Traveling to Washington's Best Islands

Rachel Hart  |   August 2013   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION

Armed with good timing and the grace of an easy traffic day, bliss awaits you in the form of San Juan Islands tranquility. Getting there is half the fun (right?)—the other half, once you’re there, is all about taking it easy. Good thing there’s something about the islands that forces you to slow down and make that happen.

After reading this issue’s story on the islands, they beckon to me once again. It’s been too long. Seasoned Seattle magazine wine writer Shannon Borg moved to Orcas Island a few years ago and has become fully immersed in the laid-back lifestyle. Her mouthwatering story on Orcas’ farm-to-table foodie focus makes me want to drop what I’m doing and start paddling. Maria Dolan invites you to simply unplug on Whidbey (you may not have a choice, if you have cell phone service like mine).

And if you’re really looking for some solitude, how about a private island? They are dotted throughout the San Juans, including one reportedly for sale by Paul Allen. With the recent designation of 75 spots in the San Juan Islands as a National Monument, this year brought island pride in truckloads. Jenny Cunningham beautifully points out how to access to a few of these forever-protected spots on page 76 of Seattle magazine. When I stand atop the lookout tower at the summit of Mount Constitution on Orcas—a trip to Orcas isn’t complete without this experience—I feel like I’m looking over the top of the world, those telltale pine-covered humps poking out from the Sound. No, our islands are not noted for their palm trees or warm, breezy sunsets, but they do look like the backs of the orcas that flit among them.

Along with celebrating these special places in Washington, we also offer a taste of place as part of this year’s eighth annual Washington Wine awards by showcasing award-winning wines from various grape-growing regions of our state. Didn’t know that Washington has 13 distinct winegrowing regions (known as American Viticultural Areas)? Now you do, and—with the help of this story—you can impress your friends at your next dinner party with intel on which regions produce the best varietals. There will be a whole lot of wine flowing in Woodinville this month for the annual Auction of Washington Wines (8/15–8/17), so whether you’re chilling under the sun in the San Juans or part of the auction festivities, raise a glass to the golden days of summer in the Northwest.
At left: My husband, José (who celebrates the big 5-0 this month), at one of my happy places: DeLille Cellars in Woodinville, where we got married. DeLille is celebrating a milestone of its own this year—20 years!