(More photos on Flickr)
Our weekend getaway to San Juan Island was purely relaxing and slow-paced. It was mine and O's first time there, and I'm glad we finally went despite the chilly weather. We drove all around the island, walked around Friday Harbor, visited the famous Pelindaba Lavender Farm even though it was not in bloom yet, saw the alpacas and had some good food in between.
A few tips and recommendations for first-timers (things we learned being newbies visiting the island):
Lodging - The place we stayed at was called Lonesome Cove--about 20 minutes north of Friday Harbor. It is owned, including 5 cabins and 1 tiny house, by lovely San Juan natives Kim and Karl Bruder. Our charming net loft sits farthest from other cabins with a spacious private patio, full balcony right above the pebbled beach and direct access to the dock--where it became our favorite spot to enjoy the water and sunset (we spotted a sea otter lounging on the dock one afternoon). I highly recommend Lonesome Cove and would definitely only stay here if I visit the island again in the future.
Ferry - If you want to catch an earlier or specific route other than your reservation, get your car in line on standby as early as possible (we made this mistake and had lunch before getting in line so we ended up waiting for 6 hours--which ended up being our reserved route anyway). This applies for the route going there, too. I can imagine summer season being just as busy as this past holiday weekend, so reserve early online or get in line on standby ridiculously early.
Food - I VERY highly recommend going to Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. (northwest corner of the island) and buy fresh oysters (or clams to cook) for cheap ($15/dozen oysters at the time I went there) right on the farm/beach. I only got a dozen because I wasn't 100% sure they would be good. But after I brought them back to our dock to shuck and eat, I wish I had gotten a few more dozens (it was almost time for dinner)! They are only open on weekends from now until June-something?...and then daily after that (you will have to call to confirm). I also ate at Cask & Schooner (decent American food but had few selections), Friday's Crabhouse (their combo plate of grilled oysters, clams and mussels were not bad but I've had better), Duck Soup Inn (everything was great in terms of the bread/anchovy dip, appetizers and starters, BUT I was really disappointed in my entree--a grains bowl containing a mix of wonderful ingredients that did not get executed well at all), and finally Backdoor Kitchen (Vietnamese-style rice vermicelli bowls that had too much lime juice in the fish sauce and made it almost inedible). We will most definitely cook the next time around and just buy shellfish from Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. as the food scene on the island can just be experienced once.
Sights - Water surrounds the island so anywhere you stop will be nice (also an abundant parks to have picnics, go on easy hikes, etc.). No soft sand beaches but the view out into the ocean is generous. The lavender farm is not much to see if the flowers are not in bloom. The alpacas are cute weird-looking animals but they are so far away from the fences that you cannot get a good close-up shot or get to touch them (well, I'm not sure if that's even allowed). We were thinking about bicycling around the island, but realized the roads are pretty hilly all over and neither of us are in shape to tackle them just yet..
Misc - You can pretty much guarantee to have no cell phone service and/or data outside of Friday Harbor unless your lodging place has wifi. Luckily, the island was not too difficult to navigate without a dependable GPS, but just be prepared to lose connectivity and be open for some scenic drives. :-)
All in all, it was a good experience at a new place. It wasn't perfect (especially on the last day), but it will be definitely be better next time. Maybe then we will island-hop to Lopez and Orcas with some whale-watching and kayaking excursions.