Though the holiday season brings joy and cheer, it can also be a stressful time with an ever-mounting to-do list. Now that the holidays have passed, treat yourself and your loved ones to a getaway in the San Juan Islands, where the quiet season affords the chance to unwind in a peaceful oasis away from the city.
Enjoy the majestic natural landscape without the busy summer crowds, and even escape the gray drizzle—the San Juan Islands have twice as much sunshine and half the rainfall of the Seattle area.
For longtime visitor Kirsty Papadopulos, the island’s natural landscape and local charm create the perfect getaway—especially during the San Juans’ serene winter season. “It’s definitely island life. It’s slower and calmer, the locals have really great heart, and in the off-season it’s peaceful but not super remote, so you still can access the amenities.” With lodging options ranging from cozy historic cottages and quaint bed-and-breakfasts to modern accommodations with a maritime feel, you’re sure to find the perfect place for your weekend getaway.
Ready to plan your own weekend retreat? Make the most of your trip with our island activities short list.
Winter is the time for mountain bikers to shine, or ride that is. Mountain trails are closed to bikers during the summer months, but during the winter, paths like Mitchell Hill on San Juan Island, Iceberg Point on Lopez Island, or Mount Constitution on Orcas Island offer bikers well-maintained trails with challenging ascents and thrilling drops.
For those who prefer to venture by foot, the islands have hiking paths from casual jaunts to more intensive scrambles—you can even hike in Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan to see the historic lime kiln and lighthouse. Build in 1919, the Lime Kiln Lighthouse turns 100 this year. Take a walk on any number of the islands’ beaches and watch the sunset over the water. If the waves take a tempestuous turn, settle in for storm-watching from Obstruction Pass State Park on Orcas Island or amidst the old-growth driftwood on South Beach at American Camp in the San Juan Island National Historical Park.
Try island treats made by local chocolatiers, bakers, and chefs. For homemade pastries, drop by Bakery San Juan, where the aroma of fresh baked bread wafts from the window, or try Limekiln Cafe’s famous doughnuts in Roche Harbor. And you can’t miss Orcas Island’s Girl Meets Dirt preserves, made from heirloom orchard fruit, with standout flavors like Shiro Plum with Mint and Pear Balsamic.
If you’re looking to sample the island’s wines, try Doe Bay Wine Company in Eastsound or head to San Juan Vineyards (and you can't miss Lopez Island Vineyard and Winery's pours made from organically grown Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe grapes). Head to Cask & Schooner Public House & Restaurant for an evening tipple in a casual environment, or sip cocktails fireside at upscale Moran Lounge, where you can catch live music on Fridays from 6pm to 9pm.
Island Arts and Culture
Take some time to take in the islands’ ample art scene and rich culture. Art aficionados will delight in the paintings, prints, and sculptures at San Juan Islands Museum of Art and the annual Artists’ Registry Show, which features work from more than 70 local makers. History buffs can dig into the islands’ maritime past and wildlife at Friday Harbor’s Whale Museum, or view artifacts from indigenous peoples and early settlers at the Orcas Island Historical Museum, the Lopez Island Historical Museum, and the San Juan Island Historical Museum.
Let yourself slow to island time with soothing spa treatments, or ramp up the romance with a couples massage at Orcas Island’s A Massage by the Sea or Rosario Resort & Spa. For a fully indulgent experience, soak in a rejuvenating eucalyptus herbal bath followed by a massage at Roche Harbor Resort’s Afterglow Spa on San Juan Island.
For more island-style travel tips, go to visitsanjuans.com.