Pacific Northwest Lopez Island, Washington

Lopez Island, Washington
Thank you for visiting my family vacations on a budget blog. My family loves to travel! However my husband & I are both teachers making a budget all the more important.  We have one child, our son is 13. I want to show him as much of this wonderful world as I can before he is grown. This summer we visited the Pacific Northwest for our family vacation.  We traveled July 11th-20th throughout this beautiful area of the United States. In this blog post I will tell you about our day spent on Lopez Island, Washington: where we stayed, things we did, & travel tips to help you as you plan your next vacation. In the coming weeks I will feature a different destination or travel tip from our Pacific Northwest journey. Subscribe to my blog so you don't miss any of my posts from this fantastic family vacation (on a budget). 

We spent the day riding bicycles on Lopez Island.  We rode over 20 miles that day!

Where did we stay?
During the height of tourist season, when we visited in July, hotel accommodations are booked months in advance. If you choose to stay on the island, make sure you book early. Each of the islands of the San Juan Islands have lodging options that range from mid-priced to luxury priced. I checked out several hotels on each of the islands & there were a couple I considered. However, I had one free night at a Marriott hotel from my rewards from previous stays. We also wanted to visit more than one of the islands but did not want to switch hotels each night. I found a Marriott hotel in Burlington, WA. The drive was about 35 minutes to the ferry each day. We then had the ferry ride to the island we would visit that day which took between 40 & 60 minutes depending on the island we were visiting.  I estimate we spent about 2+ hours per day travelling to and from the islands from our hotel.  Thankfully the drive & ferry ride were beautiful! Knowing what I know now, I would probably stay on San Juan Island near Friday Harbor & not have so much travel time. I would visit San Juan Island one or two days, ride the ferry as a foot passenger to Lopez Island one day & ride bikes, & then on the day I plan to leave the islands I would ride (with my car) to Orcas Island & spend the day. BTW I would go in this order because you only pay a ferry fee for westbound ferry rides so you start the furthest west & then work your way back east. You live, you learn right? Thankfully you have my blog so you don't have to make the same mistakes we made - unless you want to...

The hotel I selected was the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Burlington, Washington. We stayed 3 nights, Friday-Sunday, & were impressed with our choice. The hotel was clean, quiet, & in a good location on the north side of town just off the interstate. We found the room to be a little small but not too bad. The beds were very comfortable. We liked the room had a refrigerator & microwave. The breakfast was tasty, serving different options each night of our stay.  The FREE breakfast offered eggs, sausage or bacon, waffles, fruit, cereals, pastries, juices, milk, yogurt, etc. The breakfast area was a good size. It really helped our budget that one of our three nights was free thanks to my rewards I had earned previously.  Travelling on a budget tip: make sure you become a member of every hotel rewards program you can. 

We spent 3 nights at Fairfield Inn & Suites Burlington, WA & we highly recommended it!

 The beds were comfortable & we had a nice view!

 The bathroom was a good size with plenty of water pressure in the shower.

 The breakfast had many options & was tasty!

The breakfast area had adequate seating available.

How did we get to Lopez Island?
Lopez Island is the 3rd largest of the San Juan Islands with a size of 29.81 square miles. It is also the closest to the mainland of the islands the ferry serves with a 45 minute ferry ride. 
The day we visited Lopez Island we chose to walk on the ferry instead of taking our car.  When you walk on the ferry you do not need a reservation ahead of time but it is a good idea to get there early enough you can find parking & purchase your tickets.  We drove 2.5 hours from Auburn, Washington to catch the 9:30 AM ferry.  We arrived at Anacortes Ferry Terminal at 9:23 AM.  There was NO parking in the lower lots so we had to drive up to the upper lot. There was plenty of parking but we had to pay.  There is a kiosk where you can pay to park but we were out of time. THANKFULLY the kiosk had a brochure telling how you could pay for your parking once on the ferry using your smartphone.  We literally RAN to the ticket office about 1/4 mile from the parking, purchased our tickets, & stepped on the ferry 1 minute before departure.  Once on the ferry I used my smartphone to pay for parking, $10 for one day.  Make sure you get a printed map of each of the islands while you are on the ferry, GPS does not always work on the islands. Our ride over to Lopez Island included the ferry stopping in the middle of Puget Sound & 2 people leaving on a dingy boat as we watched bewildered thinking the captain had "jumped ship". We later found out it was a Coast Guard drill.  The speakers do not work on the outside deck of the ferry where we were so we did not hear the captain tell us of the drill. We continued our journey there and back with no other problems to speak of for that day anyway... Our opinion of the Washington State Ferry system is not good. Read my blog post for Friday Harbor & Orcas Island to see why we have such a negative opinion of the ferry system.The ferry is operated by the state of Washington. Walk on cost to ride the ferry from Anacortes to Lopez Island at the time of our visit was $13.25 for adults, $6.60 for youth (aged 6-18), $6.60 for seniors (aged 65 and over), & $4 for a bicycle. To find out more about the ferry service from Anacortes, WA  visit the Washington State DOT website.
Anacortes Ferry Terminal

The ferry has both indoor & outdoor seating. 
The large windows were nice for when it was too cold to ride outside.

What did we do on Lopez Island?
To put the answer short - we rode bicycles on Lopez Island. We arrived on Lopez Island around 10:15 AM.  A few weeks before our trip I booked a bicycle for each of us with Village Cycles.  Village Cycles has pick up at the ferry terminal on Lopez Island.  Basically I paid for the reservation ($40 per day per bicycle for efficient hybrid bicycles) & they sent me the code to unlock the bicycles when I arrived on the island. They had everything ready for us including a helmet.  We walked off the ferry and headed for the bike rack. 
When you rent a bike from Village Cycles you can pick it up at the Ferry Terminal.

I love that Village Cycles place bikes at the ferry terminal because Lopez Village is 4 miles from the terminal. We simply got off the ferry & set out to explore the island on bicycles without going into town.

There are different routes you can choose when bicycling Lopez Island but we chose to take Ferry Road to Port Stanley Road.  We biked Port Stanley Road (asphalt road along the bay) to Hummel Lake Road (asphalt road through farmland that turns into highway).  We had beautiful views of the bay & farmlands.  Hummel Lake Road took us into town where we spent a few hours eating lunch & exploring. We stopped by the Lopez Island Library, I like to purchase books about places we have visited from local libraries. After the library we biked over to Village Cycles where the helpful staff suggested we ride out to Shark Reef Sanctuary & showed us on our map how to get there. 
We highly recommend renting bicycles from Village Cyles.

It was lunch time & we were hungry. We asked the staff at Village Cycles where a good place for lunch would be & they suggested Vitas. A short ride over & we were looking over our choices for lunch.  My son thought the food was too eccentric for his palate so we opted not to eat there.  A lady noticed we were trying to find somewhere else to eat on the map & she suggested Lopez Market Deli.  Ironically Lopez Market Deli was suggested to us earlier as well. We decided since two locals recommended it, we should give it a try.  I am glad we did! Lopez Market Deli (Bonnie's Deli & Bakery) offered a wide range of what I like to call "normal" food or food a kid would eat. Fried chicken, pizza, fried fish, french fries, etc. We ordered a large pizza & 3 drinks & spent $18. The pizza was great & the prices were reasonable.  I highly recommend you eat at Lopez Market Deli when on Lopez Island & a budget! 
Lopez Market Deli (Bonnie's Deli & Bakery) offers a variety of food.

After lunch we thought since we were on vacation we decided ice cream was in order. We found some really great Lopez Island Creamery ice cream at the Just Heavenly Fudge Factory.
Just Heavenly Fudge Factory has Lopez Island Creamery 
ice cream that is fantastic!

After lunch & ice cream we headed out to Shark Reef Sanctuary by way of Fisherman Bay Road (highway). 
Fisherman Bay Road offers stunning views!
Fisherman Bay Road has a shoulder to ride your bike on until you leave town then you have to share the lane with cars for about 1 mile before turning on Airport Road.  I have to admit this made me a little nervous because we were unfamiliar with the road & there seemed to be a lot of cars on Fisherman Bay Road. Airport Road & Shark Reef Road were not highways, they were asphalt roads, & much less congested. Once we arrived at Shark Reef Sanctuary (which has no admission cost) we took the trail through the forest to the shore.  The trail took about 10 minutes on an easy path. The views at Shark Reef Sanctuary were stunning.  We spent about an hour basking in the beauty of our surroundings & hoping to spot a whale (no luck).  There are no sharks but you can sometimes find sea lions. 
Shark Reef Sanctuary is free & worth a visit.

 Part of the Shark Reef Sanctuary trail is a boardwalk with the rest being a well traveled dirt trail. 

View from Shark Reef Sanctuary

View from Shark Reef Sanctuary

When we left Shark Reef Sanctuary we headed back to the ferry as we had to catch the 5:30 PM ferry back to Anacortes. Altogether we rode over 20 miles that day. You should know going into it that Lopez Island is NOT flat & you will have some pretty good hills to climb. My husband thought I was trying to kill him but he persevered & has a great story to tell. I am glad we chose to spend the day riding bikes on Lopez Island, it was an adventure we had never experienced before. (My husband says never again either, but we will see.) We were blessed with beautiful weather with temperatures in the 70s F & a bright sunshine day. 

We were pretty tired on the ferry ride back to the mainland. We were glad there were comfortable seats after riding bikes all day long :-).  
Views from the ferry are gorgeous!

Where did we eat dinner? 
Our hotel was in Burlington, Washington which has several restaurants to choose from.  We opted to eat at Olive Garden.  This was a new restaurant that was packed on a Friday night.  It was a typical Olive Garden.  We had enough food left over that we were able to take it back to the hotel & put it in our refrigerator that was in our room. (I always try to get hotel rooms with a refrigerator.)  The leftovers would be dinner the next night which helped us stay on budget, plus I love Olive Garden leftovers! 

Our day on Lopez Island was memorable.  Even though my husband complained I was trying to "kill him" on our epic bike ride, we all had a blast! I hope this blog has helped you plan a vacation that will provide you with memories that will last a lifetime.  Where ever you choose to ride, may God bless you each & every mile. 

This is a map of our day getting to Lopez Island & our day on Lopez Island.