encouraged to stop by with things they want to dye. Also, she’s been known to make her visitors tea.
The San Juan Islands should be added to any Washington traveler’s bucket list. Here are some other must-see spots.