A final family vacation to Lopez Island’s Garden Cottages

by Kim on March 18, 2012 · 30 comments

I wanted to visit the San Juan Islands in Washington long before the New York Times named them the number two destination to visit behind Santiago, Chile.  With our days in the Pacific Northwest coming to a close, and more places than time on our U.S. road trip itinerary, it seemed that if we didn’t make the effort to visit the archipelago now, we’d be waiting for quite awhile.

We made the drive up from Portland, caught the ferry in Anacortes, and arrived on Lopez Island in late afternoon.  Lopez Island is the most rural of the three major San Juan Islands, and reputably the most friendly, covering 29.5 square miles.  It is home to 2,350 residents.

The forecast predicted three days of solid rain, but the clouds were holding back as we drove to our accommodations in the center of Lopez Village.  Lopez Village, as it turns out, is a quarter-mile stretch of sleepy restaurants and galleries, an organic grocery store and a fudge shop, two churches and a community center, most of which were operating on reduced off-season hours or had committed to their absence completely, hanging hand-written signs from their doors: Closed for the season.  See you in May.

The point of coming to this rural little island at the edge of the western United States was to slow down and be.  We were seeking a few days of solitude and time together as a family before Brian and I set out to travel and our dogs move their sleeping career to Brian’s parents floor.

We left our laptops at home, swore off the Internet, and decided not to talk too much about our upcoming trip, agreeing to focus on appreciating and enjoying this fleeting time with our pups.  We wanted to soak in the joy of right now, no distractions required.  And I wanted to snap a family picture.  Other than that, we had no agenda at all.


Lopez Island Garden Cottages

Lopez Island is famously quiet.  Our accommodations, the pet friendly Garden Cottages, are located smack in the middle of Lopez Village, but the only sound we hear, even in the middle of the afternoon, is the wind blowing off Fisherman Bay and the sing-songy chirp of early-spring birds.

There are two Garden Cottages available to rent on this little parcel of land.  Our cottage, Garden Cottage B,  is shaped as an octagon.  Windows are set on five of the eight sides of our little retreat and a skylight sits where the peaks of the ceiling meet.  Natural light dominates, save the glow from the wood burning stove.

Lopez Island Garden Cottage B

A comfy bed, Lopez Island Garden Cottage B

A stocked kitchen, Lopez Island Garden Cottage B

The skylight in Lopez Island Garden Cottage B

Even the bathroom has an abundance of natural light

A day in the life at Lopez Island’s Garden Cottages

Each morning we awake to the thrum of rain, untangle ourselves from heaps of down feather pillows and blankets, brew coffee and snuggle up with our books.  The fire crackles. The wind blows the garden plants around in their pots.

A cozy morning on Lopez Island

When the skies clear mid-morning we set out with the pups to explore the island.  There are a number of parks and hiking trails on Lopez and we make sure to visit as many as we can.

Afternoon rainbow on Lopez Island

A dog, a stick and Watmough Bay

Bear in the woods

Spencer Spit State Park, Lopez Island

Sleeping dogs are happy dogs

Each afternoon we head back to the cottage, muddy and tired.  We hose off the dogs and sit content on the deck.  The garden is weeks from blooming and we discuss what it must look like in all of its glory.  The fountain, turned off for the season, promises warmer days ahead. The dogs dry and snooze in the sun.  Spring feels just inches away.  


I’m charmed by this place, I say to Brian, on our last evening in town.  We’d been strolling arm in arm through the sleepy village and stopped to watch the sun set across the channel.  Life is simple here, the way it should be, Brian says in agreement.

The sky is inky black when we return to our cottage, the dogs, exhausted by an afternoon of swimming and hiking, don’t even lift their heads as we walk through the door. Brian starts a fire and I assemble the ingredients for dinner. We revel in the small luxuries we’ve missed since moving out of our home- a fully stocked kitchen, a dining table.  We feel lucky to be in this place and to have the dogs here with us.  Everything feels right.  The evening is quiet, simple.

Even with its stunning natural beauty and friendly charm, Lopez Island’s biggest appeal is her simplicity.  Lopez, and the Lopez Island Garden Cottages, provide you with just what you need, leaving space for what’s important.

Oh, and that family picture? I totally got it.

Dogs don’t pose.  You better believed we tried.  

Our accommodations were graciously provided by Lopez Island Garden Cottages but all views expressed here are my own.