Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When visiting Washington state, take a jaunt to the San Juan Islands

Today's blog is a guest post by Tacoma, Washington writer Heather Larson.

Imagine a group of islands with almost all the same characteristics as a tropical paradise, with the water a smidgeon cooler. Now you can start forming a picture of the San Juan Islands in Washington State.

Beautiful, warm, friendly and full of whatever you want. Whether you desire to suspend your hectic life for a moment to just rest and relax or you’re eyeing the destination as a place to shop or explore, you won’t be disappointed.

The three main islands in this archipelago on the Salish Sea are San Juan, Orcas and Lopez. Today I’ll give you a glimpse of San Juan Island, which is the most populated with about 7,300 people.

“Getting there is half the fun,” says the San Juan Island Visitor’s Bureau website (www.visitsanjuans.com). Unlike some of our islands which can be driven to, usually via a bridge, you must take a boat, ferry or small plane to reach the San Juans.

Riding the ferry from the town of Anacortes, the most popular way to go, is enchanting and has also been known to lower blood pressures. Sit back, have coffee and enjoy the journey. After landing in the town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, it’s just a short jaunt to boutique gift shops, stellar art galleries, incredible bookstores, adorable hotels and gourmet restaurants.

Pelindaba Lavender has all things lavender
If you get off the ferry hungry, march up to Market Chef and enjoy soup, a salad or sandwich or all three. I heartily recommend the salmon chowder and curried egg salad vinaigrette, if available.

For dessert, pop into Pelindaba Lavender and sample their chocolate lavender ice cream, which is more like a smooth, creamy gelato. Survey all the possibilities with lavender as an ingredient and I’m sure you’ll find something you’d like to try.

Walk off all that tasty food browsing in the many shops that sell crafts from local artisans or hike up to The Whale Museum. It's the best place to gain some insight into Puget Sound's orca population. With your first step into the museum, you enter the orcas' world through interactive exhibits and displays. You will leave with an appreciation for these breathtaking animals and the challenges they face to survive.

Guests enjoy Bird Rock Hotel
After all that, you’re ready to find lodging. The “reimagined” Bird Rock Hotel is delightfully quaint. Each room is named after a different San Juan Island. If you can get one like “The Speiden” you can use some of those new lavender bath products you just purchased in the gigantic jetted tub. The hotel also includes a continental breakfast with your room and bicycles for you to use to roam around the island.

I may just schedule my own taste of island life this summer. See you there.

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