SAN JUAN ISLAND GETAWAY
Updated: Jul 9, 2019
Planes, trains, and ferry rides. There are so many opportunities for quick getaways here in the Pacific Northwest. Wrapping up my month-long birthday celebration, I jumped on the Seattle to San Juan Island and Friday Harbor Ferry from Clipper Vacations for some rest and relaxation on the island.
Mike's Cafe & Wine Bar
Since the ferry arrived well before my check-in time at a nearby hostel, I stopped by Mike’s Cafe and Wine Bar for lunch.
This little gem of a find was an accidental discovery a few years back and it’s actually a vegan restaurant.
Oddly, I’m not a vegan, but their burgers and salads are pretty tasty and they have a helluva great wine menu. The ambience is quaint with a large outdoor section and from what I’ve seen it’s a hit with the locals, vegan or not.
Want something light and refreshing? Try the rose and Southwest Fiesta Salad (greens, corn, tomato, black beans and corn tortilla chips tossed in a southwest style chipotle dressing)
Cycle San Juan
Making the most of my time, I rented a bicycle from Cycle San Juan. It’s really easy to book online and you can request an E-bike, Road, or Hybrid. They’ll even deliver the bikes to you, FREE, anywhere in town!
The bike was set up for me by the time I arrived. I’ll admit I was a little nervous since I hadn’t been on a bike for quite some time, but it all came back and I was able to get some exercise and stunning views.
Friendly and inexpensive, I was pleased with $25 for a hybrid bicycle and half day use * Includes helmet, lock, emergency tire repair kit, and route directions. You can opt for a tour or ride on your own.
There are lots of places to stay on Friday Harbor, but I like to keep it simple when it comes to accommodations. Wayfarer’s Rest is a backpacker’s hostel and my favorite place to stay.
Nestled just off Malcolm Rd. and only a half mile walk from the ferry terminal, Wayfarer's Rest is secluded enough to silence the noise and traffic of the tourists in town.
All the essentials provided, this is perfect for families and groups with two full-sized kitchens and comfy common areas, three bathrooms and a spacious front and back yard. You can rent private rooms, cabins, and a dorm room for as little as $40 per night.
This hostel is run by a lovely couple that live upstairs. Everything is based on an honor system. Keys are in envelopes on a desk with one's name. The doors are usually open 24 hours, but each room has private locks. I’ve stayed there multiple times over the years and I find it to be absolutely perfect.
The Backdoor Kitchen
Another reason I love the Wayfarer’s Rest is that you can literally walk across the road, through a seemingly secret artist colony, onto a small field and find yourself at the Backdoor Kitchen.
This small restaurant is so popular, it’s only open for dinner six months of the year!
The menu is an international cuisine with seasonal favorites, but my absolute favorite is the Lamb Chops (Marinated in red wine, garlic, and black pepper. Seared and served with a fresh mint sauce, mashed potatoes, and seasonal vegetables).
Make reservations in advance as the tourists and locals keep it busy!
The next morning I enjoyed a cup of coffee while sitting on the rocking chair outside. A family of deer walked through the backyard and a hummingbird feasted on nectar.
Check-out was as simple as check-in with my only duty to place my sheets and towels in the appropriate dirty linen bins.
With my backpack fastened tight, I headed straight to my favorite brunch spot Cynthia’s Bistro.
Housed in a cozy renovated 1920's house, this spot is the place to be for brunch.
There’s a large deck out back surrounded with plum and apple trees.
During the spring/summer season, Cynthia’s is open every day from 7:30-2:00pm for All-day Breakfast/Brunch/Lunch.
Although Cynthia’s dinner option is only available in the fall and by reservation only, they do have a catering service and you can find them at the Saturday San Juan Farmer’s Market.
From Chia Seed Parfait to Swedish Pancakes, Cynthia’s hits the spot. As for me, I opted for the “Friends w/Benedicts”, a classic eggs benedict with hollandaise from scratch and bacon as my choice topping. Cap it off with coffee and mimosas and you’ve got yourself a hearty breakfast.
Want a little snack for the road? Cynthia’s Bistro has plenty of baked pastries available too!
I still had some time to spare before my afternoon return trip, so I stopped into the Whale Museum. Opened to the public in 1979, this was the first museum in the country devoted to a species living in the wild. A tiny museum with a BIG impact!
I have a particular affinity for orcas and the exhibits are fantastic. There are activities for kids and videos on recent research. Overall, a great learning experience for all ages. The Whale Museum continues to promote stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea ecosystem.
Besides paid admission, you can make a donation, adopt an orca, or become a member. There are certainly other marine wildlife to learn about here at the museum, but the orca research doesn’t end here.
Center for Whale Research
Back towards the ferry terminal and next to the San Juan Chamber of Commerce is the new Center for Whale Research.
Spearheaded by Ken Balcomb, the Center for Whale Research (CWR) is dedicated to the study and conservation of the Southern Resident killer whale (orca) population in the Pacific Northwest.
This center is equipped with interactive displays and big screen video footage. Meet naturalists and researchers and take a ride on a research boat. . . .in virtual reality!
Cask and Schooner
My motto is 'live life to its fullest' and just relax. Down to a couple of hours before departure, I enjoyed a cool cocktail at the Cask and Schooner while overlooking Friday Harbor. What did the trick was the "Nancy and Drew" (gin, hayman's sloe gin, giffard pamplemousse, lime, grapefruit, soda, bitters). Mmm-Mmm.
It might have been a whirlwind adventure, but I didn’t feel rushed at all and that’s the beauty of living in the Pacific Northwest. Just get up and go!
Clipper Vacations is my favorite way to go since it's just a passenger ferry. Make your plans at Clipper Vacations.
Interested in visiting my favorite spots on Friday Harbor? Here's more information:
Mike’s Cafe & Wine Bar
135 Second St S.
65 Nichols St.
Wayfarer’s Rest Hostel
35 Malcolm Street
400b “A” Street
62 First St N
Center for Whale Research
355 Smugglers Cove Rd.
Cask and Schooner
1 Front St.