Historic Roche Harbor

If you have visited San Juan Island before or you have done some research in order to visit, you may have come across Roche Harbor Resort on the north end of the island. Roche Harbor resort is a perfect mixture of old and new, historic and contemporary and its sheltered harbor provides some of the most protected anchorage in the islands.

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Roche Harbor has a rich history reaching about 6000 years back! What is now a full service resort was at one point part of a thriving Coast Salish community, later occupied by British Royal Marines. It has been homesteaded several times and was the home of the Roche Harbor Lime Company. The fine limestone quarried here was used to build cities up and down the West Coast!

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Many of the buildings still found at Roche Harbor today date back to the years the limestone was quarried. The Hotel De Haro is probably the most famous of them.  The General Store, the employee cottages right when you enter Roche Harbor, McMillin’s Dining Room, the McMillin Suites, the chapel and several of the old lime kilns are among them. Some of the beautiful gardens surrounding the old buildings were started by the McMillins. They are quite a sight in spring and summer and are a popular place to hold weddings!

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During the summer months Roche Harbor is a colorful and bustling community with travelers from all over the world. It is a haven for boaters with a full service marina. Many people like to stay at the historic Hotel and the old employee cottages that are now being used as vacation rentals. There are several new buildings with rooms and suites to choose from as well. You can spoil yourself at the spa, have breakfast, lunch or a delightful dinner at one of the three restaurants. The old Company stores supplies everything, from groceries to kitchen necessities, fishing gear and maps. There is a clothing store as well as a home décor store and during the summer months local artists sell their wares at the quaint village booths.

The resort also has a pool and tennis courts, miles of walking trails, and you can go on kayaking and whale watch tours straight out of its marina. There is a small airstrip for private planes as well as chartered daily flights. The 4th of July holiday is a spectacle with lots of fun water contests (anyone say log rolling?), live music and a small but mighty fireworks display over the harbor.

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For those interested in the rich history of Roche Harbor, the lobby of the Hotel de Haro has lots of old photographs to peruse, you can go check out the old Limekilns, hike around the old quarries and of course a visit to the McMillin Mausoleum is always good fun. Sit in the sunken gardens and soak in the colors and smells or meander along the cobble stone paths as many visitors have done before you for over 100 years.

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How to get to Roche Harbor:

If you come visit the islands with a car, simply take the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor and make your way along one the several scenic routes up to Roche Harbor. If you come to the island as a ferry walk-on between Memorial Day and Labor Day, hop on either a San Juan Transit bus or a Jolly Trolley right by the ferry landing, rent a moped, scoot coupe or a car from Susie’s Mopeds, or rent a car from M&W Auto.

You can also get into Roche Harbor by private boat of course. There are several daily flights out of Roche Harbor to Seattle with Kenmore Air and you can fly into Anacortes or Bellingham with San Juan Airlines.

Looking for a place to own around Roche Harbor? Check out this charming cottage on Afterglow Drive. It is private and quiet, yet very close to all the amenities Roche Harbor Resort has to offer. Click here for more details on this listing!

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Picture credit: First 5 photos Carmen Wolflisberg
Last photo Wes Edholm Photography