Showing posts with label San Juan islands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label San Juan islands. Show all posts

Saturday, August 10, 2013

WAWeekend: A Northwest Island Getaway

Ever dream about getting away to an island – just you, the sand and sea – perhaps a book, a glass of wine or both? It is one of our favorite travel daydreams. . .

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The island would be the kind of place that was accessible only by boat, perhaps a small ferry, on a crossing that takes but a few minutes. . .

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We found such a place earlier this year just a stone’s throw from Anacortes.  In fact we could see the island from our small balcony in this once-bustling fishing town to the north of Seattle.

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JebirthdaySquirrely 041Guemes, (guh-weems) is accessed by private boat or the Guemes Island Ferry (pictured above).

It is a small place with a very rural atmosphere, where ferry schedule changes and community events are posted on a chalk board near the ferry dock.

A place served by two small grocery stores. One in particular, Anderson’s General Store serves such good food in its tiny cafĂ© that it is worth a trip to the island just to eat there:

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There’s a single resort on the island, the Guemes Island Resort, –operating since 1947  -- that offers a selection of water-front cabins (still heated by fireplace) and other more modern accommodations.

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Guemes Island Island Resort
Private homes line the island’s perimeter, but there are a couple of good sized parks and plenty of public beaches for strolling as well. 

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JebirthdaySquirrely 037If you are wondering about the island’s somewhat tongue-twister name. . .it was named after the Viceroy of New Spain, Juan Vicente de Guemes, who commissioned the expedition that discovered the island to Spain in 1791. . . or at least that is how Wikipedia says it got its name.

If You Go:

Anacortes and nearby Guemes Island are less than two hours drive north of Seattle.  Anacortes has many hotel/motels and retail stores.

Guemes Island Resort:
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Happy Travels!  Stop in again next week - we'll leave the welcome mat out!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Travel Classics: Hotel de Haro ~ San Juan Island

Taking a slight jog from the Middle East, I am posting an article that appears in my drafts folder, that I had once published 'way back when' we took the trip. We used this post to introducing our then new Travel Classics feature on TravelnWrite .  Its focus continues to be historic hotels and other treasures we find along the way. . .
We couldn’t think of a better place to begin than at the iconic Hotel de Haro on Washington State’s San Juan Island. . .

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The hotel, overlooking Roche (roe-shhh) Harbor, was constructed around an existing Hudson’s Bay Post log bunkhouse in 1887.  You can still see portions of those old logs at the hotel’s narrow stairway that leads from the lobby to the guestrooms.

It is definitely a place built of both logs and legends. Like so many historic structures, we wish the walls could whisper bedtime stories to bring its history to life.  On that particular trip, I'd have wanted to hear more about guestroom 2A because that is where United States President Theodore Roosevelt stayed in 1906 while visiting his friend, John S. McMillin. 

McMillin, in 1887, founded the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company. This hotel was built to house customers while they were buying lime.

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Today Room 2A is known as the Presidential Suite. It was in that room, with its sloping and creaking floors, that we spent two brisk autumn nights. Can’t you just imagine President Roosevelt sitting here more than a century ago?

VeniceSanJuanIsl 272Our three-room suite, included an en suite bathroom behind the door on the left. There are two suites, each with their own en suites; other guest rooms share a bathroom. 

VeniceSanJuanIsl 319And even that common bathroom has history!

As the story goes, that famous Western movie actor, John Wayne, also stayed here and they say he bought the over-sized claw-footed tub (now found in the ladies bathroom) because that ‘cowboy’ was so large he didn't fit the tubs provided so bought the place a had a man-sized tub. 

(And the McMillin kids learned to swim in it. . .as the story continues. . .)

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Hotel de Haro – once the only public accommodation on Roche Harbor-- is now nestled amid luxury (modern) suites, and even town homes (pictured in back).  All would be great choices for an island getaway, but when we return, it will likely be to that creaky, somewhat drafty Presidential Suite where we can wrap ourselves in the warmth of history again.

If You Go:

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Washington State Ferries from Anacortes are an easy way to reach San Juan Island.  Anacortes is just over an hour’s drive north of Seattle.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 337Roche Harbor is on the north end of the island and a few miles from the ferry landing. Public transportation is available. It’s also great for cyclists.

Hotel de Haro is not open during winter months.  We were there in November and our room was chilly even with the heat turned up and the fireplace going.  What is nice about the hotel is that it has never undergone major renovation to its interior. . .that means you give up some creature comforts (like temperature control) for one incredible step back into time.  However, our room was Wi-fi equipped. We paid 150 a night, plus tax.  Other accommodations at Roche Harbor are open year-round as is its Marina.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 286For information:  Roche Harbor Resort and Marina, 800-451-8910,,
Tip:  Be sure to eat at McMillin’s Dining Room Restaurant (it’s housed in the building pictured).  This is another historic building – the McMillin’s former home. Four luxury suites  above the restaurant can also be rented.

Do you stay in historic hotels or do you prefer sleek, modern edifices? Have a Travel Classic to recommend? 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

WAWeekend: Romance in the Pacific Northwest

CelbcruiseMadrid 204With Valentine’s Day now only weeks away and springtime - that perennial season of love – not far behind, it’s not too early to be thinking about romantic getaways. Here are some ideas for Pacific Northwest snuggle spots:

Operation Romance:

What a great tribute to our military men and women from The Kimpton Hotels in the Pacific Northwest (The Alexis, Monaco and Vintage Park in Seattle and the Monaco, Vintage Plaza and RiverPlace in Portland)!

Those hotels are saying thanks to those who’ve served our country (or Canada) with a package aptly named, Operation Romance, which includes:

· Exclusive $99 rate (Friday and Saturday nights only)
· Bottle of wine from Maryhill Winery
· Nightly hosted wine reception
-Must show military ID upon check-in (good for active or retired, U.S. or Canadian military)
-Reservations: rate code: OPR
-Good through March 31, 2013
Wedding Bells Ringing?

If you or someone you know is starting to plan a destination wedding –  on a beach, mountain, lakeside, or some luxury hotel -- then check out my article in today’s (1/6/13) Seattle Times:   Great Places to say “I Do!”
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I can tell you  that it is chockablock full of ideas for some non-traditional venues that highlight the best of the Pacific Northwest’s outdoor backdrops!  Places like Cama Beach State Park, (pictured above) just 90 minutes drive north of Seattle or San Juan Island (below).

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No nuptials in your future? Doesn’t matter, the places I wrote about are perfect for romance – wedding or not!

Thanks for stopping by today.  Hope you’ll join us Travel Tip Tuesday when we tell you about being hit with (sticker) shock waves in Hawaii! Stop by our Facebook  page for more travel tales and tips.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

WAWeekend: Autumn in the Islands

The ‘sea breeze’ was more an icy wind that made us stuff our hands into coat pockets for warmth. Evening came silently, as we stood at the end of the deserted marina dock, a usual summertime hub of activity. 

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On this night we were alone watching a sunset that was not the red blaze for which San Juan Island is known, but a calming  autumnal palate of pastels.. 

VeniceSanJuanIsl 288It had been several years since our travel compass had pointed us in the direction of the San Juan Islands, to the north of Seattle. Like so many travelers, we are guilty of taking the close-to-home wonders for granted.

In 2011 the San Juans were ranked the #2 place to visit in the world by the The New York Times and the #3 best place for a summer visit by National Geographic.

There are many from which to choose, San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw, perhaps better known than Blakely, Decatur, Stuart, Waldron and a myriad of other small islands that make up the group.

They are close enough to Seattle (about a 90 minute drive to Anacortes, the city from where the ferries depart) that it is possible to do it in a day or overnight trip, but by giving ourselves two nights on San Juan Island we had time to explore its west coast and southern tip, both places we’d never visited.

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We drove the two-lane paved road that loops through forested areas and emerges to stunning views out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

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We had the road to ourselves on this crisp Friday morning in early November. In the summer months we’d have been watching for bikers on this popular route, but on this day we were able to concentrate on Mother Nature’s handiwork.

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If You Go:

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Getting Around: Took our car on the ferry so didn’t need to rent one although they are available on the island.  Our cost (car, driver and passenger was $55 round-trip).

Eating: Restaurants abound in Friday Harbor. We ate some fine pub grub at Herb’s Bar,  which claims to be the oldest operating bar in town.

Accommodations:  Click this link San Juan Chamber of Commerce for information.
Not to be missed: Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm (and products store), Pelendaba Lavender farm, and San Juan Vineyards

Thanks for visiting today. Hope to see you on Travel Tuesday. If you’ve not yet subscribed to receive these posts in your inbox, you can do so using the box in the upper right corner; or click the link a bit lower to become a follower and receive this in your reading list. Happy Travels!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

WAWeekend: An Autumn ‘Ferry’ Tale

We’d been back from Italy for a bit more than a week, the sun was shining, the air crisp and leaves were falling. On this picture-perfect Thursday morning, we said, “Carpe Diem!” and seized the day:  We were off to the ‘San Juans’  before morning’s end.

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The San Juan islands are located between mainland Washington State and Canada’s Vancouver Island.
It’s been several years since we’ve visited any of them  – even though they are a mere 1.5 hour drive to Anacortes, the departure point for state ferries that serve those islands.  Then, less than a couple of hours of sailing to reach them.

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We’d decided a night in Roche Harbor on the northwest side of San Juan Island wouldn’t be enough after we got there and quickly extended our stay for a second night. We couldn’t have been as spontaneous during the high season summer months. One advantage of off-season travel, in addition to lower room rates, is last-minute availability.

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Friday Harbor, the gateway to the island for ferry passengers (either by car or on foot), is the only incorporated town in the entire San Juan County.  This town of 2,000+ residents is the county seat. Accommodations here range from a Best Western to mom-and-pop bed and breakfast operations.

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Ferries usually zig-zag between the islands, but we lucked out and caught the one which sailed directly to Friday Harbor in an hour’s time.  It was a bone-chilling cold wind that blew us northward to this 55-square-mile island that lies closer to Canada than the United States. 

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It was a 20 minute drive from the ferry dock to our  destination, the historic Hotel Haro built on the site of what was once the largest lime-manufacturing operation west of the Mississippi.

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By giving ourselves and extra night we had time to explore this island quilted with local, state and federal parks.  It’s a biker, hiker, kayak-er paradise.  I’ll take you on a tour in  future posts as well as show you our room in this wonderfully creaky history-book of a hotel.

If You Go:
Off season is a good time to get reduced hotel rates.  Be sure to ask if amenities like on-site restaurants, bars and spas are open on the dates you plan to be there.  Find out how close the nearest eateries and watering holes are if not.

Washington State Ferries, schedule and fares, can be found at:

Roche Harbor information:

San Juan Island information can be found on the Chamber of Commerce site; click the “Visitors” link at:

For those of you waiting for the next dispatch from Italy, you’ll find it here Tuesday!  In the meantime, where would you go if you could shout, “Carpe Diem!” and set off on a spontaneous journey?


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