Q&A With Brenna Backe – San Juan Islands
When was the first time you visited the San Juan Islands?
I grew up outside of Seattle and every summer during my childhood, my dad would pack us up and we would go camping on Whidbey Island at Deception Pass State Park. We would spend long weekends biking around the park, hiking along the beach and through the forests, and daring each other to look straight over the bridge to the fast moving current of the Puget Sound below.
When I got older, my parents retired and moved to Whidbey Island. This gave me the opportunity to explore Anacortes and the San Juan Islands.
Why did you visit?
The San Juan Islands are on everyone’s bucket list. They are so remote, yet so surprisingly beautiful and full of hidden gems like Roche Harbor and Eastsound Village. The unique mix of wide open meadows, fern-lined roads that climb up mountains, and the coastline that switches from high cliffs and then sweeps down to the wide open beach of a hidden cove can only be taken in by experiencing it. The smells, the salty air, the adorable cafes and kind people are the best part of the islands.
What was you favorite experience/best memory?
My husband and I borrowed my aunt and uncle’s bikes and set out to Orcas Island. The ferry ride out wides you through the tinier, sometimes private islands. It is fun to search for the 1 or 2 homes that inhabit each little island and see the seals sunny themselves on the rocks.
Orcas Island has the most variety of the islands. At one point you are biking past a winery, and then through a tiny village, and then a State Park, and then up to the top of Mt. Constitution where you can see Canada and the rest of the Islands. That day, the sun was out and we stopped to watch Bald Eagles before grabbing some cherries at a local fruit stand. It was so nice to ride our bike for the experience, not for mileage or training.
How many times have you been?
Now my mom lives in Anacortes so I have a greater opportunity to explore. Everyone time I go back, we check out a different island or road.
What is your favorite place to eat?
Besides the natural beauty of the area, the FOOD is the biggest attraction. Every time I visit I can not get enough fresh seafood. The way they mix and match flavors in the Pacific Northwest is amazing. And everything is fresh – berries, asparagus, mussels from Penn Cove (right on Whidbey Island), salmon, peaches, I could go on forever. The food is one of the main reasons I visit 4 times a year.
My favorite restaurant that I go to every time I visit is Anthony’s. Beautiful views of the marina and THE best fish. The Adrift is also packed full of local and organic food and has the best crab cakes I have ever had…ever.
What is your favorite place/site to visit?
Favorites would be Friday Harbor for shopping with cute bookstores and tricket shops and then Deception Pass State Park for scenery and fun. Sometimes people build an adult-sized teeter totter out of driftwood that makes you laugh so hard you start to snort.
Favorite bike ride?
Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island. It is a steep 4.5 miles with an awesome reward at top. The almost 360 view lets you see all the islands.
Biking the islands is the best way to explore. You get to feel the temperature changes as you move closer or further away from the shoreline, you can watch the Bald Eagles and hear their wings, you can smell the dew on the grass and then the salt from the water. It gives you so much more time to look around and see the beauty than if you were to drive.
The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul. ~ Wyland