We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to take a long weekend in celebration of our first wedding anniversary. When we began surveying the US for destinations, our main goals for the getaway were simple: spend some quality and relaxing time together. The remote and serene San Juan Islands were about 4 hours away from us and fit the requirements perfectly! We left home early Friday morning to catch our 11:50 ferry out of Anacondas.
Pro tip: Ferry reservations are notoriously difficult to obtain but they are released in segments giving you a chance at one no matter when you decide to plan a trip. One third of the reservations for any given ferry are released two months prior to sailing, another third are released two weeks prior, and the last third are released two days before the sailing date. Reservations are released at 7am each day and I highly recommend setting an alarm. I was on the website at 7 am on the dot and by the time I had cycled through our reservation purchase process all reservations for the entire day had sold out – a mere six minutes later!
The beauty of the ferry ride across the usually plaid waters of the sound was like something out of a romantic movie. We arrived first into Friday Harbor on the San Juan Island.
Pro tip: All westbound trips cost money and eastbound ferry rides are free – if you plan to visit multiple islands start on the western most island and travel east from there for the cheapest route.
After checking into our B&B we walked down to a English style pup for lunch and departed onto the San Juan Scenic Byway. Essentially a loop around the island, we made a pit stop about every ten minutes – exploring the San Juan Vineyards, Sculpture Garden and Roche Harbor. We thoroughly enjoyed moseying around each stop, breathing in the slower pace and leisurely afternoon. Sampson barked furiously at each and every sculpture that had a face and we got some ice cream in the delightful village of Roche Harbor. That evening we ate at the much-raved about Backdoor Kitchen and felt like quiet the culinary snobs when both of us agreed we had eaten much better meals. Returning to the Honeymoon Cottage for the night, we got a great nights sleep before exploring the charming, quintessentially island town of Friday Harbor the next morning. We stopped at the expansive lavender farm, visited many a bakery, cheese shop, and farmers market before it was time to catch the inter-island ferry (no reservation required) eastbound to Orcas Island.
Before we knew it (all three of us may or may not have fallen asleep in the crossing, didn’t even make it out of the car) we were driving off of the ferry and onto Orcas Island. The largest of the San Juan Islands, Orcas was much less populated than the San Juan Island and we were looking forward to taking in the tranquil beauty. Orcas Island did not disappoint.
We spent our days driving the picturesque island roads, eating in and wandering the streets of Eastsound, meeting up with Cameron’s family who randomly was on the island the same time we were for a bonfire, and hiking the beautiful island trails.
Eating: If you are visiting the island, we would recommend both Hogwood Pizza for dinner, the Eastsound CoOp for snacks, and Island Skillet for breakfast; however, by far our favorite was New Leaf Cafe. Having called weeks earlier to score a coveted dinner reservation we had a delicious meal Saturday night and promptly found ourselves there again the following morning for breakfast – desperate as we were for more of the goodness.
Pro tip: Dinner reservations at the New Leaf Cafe need a few weeks notice but you generally need no reservations for breakfast which was just a delicious.
Island Spirit: As we were relaxing at our cozy cottage one evening, we commented on the tranquil quiet. While we don’t live in the city by any means, even in our suburban backyard we never hear the true, peaceful quiet that we experienced on that back porch. It’s subtle and until it was gone, we never noticed the hum of the freeway in the distance, the occasional car door slam, or the gentle plod of footsteps walking in by in the street that fills the silence at home . The pure, untouched silence was amazingly restful, if not a bit eerie.
Hikes: We accidentally drove to the top of Mount Constitution in our search for the trailhead and were a bit disenchanted that we were going to hike somewhere that could be driven to so we wound back down the mountainside – saving the enchanting views of the sound – to the Mountain Lake Loop. A seven-mile loop, Mountain Lake was a spectacular, moderate hike. The next morning we ventured to Turtleback Mountain which was a steep climb but the spectacular vistas from the top were reward aplenty. The patchwork farms spread out at our feet straight ahead while expansive water, dotted with islands and sailboats, filled in each side. The water was such a deep, rich blue that if not for the crisp wind on my face I would have sworn it was the warm water of the Mediterranean. Our view was truly not able to be captured by mere words, nature’s finest watercolor, the intense blue of the water juxtaposed perfectly against the true blue of the sky speckled with dive bombing hawks, the mixture of soft greenery and hard stone in between. The whole thing was too vivid and enchanting to be real. As you can tell, Turtleback Mountain provides some pretty spectacular panoramas but doesn’t draw the crowds that the much better known Mount Constitution does. Highly recommend.
Pro Tip: With no exploratory trails added, it’s a 2.6-mile loop to the stop. It starts off in a shaded ravine, crosses into a ranger road, and then splits into the Lost Oak Trail to the left and South Trail to the right. It’s a loop so you can take either side and be good to go but you should know the Lost Oak Trail is a steeper climb. Either way its a moderately steep hike, but because of that we took the South Trail up.
As we boarded the ferry, homeward bound I knew that we probably won’t always be able to get away for our anniversary, but I feel so lucky that our first one was this memorable and that I get this man by my side each and every day.