Updated: Apr 3, 2019
My travel guide to hippiest-dippiest little island you ever did see.
I am who I am because of this spot in the Puget Sound. Three generations of "Hall women" (my Grandma Kathy, my Mom Keri and I ) have now occupied it. Hopefully, someday there will be a fourth.
Our cabin has stood on Port Stanley Road for more than a hundred years now. It's had a few paint jobs over its lifetime, but has remained cozy and humble. Today, its hard to imagine much beyond clam digging, fort building and crab catching happened on the shores of Swift Bay. Yet decades ago, our street was the most bustling part of the island. During World War I, a kelp mill at the end of the road produced gunpowder, fertilizer and iodine. Port Stanley was the heart of the island.
My grandparents took on the property when my mom was a Kindergartner in the 1970s. They were young parents, in their twenties and would host many parties on the beach and the back lawn. I'm told some particularly wild volleyball tournaments. According to family-lore someone even drove their wooden motorcycle up our rickety staircase.
The first stop from Anacortes
It's an easy trek from the ferry landing in Anacortes. Forty-five minutes and you've arrived.
Here's it on the map:
Now, grab a cup of Ivar's clam chowder and a package of Oyster crackers. This is my guide to my childhood summer home, an introduction to the "Friendly Isle"....
Watmough Bay Preserve
Located on the south-most end of the island, Watmough Bay feels like a whisper amongst locals. It can be a somewhat tricky spot to reach, but reaching it is a reward. Despite all the years spent exploring, it was not until the third-generation of Hall women that we were able to find it! If you're visiting with kids, the rocks in the picture above by the little dingy are a great place for them to climb around and explore.
On a clear day you can look across the waters to see Mt. Baker on the mainland. Heads up the water is icey-cold. If you have a wet suit your swim will be far more enjoyable.
Driving Tip: Take Aleck Bay Road until you hit Watmough Head Road. Then take that all the way until you see a sign on the left-hand side .
Walk through a wooded trail to reach a sandy spit of land. Ferry boats on their way to Friday Harbor will pass by so close to the shoreline you feel like you could reach out and touch them! If you're looking for a spot to lay out the beach towel and read some books and magazines this is perfect.
Fisherman's Bay Preserve
This is where you ring in the golden hour. A field of warm-colored grasses opens up into the dark blue of Fisherman's Bay. It's a breathtaking contrast. You can watch motorboats ferry from the docks to their sailboats.
Disclaimer: There are actually NO sharks here with the exception of a few dog fish swimming in the kelp beds. As a kid, Shark's Reef during low-tide was my favorite place to go. We caught bullheads and hermit crabs in the tide pools below the trail head. Curious minds do well in this setting.
Bring your binoculars, because this is a great spot for seal watching (as pictured above). Second-grade, Lauren is at the end with the red rain boots and french braids.
Campers searching for some space, look no further! Plenty of people pitch their tents around this lagoon and visitors by boat often drop anchor in the bay. This spit of land juts out into the Sound nearly touching Frost Island. If this is full another popular camping location is Odlin Park.
Few things beat this stretch of coastline. At the end of Agate Beach, park your car and walk up to the trailhead. At first you may be skeptical as to whether or not it actually exists, but I promise it does. Have faith people! Walking out to these bluffs feels other-worldly. You can look across the water to the thin outline of Canada in the distance. If you travel to the island in the winter, I would highly recommend this spot as well. It's great in all seasons.
Farmer's Market (Saturdays)
Get your palm read, crunch into a famous Linda's pickle or pay to have your hand covered in henna. It's earthy as ever and everyone is welcome at this Saturday market.
No trip is ever fully complete without a visit to Cosmic Crepes. Sweet and savory are offered at their psychedelic stand. This one has their homemade lemon-curd inside, they also offer locally sourced fillings of goat cheese and strawberries.
Vita's Wildly Delicious
This place catered my aunt's wedding years ago. Great vegetarian options and they have a quaint little garden to sit in. Vita's really captures the spirit of the island. It's welcoming, relaxed and not pretentious.
This newcomer excites me. I actually haven't tried the Asian-infusion spot, but I appreciate the different aesthetic and mission of the chef behind it. Having spent 23 years of my life on the island, nothing new goes unnoticed. Last summer I was walking past the wooden gate and I had to pop in to investigate what it was. I spoke to the chef who told me he moved to the island from San Francisco as a break from the busy city, but now he has his hands full with this. I am eager to give it a taste!
Holly B's Bakery
I would pick Holly B's over French pastries any day. Yep, I said it. Their sweet glazed cinnamon rolls with a sprinkling of raisins and nuts are by far their show-stopper. The motto: "Holly's Buns are Best!" I am also a fan of basically everything else, but particularly the Almond Butterhorns.
Maps and a frothy-well-made cappuccino makes for a perfect pairing. Right in the heart of our little Lopez township, this cozy wood shack is about as PNW as it gets. Don't expect anything fancy, but you'll certainly get your caffeine fix. No frills, that's just the way we like it.
This is my second home and I hope you have the opportunity to explore it. If you're on the island be sure to raise a hand and wave when a biker or car travels past. Waving is the only rule. It's called the "Friendly Isle" for a reason. Curious about when to go? In my opinion, the best time of year is by far is The Fourth of July. The town puts on a parade and a spectacular firework show. It's nothing grand, but if you're looking for something hippie and low key, you'll fit right in.