Winter Romance In The San Juan Islands

Quiet beaches, tranquil forests and fireside dining make the San Juans an easy way to decaffeinate and reconnect with nature. Check out these 10 ways to create a romantic getaway in the San Juan Islands.

Each island - Lopez, Orcas and San Juan - have some of the most beautiful beaches in the northwest - and some of them are amazing places to watch big waves and feel the salt spray on your face. In the San Juan Island National Historical Park, South Beach's two-mile long strand scattered with old-growth driftwood is a favorite of storm-watchers who love to watch the waves roll in. At Lime Kiln Point State Park, the rocky waterfront sends huge waves spraying high along the shoreline, with a historic lighthouse flashing a warning to passing ships since 1919, with electricity operating the light since 1962. On Orcas, sit on the cliffs above Point Doughty State Park or Obstruction Pass State Park to see the waves crash on the beach.

Forest Path at the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
Friends of Lime Kiln Society Lighthouse - Madrona Tree Forest Photo by Conran Photography
Hands On Forestry for San Juan Woodlands - Workshops

Only in winter, you can mountain bike in Moran State Park. In the summer, the trails are reserved for hikers, but in winter, the park is silent and tranquil, and you can ride the wide, soft pathways and steep, windy trails among old-growth cedar and Douglas fir. Hiking is great here, too, and you may have the four-mile trail around peaceful Mountain Lake to yourself. On Lopez, hike the rocky outcroppings of Chadwick Hill, the open prairie of Iceberg Point or the pebbled beaches of Spencer Spit State Park. On San Juan Island, the newly opened Mount Grant has both trails and a road to the top to see stunning views of the San Juan Islands.

Westcott Bay Shellfish Company - Pacific Oysters

The shelves of island shops and farmers markets are stuffed with products made with love by local producers. Delicious preserves made from heritage orchard-grown fruit by Girl Meets Dirt, such as Pear Balsamic or Italian Prune with Anise Hyssop Spoon Preserves; or Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam from Red Rabbit Farm, may make you buy a case to stockpile this delectable harvest. Pelindaba Lavender Farm creates more than 250 products made right at the farm. You can find many of these products at the San Juan Island Food Co-op, the Orcas Island Food Co-op, and Blossom Grocery on Lopez Island.

Coffee and baked goods are two passions many islanders share, and you can find them in many forms. Brown Bear Bakery in Eastsound features their popular chocolate muffin, full of, yes, chocolate chips - not to mention, house-made chocolate croissants. Or, grab an espresso and a scone at The Orcas Hotel Cafe while you are waiting at the Orcas Island ferry terminal. On San Juan Island, stop by San Juan Coffee Roasting Company & Cafe for a perfect cup, or grab a bag of beans to take home. Be sure to check out their chocolate selection while you are there. The perfect ending to an amazing Italian-inspired meal is the affogato at Coho Restaurant, try a scoop of cherry ice cream with a shot of Amaretto and a demi-tasse of espresso to mix and match as you wish. On Lopez Island, check out the brownie at Vortex Juice Bar & Cafe, and fine espresso at Isabel's Espresso.

Drizzly days are perfect for stepping back in time to early history of the native people who first inhabited the islands of the Salish Sea, and later Europeans, Asians and Hawaiians that developed the agriculture, logging and fishing and tourism industries in the islands. The Orcas Island Historical Museum is built of 6 original settlers cabins, dissembled and reassembled in Eastsound. The Lopez Island Historical Museum has a great collection of historical photographs and farming implements. The San Juan Island Historical Museum has a new Museum of History and Industry focusing on fishing, farming, logging and limestone.

6. Browse galleries and shops for inspiration

Marjorie Walker -  Painting Old Argyle

On islands full of artists, you are bound to find a hundred "perfect gifts". Take time to browse, and you'll find  one-of-a-kind pieces with an incredible range of materials and techniques. A range of galleries on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan support hundreds of local and regional artists who produce amazing work in ood, glass, metal, fabric, stone and more. You can see beautiful Arctic and Northwest Coast Native work at Arctic Raven Gallery in Friday Harbor, paintings and prints at Chimera Gallery on Lopez Island, or pottery made at Orcas Island Pottery, one of the oldest potteries on the West Coast.

Hops on the Rock beer glass

With an agricultural past as rich in fruit production as the San Juan Islands has, it is surprising there aren't more wineries, cideries and distilleries in production. The reasons for that are complex including the completion of the railway and irrigation in Yakima Valley, Prohibition in the 1930s, the rise of the islands as a draw for tourism more than industry in the 1950s onward. But with the resurgence of craft beverages, from cider to gins, ales and even bitters, the islands are slowly but surely tapping into their rightful heritage as a top-notch region for our beloved beverages. San Juan Island Distillery is winning awards left and right for their island-foraged botanical-based gins, apple liqueurs and ciders. Lopez Island Vineyard and Winery has been growing and producing organic wine for more than 20 years. San Juan Vineyards has award-winning estate wines to try at their historic school-house tasting room just a few miles from Friday Harbor. Find out more on our Local Liquid Arts Itinerary.

Mansion Restaurant at Rosario Resort - Harvest Wine Dinner

After a long day of hiking, biking, shopping or browsing art galleries, museums or bookstores, a gourmet dinner or glass of wine is on the menu. Each island has their own collection of great dining options, where you can grab a burger, enjoy a bowl of steamed clams or fish and chips, or tuck into a steak. Check out dining establishments on Orcas Island, Lopez Island and San Juan Island/Friday Harbor.

Many beautiful spas in the San Juans offer a relaxing respite from your day-to-day stress, where you can get a mani-pedi, healing stones treatment, nourishing body wraps, facials - and for a couple's getaway, a massage for two. Rosario Resort & Spa offers couples massages in the historic rooms of the Moran Mansion, overlooking the water. At Roche Harbor Resort's Afterglow Spa on San Juan Island, sink into a eucalyptus bath for two followed by a side-by-side massage.

In winter, your room choices go up, and their rates go down. The larger hotels lower their rates, and although some small bed and breakfast inns may be closed for a month, you can usually find the perfect room for a pleasant price.  There's nothing like staying in a hotel room - whether charming or luxurious - for a break from daily stresses. Sleep in in the morning,  and you're ready for an active day walking on the beach, hiking the woods, visiting local galleries, bookstores or quaint shops, enjoying a long lunch or dinner.  And after all this, enjoy a bubble bath and a glass of local wine by the fire before floating into bed.

Winter Romance, Orcas Island, Photography by Robert Harrison
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