Planning a trip to the San Juan Islands in Washington?
This is one of those posts where I feel like I'm giving away one of travel's best kept secrets. We had no idea what to expect when my San Juan Island contact suggested that we visit Roche Harbor for lunch or dinner, and knowing that we had more activities planned than we had time for, we considered skipping it. I'm glad we didn't.
Roche (rhymes with “coach”) Harbor is a charming and historic luxury resort on the northern end of San Juan Island in Washington. It's a ten mile drive through the forest from the ferry dock in Friday Harbor, so it really feels like you're a million miles away from everyday life.
Roche Harbor was once a company town for the local lime quarries, and you can still explore several historic features of the resort. You can also wander the beautiful gardens and enjoy good dining, shopping and outdoor activities. San Juan Island is not large, so Roche Harbor is a nice stop for just an hour or two, or it makes a comfortable base for all your island adventures. The resort is ready to help you with any large group event, including weddings and family reunions.
Hotel de Haro
The historic Hotel de Haro is one of several lodging options at Roche Harbor. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and was a favorite escape for President Theodore Roosevelt and John Wayne. This hotel is so historic that most rooms are small and few have private bathrooms. However, that means that you'll have easy access to the extra large bathtub where John Wayne soaked on his visits. Most of the rooms have waterfront views and all are near the large balconies in front.
Roche Harbor also offers a variety of other studios, cottages and condos, many with waterfront views, multiple bedrooms and full kitchens. Some of the cottages are historic, but you can have your pick of more modern accommodations as well. Check out all your options at www.rocheharbor.com/accommodations.
Madrona Bar and Grill
We were steered toward the Madrona Bar and Grill – one of several restaurants at Roche Harbor – for a casual patio lunch on the waterfront, and found it to be just what we were looking for. I chose the local lamb burger and my husband fed his seafood cravings with Dungeness crab macaroni and cheese. There is a children's menu with standards like hamburgers, fish and chips and pasta. The weather was perfect on the June day we were there, and our lunch at Madrona was one of our favorite meals of this trip.
Roche Harbor is the kind of place where you could do nothing but enjoy the beautiful views and pleasant summer weather, in between reading a book and taking a nap. You probably won't have that luxury if you are visiting with children, so thankfully, there are plenty of other things to do at Roche Harbor too. Here are a few:
- Swim in San Juan Island's only heated outdoor pool
- Go whale watching
- Take a sea kayak tour
- Visit the sculpture garden
- Learn to play bocce
- Visit English Camp – part of San Juan Island National Historical Park
- Hike Roche Harbor's private trails
- Go shopping
Related: 10 Fun Things to Do in the San Juan Islands
After lunch, we spent a little time in the beautiful gardens and my daughter and I had fun shopping for floppy sun hats at Roche Harbor.
Summer is peak season at Roche Harbor. You'll find more affordable rates at other times of year, but will likely find few shops and restaurants open during the off-season. If we return to San Juan Island, I would look into staying at Roche Harbor. I like the out-of-the-way location, historic character and that they have lots of multi-bedroom options for families. I suspect that Roche Harbor would be an excellent choice for a romantic getaway as well.
Disclosure: We were provided with a gift certificate to cover our expenses at Roche Harbor, but received no additional compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.