Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Friday Harbor Getaway

Any time I head north to Washington's San Juan Islands, my stress level heads south. It starts the minute I arrive at the ferry terminal in Anacortes, and by the time I disembark at the destination island, I'm smiling relaxed, happy smiles.

Recently I spent a few nights at the earthbox inn & spa in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. (Thank you Groupon!) Friday Harbor is the "metropolis" of the San Juan archipelago with a population around 4,000. The two-night getaway was just what I needed after several intense months of work.

Located just four blocks up from the ferry landing and easy walking distance of the main business district, the earthbox inn is a comfortable base from which to explore the island. While it's essentially a classic American motor-in motel, the owners have updated the rooms with retro style.

earthbox inn  room

Dinner the first evening was on my little private deck, where I munched on salad fixin's I brought from home. Loved having a little refrigerator in the room to stash water and snacks and cut down on expenses.  Although the view wasn't much, I did enjoy watching nesting swallows pop in and out of their hideaway on the eave right above me.

After dinner I strolled around town and down to the waterfront, which was pretty quiet on a weeknight in late spring. 

Friday Harbor Marina
Friday Harbor waterfront

On previous trips to San Juan I've bicycled around the island, and the earthbox has bicycles you can check out. But this trip was about visiting a friend on Orcas Island, sea kayaking, and relaxing.

So the next morning after a bowl of oatmeal at the bean cafe, I hopped an inter-island ferry bound for Orcas.  On a sunny day, the route threading through the Wasp Islands is one of the most relaxing, scenic boat trips anywhere.

Cruising through the Wasp Islands

I love cruising past the many small islands and islets, some with private homes and others nature preserves. 

Things did get a little exciting when the sailboat pictured above didn't get out of the path of the oncoming ferry, forcing us to slow way down and prompting the captain to yell from the deck "ARE YOU REALLY THAT STUPID?" (Law of the sea: Smaller boats need to yield to bigger boats, and in these waters, the Washington State Ferries rule.)

Dinner that evening was at the Golden Triangle in Friday Harbor, an Asian fusion restaurant (mostly Thai and Vietnamese with Laotian specialties) run by a friendly Laotian emigre. My wonton soup was just what I wanted - light, fresh, tasty, and full of fresh veggies.  Service was excellent and friendly in this spacious, bright, and colorful space. 

After wandering through town and gift shopping (at Pelindaba Lavender store and the indie Griffin Bay Bookstore, among others), I drifted a couple blocks up Spring Street.  Lavendera Day Spa was offering 15-minute massages for community health night (first Thursday each month). My 15 minutes stretched to over 20 as the friendly masseuse and I discovered our two degrees of separation.

Thoroughly relaxed and well fed, sleep came easily that night.

Early the next morning I was off with my kayak to the west side of the island (which I wrote about here), then back for the late afternoon ferry to the mainland. Too soon.

What are you favorite places to stay or eat or do in the San Juans?  We'd love to hear about your trips and tips below under the comments. Cheers.

When You Go 
During the summer and early fall season, rooms book up quickly in Friday Harbor and elsewhere in the San Juans. I got a great Groupon deal at the earthbox inn just before Memorial Day weekend.  In the summer, I recommend going midweek if possible to avoid long waits to get on a ferry. If you don't have your own sea kayak, numerous outfitters such as Outdoors Odysseys take groups out for a few hours or few days.

Don't forget to relax!


Anne said...

Love looking at the photos of the water on such a hot day..they are cooling in and of themselves. Thanks.

Dave Wenning said...

Wonderful post. You not only captured the sights, but also the feel/ambience of the islands as well. Very nice.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments anne and dave!

mab said...

Thanks Jill, your post brings back lots of good memories in Friday Harbor. Wonder if they still do the Jazz Festival in summer...