Friday Harbor, Rosario, and Roche Harbor
on the sheltered
waters of the San Juans
San Juan Islands offer not only a chance for couples to
have a quiet, romantic vacation, but the islands are a
great place for families to explore fascinating West
Coast history, and also to share in outdoor adventure, on
land and on the sheltered inlets and channels between the
San Juans are located in the Gulf of Georgia, just north
of Puget Sound, sharing the gulf with the neighboring
Gulf Islands of British Columbia. The major islands
attracting visitors are San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez. You
get to them all by taking a ferry -- either from
Anacortes on the Washington mainland, or from Sidney on
Canada's Vancouver Island. Because they are islands,
without a lot of urban development, you get the feeling
that time has stood still for a while, with the islands
retaining the ambiance that attacted its first European
settlers more than a century ago.
of the islands offer a slightly different experience. Lopez is the least populated, and most rustic of
the three major islands.
Orcas has a mountain (Mount
Constitution) that offers hikes, picnic areas and a superb view of the
islands, mainland, and ocean. It also has the long-time
San Juan Island is more
populated, with the small city of Friday Harbor
providing all the visitor services that one could want.
This island also has one of the truly unique resorts in
the U.S. Roche
Harbor is an historic village --
previously a lime mining and shipping community -- set on
the northern edge of the island. The resort has an
antique hotel, modern condo-style accommodatioons and
rustic cottages once occupied by mine workers. It also
has the largest marina on the islands -- a new
incarnation of what has long been one of the most popular
boating stops in Washington.
Juan is steeped in history. Its national park
reflects the early 1800s, when the infamous "Pig War" was
"fought" between the United States and the British on
Vancouver Island. Not a shot was fired in this 1812-era
war, and both the American and British camps have been
preserved to some extent, and are on display near Roche
into the historical aspects of the islands, and exploring
recreational pursuits, provide families with several days
of great family activity, including hiking to "Pig War"
scenes, visiting the unusual stone tower on Mt.
Constitution -- modeled after watch towers in the
Caucasus Mountains -- hiking on the mountain or along the
seashore, and dining in unfussy restaurants which serve
seafood of the region.
a detailed guide to the San Juan Islands, Go to our Onroute
San Juan Island
Harbor is a one-stop vacation place. If you're
interested in seeing wildlife, including whales,
birds, and other denizens of the archipelago,
the resort's marine center offers guided cruises
for whale watching and other wildife-viewing.
You can rent a kayak for your own excursion
around the island. You can arrive on your boat
and dock for your vacation stay at the resort's
can eat to your hearty's content, in either the
upscale Roche Harbor Restaurant, or in the Lime
Kiln Café which serves burgers,
sandwiches and other comfort food. There's a bar
for the adults, and even a consecrated Catholic
church on the resort property -- popular for weddings by-the-sea. A
grandiose mausoleum, set in the nearby forest,
is an eerie reminder of the McMillan family,
which developed the original mining operation
and the Roche Harbor community.
Harbor is close to the two national park sites
that commemorate the war of 1812 (here it was the "pig war") and to the
fantastic scenery of the outer, pacific coast of San Juan