It had been 10 months since our last, well, anything really. Seeing friends, sleeping in a hotel, eating out. We wanted a break, but not endanger ourselves and others. Our getaway needed to be close (but not too close, I longed to not hear traffic), easy to plan and most importanly, it needed to feel very very safe. And that’s how San Juan Island made the cut. I liked the visitors bureau’s messaging and was psyched to find the San Juan Suite open at the Bird Rock Hotel, our favorite place to stay.
The Journey to the Island:
The Washington State Ferry has operated the Anacortes to San Juan Island route on a reduced schedule this year and I was very concerned about getting reservations and delays. But we made same-day reservations for a Friday evening! We stayed in our car and relished the one hour ride into the sunset.
Staying at the Bird Rock Hotel:
We had stayed before at this adorable historic boutique hotel in the heart of Friday Harbor. A big part of their ambience is their super nice staff always smiling and helpful, a lovely buffet breakfast and afternoon cookies and lemonade. Now in Covid times the hotel is being run remotely and without food service. At first we were sad to hear this, worried that the hotel would lose it's charm, but their modified systems worked surprisingly well and we still felt comfortable and nurtured. In the lobby one could find extra coffee and tea, towels, dishes, irons and other high touch point items they had removed from the rooms. Upon check-in we received our door code via email which worked for both the front door and our room. And then there was our San Juan Suite, oh my! On the third floor, with a King bed overlooking the harbor, a private balcony, a kitchenette and a bathroom so big we could (and did) dance in. The bathroom features a two-person shower and an oversized aerated tub. I was not familiar with the latter. But let me tell you, it is fantastic. A ring of air bubbles massages you, gentler than a jetted tub, but better somehow. I loved it. I also really appreciated having a kitchenette, not knowing exactly which restaurants were open.
What About that Rain Shadow?
San Juan Island lays in the Olympic Rain Shadow. On our weekend, the weather forecast predicted a 70% chance of rain for the entire weekend. Here is what happened for us: Friday was windy and cloudy. Saturday was sunny and very windy in the evening with no rain whatsoever. Sunday it did rain. We made that our “Seahawks with Burgers in bed” day.
On Friday night, after travelling we felt we’d had enough adventure for one day and cooked steaks we had brought in our very own kitchen.
Saturday morning we went to the Farmer’s Market just two few blocks away and treated ourselves to sweet & savory pastries from Café Demeter to take to the beach for a sort of brunch. For dinner we grabbed a Prosciutto & Pear Pizza from Van Go’s.
On Sunday morning, we meandered to Cynthia’s Bistro, my husband‘s favorite breakfast place. The two outside tables felt very safe. Here we had our first restaurant experience since March. And for the big afternoon Seahawks game, we picked up an Island Burger with bacon and white Cheddar and a Stout Spiked Chicken Sandwich with Brie and apple from the Cask & Schooner Public House by the water. They are doing take-out only at this time. We had so much fun devouring our burgers in our comfy King bed, while overlooking the Salish Sea and watching the Hawks game.
Two of my very favorite things about San Juan Island are the lack of traffic noise when hiking, and the vibrant colors and light in the Fall on the isle. So stunning.
Zylstra Lake Preserve
On Saturday morning, we hiked San Juan Island’s newest preserve off San Juan Valley Road. We were the only ones there, exploring the serene farmland and lake. The old trees heavy with lichen, which is an air pollution indicator, were absolutely magical in the Fall.
San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
The folks at the 20-acre sculpture park on the north end of the isle, did an absolutely amazing job this year commissioning new art pieces and creating lovely garden spots around statues with waterfalls and shady places to sit. The highlight for me was the powerful, 13-foot Grizzly statue with her cubs.
Dead Man Bay Preserve & Whale Watch Park
We parked right above beautiful Deadman Bay and followed the well-marked trail into the woods. The size of the Madronas and Douglas Firs up here is breathtaking. We saw tons of mushrooms, baby deer and not a single other (human) soul until we entered Lime Kiln State Park, also known as the Whale Watch Park, from the north end. Here we climbed down to a rebuilt lime kiln and took postcard-worthy pictures of the historic light house before taking a small trail along the high cliffs back to Deadman Bay where we had parked.
From beginning to end, we got exactly what we were needing and way more than we had hoped. Thank you, San Juan Island and the Bird Rock Hotel, for rejuvenating our 2020 weary souls.