Lopez Island: Life in the Slow Lane

The third largest island in the San Juan chain, Lopez is known for its laid-back pace.

man and dog on rocks overlooking water on Lopez Island, image

A man points out the stellar scenery to his attentive dog on Lopez Island.

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Lopez—dubbed Slow-pez for its leisurely pace—is the third-largest island of the San Juan chain, but home to just 2,300 full-time residents. Although not part of the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway, a loop around this pastoral spot offers plenty of sightseeing options.

Located on the edge of Lopez Village, the light-filled Lopez Island Library is a visitor’s delight. Kids adore the movie matinees with organic popcorn and the computers outfitted with educational video games. Grown-ups appreciate the comfy oversize chairs, free Wi-Fi, and displays of local art. 2225 Fisherman Bay Rd., 468-2265, lopezlibrary.org.

On Saturdays from mid-May through mid-September, locals and travelers alike gather for 
food and crafts at the Lopez Island Farmer’s Market next to the Lopez Center for Community
 and the Arts. A few vendors sell island produce 
plus canned salmon and tuna, and artisans
 offer samples of fresh bread, fudge, and jams. You’ll also find hot sauce, beautiful pottery, and glass jewelry—all made on the island. Village Road, lopezfarmersmarket.com.

After the farmers’ market, rent a bike at Lopez Bicycle Works (2847 Fisherman Bay Rd., 468-2847, lopezbicycleworks.com) and cycle to Shark Reef Sanctuary, five miles south. Despite its fearsome name, the park is home to gentler species: harbor seals, river otters, and the occasional bald eagle. Shark Reef Road south of Burt Road, 378-8420, sanjuanco.com/parks/lopez.aspx.

Whether you’re driving or cycling, you’ll find the recently revamped Southend General Store and Restaurant an ideal place to stop for lunch. Sit outdoors on the deck and order a portobello French dip with vegetarian jus. Or top a burger—made with local grass-fed beef—with avocado, bacon, or caramelized onions. The adjacent store offers a well-chosen selection of groceries including organic produce, local fish and meat, microbrews, and an impressive selection of Northwest wines. 3024 Mud Bay Rd., 468-2315, southendgeneralstoreandrestaurant.com.

Before heading back to the ferry, make a short detour to pick up some 
Olympia oysters, fresh coho salmon, or
 clams at Sweetwater Shellfish Farm, run by Nick and Sara Jones. (The couple’s high-quality foods—they raise cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats at Jones Family Farms—are served by some of Seattle’s best restaurants.) Free tours of the oyster farm and hatchery. 203 Shoreland Dr., 468-0533, jffarms.com.

Read about the San Juan Scenic Byway and plan ahead for Summer Festivals on the San Juan Islands.

Photography by Erika Davis

This article was first published in June 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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