san juan island trails

Slower This Time on San Juan Island

I rattled off my order at the cafe and the owner just stared back at me, silent, with both salt and pepper eyebrows raised toward the espresso scented ceiling. It was like I had spoken in a language he didn’t understand, though we both spoke English.

“I’m going to need that again. Slower this time.”

And, I laughed.

It was my third day on the island and I thought I had the whole chillin’ thing down. But I wasn’t going to fool a San Juan Island local, even one who ran a bustling cafe right by the ferry landing.

I wasn’t catching a ferry and I certainly wasn’t on my lunch break at work. What’s the rush? Well, I’m used to it.

san juan island ferry

A four-hour drive, then an hour ferry wait followed by an hour ferry ride, took us to not to another part of Washington—the journey took us to another world. I had many recommendations to go check out the islands. And though I’ve wanted to for a few years, other trips were prioritized.

It’s not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump away. Any time a ferry is toting your car across a large body of water, it can seem like a lot of work when you’re craving a relaxing getaway.

The islands are such a down tempo place that it seems like there isn’t anything to do. And it’s pretty typical for a Portland city girl like yours truly to shy away from that kind of isolation.

On top of that, spring is the off-season in the San Juan Islands. Restaurants are closed, bakeries operate at funky hours, and the sidewalks are there for the taking. Summer water sports aren’t happening, because it’s too cold. The families are off in warmer climates for spring break. The tourists are few and far between.

But that’s where the experience becomes even more brilliant. You get the place all to yourself, and you get to soak in all the things you didn’t know you needed.

Sometimes you need nothing more than to get away from it all.

san juan island trails

Sometimes you need to detach from the busy world you’ve become accustomed to.

san juan islands nature

Sometimes you need to bundle up with a really fantastic book.

reading in nature

Sometimes you need to find your balance when you think you’ve lost it.

san juan island beaches

Sometimes you need to pause and take it all in.

pier san juan islands

Sometimes you need to notice how effing cute alpacas are.

alpaca farm

Sometimes you need to concentrate on each other.

northwest couple

Sometimes you need to take a break on your hike.

kiss and hike

Sometimes you need to realize there are other couples just like you.

cabin rental

Sometimes you need to go to the end of the earth to understand how small you are.

san juan island view

Sometimes you need to go to a place where time moves at a different speed—where you can be with nature, yourself, and perhaps someone you love more than anything. Rushing isn’t allowed, because it doesn’t exist. There’s nowhere else to go, but right here.

San Juan Island isn’t the kind of travel destination that dazzles you with things to do. It’s a place that unapologetically teaches you to slow down and embrace doing absolutely nothing.

Have you ever been to the San Juan Islands? Or another place that invited you to slow down?

46 thoughts on “Slower This Time on San Juan Island

  1. Ally Bean says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to San Juan Islands, but have never even been close to there. Your getaway sounds and looks lovely. I could use something like it right about now, however real life keeps getting in the way!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Ally, it’s definitely worth a trip! Real life was getting in the way for us, and of course, the cost of the vacation was too. We kind of said “to hell with it” and booked the trip. Glad we did!

  2. cravesadventure says:

    Beautiful Captures 🙂 We took a drive up the Oregon Coast to Astoria and then headed into Washington for a few days trips – that area of Washington is so breathtaking and slow pace. I recommend the Astoria area – great breweries there like Fort George. Happy Exploring – Happy Weekend – Enjoy!

  3. M. Worrell says:

    My favorite place on earth- Go to Orcas if you have a chance-where I go in the summer! Once I get on my outward bound ferry, the sense of peace that comes over me is indescribable. go to Kiln State Lighthouse and watch for whales.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Meredith, I knew you would be so excited! We definitely want to go back, and we definitely want to go in the summer. It was better for us to go in the off season this year to have a less expensive option. We’ll check out all of those things next time.

  4. Pam says:

    I have always wanted to go to the San Juans. My brother-in-law lives in Seattle, and it’s just a hop and a skip from there. I will make it. I want to go kayaking with the whales. Not a strong Kayaker, but I will take a chance to be one with the whales

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    I have never been there, but the islands sound wonderful. And going off-season to a place can be great. As you say, it’s less crowded and hectic. Sounds like you guys had a restful time. We all need breaks like that. Great pics!

  6. diannegray says:

    Hahaha – Chad and Laura look like they had a fat time! 😉

    What a beautiful break you would have had, Britt. Your photos are so relaxing and beautiful 😀

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Chad and Laura were pretty awesome, and it was funny because they were there exactly a year before us. Always love reading guest books to hear about people’s experiences. Although one guy said they heard an animal eating another animal from the deck…no thanks!

  7. danniehill says:

    Your post was so calming and the captions were perfect for the great photos– until I actually read the guest book. Hope you gave the hot tub a good wipe down, lol. I love the NorthWest– a cold rain forest and easy on the eyes. I’ve spent a lot of time in solitude and it is good for the soul. Wonderful post Britt.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      I always read guest books when I stay places, but that couple won the TMI award. 😉

      Solitude is absolutely good for the soul. Even though we live in the city, we are lucky to have so much beautiful nature within reach.

  8. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    Love your getaway! I always feel like slowing down whenever I go somewhere where the focus is the outdoors. Nature’s clock is more my speed. The city can wear me down and leave me feeling rushed. Much prefer the oxygen of the natural world.

  9. Zen A. says:

    Never been, but it looks so calming! How cosy is that “reading nook” of yours! Love it. 😀

    Also – I like how unapologetically unabashed Chad and Laura are, haha.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Well, you know if you come up to the Northwest that we TOTALLY need to hang out! I used to steer away from places without “things to do” but I’ve been learning to embrace relaxation a lot more these past few years.

      Can’t wait to hear about your vacay!

      • Les Petits Pas de Juls says:

        Will most certainly give you a shout out as soon as we plan to go back to Oregon and Washington states.
        Meanwhile, we just enjoy our time together, movies and vacation.
        Enjoy the relaxing moments too!

  10. Roy McCarthy says:

    Looks brilliant Britt. Just the right antidote to city living, but only if you allow the inner peace to happen. Which you clearly did.

    A couple of our smaller Channel Islands would do the trick too. On Sark the only transport is horse-drawn, or bicycle (apart from the doctor’s car). Herm is so small that is has no roads, just a hotel 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Antidote indeed! We are lucky to have a forest within a mile of our city apartment, so I can’t complain. I make it a point to get up there every weekend for a hike.

      I’m sure there are many gems in your neck of the woods. 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      San Juan Islands are glorious! Nature has a way of helping us unwind even when we don’t think we can. It took me a couple of days to let the real world go, but when I did, it was like…aaaaah. 😉

  11. joey says:

    Wonderful! For many years, The Mister and I would vacation alone on Sanibel Island. We’d ditch the children with my parents and hole up in a cottage on the beach. Dreamy.
    We probably won’t get to do that any time soon :/ but somedays will come 🙂

  12. Minuscule Moments says:

    Looks Divine Britt and when you mentioned no people EVEN BETTER!. Off peak is my kind of wonderful. Chuckled at the visitors book, ah to be young again and full of cheek! Now I feel like going on a holiday.

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