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Trip Report – Lopez Island, Washington


During the summers between my sophomore-and-junior and junior-and-senior years of high school, I had the opportunity to sail through the San Juan Islands (above Seattle, WA and below Vancouver B.C.) on a 90-ft mast sailboat with 15 other lovely teenage girls including my best friends Jen, Jen, and Kari.

We had an absolute blast, it was hard work and lots of adventure with the only male crew members being the very aging captain, the cook, and the first mate – boy did they have a handful with 15 teenage girls and 2 chaperones! It was one of the absolute best times of my life.

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When I graduated from high school, I moved away from the Pacific Northwest to California. So it had been 22 years since I had been to the beautiful San Juan Islands. While trying to figure out what to do with my Labor Day week, my husband and I threw around a lot of places, and I decided to check out the San Juans. We settled on Lopez Island, one I had not actually been to, but I liked the look of a rental property I found called Raven's Rook, so we decided, “what the heck!”

We arrived in the Seattle area on Saturday, did some grocery shopping to prepare our own meals, and drove to Anacortes where we took a 40-minute ferry to Lopez Island. When we arrived we realized right away that the island was a very special place. As we drove to Raven's Rook, people in all the cars waved at us as we passed by – and for the entire time, we were on the island! I was the driver and I had to keep my hand at the ready to make sure I had enough time to wave back!

It was immediately apparent that the pace of life is slow as well, except for one very small patch of 45, the speed limit on the whole island was between 25-35 – it was funny, it felt “fast” to even be going 30!

We arrived at Raven's Rook to find a lovely hand-built wood home surrounded on three sides by forest and cleared out on the fourth so that we could get a view of the water. The home is rustic and peaceful. There were also a few surprises. In the entire house, there is only one window that has a covering, which in reality covers a set of French doors and not an actual window.

There were no shades, blinds, or curtains, so if natural light bothers you for sleeping, you will need a sleeping mask (which I always have with me). In addition, the shower is in front of a large glass window, so that takes some getting used to. The concept is great, just sort of an adjustment for a city girl!

The nights were quiet and peaceful, I cannot recall any nights quieter, except maybe on the sailboat 22 years prior between the hours of 2 and 3 a.m. while doing night watch as everyone else slept. It ensures a deep and restful night's sleep…unless you have an avid sense of imagination. Let me explain.

I love movies, of all kinds, with the exception of horror. I can count on one hand the number of scary movies I have seen, I am not sure I have even seen an entire scary movie, just parts of Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, Texas Chain Saw Massacre…and of course Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th. Set in a cabin (or a camp) in the woods. So when I got up the first night to go to the kitchen to get a bottle of water, I completely freaked myself out recalling scenes from that movie!

As we sat and ate breakfast our first morning we were treated by a visit from a doe and her two fawns. They came to eat the apples that had fallen on the ground from the previous night. During our entire stay, we received daily visits from this little family as well as a single young doe. We made sure to shake the trees and even set out some of our own store-bought fruit to entice them back so we could take photos. They were so cute!

The owner, Asha, came by and showed us some of the secret local places on the island map, which we thoroughly enjoyed visiting. We would have never found them with her secret hand-drawn maps. They were fantastic little hikes through the woods in various spots on the island, always leading to some spectacular beach or cliff. We saw seals on two different colonies and had gorgeous unspoiled views of the ocean, some of the other islands, and two separate mountain ranges/peaks.

We drove around the entire island during the different days, stopping to take lots of photos, always waving at anyone we passed. The interior is full of farms that have stands where you can purchase fresh products on an honor system. There were also about 2 dozen artists who had their studios open to the public, although we did not partake in that. We visited the local bakery which had lovely scones and fresh-baked bread, as well as the local coffee shop which made a killer Chai tea.

If you choose to visit Lopez Island, or any of the San Juans, Raven's Rook may be a good spot to set up base camp.

Pros of Raven's Rook:

  • Peaceful and quiet
  • Daily visits from deer
  • Exceptional views

Cons of Raven's Rook:

  • The cleanliness of the kitchen and bathroom were not up to my standards
  • Although the owner has rented out her extra cabin for quite a while, we were only the second renters of the main house, which is basically the owner's house. You can tell she is still emotionally attached to the house and it is not quite clear if she has permanently moved out as she still has a lot of her personal items there. She gave off an aura that made us feel like we were unwanted guests who had kicked her out of her home and into the cold. I think with time she will adjust, but it was a bit uncomfortable for us
  • The owner may come by during the day to use the washer and dryer (which is outside) if you are home and with the no window covering thing, it can be awkward.

Maybe a Pro or a Con, depending on your point of view:

  • No cell phone coverage
  • No TV
  • Strict recycling request plus the gathering and disposal of your own compost materials

If you are a biker, a hiker, or a nature lover, you will adore Lopez Island. If you want to completely unwind, this is the place! Absolute peace and quiet, rest and relaxation.

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Lopez Island - San Juan Islands Washington USALopez Island - San Juan Islands Washington USA

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  1. Clarabela says:

    Sounds like you had a really nice vacation. It looks very rustic. But a house with no curtains, deep in the woods does bring to mind a few horror films I’ve seen. But you were save, because the crazed killer usually only chase a group of young college kids. 😉

    Loved the picture of the deer.

  2. It looks like a very beautiful place Andi and the cottage sounds heavenly until I read your cons! I hope you had a wonderful time exploring the island, xv.

  3. Sounds like the perfect get-a-way! My friend visited the islands last year and had a delightful time. Maybe I should plan to visit some time in the future now? 🙂

    Great pics & review!!!

  4. Wonderful review, Andi. I hope I make it there someday. I briefly mentioned your trip in a post a few days ago.

  5. @Vicki – despite the cons, it was fabulous!
    @Andi – you definitely should plan a trip there!
    @Jen – which day? I didn’t find it?

  6. I appreciate & respect your candor in your review, Lopez is an amazing place to visit. Might I make some suggestions for future trips? I find it critical to share since you are speaking to a large audience. Shop local. The small shops and markets on Lopez Island depend on tourists shopping there, instead of stopping for groceries in Seattle. Southend General, Blosom Grocery and Alma’s Country Store have an incredible selection of local goods from farms, bakers, and artisans on the island. Also, the goods are the freshest you’ll get. Second, please never feed the wildlife… anywhere you go, like ever. Great read, thanks!

    1. @Jennifer, THANK YOU for the wonderful suggestions and recommendations!