The San Juan archipelago in Washington State is nestled between three great cities – Seattle, Vancouver B.C., and Victoria B.C., surrounded by the Salish Sea. Of the 172 named islands in the San Juans, three of them—Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan—have accommodations, attractions, and amenities for visitors. The Islands enjoy a temperate marine climate with half the rainfall of the Seattle area and twice as much sunshine. The fun begins with a relaxing ferry ride, where riders can watch for marine wildlife from the outside decks or pass the time with one of the many puzzles scattered about the tables.
As visitors make their way back to the San Juan archipelago in Washington in 2021, they’ll notice some new additions in some of their favorite spots.
Moran State Park, Orcas Island
The new Summit Visitor Center at Moran State Park on Orcas Island will be opening this spring, just in time for Moran’s Centennial Celebration in June. As the name suggests, the new Visitor Center will be on the summit of Mt. Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands. Much of the wood for the new center comes from Moran itself—trees that blew down in a windstorm and were locally milled for use in the park. Inside will be interpretive panels telling the story of the natural history of Mt. Constitution, like the only lodgepole pine forest in the Islands and the infamous piebald deer.
Nearby is a stone observation tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. With nearly a 360° view of the surrounding islands, the Cascade Mountains, and sometimes even the Olympics. Moran is the fourth largest state park in Washington at over 5,000 acres. Shipbuilding tycoon Robert Moran, inspired by John Muir, made an initial donation of approximately 3,000 acres to the state in 1921, and has since grown into an Orcas Island favorite where you can sample nature in all its facets—forest, five freshwater lakes, waterfalls, wildflowers, birds (eagles, ravens, other woodland birds), and more than 38 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The park is open year-round for camping and day use, and you can reserve ahead online, or check at the park entrance for availability. Reservations necessary Memorial Day through Labor Day. For more information: https://parks.state.wa.us/547/Moran
San Juan Island National Historical Park
San Juan Island National Historical Park is close to completing a new Visitor Center that properly highlights the rich cultural history of the area, as well as the spectacular natural setting at American Camp. The National Park Service replaced the 40+ year-old visitor center at the American Camp Unit in the same location with a visitor information and orientation facility designed with an exterior plaza, gathering and demonstration space and picnic areas. The new center was co-developed alongside affiliated tribes and will have the most robust storytelling of Coast Salish peoples in the San Juan Islands.
The Park, which is free to enter, comprises two camps - American Camp at the southern tip of San Juan Island, and English Camp on the north end. Among the central stories is that of the “Pig War” (1859-1872), a peacefully arbitrated standoff between the U.S. and Britain in which the only casualty was a pig! The park’s two camps offer miles of uncrowded hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails; beach, forest, and prairie walks; interpretive centers; wildlife and wildflower viewing.
Note: While the two units of the San Juan Island National Historical Park are referred to as Camps, this park does not have campgrounds or other overnight facilities.
Two Decades of Lavender at Pelindaba
In the heart of San Juan Island lies Pelindaba Lavender Farm – a place of great gatherings. Acres of fragrant purple blooms attract bees and visitors alike. The Farm is entering its 20th season growing organic lavender and handcrafting the widest range of lavender products (that we know of) in the US. This summer will be the purplest, most fragrant and most immersive for farm visitors in Pelindaba’s 20-year history. A uniquely sensory experience awaits visitors to celebrate all things lavender in a safe, family-friendly way throughout the blooming fields. Newly redesigned educational exhibits and scheduled workshops will provide avenues for lavender learning, along with a lavender scavenger hunt for all ages throughout the farm grounds. Outside activities in the fields — lawn games, kids coloring station, gourmet lavender treats and ice cream to enjoy in shaded picnic areas, u-pick in the cutting field — will create lasting memories for the whole family. Stunning photo ops are newly set up around the grounds to capture the perfect Instagram-worthy shot. The farm store and nursery will be open for visitors to explore lavender to the fullest and, probably, find a few farm-made goodies to extend The Complete Lavender Experience® as they travel home. For more information: www.pelindabalavender.com/visiting-the-farm-a/278.htm
New Roots for Orcas Island
This summer, island entrepreneurs Cole Sisson and Shea Sasan will open the doors to their new wine bar and cafe in the heart of Eastsound. The concept is modeled after some of their favorite spaces in Europe where one can enjoy a full range of experiences throughout the day. There will be something for everyone starting with espresso and toasts in the morning, moving to lunch bowls and paninis in the afternoon, and transitioning to a wine bar with a comprehensive cheese and charcuterie program at night. The space will be a cultural hub featuring winemaker dinners, guest chefs, cooking classes, and room for wedding parties, family gatherings and reunions. Cole and Shea are excited to use their combined experiences to present an expression of their deep roots to this island and devotion to the community. Roots is a culmination of their friendship, journey, and return home.