What’s New in the San Juan Islands

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Where to eat, stay, and play on this stunning group of islands.

The San Juan Islands, a 172-island archipelago located off Washington’s northwest coast, was long ago nicknamed the Gourmet Archipelago, thanks to a farm-to-table food scene that dates back to the late-1800s. Today—especially on San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez islands—hyper-local culinary offerings still abound, alongside scenic hotels and vibrant festivals.

Where to Stay

Roche Harbor Resort & Spa
This resort on San Juan Island features a variety of accommodations (including rooms, suites, one- to three-bedroom condos, cottages, and luxury village homes) dotted around a yacht-filled marina. This year, the property refreshed the Euro-style rooms in its historic Hotel de Haro (originally built in 1886), remodeled the interiors of its cottages, and built a series of new luxury homes. The resort’s spa is a tried-and-true gem, offering treatments like herbal soaks, caviar facials, and muscle-melting massages. Rooms from $195; 248 Reuben Memorial Dr., Friday Harbor; 360-298-1566; rocheharbor.com.

Island Inn at 123 West
Located on San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor waterfront, this eco-conscious boutique stay boasts spacious water-view suites and seven kitchen-equipped penthouses. The inn’s coffee, from the San Juan Coffee Roasting Company, is roasted only a few miles away, and the hotel’s granola is made on-island, too. Electric bicycles are also available for guests to rent. Rooms from $200; 123 Front St., Friday Harbor; 360-378-4400; 123west.com.

Where to Eat

Ursa Minor
Helmed by chef Nick Coffey (formerly of Seattle’s Sitka and Spruce), this restaurant opened in April on Lopez Island. The menu focuses on hyper-local cuisine: Coffey works closely with local farmers, fishermen, and foragers to source ingredients like wild edibles, foraged mushrooms, and fermented vegetables. 210 Lopez Rd., Lopez Island; 360-622-2730; ursaminorlopez.com.

Ælder
Just opened in July, this new concept from James Beard Award semifinalist chef Jay Blackinton is located in the former dining room of his already popular Hogstone’s Wood Oven. (Hogstone, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary, will remain open Thursday—Monday, with a newly revamped backyard area and a pared-down menu of farm-fresh vegetables, raw seafood, and wood-fired pizzas.) Ælder will be open Friday—Monday and offer three set tasting menus (at four, seven, and 12 courses) featuring foods exclusively farmed or foraged on Orcas Island. 460 Main St., Orcas Island; 360-376-4647; hogstone.com.

Downriggers Restaurant
This popular San Juan Island spot is celebrating its first summer season since re-opening in 2016, after a fire destroyed its former building three years prior. Its new menu is a blend of classics, like clam chowder and oysters, and newer offerings, like crab tater tots and spicy prawn mac and cheese. Its spacious new waterfront location features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the marina, and an expanded deck for al fresco dining. 10 Front St., Friday Harbor; 360-378-2700; downriggerssanjuan.com.

Duck Soup
Formerly known as Duck Soup Inn, this San Juan Island restaurant has a new menu and new leadership to go with its shortened name. Though its location maintains its rustic charm, its kitchens and bathrooms got a facelift, and its menu focuses on fresh Pacific seafood, island produce, homegrown herbs, and wild edibles. 50 Duck Soup Ln., Friday Harbor; 360-378-4878; ducksoupsanjuans.com.

Things to Do

Friday Harbor Airport Fly-In Returns
After a three-year hiatus, this one-day celebration of all things aviation returns to the Friday Harbor Airport on August 26 at 10 a.m. Visitors can explore open hangars, and get up close and personal with vintage and experimental aircrafts, road race motorcycles, luxury cars, and more. 800 Franklin Rd.; 360-378-4724; portfridayharbor.org.

Savor the San Juans Festival
From September 22 – November 11, the Savor the San Juans festival returns for its 10th year; this year, festivities include farm tours, wine tastings, sheep shearing demos, fermentation workshops, three film festivals, and more across the San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez islands. visitsanjuans.com.

Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival
The Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival returns for its 20th season from August 5 – 20. Featured acts this year include the Austin-based string quartet Miró Quartet and, for the first time, rising star violinist Benjamin Beilman. On August 13, the festival holds its free Robert Henigson Concert on the Village Green, featuring pianist Jon Kimura Parker and a performance of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” from the OICMF Stage Band. 360-376-6636; oicmg.org.

Rent an Electric Bicycle
Explore the valleys, wooded hills, and shorelines of San Juan Island with an electric assist bike, which allows riders to pedal autonomously or get a bit of a boost (from a built-in electric motor) if they so desire. For rentals, head to Discovery Adventure Tours or Susie’s Mopeds.

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