Insider Guide to the San Juans
Lopez Island: What to Do and Where to Eat
Welcome to a biker's paradise where drivers wave at every cyclist and where grocery shopping is done at farm stands. Some of the island's best beaches are tucked at the end of Lopez Island's sleepy roads.
The Lopez Way
Everyone waves on Lopez Island. Everyone. From behind the wheels of their beatup vans and Volvo station wagons, every single Lopez local waves at every person they pass, a tradition that’s come to define the island.
“There’s the one finger, the two finger, the salute, the 10 finger,” says Holly Bower, who has run bakery Holly B’s since the 1970s. “Everyone has their own signature.” Most common is the laconic index-finger mini wave, easy to pull off without removing one’s hand from the steering wheel. Newbies just off the ferry pick it up within minutes, a warm acknowledgement that quickly brings tourists into the fold. It’s one reason the island feels less touristy than the other islands.
Notably smaller than Orcas or San Juan, Lopez is less overrun with visitors, and locals only number in the few thousands. Ask a Lopezian for their phone number and you’ll get only four digits—the rest (360-468-) is assumed. And the island’s most common nickname? Slowpez.
Becky Smith, vice president of the island Chamber of Commerce and Lopez resident for three decades, doesn’t even consider herself a long-timer yet. But she still carries the Lopez wave to the mainland. “Sometimes I’ll keep doing it for the first mile or two in Anacortes, and other people look back at you like you’re crazy,” she says.
Where to Eat
Vortex Juice Bar and Cafe
In a small house on the Lopez Village boardwalk, veggie-heavy soups, wraps, quesadillas, and salad bowls are available to go. Make your own drink blend from a staggering list of juices, including carrot, beet, lime, ginger, jalapeno (in a single serving). vortexjuicebarandcafe.com
The Bay Cafe
It’s the island’s only fine dining option, and the waterfront eatery doesn’t skimp on white tablecloths, chilled wine, and Fisherman Bay views. Standouts are weathervane scallop risotto and Dungeness crab cakes; its local following is robust enough to stay open all year, a rarity among island businesses. bay-cafe.com
Lopez Island Vineyards and Winery
Though he learned his trade in Bordeaux and California, vintner Brent Charnley put down roots where the climate is perfect for early-ripening European white wine grapes such as Madeleine Angevine and siegerrebe. Order a reserve tasting of seven wines for $10 and take home estate-grown blackberry wine. lopezislandvineyards.com
Ye Scurvy Dogs
Travelers facing painful ferry waits flock to this dockside stand where a single brave employee works both till and grill. The vibe is convivial as drivers make the best of a long delay and try the Saucy Wench dog piled with Lopez Island Chicaoji sauce, jalapeno dill relish, and spicy brown mustard. yescurvydogs.com
What to Do
Flat, farm-filled Lopez is known for its bicycle-friendly country roads and forgiving drivers. Walk on the ferry with a bike or head to Lopez Bicycle Works south of Lopez Village for a rental; they claim to never run out of available cycles. In spring, the Tour de Lopez event is more like a tour de food—stops are catered by local restaurants and bakeries, and the bike routes end at a beer garden in the village. lopezbicycleworks.com
Lopez Island Library
The historic “little red schoolhouse” building that now houses the community library isn’t so little; it’s a spacious facility for such a small isle, complete with a sunny glassed-in reading room and free Wi-Fi. lopezlibrary.org
Old bottles, tableware, shipwreck detritus, even glass floats—toss it around the rocky shores of Northwest beaches for a few years, and it becomes frosty hunks of sea glass. Sharp-eyed beachcombers can find the treasures (or kitschy vacation-house decor) at Agate Beach or the beach adjacent to Lopez Village.
Horse Drawn Farm
Peruse the self-service coolers of produce, pork, and lamb or pick up fresh produce at the farm stand, but keep your eyes peeled for the actual horse-drawn farm equipment used here. 360-468-3486