Before our little man was born, we were lucky enough to be able to get away on a babymoon to the San Juan Islands. What is a babymoon you ask?
1. a relaxing or romantic vacation taken by parents-to-be before their baby is born.
I don’t know if it really qualifies as “relaxing” or “romantic” when you feel like a whale and have a lil nugget boxing at your insides, but it was nice to get away from real life one last time before we have to worry about taking care of a tiny human.
While there were many places we wanted to see while we lived in the Pacific Northwest, the San Juan Islands were high on my list. Located between the west coast of Washington and Victoria, B.C, they’re a beautiful set of islands. Filled with beautiful wildlife, quaint little towns, there are plenty of things to see and do. What really motivated me to go is that the islands are a prime spot to see Orcas as they live there year round!
In order to get to the San Juan islands you have to take a ferry from Anacortes. A beautiful city to visit on its own, it has a large harbor filled with beautiful boats, fascinating shops and a wonderful farmers market downtown. A little bit away from the city you’ll find the ferry, and take my advice: book your reservation ahead of time!
We didn’t know you were supposed to do this, I thought we could wing it! So when we showed up, they said it would be hours before they could get us on a ferry. Needless to say it started our vacation on a bit of a bad note. Instead of waiting we were able to book a reservation for later in the day and went back into the town to explore. Don’t rely on that possibility though, there are no guarantees there will be any more reservation spots available that day!
If you want to do any island hopping you are also going to spend a lot of time on the ferries throughout your vacation. Luckily the views are beautiful, and there are puzzles on plenty of the tables set up to help pass the time, which we really enjoyed. You can grab a bite to eat on the ferry if you need to but I’d recommend waiting instead. There are some wonderful options on the islands to enjoy!
Once we got our car to Lopez Island for the cabin, the rest of our ferry trips were on foot, but another great way to get around the islands is on bicycle. Most of the cities are quite a hike from the ferry landings, so you’ll find yourself with a long walk if you go on foot. You can also rent a bicycle in Anacortes or Friday Harbor if you don’t have your own. Make sure to pay close attention to the ferry times when scheduling things, you don’t want to miss out on your whale watching tour or be stranded on another island because you missed the last ferry back!
There are 4 major islands that people visit:
- San Juan: The most populated island it also has the biggest city Friday Harbor, which is filled with things to do, as well as the resort at Roche Harbor.
- Orcas: The island where the state park and preserve are, along with Mount Constitution – the highest point on the islands with the best view.
- Lopez: The island where our cabin was, this island is filled with farmland and a more artistic community.
- Shaw: The smallest island and also most wild of the four islands.
Which islands you visit depends on what all you want to do. A few notes though: San Juan is the only one with a city near the ferry landing, the others either need a bike, car or a long hike. We had our car on Lopez so we got to explore that island but we didn’t get to see Shaw or Orcas on this trip.
There are so many options for places to stay in the San Juan Islands, for every type of person. You can book a room at a fancy resort or pitch a tent in a campground. We wanted something in between. I was not taking my pregnant butt camping but wanted to stay more in touch with nature. So we decided to stay in a cabin.
On one of my many late night googling sprees I found the Mossy Rock Cabin a beautiful mostly secluded cabin on Lopez Island, surrounded by wildlife but warm and dry. Open July through September, the cabin is a yurt like structure that sleeps up to 4. They had cooktop, fridge and microwave, a wood stove for heat and a loft bed with windows above. It was wonderful being able to go to sleep looking up at the stars while also staying warm and dry. It was not quite as fun hauling my pregnant self up and down that ladder when I had to do one of my many late night bathroom runs!
I cannot recommend this place enough. It was beautifully rustic, but had all the amenities we were looking for. If you run into any problems, the owners live next door in case you need anything. Waking up in the morning,enjoying the quiet view and seeing deer wandering through was a tranquil experience. They also have a small swimming hole if it’s warmer, but we went too late in the season to use it.
Where to eat
A short drive away from the cabin is a small town on the water with some shops and restaurants. We ate dinner one night at a funky little restaurant with a patio there called Bucky’s. You won’t find much information online about it, but it had delicious seafood, a must when you’re visiting the islands. Vita’s is another restaurant on that island that has some wonderful reviews, we will have to try that one out next time.
Once you take the ferry to San Juan island however, you’ll find many more options. A must is the Cask & Schooner, a nautical themed British pub located close to the ferry, which serves rustic, locally grown dishes along with some British classics. It’s a popular place, and the food takes an unusually long time to get to you so prepare for a wait! Believe me though, it’s worth it.
I had their Stout Spiked Chicken Sandwich and it was amazing. Bacon, brie and chicken along with some crisp apple and fig aioli, the flavors went together perfectly. My fiance is a sucker for a good burger and he really enjoyed the Lamb Burger. I’m not sure that there is a wrong choice at this restaurant though, if those two were any indication. If you’re looking for a plate to share with the table I read wonderful reviews about their Artisan Cheese Board, but we didn’t have room for another bite.
Things to do
Besides the eating, shopping, and ferry rides there are so many things to do in the San Juan Islands. Very popular are the whale watching tours! There are many groups willing to take you out to catch a glimpse of the Orcas along with Humpbacks and sometimes Gray whales.
I’ve been on a whale watching trip before and I wanted to try something different this time. Along with the boat tours, there are many companies offering kayaking tours. Depending on your experience you can go from as little as a couple hours to multiple day long trips. While it is much rarer to see the whales than with the boat tour, it has happened in the past.
We went with the San Juan Islands Outfitters 3 hour tour, and had a great time. As we ended up being the only people in our group we got a really personal experience. Having never been kayaking before, this was all new to us, but we loved it! The tour guide has a radio and gets alerts if any of the boat tours find any whales nearby. Although we did not have any luck, we did see seals, porpoises and eagles, and we kayaked through a bull kelp forest.
A note of warning: If you’re not in shape or an experienced kayaker you will be exhausted after this! The next day our arms and shoulders were sore and we did not feel up to doing much besides relaxing. There are also lighthouses, museums, vineyards, and of course hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and other outdoor activities.
By the time the weekend was over we were ready to go home, but also looking forward to coming back some day in the future. While we were there we dreamed about buying a home there and just never leaving. It is a gorgeous part of the country and it holds a little something for everyone.
If you’re looking for other adventures in the PNW, take a look at some of our favorites:
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