One of my spur of the moment trips was to the San Juan Islands off the coast of the state of Washington, USA. I was visiting my cousins in Portland and we decided to go to Friday Harbor for a couple of days. I had not even heard of these islands before this point in time. I had heard of Vancouver Island and wanted to go there, but due to a lack of time and funds we opted to go to San Juan Islands, and found it to be quite the hidden treasure.
We went in the middle of the month of April which is right around the time the Orcas generally start to migrate. My interest was instantly peaked at the idea of seeing a whale up close and personal in the wild. Unfortunately, we were about a week ahead of them. I would love to return and take one of the tour boats out to see them. The best part is that you really don’t have to though, because they come really close to the shore, and there are some great viewing spots.
In order to get to Friday Harbor we took our rental car on the ferry-boat over to the island. It was a pretty smooth ride, and the first time I had been on a ferry with a car. It was pretty cool to sit in the car (or not, your choice) and ride on the ferry across the waves for an hour or so.
When we arrived at the island we went to our little vacation rental and got settled in for the night. It was a cute little place that my cousins had found online. Fully equipped little apartment above a store.
The next day we set out to explore the island. We could have gone to the lavender fields, the winery, the Alpaca farm, or some of the other local attraction, but we chose to drive around and find the best beaches to look for whales.
We found Lime Kiln State park that had one of the best viewing spots, and you could see a lighthouse just down the way. This is the spot I think you would have the best view of the migrating Orcas. It was also the closest I have been to Canada, and my first view of Vancouver Island across the water. We also explored a couple other beaches while driving around the island. Inland, the island is spotted with sheep, cows, pastures, wide-spread houses, and the occasion red fox running across the road in front of us.
We also took the time to walk the streets of the tiny downtown. Exploring the local museums, boutiques, and drooling at some of the local menu options. We found the menus to be a bit pricey, but it certainly looked worth the price. There was also a little bakery in Friday Harbor that made some of the most delicious French baguette, and Sourdough rounds. They used organic ingredients, and baked fresh all day. There was also a popular sandwich shop that we wanted to visit, but we just didn’t have the time. We had a market right across from our little rental, and we utilized our fully equipped kitchen and made some healthy, affordable snacks. 🙂 We also visited the local coffee houses, because we LOVE coffee. We went to a little drive though one day, and had a bit of a funny experience. I asked for an Italian soda and requested that it not have the half and half inside of it, but I still wanted the whip cream on top. The request was not verbalized properly. I asked for “whip on top and not inside”….and this is what I got…
A visit to Friday Harbor, or any of the San Juan Islands is well worth your time. If you want a bit of the ‘island experience’ without the long flight, and high price tag then this is the place to go….I’m sure you will find that the discoveries continue to be endless….
What do you like to do in the San Juan Islands?