If you are planning a San Juan Islands vacation this year, you are probably trying to decide which islands to visit and where you should stay during your trip. While Orcas and San Juan Island are the most popular tourist destinations, the laid-back vibes of the less traveled Lopez Island are definitely worth experiencing. Lopez is known as the “Friendly Isle.” It returns you to simpler times and has even been described as an “Island Mayberry.” Don’t forget to wave at passing cars on Lopez. The “Lopez Wave” is a custom that sets the tone of this kind and gentle island. Find out what makes Lopez Island a unique destination in the San Juans, as well as what to do and where to stay during your visit.
Lopez is Not Your Typical Tourist Trap.
Both San Juan Island and Orcas Island are busy. When you get off the ferry, you know you have arrived at a tourist destination. Shops and boutiques abound, and the trappings of a typical ‘vacation anywhere USA’ destination are felt. You immediately feel the difference when disembarking the ferry on Lopez Island. You will not see shops or stores at this ferry landing. As you begin your Lopez Island journey, you will travel on a road through a thick old-growth forest that eventually opens up into rolling farmlands. Most travelers to Lopez Island will continue to its sleepy seaside village just 4.5 miles from the ferry landing. Don’t forget to wave at passing cars; it’s a tradition on Lopez. The “Lopez Wave” is part of the friendly island vibe that will make you feel less like a tourist and more like an honorary member of small island life.
Lopez Village Authentic Seaside Charm
Lopez Village is situated on the banks of Fisherman’s Bay and is the main hub of island businesses. Here you will find mom-and-pop boutiques, cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants. You won’t find traffic lights, street lights, or even cement sidewalks in this charming seaside village. What you will find are quiet streets, gravel paths, and plenty of water views of the bay and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The only time one might call the village busy is during summer Saturdays when island farmers, artists, and craftsmen ply their wares at the Lopez Farmer’s Market. Village life on Lopez is laid-back and perfect for visitors wishing to escape it all. Make sure you check out Holly B’s Bakery and the bookshop next door. If you are looking for an interesting meal, check out Ursa Minor for the best in farm-to-table or Sento for Asian fusion noodles. Haven and Blue Heron are both charming and have interesting menus. Vita’s Wildly Delicious and Vortex are perfect lunch cafes. Brewvado is a quaint village bar and a friendly local hangout. While small in stature, the village is authentically Lopez, and its old-time charm sets it apart in the San Juan Islands. Learn more about the village in this post.
San Juan Islands Monument A Wild Paradise
In 2013, the San Juan Islands were designated a National Monument to be preserved as a wild and cultural national treasure. The preserves on Lopez Island make up the largest part of the monument and feature some of the most stunning coastlines in the state. Arguably, the most significant preserve in the National Monument is a rocky peninsula named Iceberg Point on the island’s south end. Named for its towering rocky coastline shaped during the ice age, it also holds cultural significance for the Coast Salish people, who would periodically burn the land, creating fields to plant their main crop, Camas Lily bulbs. During late spring, visitors to Iceberg Point can still enjoy the vast meadows of purple camas lilies mixed with island grasses first planted by the island’s first human inhabitants. Many visitors to the San Juan Islands consider their hike at Iceberg Point as the highlight of their trip.
Blissful Beaches of Lopez
Another feature that makes Lopez worth a visit while vacationing in the San Juan Islands are the many wonderful public beaches. While the other islands, particularly Orcas Island, have limited beach options that are often crowded, Lopez abounds with sandy shores. Check out Odlin or Spencer Spit if you have kids for a perfect sandy beach day. For a more private option for a couple looking to relax in the afternoon sun, check out Upright Channel Beach or Blackie Brady. If you are into beach glass hunting, check out Otis Perkins, and for that perfect marble-shaped agate, check out Agate Pebble Beach.
Yup, Lopez Is Worth it!
Lopez’s uniqueness and its various names, like “the Friendly Isle,” “Island Mayberry,” and “Slowpez,” sum up its laid-back island vibes. Escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland and the San Juan Islands tourist traps with a visit to Lopez. If you want more information about planning your Lopez Island getaway check out this post.