Set Sail for Friday Harbour
By Chris McBeath
Gliding across the waters, the scene was constantly changing. Small fishing boats bobbed up and down with each wave, clinging to the promise of bounty; expensive yachts swooshed past in regal style while seagulls skimmed the white caps, ducking and swooping as if captured by the memory of Jonathan Livingstone.
Sailing through the San Juan Islands is sheer pleasure and as we traveled past such scenes, our pace gradually slowed to ‘island time’, a local description for a different way of life.
But that’s what island escapes are all about, and in the San Juans we were about to discover why these getaways capture the hearts of all who experience them.
We stayed at Friday Harbor House, an elegant small inn perched high atop a bluff with views of Friday Harbor and the surrounding waterways. With the village center only steps from its front door, it was a perfect base from which to explore the numerous art galleries, antique shops, book stores and specialty boutiques. Each of the inn’s twenty guest rooms feature a magnificent floor to ceiling view, fireplace, oversized Jacuzzi soaking tub and other amenities which made us feel so comfortable, it was tempting to "cocoon" for the entire stay. But the rest of the island beckoned.
In addition to shopping, San Juan offers visitors a smorgasbord of outdoor activities from gentle hiking trails through the historic American Camp, beachcombing and sea kayaking to golf and scuba diving. One of the best ways to explore the island is via moped or in a Scootcar. Part car, part moped, these scootcars reminded me of something out of "The Jetsons", seating two people together while enjoying a moped-like experience. At a top speed of only 25 mph, these hybrid vehicles are safe, fun and a definite must-try for destinations such as Lime Kiln Park, the only official Whale Watching Park in the United States, or even for a round-island trip.
A circle tour of the island is 48 miles and includes lots of stop-off points such as picturesque Roche Harbor, a one-time favorite of John Wayne and Theodore Roosevelt. As history buffs, however, we headed for the British Camp, the last place in America to be occupied by the English. San Juan Island was once known as the Pig War Island, named for the time when an American settler, Lyman Cutler, killed a hog belonging to Bellevue Farm, a part of the Hudson’s Bay’s fur trapping operations. His actions ignited the already tense Anglo-American relations. The British authorities tried to arrest Cutler; the US responded with troops which then prompted the English to send out their warships. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and both governments agreed to a joint occupation of San Juan until the dispute could be settled. Today, life is a great deal more peaceful. You can tour the several buildings from the Pig War era, and hike the meandering trail to the top of Mount Young where you’ll find some spectacular vistas of the entire archipelago.
By the end of the day, we had worked up an appetite and couldn’t wait to settle back into the comforts of Friday Harbor House. That included a candlelight dinner.
The small harbor-view restaurant has a reputation for exquisite culinary fare and we could see why. The menu and hospitality is first class and as we watched the sun cast its golden shadow over the ship masts below, we dined on melt-in-your-mouth halibut, fresh-baked breads, and home-made strawberry crumble. And as full as we were, our mouths watered at the prospect of breakfast.
For us, however, breakfast was not to be. Our ferry was scheduled to sail to the next island at such an eye-opening hour, finding time for breakfast seemed only a faint hope.But we had forgotten that this was the San Juans, where Island hospitality is easy and warm. The chef at Friday Harbor House was not going to see any guest leave hungry so we boarded the ferry with a wonderful care package of just-baked orange and almond scones, vanilla tea cakes and steaming hot coffees. Sweet farewells to a great, great getaway
Friday Harbor House
130 West Street
P.O. Box 1385
Friday Harbor, WA 98250
Tel: (360) 378-8455
Web site: www.fridayharborhouse.com
Washington State Ferries
Tel: (800) 843 3779
By Car & Ferry: From north or south on I-5, take the Anacortes-San Juan Ferry exit, #230.
Travel west on Highway 20 for approximately 20 miles following signs to reach the Anacortes Ferry Dock.
The Washington State Ferry ride is about 1.5 hours, docking at Friday Harbor
From the ferry, follow traffic up Spring Street
Turn right on First, then right on West Street
Friday Harbor House is at the end of the block overlooking the harbor
By foot, the walk is less that five minutes
By plane: From Seattle, you can take a Kenmore Air floatplane and land at the Friday Harbor Marina.
From Bellingham, Victoria, or Anacortes, West IsleAir is available for short flights to Friday Harbor Airport (FRD)
Touring San Juan Island is all the more fun aboard these runabouts, available from Susie's Scotcars .
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