Remote Retreat

Property Watch: A Watchtower Cabin in the San Juans

This forest hideaway, located on an island without cars, tourists, or public ferry service, is spread out over more than an acre of rocky, woodsy terrain.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd November 9, 2022

Center Island, located just off the eastern shore of Lopez Island, is one of the more remote San Juan Islands, with no cars, no public ferry service, and very few tourists. At just 115 acres, it’s only a fraction of the size of its next-door neighbor Decatur Island, leaving room for just a handful of homes—including this three-tiered, watchtower-like cabin with 360-degree views of the forest around it. Residents share a suite of amenities to make island life a little easier, including a year-round caretaker, a clubhouse, two docks, an airstrip, and waterfront picnic areas.

The custom-built cabin, the centerpiece of a woodsy 1.22-acre property, is slightly lifted, allowing it to perch on rocky, elevated terrain. This makes even the main floor feel airy, although the open layout and plentiful windows don’t hurt, either. Modest, natural finishes maintain the woodland-retreat vibe, but with creature comforts that avoid roughing it, like the tidy three-quarter bath with vaulted ceiling and skylights or the butcher-block counters with integrated electric cooktop.

There’s a large deck out back, tiered above an even bigger one below. This lower area gives you access to one of the home’s cooler amenities: an 80-square-foot built-in sauna.

Upstairs, the bedroom is more packed with woodland magic, with a steady pattern of windows coating all four walls, a vaulted, exposed-grain ceiling, and a deck that fully wraps around the entire thing. One corner of the deck is coated in stone, creating space for a tiny firepit with a kettle hanger, presumably so you don’t have to leave your treehouse perch to make a morning cup of tea. There’s a little view of the water poking through the trees, but the sights here are mostly of treetops.

The rest of the property, which includes two parcels, is full of extra delights, like a large firepit area built into rocky terrain above the cabin's elevation; small, surrounding wood patios stabilize the fireside seating. Down a path from the main cabin, a separate 120-square-foot studio provides flexible space or alternate accommodations and has an attached shop for tackling bigger projects. Nearby, there’s a standalone half bathroom—like an outhouse, but plumbed.

The listing comes with Center Island transportation essentials: an electric golf cart for getting around the island and a skiff for off-island needs, like grocery shopping on Lopez or lunch on San Juan. It also comes fully furnished, helping you avoid certain ferry-less island problems like booking a moving barge. It’s about a 30-minute boat ride from Anacortes, whether by private boat or chartered water taxi.

Listing Fast Facts

299 Makah St, Center Island
Size: 576 square feet, 1 bedroom/1 bath
List Date: 11/3/2022
List Price: $495,000, $125/mo HOA
Listing Agents: Sarah Jones and Morgan Jones
, Windermere

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