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.

By Allison Williams With Caroline Ferguson August 1, 2014 Published in the August 2014 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Kilii Fish

Editor’s Note: Originally published in August 2014, this article was updated in May 2017 for accuracy and relevance.

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.

Waving soinao

“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, 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

Image: Kilii Fish

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). 360-468-4740 

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 $15 and take home estate-grown blackberry wine, if it isn't sold out. 

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.

Village Cycles on Lopez Island offers rentals, bike tours, and a cycle service department.

Image: Kilii Fish

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. 

Sea Glass

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

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