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Secrets of the San Juans


Written by
Kylah Cech


Beautiful views, incredible dining and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see wildlife make the San Juan Islands a popular vacation destination for travelers from all over the world. Being local, however, you have the opportunity to dig a little deeper and veer off the beaten path. These unique accommodations require you to not only step outside your comfort zone but also allow you to explore the San Juan Islands in a more authentic and immersive way. 

Orcas Island

Turtleback Farm Inn is located on 80 acres of the Turtleback Mountain Preserve, a property that used to serve as a working farm. “[The inn] had been an abandoned building since the 1940s but was quite the upscale farmhouse in the late 1800s because it had gas lighting,” says owner Susan Fletcher. The farm now offers an idyllic setting that allows guests to witness a unique lifestyle. “We are just finishing lambing. We have about a dozen baby lambs chasing each other around in the field right now. It is a very bucolic location,” she says. The farm offers a full breakfast every morning that includes fresh fruit. “Today I did an applesauce bread pudding, and it’s all gone.” 

If you want to get your hands dirty, Pebble Cove Farm boasts a number of educational adventures. The property sits on four acres and is an active organic farm. Along with the opportunity to harvest your own organic berries, veggies and eggs, the farm’s waterfront location serves as an optimal location for clam digging. Often a highlight for children, the farm also has animals (some are rescue animals) including pigs, chickens of all different varieties, horses and some ponies. For those interested in water activities, the farm offers kayak and rowboat rentals along with directions on how to explore nearby Skull Island. 

If you’re looking for a more luxurious experience but still want to enjoy the rural atmosphere, the Rosario Resort and Spa is an excellent option. “The centerpiece of the resort is the mansion designed by Robert Mayer and built between 1906 and 1909, and we have a museum that tells that story. The Mansion itself houses our museum, restaurant and spa,” says Christopher Peacock, the general manager. When asked about the most unique feature of the resort, Peacock says, “It’s all about location. We have Moran State Park on one side Cascade Bay on the other.” 

San Juan Island

History buffs look no further than The San Juan Inn Collection. The inn houses two different establishments—The Harrison Suites and The Tucker House Inn. “Each historic house has its own provenance and personality based on the owners who homesteaded in Friday Harbor,” says owner Anna Maria de Freitas. The inn caters to all types of travelers. “Couples coming for a convivial bed and breakfast experience stay in our guest rooms and enjoy breakfast in our Garden Café. Those looking for privacy and an escape, stay in the privacy of our suites and enjoy the anonymity of room service. Those traveling with families and furbabies stay in our cottages,” she says. 

The most rustic experience of them all, Sweet Earth Farm is all about being in nature. The accommodations are available from June through September and consist of “glamping” canvas tents. Elaine Kendall, a staff member at the LLC, explains that glamping is, “fancy camping. We provide a tent with a fouton, bedding and a little kitchenette. It’s easy camping, where you don’t have to bring anything.” The farm allows you to unwind with their quiet walking trails and organic produce. “We have chickens and ducks, a little kune kune pig, a small type of pig, a donkey and a couple of goats. Lots of animal experiences for children,” Kendall says. 

Lopez Island

Due to its proximity to the village, The Edenwild Boutique Inn is the perfect option for guests who want to take advantage of the multiple farmers markets held throughout the week. The inn also assists in booking outdoors adventures. “To enhance the experience we offer eco-tours, kayaking and biking. We also do rentals and offer guided tours, mainly in the summer months, but we can arrange them year-round,” says owner Anthony Rovente. The business is family-owned, and they have made it their main priority to share their love of the island through their hospitality. “We try to provide a low-key, elegant lodging for people to relax and absorb what’s around them with the beauty. We work hard to connect with people and see what they need,” says owner Crystal Revente. “Lopez is more about unplugging, which is different than San Juan and Orcas.”

Vacations can also be educational. Midnight Farms is the perfect weekend adventure for the curious family. The farmhouse on the property is available for rent with the option of touring and working the farm. The property also houses a composting facility that allows you to learn about the entire process of composting and the benefits of recycling properly. To further add to the experience, Midnight Farms also raises cattle and pigs and boasts a bakery on site.   

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