Favorite Picnic Spots on San Juan Island
I adore picnics. Whether it’s an elaborate feast or a simple, impromptu meal, nothing compares with the charm of dining outdoors in nature. Nature’s rhythm and beauty lends an air of serenity to the repast, a feeling of peace and contentment that is not as readily grasped indoors.
Decades ago, when visiting Martha’s Vineyard, I was determined to enjoy a picnic on the beach, despite the gloomy weather. Armed with a tarp provided by our friendly B&B innkeeper, my companion and I staked out a spot protected by tall grasses and propped the tarp over us with driftwood. Lively cheeses, hearty bread, olives, fruit, and a bottle of luscious pinot noir were fine fare for watching the blustery waves wash ashore and listening to the rain pelting down on our tarp.
Afterwards, back in our room we took a long, hot soak in the tub while we finished off the red wine with chocolate truffles. Aaaahhh, what a day!
We were the only ones on the beach that day because we typically travel off season. For visitors coming to San Juan Island in the summer, you might think you’d never be alone, but there are plenty of quiet places where you can still enjoy a relatively peaceful picnic. Here are some of my favorite quiet spots.
- The Bell Point trail at British Camp meanders along the water’s edge about 1 mile around both Garrison and Mitchell Bays. There are picnic tables scattered along the trail, which few people bother to walk. There’s lots of shade and peaceful scenes of sailboats at anchor on the bay.
- Also at British Camp, the top of Mt. Young offers stunning surround views. There’s a big shade tree to set up under, or prop yourself on the mossy rock. You’ll have more visitors here, but still a small number relative to the amount of people who come to the camp; not as many want to take the 20-30 minute hike up to the top.
- Lime Kiln State Park has a couple of picnic tables way down past the restored kilns. It’s a bit of a hike to the kilns, and a LONG stairway down, so keep that in mind when planning your time. Your view is of Haro Strait and Vancouver Island.
- At American Camp, drive past the parking lot entrance and park at the second set of interpretive boards. There’s a small footpath, looks like a deer trail, leading to the bluff’s edge. When you get to the end, turn left and you’ll come to a sandy-topped bluff, super comfy to spread a blanket down and while away an afternoon. From here you’ll see Rosario Strait and Haro Strait, Vancouver Island and the Olympic peninsula. In Spring and early Summer, the poppies and wild flowers dance across the prairie in wild abandon, to gayly brighten your picnic.
- At West Side County Park, take the trail that goes up to the top of the bluff overlooking Small Pox Bay; here you’ll have views of Haro Strait and Vancouver Island.
- If you don’t have time to get that far out of town, try Turn Point County Park. From the Inns, just follow Harrison Street up the hill; it drops into Turn Point Drive, which meanders around to Pear Point Drive. The park is right at one of the bends, just a little sliver of an opening so drive slowly. As you walk down the grassy stretch to the rock beach, on the left there are two huge wooden benches. The farthest one is somewhat secluded, and you can peer through the opening in the tall grasses to see Turn Island, a WA state park.
- If your car is in the ferry line and you only have 45 minutes before loading, you can still enjoy a quiet, water-view picnic. There’s a sweet little park at the end of West Street, right off of Second. It’s just a couple of park benches nestled among some trees and bushes, but it overlooks the harbor and it’s quiet, a nice last look at Friday Harbor.
We keep a few worn blankets at the Inns for emergencies and picnics (they come in handy for both). Our Innkeepers are happy to provide you with one, as well as disposable flat wear if you need it. With advance notice, Chef Molly can prepare a picnic feast for you or a fabulous sandwich or wrap, as you prefer.
If, like me, you’re undaunted by a bit of rain, our hot tub is available for all Inn guests to soak away any chills, or if you’ve booked a room with a tub, you might enjoy our new bath salts from our Gift Shop. Ask an Innkeeper to assist you.
Most importantly, regardless of what food you tote along, get out there and mingle with nature; that’s what San Juan Island is all about!