Find Island Bliss at Roche Harbor Resort

Kick back and relax at the historic island resort.

By Virginia Smyth May 23, 2017


This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Seattle magazine.

Seattle magazine’s Best Northwest Vacations feature highlights some of our region’s top getaways.

John S. McMillin may not have been intent on the picturesque appeal of San Juan Island’s Roche Harbor when he purchased land there in 1884. Back then, its value was in the lime discovered on the property (used to make steel, cement, plaster and paper), not the view.

Image by Roche Harbor Resort
Roche Harbor housing options include privately-owned Village cottages available to rent, as well as rooms in the original Hotel de Haro

But McMillin went on to build the Hotel de Haro—which celebrated its 130th anniversary last year—and today, it the remains the centerpiece of this San Juan Island resort. Other accommodation options have been added over the years: condos, boutique hotel rooms, the recently refurbished historic cottages (equipped with one or two bedrooms and kitchens), and the most recent addition—privately owned village homes, many available for rent and able to accommodate larger groups.

Once you arrive, you can sit on the expansive lawns and soak up the stunning harbor views, walk out on the extensive docks and ogle the large yachts tethered there, play some bocce, go for a bike ride, walk along 10 miles of trail, take a kayak tour of the harbor or book a whale-watching trip, pick up souvenirs from the seasonal artist booths or visit the spa. It’s the kind of resort that invites you to take life at a slower pace. 

Several restaurants will keep you fueled. Enjoy a casual dockside meal at the Lime Kiln Café, a classic cocktail at the Madrona Bar overlooking the harbor or a fancy dinner at McMillin’s Dining Room. 

When you decide to venture beyond the resort boundaries, English Camp and American Camp, at opposite ends of San Juan Island, offer interesting island history—and opportunities for wildlife sightings. For a dinner-and-movie night out in Friday Harbor, book a table at the intimate Backdoor Kitchen and see the latest offering at The Palace Theatre, where locals congregate to share the latest island happenings.

Image by Roche Harbor Resort
John Wayne is said to have soaked in this tub; vintage posters at the Palace Theatre

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