Saturday, July 30, 2011


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 onto Ferry Sunny 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.

Disembarking in FH Friday Harbor
Laurie and moped Odel ready to roll

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.  :)

Building at American CampOur 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.

Our lunch stop At the county park

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.

Summer getaway The resort at Roche Harbor

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. 

Last viewsThe 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!


  1. Beautiful pictures. Running around on those mopeds looks like a lot of fun. Glad you had a sunshiny day to enjoy.

  2. I can't stop laughing at the picture in my mind of you two on the mopeds! That must have been so much fun, those islands are so beautiful, glad you got to see them in such an interesting way!

  3. Yep, San Juan Island is a must do. Long ago in a time only vaguely remembered I spent a lot of time sailing and exploring all the San Juans and there various nooks and crannies.

  4. Toted one of those mopeds with me my first year on the road. Then I got smart and bought a toad. They aren't to safe on the roads of Texas that are filled with wild oil trucks! :)

    Sounds like they were perfect for the Island, though.

  5. We've never been to the San Juans either and are going to be in the area in about a month. Thanks for the tip.

  6. Mopeds! Sounds like you had a great time. We are planning a trip to the Pacific NW next summer. We'll have to try this (even though neither of us has ever ridden anything with two wheels other than our human-powered bikes.

  7. We have been to Washington many times since my daughter lived just north of Seattle but I don't remember going to San Juan Island. Beautiful photos and yes I did put it on my list for next time we are out ther!
    Have fun & Travel safe

  8. Judy is right, not good for Texas but the mopeds looked like fun on the island. Another place for our ever growing list, thanks for sharing.

  9. Oh this sounds like a great day and so much fun. Definitely going to put this on my list for the NW.
    Great pictures, thanks so much.


  10. Sounds like those mopeds were just the right choice for a nice little island tour...You were probably safer there than on the street going by our house...

  11. Yet another one to add to our list! Looks like we might be heading to the NorthWest coast much earlier than planned so currently looking thro' all your reviews. It's great to have your entire trip as "reference" :)

  12. What a wonderful day. Mopeds would definitely be the way to go. Great pictures and lots of fun.

  13. I bet the little scoot coupe was as big as our "Smartie!" The Mopeds look like fun, especially as no one got hurt, right?!

  14. Hey Guys, glad you got out to the Island. I recognize everyone of the places you posted pictures of. I only recommended the Scoot Coupe because I had no idea how you might do on the mopeds. Either way it is a GREAT way to see the Island and enjoy a day. I'm already planning another trip out there myself.


  15. Hey Laurie, you've still got time to jump on your scooter and come out where we are - the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is just up the road! You'd have to get some tattoos to REALLY fit in, but with your hot machines and spiffy helmets, you and Odel could join right in with 100,000 bikers! Well, maybe not.....thanks for sharing, we've put the San Juans on our list!

  16. Fridayharbour.calm!..sounds like a perfect way to see the Island!!..what a fantastic day!!

  17. What a great way to experience the island! Sounds like you two had a wonderful time putt-putting around. Way to go going outside your bubble like that!