Our family tradition for many years now has been to visit the San Juan Islands in Washington State every summer. My husband and I were married at the chapel in Roche Harbor, on San Juan Island, and “BC” (before children), we would ride on a different island each day, staying the night at a B&B before catching the ferry to a new island the next morning.
This year, because the drive up is so long with small children, we stopped for a night in Seattle. We stayed at Inn at the Market, a wonderful boutique hotel right at Pike Place Market. The view from the rooftop patio encompasses the market, the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, the entire Olympic range, and the ferries traveling on Puget Sound. We had a great time at the Seattle Aquarium, where it was feeding time for the Pacific Octopus so he (or maybe she?) spread his entire length along the glass and put on quite a show for us. The aquarium had other great exhibits from the Pacific Northwest, as well as tropical creatures from Hawaii. The next morning, after an early morning run along the waterfront (if I could run someplace that beautiful every morning, I might actually enjoy running!) we grabbed muffins and fruit from the market and strolled through the outdoor sculpture park. A wonderful slice of Seattle!
One of my favorite parts of the trip is the ferry ride from Acacortes to the Islands. We always stay in the same lodging — Heron House — and have some favorite traditions, including evening ice cream by the harbor, a guided kayak trip to see bald eagles, harbor seals, crabs, and starfish, and our annual seven-mile hike on Stuart Island to Turnpoint Lighthouse – probably one of the most beautiful places on earth, in my opinion. The girls stay one night on the boat with my mom and stepdad at Jones Island, where the draws include a marshmallow roast and deer that eat from their hands.
Other highlights of the trip included a visit to the San Juan sculpture garden and a day trip by ferry to Lopez Island for some biking. After riding the ferry back to Anacortes, in an attempt to avoid the Seattle traffic and visit some new sights, we traveled through Deception Pass to Whidbey Island, where we had an amazing breakfast (with cinnamon rolls the size of your head!) at Knead and Feed in Coupeville, and then caught the ferry at Keystone over to Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula. The ferry trips involved a lot of waiting (high tourist season), but are so enjoyable that you really don’t mind. Then we drove south toward home, with a stop on Bainbridge Island for dinner, ice cream, and a pilgrimage to one of my favorite yarn shops in the region, Churchmouse Yarn & Teas.
I wish every year that we could stay longer, and think at times about living up there (at least during the summer months, it’s pretty isolating during the winter), but maybe a lot of the magic is in being able to stay for only a little while, and the traditions we build by doing the same activities year after year.