San Juan Islands – Puget Sound, Washington, U.S.A.
Where Seattle Goes to Decaffeinate
Tucked between the Washington coast and Canada, and with the Olympic Mountains and the Fuji-like volcanoes of the Cascades serving as its dramatic backdrop, Puget Sound is one of the most naturally majestic and distinctive comers of the Pacific Northwest.
In its northern reaches, the archipelago of the San Juan Islands has remained relatively undeveloped despite its beautiful scenery and proximity to Seattle, whose rainy climate it does not share. The archipelago is made up of hundreds of islands if you count the rocky outcroppings, but just forty are inhabited. Sportsmen come from around the world to sail or kayak, fish for salmon and trout, decompress, or cycle on more than 500 miles of rolling country roads. A resident pod of ninety mischievous orcas (a.k.a. killer whales) call these cold waters home – this was where they filmed Free Willy – as do many seals and dolphins. Bald eagles are a common sight overhead.
The three most visited islands in the chain are the relatively flat San Juan, the most populous and commercial (come here for some of America’s best whale-watching, and for its fine Whale Museum); Orcas, the largest (57 square miles), hilliest, and most scenically varied; and the tranquil and bucolic Lopez, a legendarily friendly island.
Many consider Orcas the most beautiful, and among its many inns and bed-and-breakfasts the Turtleback Farm Inn is unique in many : respects. It’s a working farm set on 80 private acres of sheep- and cow-grazing meadows, woods, and duck ponds, with a green clapboard farmhouse that dates back to the late 1800s.
Every night is romantic in any of its eleven elegant, uncluttered guest rooms, and every morning is special thanks to a prizewinning breakfast so memorable that it’s featured regularly in food magazines (as well as in the inn’s own Turtleback Cookbook).