The San Juan Islands are one of my favorite places to visit in the State of Washington. 2019 is going to be a big year for the islands nestled in Washington’s backyard! Keep reading for all of the upcoming events and then make some travel plans of your own! I know I will be!

Events & Activities

A Centennial Celebration

Lime Kiln Lighthouse turns 100 years old on June 30, 2019. The Friends of Lime Kiln Society is planning a celebration that includes lighthouse tours, live music and performances, silent auctions and raffles, arts and crafts, keynote speeches from the Coast Guard and Washington State Parks and lighthouse experts, and even a special lighthouse anniversary wine label. An epicenter for research, education, and inspiration, this special island landmark is considered one of the most photographed icons in the San Juan Islands. Lime Kiln Point State Park, also known as Whale Watch Park, welcomes 350,000 visitors from roughly 40 different countries every year. 

Updating and upgrading history  

The San Juan Island National Historical Park is preparing for a major makeover. A new visitors center,campsite, and programming aim to make the park more accessible and engaging in the coming years. “Music at the Bay” at English Camp, a contemporary art exhibition at both American and English Camps called “Becoming American,” and geological hikes up Young Hill and Mount Finlayson will keep both visitors and locals busy. Other new additions include an English Camp group campsite off of West Valley Road and a new visitors center at American Camp. Contact: Brandon Cadwell, Chief of Interpretation.

Orcas Island is “Lit!”

The Orcas Island Lit Fest (OILF) is a new annual celebration of literature and community held in an inspiringly beautiful place. Now in its second year, the festival brings together writers and readers, visitors and locals, for three days of panels,workshops, readings, and events, including a venue-hopping Lit Walk through Eastsound and a free,kid-friendly Family Fest. This is a chance to engage with world-class fiction, nonfiction and poetry authors in an intimate setting that welcomes everyone who loves books. 

Hill yeah!

The San Juan Island National Historical Park received an additional 320 acres near Mitchell Hill. This move preserved 2.9 miles of trails and a 19th-century military road.

Grand Openings & Lodging Upgrades

Sipping on the dock of the bay

Though small, the Bodega at Champagne Champagne is making a big splash. Located just steps from the Orcas Island ferry dock, Amelia Carver, an Orcas Island native, and her fiancé, Brian Crum, opened the small wine bar in 2017. Since then, they’ve continued construction on an adjacent space and plan to develop a fully functioning restaurant. Carver describes their current wine bar as a “dive-bar format with a killer selection.” They’re part of a growing business community at the Orcas ferry landing and hope to encourage more walk-on visitors to explore Orcas.

Welcoming Saltwater Farm

Overlooking the Salish Sea sits Saltwater Farm. One of San Juan Island’s newest event venues, this 162-acre farm is equipped to host weddings, meetings and retreats, and overnight guests. With five guest houses, an event barn, multiple ceremony sites, and hiking trails, this exciting new venue is just getting started. 

(Photo Credit: Saltwater Farm)

Cooking in the ‘Shed’

Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm unveiled a new venue – the Net Shed. The new addition is located just steps from the water’s edge and offers unobstructed views of Westcott Bay – ideal for weddings, parties, meetings and more. Deb Nolan of Island Cooking Co. was named the exclusive caterer for the new venue. The local caterer is whipping up crowd favorites that naturally include Westcott’s delicious shellfish, along with other island fare.

(Photo Credit: Westscott Bay Shellfish Company)

Moran Makeover

Moran State Park received a summer makeover after the State Parks and Recreation Commission initiated a $20 million master plan to revitalize the park. The 1930s-era observation tower atop Mount Constitution received structural restoration, updated interpretive panels, and better lighting. The updates will continue for the next 11 years, with new ADA-compliant comfort stations and a new interpretive center on the way. Campground updates, trail expansions, and upgraded facilities are also outlined in the master plan.

(Photo Credit: Moran State Park)

Orcasong Weddings

The Orcas Island farm, Orcasong, is joining the list of other unique island venues. Opening its doors to weddings, couples are invited to enjoy the inspiration and romance of the Lavender fields, walking garden, and orchard. Indoor ceremonies are welcomed in the Gallery Barn, and guests are invited to stay in the newly renovated Farm House, Lavender Studio, yurt or camping sites. This special farm destination offers discovery, wellness, inspiration and connection for all. 

(Photo Credit: Orcasong)

Outlook’s new lookout

The Outlook Inn is in the midst of expanding. Five luxury rooms located across the street from the New Leaf Cafe will overlook Indian Island and Eastsound. Called The New Leaf Cottages, each room will boast freestanding soaking bathtubs, fireplaces, and original art. A small meeting space and lawn are also under construction, allowing the business to host additional meetings, retreats, and events. 

Camp around! Camp, camp, camp around!

M&W Auto introduced new vehicles that will allow adventurers to sleep or camp a little easier. The company now provides VW Eurovan Weekenders that will allow travelers to tent camp around the islands, as well as 24’ travel trailers that are fully equipped for a weekend on the go. 

“The Tour”

A new four-hour tour is coming to San Juan Island. Local naturalist, photographer, and author Julie Corey is sharing her 30 years of island adventures across seven stops around the island. Incorporating wildlife viewing, shopping and dining, this new tour, called “The Tour,” is family-friendly and intimate – accommodating groups of up to six people.

(Photo Credit: Julie Corey)

New Products

Apple meets brandy meets preserves  

Girl Meets Dirt debuted Brandied Pink Pearl Apple Spoon Preserves, recently. Partnering with Orcas Distillery, this new preserve includes aged Apple Brandy, made from local, heritage apples. The Orcas Island company also introduced new mini shrub 4 packs and mini spoon 5 pack boxes. Perfect for gifting, these TSA-friendly jars are full of the great flavors you know and love.

(Photo Credit: Girl Meets Dirt)

Scrub-a-dub with San Juan Island Sea Salt

Take San Juan Island Sea Salt from your table to your bath. The local company released their new bath salt line that includes lavender, cedar, Douglas Fir and rose scents. Made from mineral-rich sea salt, pure Epsom salt, and organic essential oils, these new salts make for great gifts or stocking stuffers.

(Photo Credit: San Juan Island Sea Salt)


Blooming with awards

Blossom Grocery received the 2018 Store of the Year award from the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association. Awarded in recognition of their continued stewardship and ongoing commitment to the INFRA community, the Lopez Island grocery store is a regular supporter of community events and demonstrates a commitment to the core values and mission of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association.

(Photo Credit: Blossom Grocery)

Cheers to Bull Kelp

San Juan Island Brewing Company received a bronze medal at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival competition for its brew, Bull Kelp ESB. The beer balances hints of toffee with a warm biscuit malt character. A touch of hop bitterness helped it place third in the Extra Special Bitters category. This is the largest commercial beer competition in the world and recognizes the most outstanding beers produced in the United States.

(Photo Credit: Brandon Fralic)

Writings and Musings

Writing the Interisland

Iris Granville is the Washington State Ferries’ first-ever “writer in residence.” She travels on the inter-island route, finding inspiration from the islands. The Lopez Island author began her residence in August 2018 and will continue through the next year as she works on an essay collection under contract with Homebound Publications. Say hello if you see her in her “office!”

Honoring Granny

Wild Orca: The Oldest, Wisest Whale in the World pays homage to ‘Granny,’ a southern resident killer whale who lived to be an estimated 105 years old. Told from the perspective of a young girl on a whale-watching excursion in the San Juan Islands, the picture book is informative and celebrates the important role orcas play in our ecosystem.

(Photo Credit: Sarah Hysong-Shimazu)

Bestselling story

Local author Libbie Grant, whose pen name is Olivia Hawker, reached the Washington Post’s National Bestseller List for fiction. Her novel The Ragged Edge of Night, published in October, is set in Germany during the later years of WWII. Based on a true story, this novel captures the spirit of hope and redemption as a man searches for light in the darkness of war.

A rally for the ‘rally tree’

Jennifer Boyden’s debut novel, The Chief of Rally Tree, will be released and celebrated this November at Brickworks. Awarded the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, her novel’s dark humor and searing take on identity questions has been hailed as, “THE book for this moment in our lives, in our history.”  

Cooking up some lessons

RA Cook, known to islanders as Rebecca, announced she will publish a children’s picture book, Calvin Splinter and His Splendid Splinter Ideas. After 10 years of working on the illustrations and story, Cook’s finished project carries strong messages of environmentalism, team-building and working together toward a common goal. As a bonus, the book is accompanied by a catchy marimba tune called, “The Humming Song.”

One Comment on “San Juan Islands: What’s Up in 2019”

  1. Thanks for the mention about my role as Writer-in-Residence on the Interisland ferry. I welcome other writers to join me as I ride and write. When I’m there, I have a table tent sign on my “desk;” bring your notebook, laptop, or whatever device you use, and we can write together.

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