We’ve heard it again and again: “You HAVE to visit the San Juans!”, a group of islands between the Olympic peninsula, the northwest Washington mainland, and Canada. Why? “They are SO BEAUTIFUL!” Access is by boat, either private or on the Washington State ferry system and, given the great beauty of the Olympic peninsula, we’ve never made the effort to visit the islands.
This time, though, a comment from our friend Joe, a local, piqued my interest further: he suggested taking the ferry to Friday Harbor (on San Juan Island), then renting a “scoot coupe” from Susie’s Mopeds to explore the island. We decided to take his advice – if the weather would cooperate with sunshine. After cancelling due to heavy overcast on Monday, Thursday was the day.
Cars boarding the ferry in Anacortes; we walked on.
We had lots of sunshine for our visit to the San Juans.
We were at the ferry dock in Anacortes at 8:30 and aboard the ferry by 9. Without taking a car, the ride is quite inexpensive, and riders 65+ pay half price. During the hour long ride to Friday Harbor, the fog lifted, setting the stage for a beautiful, warm, sunny day on the island (I had to apply sunscreen – it’s been a long time since I needed that). The ride was smooth, the thickly forested islands we passed were mysterious and lovely, and boats of all sizes plied the sparkling water. We relaxed into the warmth of the sunshine and the views.
Pulling into Friday Harbor, we joined the mass of “walk-ons” leaving the ferry before the motorcycles, cars and trucks. We headed up the hill, looking for Susie’s.
Though we’d never ridden them before, we decided we’d be happiest with mopeds, instead of the darling - but cramped looking – tiny Scoot Coupe. Within 30 minutes, we were trained in starting, stopping, and maneuvering, suited up in our helmets, equipped with a map and suggested stops, and ready to tear off at a maximum of 25 miles per hour. :)
Our planned first stop was the grocery store, for picnic supplies. Still new to our transportation, we FOUND the grocery stop, but didn’t manage to navigate into nearby parking – it was a little too much to 1) locate a parking spot; 2) avoid oncoming traffic; and 3) remember how to stop without going over the handlebars or falling over. A little flustered, we found the Market Café around the corner – with parking right in front. :)
Equipped with our picnic supplies, we ran through the start-up procedures together and successfully left town, heading to American Camp, the site of the American encampment at the time that the Americans and the English were contesting ownership of the San Juans (the English camp was on the north end of the island). The views were spectacular when we arrived and we enjoyed a short walk through the historic area.
Setting off again, we were happy with our choice of transportation, put-putting along at 20-25 mph. Cars passed us infrequently, and the road often had a wide shoulder. Although you couldn’t see it with our full-face helmets, I had a grin on my face as we rolled along, checking out the cottages, gardens, and views.
We found a big rock in the sun for our picnic table.
Took another break at the county park.
By mid-afternoon, we arrived at Roche Harbor (my favorite stop of the day). Once a company town (Roche Harbor Lime & Cement Works), Roche Harbor has an interesting history; now the old hotel, store, and other community buildings comprise a graceful, old-fashioned resort, bustling with activity, boats and people coming and going. We visited the sculpture garden, an interesting family mausoleum nearby, and relaxed on a bench watching the action and soaking up the sunshine.
Now pros at handling our mopeds, we were about three quarters of the way around the island. We zipped back to Susie’s (managed to navigate our way into the Shell station to add about half a gallon to each tank – we were required to return them full) in time for a quick dinner before we boarded the 6:30 ferry back to Anacortes.
The sky was still cloudless as we pulled away from the terminal at Friday Harbor, and I agreed with those who told we we HAD to visit the San Juan Islands. It was a long day, filled with fun, beauty and history. Highly recommended – including the mopeds!