Lounging In Laid-Back Lopez Island, WA
When you think of Island living most folks imagine long days lounging in a hammock, swinging on a soft breeze and napping to the sound of the ocean. The San Juan’s are a little different than most Islands, being much more active and raw than the tropics, but if you wanted to get closer to that lounging ideal, Lopez Island would definitely be your best bet.
The third largest of the San Juan archipelago, the “Friendly Isle” is only 15 miles long, hosts a mere 2,500 year-round residents and is the most laid-back of the “main” Islands in the San Juan’s. People don’t come here to sight-see as such but rather to lounge by the campground, bike serenely through the pastured fields and kayak around the waters. There are smaller and more isolated spots in the San Juans no doubt, but if you want an easy ferry trip to a relaxing spot, SLopez (as the locals like to call it) is the place to go.
We’d planned to visit this Island ever since fellow blogger Laurel commented a few months ago that she was hosting there over the summer and suggested we meet-up. So on a particularly foggy morning, we braved the thick grey and launched on another 5-hour mega-ferry-roundtrip to “hop” over to Lopez. Here’s our highlights of the area:
Lopez is considered the very best of the Islands for easy biking, mostly because it’s the flattest. The San Juans are not your typical flat-land isles. Formed by a massive glacier that carved the Puget Sound around 15,000 years ago most of the Islands are rugged, rocky and hilly. Lopez is the one exception. It’s not Florida-flat, but it’s flat enough that even the most moderately fit of folks can enjoy a pleasant bike-ride. Also given it’s less of a tourist draw than either Orcas or San Juan, there’s less traffic and plenty of relaxed back-roads to enjoy a pedal. Since we brought the dog for our day-trip we decided to drive over, but most people will walk-on with their bikes and spend the day pedaling around the Island trails. There are also plenty of on-Island rental companies if you don’t have 2 wheels of your own.
The other nice, little bonus of being flat(ish) is that Lopez has probably the most diverse agricultural production of all the San Juan Islands. As you drive along the roads you pass farm after farm bursting with organic produce, free-range cows, pastured lamb and even roaming pigs. Little roadside stands loaded with green goodness pop up along the way inviting you to take what you want and leave the money in the bucket. Most of the restaurants/cafes use local produce, plus there’s even a great organic grocery, several local bakeries (Barn Owl Bakery makes the best gluten-free sourdough bread I have ever tasted in my LIFE!) and a local winery. Oh and for the sweetly-inclined this was where Lopez Creamery started too.
Those of you who know the blog already know I’m a huge fan of local, fresh produce and anywhere that offers this kind of variety gets mega brownie points in my book. Besides a very tasty lunch, we stopped at a few of the roadside stands to nab some fresh garlic and potatoes. Slopez eating…yum, yum….
Although Lopez has less popular sightseeing than the other Islands, it hides plenty of natural beauty for those willing to make the trip. Spencer Spit, a cute little sand spit situated on the east side of the Island is a well-known camping & kayaking spot, as well as the home to our RV host buddies. Driving to the southern tip, Agate Beach boasts millions of colorful polished rocks as well as (get this) the nicest pit toilet I have EVER seen. Why this hasn’t become a cult tourist attraction I have no idea, but in my mind it’s worth the drive down there just to see/use this little piece of art. Travelling west you hit the creme-de-la-creme of the Island attractions, Shark Reef Sanctuary. An easy 15-min walk from the nondescript parking lot takes you to a little rocky paradise with clear, swirling waters and teeming families of seals. We hung by the shoreline with doggie (who was absolutely enthralled by the way) and watched them play in the water & dunk under the seaweed for fish. Definitely the highlight of our day.
It goes without saying of course, that many of these local beauties boast sweeping views and gorgeous panoramas of the neighbor Islands….absolutely none of which we saw. The fog decided to be particularly stubborn on our day-trip and clothed everything but the very closest views in a thick, white mass ALL day long…Oh well…..
Note/ Spencer Spit is on State Park Land and so requires a $10/day use fee (or $30 annual pass) for motorized vehicles. Agate Beach & Shark Reef Sanctuary are free. All three areas are completely dog-friendly. To see the amazing pit toilet, park at Agate Beach parking and walk the small trail away from the beach into the forest. It’s just around the corner.
We ended our little Island-hop with a lunch date at Vortex in Lopez Village (the one and only downtown) with RV hosts Laurel and Eric. This couple has spent the last four summers hosting on Lopez after falling in love with the Island on a camping trip many years ago. As with most fellow RVers we hit it off immediately and enjoyed an good chat while we waited (Island-time, you know) for our lunch. Our excellent meal (all organic, local) was followed by a quick downtown tour and one of the tastiest Mocha’s I’ve had in a long time at Caffe La Boheme. They not only mix their own chocolate, but they whip their own full-fat cream….oh baby. This little town may only be a few blocks wide, but it packs in some tasty, tasty options.
Note/ Vortex has plenty of dog-friendly outdoor seating as does Cafe La Boheme.
A few hours later and back on our mountain-top home we patted our bellies and enjoyed the impressions of the day. Slopez lived up to it’s nickname and provided us with the most laid-back visit we’ve had so far. I’ve never seen so many people wave (every single person we saw, literally) and rarely enjoyed a more relaxing drive. Plus it’s always fun to visit fellow RVers. Worth the long ferry-hop to see and worth coming back to a longer lounge sometime in the future. Keep it slow, my friends…
- Lopez Island attractions – for map click HERE and for shoreline attractions click HERE
- Lopez Island biking – route maps for biking HERE
- Lopez Village – Downtown map and info HERE
- Washington State Ferry Inter-Island Schedule & Rates – click HERE
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