Christmas on South Beach, San Juan Island, Washington
Christmas on South Beach, San Juan Island, Washington

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Christmas Day on San Juan Island

As awesome as Christmas can be, it can also be a challenging holiday for many of us with the stress of holiday shopping and visiting family. Last year, I decided to make a change and do something different. I vowed instead to spend Christmas morning at a beach on San Juan Island with the man I love.

San Juan Island is incredible in the Winter. It is quiet and festive. The Olympic Rain Shadow creates crystal clear, crisp days while the rest of Washington State stays hidden under leaden skies. The tiny town of Friday Harbor is all decked out and seems to exhale after a busy holiday season.

On Christmas Eve almost all shops and several restaurants are open, as is the Palace Movie Theater and the Whale Museum. Last year, we took this day to get wined and dined and to pick up provisions for our Christmas morning: firewood for a beach fire, s’mores fixings, sandwiches, and a little something to put in our morning coffee. We were glad we did. When we got up on Christmas morning, Friday Harbor was closed. There was a convenience store open and the gas station and that was it. We didn’t see a soul.

Christmas on South Beach, San Juan Island, Washington

We headed to South Beach in bright sunshine, on icy roads, along frozen farmland and woods, fully anticipating we would be the only ones at the beach. South Beach is special to us. We got married here. We adore the long, pebbly beach with its wild driftwood configurations, dramatic cliffs and historic lighthouse in the distance. You can see Mt Baker towering in the south and the snow covered Olympic Mountains in the west. The hills of prairie grass lining the beach are dotted with bunnies and foxes. You can feel the power of Mother Nature and the magic of being alive.

We were not the only ones having the idea of Christmas morning at the beach, not by far. There were families gathered around fires, kids and puppies roaming the beach, grandma’s being gently led over icy driftwood logs, visitors and locals, old and young alike, it was fabulous.

Christmas on South Beach, San Juan Island, Washington

We took a long hike on the small paths along the cliffs. As always on South Beach, you walk for just a bit and find yourself alone. We watched an otter feed and a Bald Eagle checking it out. We laid in the grass and let the Winter sun warm our cold faces. The sun dramatically breaking through the storm clouds on the horizon made for different, stunning light every few moments. When we were cold and hungry we returned to the beach and found the same fire pit available we had gathered around at our wedding. My husband made a respectful fire around which many Christmas walkers warmed their hands that day. A little boy from San Diego kept returning and earnestly throwing little sticks on our fire. There was a dachshund in a Christmas sweater who seemed to like us better than his people. Maybe because we warmed our beef sandwiches in the fire and they started to smell really good.

Christmas on South Beach, San Juan Island, Washington

I took a moment to collect the occasional beer cap, bon-bon wrapper and lost chap stick and threw them in the trash, just because I could. We watched a little black fox with a white tail hunt in the dunes behind us while we let the fire burn down.

I was at peace and loved the world and the people in it. Here at South Beach on Christmas morning I truly felt what the season is really about.

"What a delightful place to stay!...

The staff is wonderful and the little extras

make it a comfortable place to stay."