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San Juan & Vancouver Island Cycling Guide

Introduction

The following guide is a compilation of  background, safety and day-by-day routes of the area. Complete with restaurant suggestions and “Points of Interest,” this guide will provide you with thorough, applicable travel information for your next cycling tour through the San Juan Islands. After years of cycling the globe, we are convinced that the quiet lanes of the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island offer some of the best cycling in North America, and it is our privilege to be your guide. San_Juans

The Day-by-Day section of the guidebook will preview each days route and scenery or points of interest along the way. It’s suggested that you read this before you head out on the day’s ride. Typically, there are three levels of riding each day: easiest, intermediate and challenge.

We are passionate about cycle touring and believe there is no better way to experience the sights, sounds and scents of an area than on two wheels.

Enjoy!

Background on the Area

Highlights

san_juan_islands_ferryISLAND HOPPING – Island hopping across emerald seas between distinctive islands – each with their own character.

orca_sanjuanislandWHALE-WATCHING – Orca whales thrive in the waters surrounding the islands, and this is one of the best places in the world to see them.

Lime_Kiln_lighthouseLIGHTHOUSES – The Lime Kiln Lighthouse is located on San Juan Island and is one of many you may visit along the way.

Butchart_GardensBUTCHART GARDENS – Visit this world-renowned garden on Vancouver Island or explore several smaller gardens throughout Victoria.lavender_SanjuanislandsLAVENDER FARMS – Lavender fields are in bloom from April-October.  Take a tour, or stop to eat your picnic lunch at one of the farms.

Overview

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago in Washington State between the US mainland and Vancouver Island, Canada.  There are over 120 islands in the chain, only four of which are accessible by passenger ferry: Lopez, Orcas, San Juan and Shaw.  Vancouver Island stretches over 250 miles along Canada’s Pacific coast and is mostly forest-covered wilderness.  Our tours focus on the Saanich Peninsula: a 20-mile-long headland at the southeast corner of the island with Victoria at its southern tip.Inhabitants of the San Juan Islands are proud of the fact that the environment and culture of the islands is very different from that found in much of the rest of the continental US.  Things are cleaner, greener and more relaxed here.  Farms are smaller, cars drive slower and there is not a Starbucks in sight.  If the pastoral beauty of the islands was not enough, the islands are framed on two sides by snow-capped mountains: The Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the southwest. With all this unspoiled beauty, it’s not surprising that there is no shortage of fauna on and around the islands; bald eagles soar in the skies, whales swim in the narrow ocean channels, and numerous deer roam the unfenced land.

The Saanich Peninsula, on Vancouver Island, is a mix of small farms, leafy suburbs and a bustling city (Victoria).  The network of cycleways makes exploring this area easy and relaxing.  The mild climate (the warmest in Canada) and the fertile soils make this an excellent location for gardens – both formal gardens such as Butchart and informal gardens around private homes.  On the southern tip of the peninsula is Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia.  Victoria is consistently recognized as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit.  It is set around a stunning harbor bustling with yachts, ferries, and floatplanes.  Away from the harbor, there is a blend of old-world charm and vibrant international confidence complete with street performers, excellent museums and great restaurants.

Climate

For their latitude, both the San Juan Islands and the Saanich Peninsula (on Vancouver Island) have a relatively mild and dry climate; mild due to the influence of the ocean and dry thanks to their position in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains.  The best months for cycling are May through September when the temperatures are pleasantly warm and the risk of rainfall much lower.  Even in summer, temperatures are never stifling and there is typically a pleasant sea breeze.  Spring and fall are still OK to visit but you need to be prepared for rain and lower temperatures.  We do not recommend cycling here in winter. The charts below show the monthly average temperatures and rainfall for Olga – a weather station on Orcas Island.

Average Monthly Temperatures in Fahrenheit – Data Source: Western Regional Climate Center
Average Monthly Rainfall in Inches – Data Source: Western Regional Climate Center

History – San Juan Islands

Pre-European

The San Juan Islands were part of the traditional area of various Native American peoples of the Coast Salish ethno-linguistic group – mostly of the Lummi nation.  In pre-colonial times, the tribe migrated seasonally between mainland sites and sites on the San Juan Islands.

The traditional lifestyle of the Lummi, like many Northwest Coast tribes, consisted of collecting shellfish and gathering plants such as Camas and different varieties of berries.  There was some hunting of deer and small birds, but their most important food resource was salmon.  The Lummi developed a very effective fishing technique known as “reef netting” – you can see an explanation of this at the Shaw Island Historical Museum.

British and Spanish explorers discovered the islands in the 1700s but significant settlement by Europeans did not occur until the mid-1800s.  In 1855, the Lummi and other northwest coastal tribes included in the Point Elliott Treaty were paid $150,000 for their lands and an additional $15,000 in relocation expenses.  Today, that would equate to over $600 million.

European Exploration

The name “San Juan” was given to the islands by the Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza, who charted the islands in 1791, naming them Isla y Archipelago de San Juan.  The expedition sailed under the authority of the Viceroy of Mexico, Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, and the expedition named several places for him, including the San Juan Islands and Orcas Island (short for “Horcasitas”).

Other explorations of the islands were carried out by the British Royal Navy under the command of George Vancouver and later by American ships commanded by Charles Wilkes.

Vancouver’s expedition occurred within a year of Eliza’s, and Vancouver encountered other Spanish ships and traded information. Thus, Vancouver knew of the names given by Eliza’s expedition and tended to keep them although he renamed some things, like the Strait of Georgia.

Wilkes, sailing in 1841, had some British charts, but may not have been aware of the Spanish names and charts. He liberally gave new names to nearly every coastal feature not already named on the charts he had. The names that Wilkes gave tended to be patriotically American (heroes of the War of 1812 for example), or to honor members of his crew.  Wilkes also gave the name Navy Archipelago to the San Juan Islands and named individual islands for distinguished officers of the US Navy, such as Rodgers Island for San Juan Island, and Hull Island for Orcas Island.  Some of his names survived later deduplication efforts, such as Chauncey, Shaw, Decatur, Jones, Blakely, Perry, Sinclair, Lawrence, Gordon, and Percival, all named after American naval officers.

European Settlement

The first European settlers on the island were a mix of British and Americans; typically, trappers and sheepherders.  As often happened in the Americas, exploration and settlement by Europeans brought smallpox to the area, which was endemic by the 1770s.

In 1843, the Hudson’s Bay Company (incorporated by Royal charter in 1670 and now the oldest commercial corporation in North America) established Fort Camosun at nearby Vancouver Island.  The company went on to establish a presence on San Juan Island.

Disputed Sovereignty

The 1846 Oregon Treaty established the 49th parallel as the boundary between Canada and the U.S. on the mainland.  While the treaty clearly showed that Vancouver Island would remain British, it was ambiguous about the San Juan Islands – being unspecific about which channel the boundary should follow from the US mainland to the open ocean.  This dispute, though simmering immediately in the wake of the treaty, escalated in the 1850s.

Despite (or possibly because of) the ambiguity over the sovereignty of the San Juan Islands, in 1852 the Territory of Oregon created Island County, defined to include the San Juan Islands (AKA “Haro Archipelago”).  In 1853 Island County became part of the newly created Washington Territory.

In 1855 Washington Territory levied a property tax on properties of the Hudson’s Bay Company on San Juan Island, which the Hudson’s Bay Company refused to pay.  Washington Territory then advertised and sold the properties to satisfy the unpaid taxes.  This led to talks between the governors of Washington Territory and the Colony of Vancouver Island.  It soon became clear that the US claimed Haro Strait as the international border, while Britain claimed Rosario Strait, with both sides laying claim to the San Juan Islands – see map above.

The escalating dispute led to the Pig War in 1859 (see box below), which was a protracted stalemate rather than an armed conflict.  In 1871, both sides finally asked Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany to arbitrate.  The border, through Haro Strait, was finally established and agreed in 1872 making the San Juan Islands firmly part of the USA.


The Pig War of 1859

The Oregon Treaty of June 15, 1846 placed the border between Canada (the British Empire) and the USA through “the middle channel” of the straits which separates the continent from Vancouver Island.  However, there are actually two straits which could be called the middle of the channel: Haro Strait, along the west side of the San Juan Islands; and Rosario Strait, along the east side – see map above.

In 1856, the US and Britain set up a Boundary Commission to resolve several issues regarding the international boundary, including the water boundary around the San Juan Islands.  However, after lengthy negotiations, there was no agreement.

Because of this ambiguity, both the United States and Britain claimed sovereignty over the San Juan Islands.  During this period of disputed sovereignty, Britain’s Hudson’s Bay Company established operations on San Juan Island and turned the island into a sheep ranch. Meanwhile, by mid-1859, 20 to 30 American settlers had arrived.

On June 15, 1859 Lyman Cutlar, an American farmer, found a large black pig rooting in his garden.  This was not the first time he had found a pig eating his tubers.  Cutlar shot the pig dead.  It turned out that the pig was owned by an Irishman, Charles Griffin, who was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company to run the sheep ranch.  Cutlar offered $10 to Griffin to compensate for the pig, but Griffin was unsatisfied with this offer and demanded $100.  Following this reply, Cutlar believed he should not have to pay for the pig because the pig had been trespassing on his land.  When British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, American settlers called for military protection.

Help arrived in the form of 66 American soldiers of the 9th Infantry under the command of Captain George Pickett.  Their orders were to prevent the British from landing.  The British sent three warships under the command of Captain Geoffrey Hornby to counter the Americans.  The situation continued to escalate.  By August 10, 1859, 461 Americans with 14 cannons under Colonel Silas Casey were opposed by five British warships mounting 70 guns and carrying 2,140 men.  During this time, no shots were fired.

Local commanding officers on both sides had essentially the same orders: defend yourselves, but absolutely do not fire the first shot.  For several days, the British and US soldiers exchanged insults, each side attempting to goad the other into firing the first shot, but discipline held on both sides, and thus no shots were fired.

When news about the crisis reached Washington and London, officials from both nations were shocked and took action to calm the potentially explosive international incident.

In September, US President James Buchanan sent General Winfield Scott to negotiate with Governor Douglas and resolve the growing crisis.  This was in the best interest of the United States, as sectional tensions within the country were increasing, soon to culminate in the Civil War.  Scott had calmed two other border crises between the two nations in the late 1830s.  He arrived in the San Juans in October and began negotiations with Douglas.

As a result of the negotiations both sides agreed to retain joint military occupation of the island until a final settlement could be reached, reducing their presence to a token force of no more than 100 men.  The “British Camp” was established on the north end of San Juan Island along the shoreline for ease of supply and access; and the “American Camp” was created on the south end on a high, windswept meadow, suitable for artillery barrages against shipping.

Today the Union Jack still flies above the “British Camp”, being raised and lowered daily by park rangers, making it one of the very few places without diplomatic status where US government employees regularly hoist the flag of another country.

During the years of joint military occupation, the small British and American units on San Juan Island had a very amicable mutual social life, visiting one another’s camps to celebrate their respective national holidays and holding various athletic competitions. Park rangers tell visitors the biggest threat to peace on the island during these years was “the large amounts of alcohol available.”

This state of affairs continued for the next 12 years.  In 1871, Great Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Washington.  Among the agreements in the treaty was the decision to resolve the San Juan dispute by international arbitration under Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany.  Wilhelm referred the issue to a three-man arbitration commission.  On October 21, 1872, the commission chose the American-preferred marine boundary via Haro Strait, to the west of the islands, over the British preference for Rosario Strait which lay to their east.

On November 25, 1872, the British withdrew their Royal Marines from the British Camp.  The Americans followed by July 1874.

The Pig War is commemorated in San Juan Island National Historical Park.


History – Vancouver Is. & Victoria

Indigenous People

Less than 500 years ago, the Indigenous (now referred to as First Nation) people thrived throughout British Columbia. The First Nation groups of Kwakwakawa’wak (to the north), Huu-chah-nult (to the west), and the Coast Salish (from the Gulf of Georgia north to the southern tip of Vancouver Island) chose this region for its temperate climate and abundant natural resources. A tribal village society evolved through hunting, fishing, and collecting, and northwest tribes grew in affluence. Pure artistic expression and practical art flourished as well. Tools, clothing, weapons, and shelter were created from necessity, and history-preserving totem poles were artistic reminders of birth places, lineages, and nations.

The ancient practice of totem carving, handed down through generations, is a way of preserving native history and honoring tribal customs. Totem poles document history more than tell a story. They are typically created from Red Cedar, abundant in the Northwest, and erected to be visible to a community – you can visit the Royal BC Museum’s central exhibit in the First Peoples gallery to see these carvings and learn more about the First Nations.

In 1774, the Spanish explorer Juan José Pérez Hernández visited Vancouver Island as part of a voyage to explore and claim dominion over the Pacific Northwest. In 1778, the British explorer Captain James Cook did much the same thing.

The Nootka Sound Controversy

Having long held a claim on the Pacific Northwest, Spain established a settlement on what is now called Vancouver Island, Santa Cruz de Nuca, in 1789, led by Esteban Jose Martinez, the Spanish settlers began seizing British ships coming into the area for trading. Britain sent warships to the area, and a standoff known as the Nootks Crisis began. Spain called on France for support, and King Louis XVI was eager to oblige, but the French National Assembly disputed the right of the King to enter the alliance. In a blow to the Monarchy, the Assembly ruled that a proposal for war could be initiated by the King but must be ratified by the Assembly. This, in part, led to the French Revolution.

Without the support of France, Spain rescinded its claim and the Nootka Convention of 1790 was put into place. To oversee the return of property seized by the Spanish, Captain George Vancouver arrived in Nootka Sound. Negotiations between Vancouver and Spanish Commandant Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra led to the naming of “The Island of Quadra and Vancouver.” By 1793, Spanish interest in the island began to dwindle as did their name on charts and maps of the area. By 1824, the area was known primarily as Vancouver Island. Today, at Quadra Park in Victoria, a bust of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra is on display.

Victoria and the Fraser River Gold Rush

In 1843, as the fur trade became established on Vancouver Island, The Hudson Bay Company erected Fort Camosun. The trading post, known as Camosack then Fort Albert, was officially renamed Fort Victoria on June 10, 1843 in honor of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Constitutional history began in 1849 with the establishment of the Imperial Government of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island. In 1850, the first Governor assumed office. The small community of Victoria, numbering just over 300 people, continued to center on business and trade until 1858 when gold was discovered in the Fraser River.

As the sole ocean port on Vancouver Island, miners arrived here from around the world – including miners from the then dried-up gold fields in California. The first ship entered the small harbor on April 25, 1858, doubling the population of Victoria. Within weeks, over 20,000 adventurers had landed. Every miner arriving in British Columbia had to obtain a prospect and panning license in Victoria. With little infrastructure in place, a tent city emerged as miners purchased supplies and obtained required documentation. In 1862, the city of Victoria was incorporated.

The modest community of Victoria, once focused on fur trade, was rapidly overtaken by men and women hoping to strike it rich. First Nations people provided canoes, food, and guide and translation services to incoming miners. Trade during this period was beneficial for both prospectors and indigenous people but, as prospectors became more knowledgeable about the area, the initial beneficial relationship began to collapse. First Nations people were marginalized and even terrorized on their own lands.

By the mid-1860’s, the gold rush had all but ended. Victoria, however, was now the largest city in British Columbia. With the departure of the gold rush, the separate existence of Vancouver Island and British Columbia became impractical. To the chagrin of Vancouver Island and Victoria residents, the Act for the Union of the Colonies was passed, and in August of 1866, Vancouver Island was officially part of British Columbia.

Victoria, the Capital

On July 20, 1871, Victoria was proclaimed the Capital City of British Columbia. For much of the nineteenth century, Victoria remained the largest city in the Province. As infrastructure developed and the Transcontinental Railway was built, Vancouver, BC emerged as the major west coast port. In the twentieth century, Victoria evolved as a city of tourism, innovation, and education. Marine and forestry jobs continue to be two of the city’s largest industries to this day, and information technology is now also one of the largest industry sectors with annual revenues exceeding four billion dollars. Royal Roads University and the University of Victoria are both well-established and renowned education centers.

Today, Victoria’s Parliament Building overlooks Victoria’s inner harbor and is home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. A growing population, pleasant climate, and scenic setting has continued to boost tourism numbers. The city is proud of its British heritage and consistently ranks as one of the world’s best cities to visit and in which to reside. Its population is now over 300,000.

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Towns and Cities

Eastsound

Overview

The first Europeans to live in the area now known as Eastsound arrived in the 1850s.  They were employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company sent from Fort Victoria to hunt deer. Eastsound

One of the first settlers in Eastsound was Charles Shattuck, who built a log cabin and operated a store in the late 1850s.  Another early inhabitant of note was Michael Adams, a prospector and trapper from Pennsylvania and a horticulturalist who planted the first apple orchard on Orcas.  [Current residents of note include Apollo 8 Astronaut William Anders and cartoonist Gary Larson.]

The Emmanuel Episcopal Church – the first church on Orcas Island – was built in 1885, by the Reverend Sidney Robert Spencer Gray, on a plot of land deeded from Charles Shattuck.

EastsoundThe town remains unincorporated but is the undisputed center of Orcas – both geographically and commercially.  Despite its size and informality, the town boasts an impressive selection of galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and cafés.  It is also a delightful place to wander around and fine views of the water are never far away.

Eating & Drinking

Island grown food is featured at many restaurants. The options range from fine dining to simple pub fare.

Below, we show the opening times for the summer seasons (June through September) but it is sometimes worth double checking as these can change at short notice.  We would also recommend making reservations during the summer season; especially on weekends.

A favorite fine dining option is the New Leaf Café and Lounge at the Outlook Inn, featuring French inspired Northwestern cuisine served tapas style.  Reservations recommended.  171 Main St / (360) 376-2200.  Thu thru Mon from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. /https://www.outlookinn.com/newleaf

Another top restaurant is the Inn at Ship Bay beautifully situated and using local ingredients – some from their own garden.  Located 1½ miles out of town at 326 Olga Rd / (360) 376-5886.  Tue thru Sat with seating starting at 5:00 PM. / https://www.innatshipbay.com/dining

Five miles south of Eastsound, the Rosario Resort has two dining options.  The Mansion Restaurant is the most impressive.  This grand (but not overly formal) restaurant is located on the original veranda of the Moran Mansion with fine views overlooking Cascade Bay.  Open for dinner daily from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM.  More casual is the Cascade Bay Grill serving burgers, seafood and pizza in an indoor/outdoor café overlooking the marina. Fri from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Sat & Sun from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM.  (360) 376-2222. / https://rosarioresort.com/restaurant

Mijitas offers much-better-than-average Mexican food in a nice atmosphere – both indoors and outdoors with plenty of seafood options.  310 A. St. / (360) 376-6722.  Monday-Saturday from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM. / https://www.mijitasorcas.com

The Madrona Bar & Grill serves a respectable burger and fish & chips in a pub-like atmosphere overlooking the water.  310 Main St, #105 / (360) 376-7171.  Daily 11:30 AM to 4:30 PM.  Sun thru Thurs 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM.  Fri & Sat 4:30 PM to 9:00 PM. / https://madronabarandgrill.com

For something a little less extravagant but still very tasty, try Tee-Jay’s Tacos for made to order fish tacos.  The location is a little basement-like, but the food and the price are just right.  112 Haven Rd / (360) 376-6337.

mias_cafe_eastsound

Also, a nice place for lunch is Enzo’s Cafe.  The crepes, bagels and panini are all popular.  The Swiss-born owner also makes the best ice cream on the islands.  365 N Beach Rd # 202

Staying on the lunch theme, Brown Bear Baking has delicious, fresh-made savory and sweet baked goods.  The rich dark chocolate muffins are not to be missed. They also have soups and bread.  At the corner of Main St & N Beach Rd / (360) 855-7456. Open Daily 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Closed Tuesdays. / https://www.brownbearbaking.com

Rose’s Bakery is a creative bakery and café with delicious soups, sandwiches, baked goods and pizzas.  It is also a very nice gourmet food store.  382 Prune Alley / (360) 376-4292.  Tues thru Sat from 8:30 EastsoundAM to 4:00 PM.

Hogstone’s Wood Oven serves a good farm to table pizza from their wood ovens in an informal setting.  460 Main St / (360) 376-4647.  Call ahead for hours of operation as they sometimes close for private parties. / https://www.hogstone.com

Sights and Things to Do

Eastsound is a good base for either whale watching or sea kayaking.  You can also do freshwater kayaking & canoeing a little further south on Cascade Lake.

Whale Watching: From Orcas Island, Outer Island Expeditions operates high-speed boats – travelling up to 50 mph.  This allows them to reduce the time it takes to get to the whale watching areas – usually near or in Canadian waters.  Also, Orca whales can occasionally travel up to 100 miles per day and a fast boat also helps “guarantee” your sighting.  Trips depart from Smuggler’s Cove Villa Resort – a mile north of Eastsound.  The company has tours departing at 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM May 25-Sept 3.  You can also book a custom charter. Based at the Smuggler’s Villa Resort at 54 Hunt Rd (at the northern end of North Beach Rd) / (360) 376-3711 / http://outerislandx.com/anacortes-whale-watching

Sea Kayaking: Shearwater Kayak Tours is one of the better kayaking companies on Orcas Island.  Kayaking has been their focus for over 30 years.  They have a number of departure locations allowing access to unique parts of the island.  Most tours meet at the tour location but talk to the operator as they can sometime arrange transfers from Eastsound.  138 North Beach Rd / (360) 376-4699. https://shearwaterkayaks.com

Outer Island Expeditions (see Whale Watching above) also operate kayaking trips off Orcas.

Museums: The Orcas Island Historical Museum is in six original homestead cabins built during the late 1800s and reconstructed on their current site.  These cabins house a collection of antiques, documents and photographs.  181 North Beach Rd / (360) 376-4849. https://www.orcasmuseums.org

If you have kids, check out the Funhouse Children’s Discovery Center.  The Funhouse is a not-for-profit community center that orcas_island_historical_museumfosters fun and learning with dozens of hands-on kid-friendly science exhibits, a computer lab and a complete audio and video production studio.  30 Pea Patch Ln / (360) 376-7177. Days and hours vary by season. July to August Monday – Friday 1:00PM – 5:00PM. Call for availability. https://www.funhousecommons.org

The Orcas Island Artworks Gallery located next door to Catkins Café on your route to Doe Bay, offers a wonderful collection of work by Orcas Island artists and craftspeople.  The Artworks Gallery offers paintings, prints, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, glass, wood, fiber and wearable arts, as well as other locally made items and gifts. 6546 Olga Rd, Olga, WA 98279 / (360) 376-4408 / https://orcasartworks.com/site/

Useful Contacts

Stores: Island Market is the largest and best stocked grocery store on the island.  469 Market St / (360) 376-6000.  Mon thru Sat from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM.  10:00 AM to 8:00 PM Sun.

If you have a sweet tooth, head over to Kathryn Taylor (KT) Chocolates to gorge on delicious handmade chocolates. 109 North Beach Rd / (360) 298-8093.

Farmers Market: There is a farmer’s market from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM every Saturday on the Village Green on North Beach Rd.

Water Taxis: See list under Friday Harbor plus:

  • North Shore Charters / (360) 376 -4855
  • Orcas Boat Rentals / (360) 376-7616
  • Uber and Lyft are also available.

Land Taxis: If you want to arrange a trip to an out-of-town restaurant, the following taxi companies are available.

  • Orcas Island Taxi / (360) 376-8294
  • New Orcas Taxi Tours / (360) 298-1639

Bike Shops: Wildlife Cycles, is located at 350 North Beach Rd / (360) 376-4708.

Massage: A Massage by the Sea, located at 344 Main Street, offers massage in their Eastsound studio. (206) 486-4325.

Friday Harbor

Overview

The story goes that in the 1840s a native Hawaiian named Joseph Poalie (AKA Joe Friday) was employed by the Hudson Bay Friday_harborCompany to tend sheep on the company’s Cowlitz sheep farm – on the mainland partway between the Columbia River and Puget Sound.  In the 1860s he moved north to San Juan Island, raising and herding sheep around what would become known as Friday’s (or Friday) Harbor.

While the town may have got its name from Joe Friday, Edward Warbass is more generally credited as being the founder of the town.  A year after the ending of the Pig War he managed to get a bill passed creating San Juan County and declaring Friday Harbor the county seat.  However, for several years he was the county seat’s only resident.  With the opening of a second store things gradually changed, and Friday Harbor was officially incorporated on February 10, 1909.  It remains the only incorporated town in the San Juan Islands.

Sailing ships, and later the steamships, visited the harbor regularly hauling passengers, mail and freight.  Exports from Friday Harbor included apples, pears, cherries, strawberries, peas, cream, eggs, chickens, grain, salmon, and lime.  However, the Great Depression, World War II, the pea weevil, and competition from Eastern Washington brought about a decline of these traditional industries, diminishing Friday Harbor’s export trade.

The 1960s brought new industries – tourism, retirement, real estate, and construction.  More recently the town has attracted some top chefs and a clutch of artists making this hilly-but-walkable town the vibrant hub to the islands.  As well as restaurants friday_harbor_portand galleries the town boasts a whale watching museum, boutiques and numerous hotels.


But Not the First

The first major American settlement on San Juan Island was not Friday Harbor but rather San Juan Town – later known as Old Town.  San Juan Town sprang up in the 1860s just north of American Camp on Griffin Bay as a result of the influx of American troops during the Pig War.  It quickly developed a well-earned reputation for lawlessness consisting as it did largely of saloons, liquor stores, and brothels.

In the 1890s, Friday Harbor began to overtake San Juan Town as the major commercial center thanks to its better stores and a devastating fire that struck the Old Town.  San Juan Town then all but disappeared from the map save for a reference to Old Town Lagoon – just west of Jakles Lagoon and east of Fourth of July Beach (see cycling map).


Eating & Drinking

For a small, island town, Friday harbor has a surprising selection of good-quality restaurants.  As you might expect, seafood Friday_harborfeatures prominently.

Below, we show the opening times for the summer season (June through September) but it is often worth double checking as several of the restaurants change their opening days at short notice.  We would also recommend making reservations during the summer season; especially on weekends.

Coho Restaurant serves island-grown Pacific cuisine with a Mediterranean flair. This small restaurant (reservations recommended) is one of the best – if not the cheapest – on the islands.  120 Nichols / (360) 378-6330. Open: May 16-June 18 (Tuesday-Saturday) 5-9; June 19-September 30 (Monday-Saturday) 5-9; October 10-October 31 (Tuesday-Saturday) 5-9 / https://www.cohorestaurant.com

For some of the best views in town head to the Bluff Restaurant at Friday Harbor House.  Another fine dining experience focused on seafood, local produce and beef.  Located in the Friday Harbor House hotel at 130 West St / (360) 378-8455.  Thu thru Mon, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. / https://www.fridayharborhouse.com/dining.php

Vinny’s Ristorante is another very solid restaurant.  They specialize in Italian cuisine and have a romantic, candle-lit setting.  165 West St / (360) 378-1934.  Tuesday to Saturday, 4PM to close. / http://www.vinnysfridayharbor.com/#about

The Backdoor Kitchen lives up to its name – tucked behind a warehouse on the outskirts of the small downtown.  But it’s worth the hunt with a well-prepared, eclectic selection of international food – from classic lamb chop to Portuguese stew.  There is both a cozy dining room and a heated patio. 400b A St / (360) 378-9540. Dinner hours vary seasonally.

Cask & Schooner Public House & Restaurant is a popular half-pub-half-restaurant serving a very respectable fish and chips as well as other pub food.  They also serve full dinners focused on seafood and steaks.  1 Front St / (360) 378-2922.  Open for lunch and dinner all week. / http://www.caskandschooner.com

The Market Chef is our favorite lunch stop.  It is an artisan deli and cafe serving island-grown and produced vegetables, fruits, and meats. There are great sandwiches on baked-daily breads as well as organic salads and a constantly revolving deli case filled entrees and side dishes.  225 A St / (360) 378-4546. Serve Breakfast and Lunch. Open Monday-Friday. / https://www.marketcheffridayharbor.com

You will need to take a taxi for four miles to get to the Duck Soup Inn, but it is worth the extra hassle.  Described as fresh island dining in a charming country atmosphere – this is another contender of best restaurant on the island.  Set in woods overlooking scenic ponds the location is another wow.  50 Duck Soup Ln (off Roche Harbor Rd) / (360) 378-4878.  Tue thru Sun 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM. / https://www.ducksoupsanjuans.com

Another out of town option requiring a taxi is McMillin’s Dining Room at Roche Harbor.  The food is good – if not quite to the standard of the best of Friday Harbor – but the setting is stunning.  You sit right on the waterfront watching the sun set.  As a bonus, just before sunset each night, a Colors Ceremony retires the flags of Washington State, Great Britain, Canada and the United States to the accompaniment of music and a cannon shot. After the ceremony concludes they announce the weather and welcome new and returning guests (just ask for yours or your partner’s name to be included).  248 Reuben Memorial Dr, Roche Harbor / (360) 378-2155.  Daily from 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM. / https://www.rocheharbor.com/dining/

Crow’s Nest Coffee Shop is “a Treatment Cafe’” situated on the waterfront and overlooking the ferry landing in Friday Harbor.  Great coffee and great homemade pastries.  They also have good soups, sandwiches, and homemade ice cream.  70 Spring St/ (360) 378-2010.  6:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

Riptide Café serves up Stumptown Coffee and is located right in Friday Harbor. Sit and enjoy your morning coffee and baked good while you watch the ferries roll in. 10 Front Street, #103 / (360) 378-0363. Open 7:00 AM – 4:00 PM daily.

Cynthia’s is a breakfast and lunch restaurant offering a choice of relaxed dining service as well as a take-out Espresso Deli area. 65 Nichols Street / (360) 317-7178 / http://cynthiasofcourse.com

Another good café is the Bean Café.  They tend to have a little more sitting space than the Doctor’s Office as well as a more extensive lunch menu – sandwiches, panini, salads and soups – as well as wine and beer.  They even have a “Ferry Cam” so you can watch for the ferry in the comfort of our coffee shop.  150 1st St / (360) 370-5858.  Daily from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM / http://www.thebeancafe.com

The most popular place in town for casual seafood is Friday’s Crabhouse with fish & chips, fish tacos and crab cakes.  They also serve steamer clams, mussels and oysters.  Eat outside or inside overlooking the Friday Harbor ferry landing.  There is also a full bar.  Has been very good in the past but with some mix reviews more recently.  65 Front St / (360) 378-8801.  Fri thru Sun, 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Blue Water Bar & Grill offers good quality food at affordable prices with an emphasis on enthusiastic service with a fun atmosphere.  Good for a leisurely brunch or to grab a burger to go for the ferry.  7 Spring St / (360) 378-2245. Breakfast, lunch and dinner 9am to 11pm / https://www.bluewaterandgrill.com.

Sights and Things to Do

There are plenty of non-cycling things to do in Friday Harbor – and plenty of people offering to arrange them for you.

Whale & Wildlife Watching: During the summer months, the nutrient rich waters surrounding the San Juan Islands become a foraging area for a small population of Orca (Killer) Whales known as the Southern Residents.  For thousands of years, these groups of whales have likely been coming to these waters to forage on a variety of salmon.  The salmon themselves pass through these waters as they make their way to their spawning grounds in the rivers of Washington and British Colombia.

There are several reputable whale watching outfitters.  One such is San Juan Outfitters.  Whale watching and wildlife tours are kayaking_friday_harbortheir specialty and they have knowledgeable naturalists aboard their 42-foot MV Sea Hawk.  On any trip you are likely to see a variety of wildlife including killer whales, seals, porpoises, and bald eagles.  Typically, guests meet at their office located at the Port of Friday Harbor then transfer to Roche Harbor for 12:00 PM or 2:00 PM departure, depending on the time of year.  Reservations recommended.  (360) 378-1962 / https://www.sanjuanislandoutfitters.com 

Other whale watching outfitters include:

Sea Kayaking: Kayaking is also a popular way to explore the local waters.  Indeed, the Cascadia Marine Trail passes through the San Juan Islands.  As with whale watching, there is no shortage of choice.  Most outfitters offer tours from a couple of hours to multi-day as well as straight rentals.

San Juan Outfitters Specializing in high quality sea kayak tours. San Juan Outfitters is known for its low guide to guest ratio kayak tours. That includes the whale tours by kayak, day kayak tours and overnight kayak -camping tours.  (360) 378-1962 / https://www.sanjuanislandoutfitters.com

More traditional sea kayak tours are operated by Discovery Sea Kayaks.  Their experienced guides and small groups make them an attractive option.  260 Spring St / (360) 378-2559 / https://discoveryseakayak.com

Other kayaking outfitters include:

Museums: The Whale Museum is devoted to the Southern Resident Community of Orcas Whales.  They promote stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea ecosystem through education and research.  62 1st St / (360) 378-4710.  Daily from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM / https://whalemuseum.org 

The San Juan Historical Museum helps you to learn about the islands’ heritage from the pioneer’s perspective; showcasing local culture in the 19th century.  405 Price St / (360) 378-3949.  May 15-September: Tue-Sat 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM / http://www.sjmuseum.org 

San Juan Islands Museum of Art (IMA) showcases quarterly exhibitions of island art plus renowned artists from around the world.  The IMA mission is to connect people with art that inspires, challenges, and enlightens. 540 Spring St / (360) 370-5050.  IMA is open 11AM to 5PM Thursday through Monday, Memorial Day-Labor Day. Please see the website for current information. http://sjima.org/visit/  Admission is free on Mondays, 3pm to 6pm!

Wine Tasting: San Juan Vineyards is located a few miles north of Friday Harbor at 3136 Roche Harbor Rd / (360) 378-9463 / https://www.sanjuanvineyard.com

Useful Contacts

Stores: Kings Market is a full-service grocer.  160 Spring St / (360) 378-4505

Farmers Market: There is a farmer’s market at the Brickworks Building at 150 Nichols St every Saturday 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM, April-October.

Water Taxis: If the ferry schedule is just a little too constraining, or you want to visit one of the outer islands, or you just missed the last ferry then call for a water taxi:

  • San Juan Safaris / (360)-378-1323
  • San Juan Islands Whale & Wildlife Tours / (360) 298-0012
  • Outer Island Excursions / (360) 376-3711

Land Taxis: If you want to arrange a trip to an out-of-town restaurant, the following taxi companies are available.

  • Friday Harbor Taxi / (360) 298-4434
  • San Juan Taxi & Tours / (360) 378-3550
  • Bob’s Taxi / (360) 378-6777
  • Classic Cab Company / (360) 378-7519
  • Uber is available in Friday Harbor.

Bike Shops: Island Bicycles is located on the corner of Spring St. and Argyle Ave at 380 Argyle Ave / (360) 378-4941. By Appointment Only.

Victoria

Overview

Set on the craggy southern end of Vancouver Island, the capital of British Columbia is filled with English charm. The oldest city in the Pacific NW, Victoria has museums brimming with historical artifacts, gardens to wander around, and castles to explore.  VictoriaThere are also many festivals, a vibrant arts scene, and an eclectic mix of restaurants. Combine all of this with ocean views and mountain vistas and you will discover why Victoria is often listed as one of the world’s top cities to live and visit.

In 1778, when Captain James Cook set foot on Vancouver Island, he was far from the first. The First Nations People have called Vancouver Island home for thousands of years. Aboriginal families who lived on Southern Vancouver Island became known as the Songhees, the Saanich, and the Sooke First Nations. Today, Victoria is home to several First Nations groups and maintains deep ties to its Aboriginal culture. Like many other areas along the West Coast of North America, gold rush fever hit in 1858. The lower Fraser River revealed its secret and adventurers and gold-seekers from around the world rushed to the area. Before mining gold however, miners needed a mining license that was available in Victoria. As the only ocean port and outfitting center for the gold fields, Victoria became the arrival port for European, Asian and US migrants.  Beyond the gold rush, people continued to arrive to work in forestry and in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1871, British Columbia became the sixth province of the Dominion of Canada, and Victoria was named its Capital City.

20th century Victoria continues to evolve as a city of innovation, tourism, and education. Canada’s western naval base is located here and there is a thriving information technology sector. Marine and forestry as well as agricultural research are other important industries. The pleasant climate, relaxed island mindset and scenic setting have helped Victoria residents retain a comfortable quality of life in this bustling city.

Eating & Drinking

The many restaurants and the award-winning chefs who head them, are one reason so many visitors stay in Victoria.  Given their prominence it would be advisable to make a reservation – or at least to phone ahead, especially in high season and at weekends.  All the nicer restaurants are on the pricey side.

Saveur offers fine dining in a casual urban setting. They have a tasting menu that changes regularly and is their specialty. Award winning chef Robert Cassels delivers on his goal of French-inspired cuisine that is both playful and elegant. 658 Herald Street. (250) 590-9251. / https://www.saveurrestaurant.ca

For the farm-to-table experience, 10 Acres Kitchen is one of our favorites; located inside a renovated heritage building with a seasonal inspired menu. They also have an excellent cocktail list. 614 Humboldt St.  (250) 385-4512. 10 Acres also has two other properties worth the bites. 10 Acres Bistro at 611 Courtney St. (250) 220-8008 takes reservation until 6:45 when they open their “wait list.” 10 Acres Commons is a popular spot for happy hour and late-night dining, but they only take reservations for larger parties. 620 Humboldt St. (250) 940-0735 / https://10acres.ca 

If Italian romance is on the list, Il Terrazzo with its old town courtyard setting and candle lit ambiance may be just the spot. A Northern Italian inspired menu with a Pacific NW twist provides something for everyone. Open 7 nights per week from 5:00 PM. Waddington Alley at 537 Johnson St. (250) 361-0028 / https://www.ilterrazzo.com 

For a dockside experience at Fisherman’s Wharf, The Fish Store menu includes oysters, fish tacos, fish and chips and gluten free options. From the sea to their on-site processing plant to your plate – it does not get much fresher than that! 1 Dallas Rd. (250) 383-6462 / https://floatingfishstore.com 

Red Fish Blue Fish is an outdoor waterfront eatery in an up-cycled cargo container. Located on a wooden pier in Victoria’s inner harbor, their outdoor seating provides a front row seat to the busy harbor. 1006 Warf St. (250) 298-6877 / https://www.redfish-bluefish.com

The Dutch Bakery and Coffee Shop is on its 3rd generation of family members delivering “mouthwatering treats.” The café looks much as it did when it opened in 1956 and continues to serve original croquettes, a Dutch specialty, as well as comfort dishes and pastries, cookies, cakes, and more. 718 Fort St. (250) 385-1012 / https://thedutchbakery.com 

Sights and Things to Do

Victoria Harbor Ferry stops at 14 locations around Victoria, providing convenient access to attractions, restaurants, and victorialandmarks. In addition to providing a taxi service, they also offer 45-minute historical harbor tours. During summer months, at 10:45 am on weekend days, they practice water ballet in the harbor. The best viewing for water ballet is the Steamship Terminal off Belleville St.  The taxis and ferries start and end at the Empress Dock at the Inner Harbour.  (250) 708-0201 ext. 100.

Kelp Reef Adventures offers kayak day trips in and around Victoria’s scenic harbor. A 2-hour tour starts at $65. Harbor Seals, river otters, and shore birds are just a few types of wildlife you may encounter. Located at Fisherman’s Wharf, 1 Dallas Road.  (250) 386 7333 https://kelpreef.com/.

There are several operators offering whale watching tours including Eagle Wing Tours, a family-owned and operated company based in Fisherman’s Wharf.  They offer tours in all seasons and use their on-board hydrophones to locate the whales. 12 Erie Street, Fisherman’s Wharf / (250) 384-8008 / https://www.eaglewingtours.com

Fisherman’s Wharf, just west from Victoria’s inner harbor, is a marine destination offering food kiosks, eco-tour adventures, and shops set among floating homes, commercial fishing businesses, and sea life.

Victoria has a broad selection of galleries and museums – traditional, modern, native, or avant-garde.  Creations Gallery, a sculpture centric gallery located in the Empress Hotel, features fine Canadian art.  (250) 380-9397.

VictoriaAfternoon Tea at the Empress is an experience, with traditional finger sandwiches, scones and a variety of teas. A pampering experience that is not cheap but will leave you no longer wondering what “clotted cream” is. Reservations strongly recommended. 721 Government St. 250-389-2727 / https://www.teaattheempress.com

The Royal BC Museum is a showcase of natural and human history. Founded in 1886, it houses exhibits and archives from First Nation people to modern times and is home to traveling exhibits as well as an IMAX theatre. 675 Belleville St. (250) 356-7226 / https://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca Victoria

The Parliament Buildings are open to the public Monday-Friday 8:30AM-5PM. They provide scheduled guided tours, but you are also welcomed to explore on your own via a self-guided tour. During the summer season, the buildings are open daily. 501 Belleville St.  (250) 387-3046.

Craigdarroch Castle, completed in 1890, was the home of Robert and Joan Dunsmuir. Robert was a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune in the Coal industry.  He and his wife were once the wealthiest people in British Columbia. The interior has been restored and features original stained glass and Victorian artifacts.  Located at 1050 Joan Crescent – a 30-minute walk from the Inner Harbour. $14.60 for adults and is open daily from 10:00 AM-4:30 PM. (250) 592-5323 / https://thecastle.ca

Just south of the Inner Harbour and extending all the way to the sea, Beacon Hill Park is a classic English park complete with flowerbeds, lakes and a band stand.  It is also home to the world’s largest totem pole (160 feet).  The land formally became a park in 1882 but was of historical, cultural and sacred significance to the Lekwungen People for thousands of years before that.  Beacon Hill itself has fine views and is at the southern end of the park.  See map for exact location / https://www.victoria.ca

Double-decker bus tours through Sight Seeing Victoria are a way to sight-see with flexibility. Unlimited hop-on, hop-off stops enable you to explore the many popular tourist attractions around Victoria. Loops are 90 minutes long. The tours depart daily from the Fairmont Empress Hotel. (250) 385-6553.

Horse drawn carriage rides are another way to explore the city. Victoria Carriage Tours is open daily. Find them at the corner of Menzies and Belleville. (250) 383-2207.

Fan Tan Alley is the way to experience how Chinese did business long ago. A narrow alley with an incredible number of shops along each side takes you back in time and provides a unique short-cut to other historic alleys (Waddington, where Il Terrazzo is located). Victoria’s Chinatown was the first in the Pacific NW.

Useful Contacts

Bike Shops: North Park Bike Shop is a full-service shop that takes pride in neighborhood roots. A fun vibe and knowledgeable staff will both welcome you and your bike. 1833 Cook St. (250) 386-2453.

En route to Hatley Castle and need something for the ride? Stop by Trek Bicycle Store/Harbour Rd. for a full-service experience. 398 Harbour Rd. (250) 590-4500.

Stores: Market on Yates is a high-end market with great service, local products, and plenty of picnic items to gather for your ride. 903 Yates St. (250) 381-6000.

Request Itinerary

Day-By-Day

San Juan Island - Southern Loop Day

Overview

You will be met by your guide in the vibrant port town of Friday Harbor. Your riding today is focused on the southern part of San Juan Island.San_Juan_Islands

The Intermediate Route heads to American Camp at the southernmost tip of San Juan Island. (American Camp was home to the US Army during the joint occupation of the islands by the Americans and the British in 1859.) Your route then continues around the marine sanctuary at False Bay to Pelindaba Lavender Farm – in full purple bloom during the summer months. You then circle back to Friday Harbor.

The Easiest Route follows the Intermediate ride above but skips the southernmost tip of the island to loop around False Bay before heading directly back to Friday Harbor.

Challenge Route riders follow the Intermediate ride and add on an out-and-back to Lime Kiln State Park – the nation’s only whale watching park with its iconic lighthouse and old lime kilns.

Route Options

Easiest Route

This ride begins by leaving Friday Harbor via the forested Pear Point peninsula. This is a quiet, relatively flat road with fine views of Griffin Bay. You then head west and ride around False Bay: a unique intertidal habitat that is empty of water during most low tides exposing tide pools, mud flats and sand bars. You then have a gradual climb across open farmland before you descend into Friday Harbor where your ride ends.

Intermediate Route

This ride follows the Easiest route to the False Bay turn where it continues south to the historic American Camp located in San Juan Island National Historic Park. A short walk here will take you to the officers’ quarters and parade ground. The walk is worth it for the views alone – looking out across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. Climb up to the lookout for 360-degree views of Mt Rainier, Mt Baker and the Cascade Range.

From American Camp you head east across windswept grasslands to Cattle Point with its iconic lighthouse and pretty beach. Cattle Point got its name from being the place where the Hudson’s Bay Company loaded and unloaded cattle for its Belle Vue Farm – est. 1853.  The first light dates to 1888.  The current lighthouse was built in 1935.

From Cattle Point, you re-trace your ride to False Bay Dr. then head back west and ride around False Bay: a unique intertidal habitat that is empty of water during most low tides exposing tide pools, mud flats and sand bars. Turn left on Bailer Hill Rd for a Pelindaba_Lavender_San_Juan_Islands1-mile climb before rolling hills lead you to Pelindaba Lavender Farm – see Points of Interest below for more details about the farm.

Paula West Pottery studio is just off the route before the turn onto Wold Rd – see Points of Interest below.

From the lavender farm it is mostly downhill back into Friday Harbor.

Challenge Route

This route follows the intermediate route to Bailer Hill Rd where it adds a six-mile out-and-back ride to Lime Kiln Point State Park. With more than 35 acres to explore and, as one of the best places in the world to view Orcas, Lime Kiln is a popular destination. The numerous trails provide opportunities for hiking, and you may catch views of Vancouver Island on a clear day as well. See Points of Interests below for details.  Note that, if your itinerary has you riding on San Juan Island tomorrow, you will have the chance to visit this state park on tomorrow’s Intermediate ride.

After the in-and-out to Lime Kiln State Park, you rejoin the Intermediate route at Wold Road for a chance to visit a lavender farm and the ride back to Friday Harbor.

Lunch

There are no good places to get food on today’s ride.  Your best option is to eat in Friday Harbor or collect a picnic there to have en route.  See Friday Harbor in the Towns & Cities section of the guidebook, above, for eating suggestions in Friday Harbor.

Points of Interest

Sights

For those interested in stylish ceramics, the Paula West Pottery studio is down a dirt track just off Bailer Hill Rd (west of the Wold Rd intersection). The studio makes handmade tableware in small batches.  Open 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Located at 60 Macginite Rd.  (360) 378-2391 / https://www.paulawestpottery.com

Lime Kiln Point State Park, locally called Whale Watch Park, is the only state park in the country specifically dedicated to whale watching.  There is a well-developed trail to the rocky bluff overlooking the Haro Strait.  Three pods of southern resident orcas (J, K and L pods) frequent nearby waters from May to September and often come spectacularly close to shore.  Lime Kiln is also an excellent place to watch other island wildlife, including porpoises, seals, eagles, otters and scores of shorebirds.  The trail follows the bluff connecting the observation point to a lighthouse now used for whale research.  In the summer, whale researchers offer lighthouse tours at irregular intervals.

Pelindaba Lavender Farm & Store at 33 Hawthorne Lane (just off Wold Rd) is open daily from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM May thru September.  The fields are at their purple peak in July & August. There is a walking tour at 2:00 PM Friday, Saturday and Sunday but you are welcome to wander the fields at other times. (866) 819-1911 / https://www.pelindabalavender.com

Stores

There are no stores on today’s route other than the souvenir store at Pelindaba Lavender Farm & Store – see above.

Other Activities

Whale Watching & Sea Kayaking

See Friday Harbor in the Towns & Cities section of this guide for details of whale watching and kayaking outfitters.

Request Itinerary

San Juan Island - Northern Loop Day

Overview

Today you do a loop ride in the northern part of the island.

The Intermediate Route follows rolling back roads to Roche Harbor. This sheltered cove has been a haven for sailors for over Roche_Harbor150 years. There are several waterfront restaurants – ideal for a leisurely lunch in the sunshine. After lunch, you go on to explore British Camp (the site used by the British troops during the joint military occupation of the Island in 1859).  From here it’s a meandering loop back to Friday Harbor along the west coast. In places, you’re less than 3 miles from the Canadian border, and the snowcapped mountains of Vancouver Island frame the western horizon. Sites en route include an outdoor sculpture park, an alpaca farm, and Lime Kiln State Park – the nation’s only whale watching park. Wildlife is a common sight – orcas in the ocean, deer on the land and bald eagles in the air.

The Easiest Route follows the Intermediate route to English Camp before heading straight back to Friday Harbor across the center of the island.

Route Options

Easiest Route

On today’s ride you start out with a gentle climb towards the center of the island.  From here you cut north on a quiet back road passing the fishing haven of Egg Lake.  The lake has rainbow trout and small mouth bass.  You then along Roche Harbor Road Hotel_de_Harotowards Roche Harbor.   Shortly before reaching Roche Harbor, you pass the entrance to the McMillan family Mausoleum and the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park.  See Points of Interest below for more details about visiting these sights.

Roche Harbor, with its marina, café’s, restaurants and iconic hotel, is the obvious place for lunch.  The resort was formerly a company town for the Roche Harbor Lime & Cement Company (incorporated in 1886).  The focal point of the resort is the historic Hotel de Haro that boasts that two presidents having stayed there (Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft).

After visiting Roche Harbor, you re-trace your route a little before heading south to English Camp.  This was the location of the British Camp during the Pig War.  This is another place that it is worth leaving the bikes and having a stroll – see Points of Interest below for more details.

After coming out of English Camp, you ride directly back to Friday Harbor on West Valley Rd and Beaverton Valley Rd.

Intermediate Route

The Intermediate Route follows the Easiest Route to English Camp – visiting Roche Harbor en route.

After English Camp, you continue south, along the hilly west of the island.  Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm and Store makes a nice break partway along this route.  You then reach Lime Kiln Point State Park – locally called Whale Watch Park.  See Points of Interest below for details of both these sights.

From Lime Kiln Point, you hug the coast riding south before cutting across the island back to Friday Harbor.  If you didn’t call in there yesterday, you have a second chance to visit the either the Pelindaba Lavender Farm & Store or the Paula West Pottery studio.  See Points of Interest.

Lunch

Roche Harbor

The best option to either eat or collect lunch today is Roche Harbor.  For picnic lunches and lighter fare, head to the Lime Kiln Café at the end of the pier.  For more formal dining, check out the waterside Madrona Bar & Grill.  There is also the Beechtree for espresso and ice cream and a General Store for snacks & drinks.  Call (360) 376-7171 to find out more about any of these lunch options or to make a reservation at the Madrona.

Friday Harbor

See Friday Harbor in the Towns & Cities section of the guidebook for details of where to eat or collect a picnic in Friday Harbor.

Points of Interest

Sights

McMillin_Family_MausoleumThe McMillin Family Mausoleum is at the end of a pleasant, wooded walk off Roche Harbor Rd and Afterglow Dr near Roche Harbor (see map).  John McMillin was the founder of the Roche Harbor Lime & Cement Company.  The mausoleum is packed full of symbolism – explained on a sign at the entrance.  For example, the broken column represents that man dies before his work is complete.

Another – less morbid sight – is the San Juan Island Sculpture Park. The park features an interesting collection of over 100 sculptures set among 20 acres of landscaped gardens.  Some of the sculptures are by famous artists while other pieces are from budding new artists. Pleasant nature trails lead you through the park /https://sjisculpturepark.com

English Camp – the location of the British Camp during the 1859–1872 Pig War – is another place that it is worth leaving the bikes and having a stroll.  A short walk takes you down to parade ground, 45-degree skewed block and formal gardens that sit on the tranquil Garrison Bay.  For a longer walk, head up Young Hill – via the camp cemetery – for fine views of Vancouver Island and the Olympic Mountains.

Lime Kiln Point State Park, locally called Whale Watch Park, is the only state park in the country specifically dedicated to Lime_Kiln_Pointwhale watching.  There is a well-developed trail to the rocky bluff overlooking the Haro Strait.  Three pods of southern resident orcas (J, K and L pods) frequent nearby waters from May to September and often come spectacularly close to shore.  Lime Kiln is also an excellent place to watch other island wildlife, including porpoises, seals, eagles, otters and scores of shorebirds.  The trail follows the bluff connecting the observation point to a lighthouse now used for whale research.  In the summer, whale researchers offer lighthouse tours at irregular intervals.

Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm and Country Store is a farm on 80 acres. More than 50 alpacas enjoy the gentle pastures and the shade from Oak trees more than 100 years old. The country store sells a good selection of alpaca wool sweaters, coats, toys and more. 10:00 AM to 5:00 daily (April thru October).  3501 West Valley Rd.  (360) 378-6125 /http://www.krystalacres.com

For those interested in stylish ceramics, the Paula West Pottery studio is down a dirt track just off Bailer Hill Rd (west of the Wold Rd intersection). The studio makes handmade tableware in small batches.  Open 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Located at 60 Macginite Rd.  (360) 378-2391 / https://www.paulawestpottery.com

Pelindaba Lavender Farm & Store at 33 Hawthorne Lane (just off Wold Rd) is open daily from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM May thru September.  The fields are at their purple peak in July & August. There is a walking tour at 2:00 PM Friday, Saturday and Sunday but you are welcome to wander the fields at other times. (866) 819-1911 / https://www.pelindabalavender.com

Stores

Outside of Roche Harbor, there are no proper stores on today’s route other than the Pelindaba Lavender Farm souvenir store – see above.

Other Activities

Whale Watching & Sea Kayaking

See Friday Harbor in the Towns & Cities section of this guide for details of whale watching and kayaking outfitters.

Request Itinerary

Friday Harbor to Eastsound

Overview

Today you head across the water to Orcas Island. Here, dense forests, placid lakes and multiple inlets create a rugged, unspoiled beauty. The day starts with a ferry ride from Friday Harbor to Orcas.orcas_island

From the ferry terminal, the Intermediate Route follows the curving shoreline past a series of small inlets to Deer Harbor.  The little sandy beach and dock make this a great place for a picnic lunch. Crow Valley Road then takes you across the heart of the Island past Turtleback Mountain Preserve and a succession of small farms. A short detour takes you to Orcas Island Pottery, a world-renowned institution perched on a 100-foot-high bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  From here, it’s just a short ride to Eastsound.

The Easiest Route starts out on the Intermediate Route but heads straight across the island on Crow Valley Road via Orcas Island Pottery, skipping the out-and-back Deer Harbor.

Route Options

Easiest Route

orcas_island_potteryThis ride begins at the Ferry Terminal on Orcas Island. Wait for the traffic to clear and be prepared for the steep exit out of the terminal. Nearly half of your elevation gain will be within the first two miles of the ride, so take your time. If you would like a bump past this climb, talk with your guide. After 2½ miles, you turn onto the quieter and flatter Deer Harbor Rd.

You stay on quiet, rural lanes as you head north on Crow Valley Rd to cut across the center of the west side of the island.  Climbing over the shoulder of Turtleback Mountain along Crow Valley Rd you will pass a succession of small farms before heading to the coast again – to the stunningly situated Orcas Island Pottery.  This famous pottery is set among old growth cedars and Douglas firs and is perched on a 100-foot high bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  See Points of Interest below.

After the pottery, a side trip to West Beach Resort lets you dip your toes in the water and enjoy a Lopez Island Creamery ice cream.  From here you ride through forests before a fast descent into Eastsound – your overnight stop.

Intermediate Route

This ride begins at the Ferry Terminal on Orcas Island. Wait for the traffic to clear and be prepared for the steep exit out of the terminal. Nearly half of your elevation gain will be within the first two miles of the ride, so take your time. If you would like a bump past this climb, talk with your guide. After 2½ miles, you turn onto the quieter and flatter Deer Harbor Rd.

You ride around West Sound to Deer Harbor.  At times the road skirts the bay – just yards from the water.  You pass by Massacre Bay and Skull Island; named for the human remains that were found there after a band of Lummi Indians (the local tribe) were killed by a raiding Haida tribe (an indigenous people from northern British Columbia) in 1858.

Deer Harbor has a pretty marina and a small sandy beach. Go a mile further and there is a short bike path with nice views of Crane Island.  The path also helps you loop back on yourself as you head back inland.

From Deer Harbor, you retrace your route and rejoin the Easiest Route at Crow Valley Rd. for the ride across the center of the island to Eastsound.

Lunch

Orcas

There are several options for lunch. Collect sandwiches at the Orcas Village Store – 10 Killebrew Lake Rd / (360) 376-8860 / https://orcasvillagestore.com – on your right as you leave the ferry dock.  They have a good selection of sandwiches orcas_islandand picnic supplies.  You might then choose to picnic at either Deer Harbor – on the dock or at the viewpoint along the bike path.  The Orcas Island Pottery also makes a great setting for a picnic.

Deer Harbor

The Marina at Deer Harbor has a basic store at the end of the dock – for snacks and a coffee.  Another snack stop can be found at West Beach Resort – 190 Waterfront Way (off Enchanted Forest Rd) / (360) 376-2240.

Other

The West Beach Resort – just off the route after the Orcas Island Pottery – also has basic supplies.  190 Waterfront Way.  (360) 376-2240.

It is also practical to push on to Eastsound for a late lunch.  See Eastsound in the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook.

Ferry Options

A morning departure at 8:30 AM arrives into Orcas Village at 9:15 AM. This ferry allows you to spend the morning exploring Deer Harbor and The Orcas Island Pottery and arrive into Eastsound late morning or early afternoon.

Orcas_Island_FerryFor a later start from Friday Harbor, the 11:35 AM departure arrives into Orcas Village at 12:40 PM.  This is still plenty of time to complete the route but you might want to be sure to collect a picnic lunch either in Friday Harbor or on arrival in Orcas Village.

There is also a 6:05 AM departure if you cannot sleep because you are still on east coast time!

NOTE: Ferry times can change or be cancelled at short notice.  We strongly advise that you confirm your ferry schedule the night before sailing between islands by phoning 1(888) 808-7977 or checking online at http://www.wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/ There is also a good app for iPhones and Androids that includes ferry schedules and alerts.  You can download the app at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/seattle/products/.

Rosario Resort Stay?

Those staying at the Rosario Resort will continue south from Eastsound down the eastern side of the island.  This 6-mile addition ends with a steep descent into the resort.

Points of Interest

Sights

Orcas Island Pottery has some interesting pieces in a stunning setting on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.  This is the oldest studio pottery in the Pacific Northwest with beautiful gardens, fountains and, artisanal pottery.  Even if you are not interested in ceramics, the destination is worth the journey.  338 Old Pottery Rd – just off West Beach Rd / (360) 376-2813 / https://www.orcasislandpottery.com.

The Howe Art Gallery is just a little off today’s route – just south of Eastsound off Orcas Rd at 236 Double Hill Rd.  This is the studio and gallery of Anthony Howe; an artist who specializes in metal, kinetic sculptures.  You can see a couple of then from Orcas Rd.  236 Double Hill Rd (off Orcas Rd, ¼-mile south of Eastsound) / (360) 376-2945 / https://www.howeart.net.  11:00 AM to 5:00 PM Fri & Sat.

Stores

In Orcas Village there is the well-stocked Orcas Village Store – 10 Killebrew Lake Rd / (360) 376-8860.  Daily 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

At the end of the dock in Deer Harbor, there is the Market & Dock Store for basic supplies and coffee.  There is another basic store with coffee and ice cream at the West Beach Resort – 190 Waterfront Way (off Enchanted Forest Rd) / (360) 376-2240.

Other Activities

Whale Watching & Sea Kayaking

See Eastsound in the Towns & Cities section of this guide for details of whale watching and kayaking outfitters.

Request Itinerary

Eastsound Loop

Overview

Be as active or as relaxed as you choose. The cycling routes are focused on the eastern side of the Island, while the non-cycling options get you out on the water. The eastern side of the island is the hillier side, with many pretty coves and inlets.  While the rides are out-and-back, there are many good options to take detours and to stop along the way.Eastsound

The Intermediate Route heads south past the placid waters of Cascade Lake and through the densely-forested Moran State Park. After a side-trip to Obstruction Pass you head to the idyllic beach at Doe Bay for lunch.

The Easiest Route follows the Intermediate route but skips the detour to Obstruction Pass.

Challenge riders follow the Intermediate route but add in a steep out-and-back to the top of Mount Constitution.  At 2,400 feet, this is the highest point on the San Juan Islands.

For those wanting to get out on the water, we can arrange guided full- or half-day sea kayaking tours. Another option is to join a whale-watching cruise to see orca, gray, and humpback whales.  There are also kayaks and stand up paddle boards to rent on Cascade Lake.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Today’s Easiest ride is an out and back ride and can be cut short by simply turning around partway along the described route.

EastsoundThe route starts by climbing south to Cascade Lake in Moran State Park.  From the lake, a twisting descent brings you into the small hamlet of Olga.  The Catkin Cafe here makes a great stopping point – either on the way out or the way back.  Orcas Island Artworks is located here, as is Olga Pottery.  If you want to shorten your ride, Olga makes a good turning around point and has a good lunch option – see Lunch below.

After Olga, a rolling back road snakes its way east to the idyllic Doe Bay, passing by Studio 4:20 – see Points of Interest below.   The store and café in Doe Bay make it a great lunch stop and turn around place – though you might want to call ahead if you are relying on it for lunch as the café is not always open in the shoulder season.  The café serves mostly vegetarian food.  This secluded resort also has a sauna and soaking pools available for day use (towels are available, and clothes are optional).

You then return the way you came.  The Buck Bay Shellfish Farm – see Lunch – makes  a nice stopping point if you would like some very fresh oysters en route.

Intermediate Route

The Intermediate Route follows the Easiest Route with the addition of an out and back detour to Obstruction Pass.

The Obstruction Pass detour takes you down to the Lieberhaven Resort looking out on Obstruction Island.  As the name implies, the island sits in the channel separating Orcas and Blakely Islands.  On most summer days, the narrowed channel is full of sail boats bobbing on glistening waters.  The resort has a basic store and small beach.

The nearby Obstruction Pass State Park has a 1½ mile interpretive trail down to a beach with great views across to Obstruction Island and Blakely Island – reputed to be one of the best marine views in the world.  To get to the trailhead, however, means riding for a mile along a gravel road.

Challenge Route

The Challenge Route follows the Intermediate Route and adds an in-and-out ride up Mt. Constitution. While the 5-mile, 1,800-foot climb is steadily up, it is not ridiculously steep.  The road is mostly forested so it’s a cool climb even on a hot day.  If you change your mind about tackling this detour, you can always simply turn around partway up.  If you make it all the way, you will be rewarded with some of the best views on the island.  At 2,400 feet, this is the highest point in the archipelago.  In the 1930s, members of the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed a stone viewing tower at the summit.

Lunch

Doe Bay

If you are doing the full Challenge Route, the obvious place for lunch is the Doe Bay Resort: 107 Doe Bay Road. (360) 376-8059.  The café here has a very nice selection of mostly vegetarian food and the staff takes pride in the fact that they grow most of what they serve. Call ahead for hours. / https://doebay.com/cafe/

Olga

The Catkin Café has a simple menu featuring island grown meat and produce. Located in the Orcas Island Artworks gallery, Catkin Café serves breakfast and lunch all day. 11 Pt Lawrence Rd. (360) 376-3242 / https://www.catkincafe.com

The Buck Bay Shellfish Farm sells oysters, clams, crab, salmon and homegrown vegetables.  The farm has beenEastsound owned by the same family since 1940.  Oysters can be bought and eaten right here at their picnic tables overlooking Buck Bay.  Just off the described routes, east of Olga, at 77 EJ Young Rd. (360) 376-5280 /http://www.buckbayshellfishfarm.com

Rosario Resort

The Rosario Resort has a good full-service restaurant (daily evenings only) as well as the Cascade Bay Grill serving burgers, seafood and pizza in an airy building overlooking the marina.  Fri from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Sat & Sun from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM. 1400 Rosario Rd. (360) 376-2222 / https://rosarioresort.com

Other

See Eastsound in the Towns & Cities section of this guidebook for suggestions on eating in or collecting a picnic in Eastsound.

Rosario Resort Stay?

Those staying at the Rosario Resort need to climb for 1½ miles to exit the resort before joining the routes described above.  The good news is that, once you get to the exit to the resort, you are six miles into the routes described above (and the ride back is six miles shorter).

Points of Interest

Sights

Studio 4:20 is a small hut and garden showing an eclectic mix of arts and crafts.  The name is based on the worldwide code of marijuana.  This is a quirky enterprise that features local art and crafts in a shack where payment is via an honor system.  If you take something just leave the money in the box.  1179 Point Lawrence Rd / (360) 376-3622.

Olga Pottery is the studio of Jerry Weatherman who produces handcrafted porcelain and stoneware pottery.  If you’re lucky you may even see Jerry at work at his wheel.  The studio is in the village of Olga: 6928 Olga Rd (at the corner of 3rd St) / (360) 376-4648 / http://olgapottery.com

Orcas Island Artworks is in the Village of Olga – at the intersection of Olga Rd and Point Lawrence Rd. 11 Pt. Lawrence Road. Based in a barn that was previously used to process strawberries, this cooperative is dedicated to showing the works of local artists and craftspeople.  The Catkin Café is also located in the same building / https://orcasartworks.com/site/

Cascade Lake, in Moran State Park, has a pleasant beach and is great for kayaking, canoeing or stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) – all available to rent.  The tranquil waters make this a great place to try out SUP if you are new to the sport.

If walking sounds more appealing, Moran State Park has several great trails – from the 1/3-mile nature trail to a 4-mile trail from Mountain Lake to the top of Mount Constitution via Twin Lakes.  Walking maps are available from the ranger’s station near the park entrance.

Another nice stop just south of Eastsound is the Rosario Resort and Spa; listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The focal point of the resort is the Moran Mansion.  Robert Moran was a Seattle Shipbuilder and Mayor who retired to Orcas in 1906 after being given only a few years to live.  He built his mansion and went on to live another 40 years.  As well as the mansion, Moran owned 7,800 acres of forestland.  Moran’s association with John Muir and President Roosevelt lead him, in 1921, to donate 2,700 acres to the state to create Washington State’s first State Park (the same offer of donation had been turned down in 1911).  In 1938, Moran sold the Rosario Mansion to Donald Rheem for $50,000.  The Rheem family are known for their water heaters and heat pumps.  The mansion was the Rheem family vacation home for 20 years.

The mansion is now at the center of a pleasant resort.  Their wood-paneled bar is an atmospheric setting for an afternoon drink.  There is also a museum, a marina and some stunning tile work in the basement spa.

Stores

There are basic supplies (snacks and drinks) at the Lieber Haven Resort at Obstruction Pass. 1945 Obstruction Pass Rd. (360) 376-2472.

There are snacks and drinks at the kiosk at the beach at Cascade Lake.

Other Activities

Whale Watching & Sea Kayaking

For a complete change, reserve a whale-watching trip or a sea kayaking tour. There are half-day and sunset trips that can be combined with a morning of riding.  See Eastsound in the Towns & Cities section of this guide for details of whale watching and kayaking outfitters.

Request Itinerary

Eastsound to Friday Harbor via Lopez Island

Overview

Today you head over to Lopez Island – the “Friendly Isle.”  This 15-mile island is one of the most peaceful and relaxed islands in the San Juan chain.san_juan_islands

Once on Lopez Island, Intermediate riders cycle past driftwood-scattered beaches to Spencer Spit with stunning views of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. After cycling past small farms that produce fruits and vegetables, you get to Shark Reef Sanctuary where seals bask in the sunshine. From here you head back up to Lopez Village.

The Easiest Route follows the Intermediate route but heads straight to Lopez Village from Spencer Spit – skipping the loop to Shark Reef.

Riders cycling the Challenge Route follow all of the Intermediate route but also add in an extra loop to MacKaye Harbor on the southern tip of the island.

For all routes, the best place for lunch is Lopez Village; beautifully situated at the north end of Fisherman Bay. At the end of the day, you take the ferry back to Friday Harbor.

NOTE: Lopez may be named Slow-Pez but you will want to keep an eye on the time if you plan to catch a particular ferry.  It’s another 4½ -miles from the village back to the ferry terminal; a ride that includes 350 feet of climbing.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Your day starts with a van transfer from Eastsound to the ferry terminal. NOTE: Such transfers need to be arranged at least 24 hours in advance to allow your guide to coordinate schedules and logistics.  If you want to get a little more sleep, you might want to skip breakfast in Eastsound and get some food in Orcas Village while waiting for the ferry.

Lopez_IslandThe ferry to Lopez takes around 30 minutes.  Once on Lopez, you will complete a clockwise circuit.  After a short climb up from the ferry terminal, the ride hugs the soft curves of Shoal Bay and Swift Bay.  On Swift Bay, you pass Windswept Studios – see Points of Interest below.

An out and back to the east takes you to Spencer Spit State Park.  A 400-yard walk takes you down to the beach, which is strewn with driftwood.  At the end of the spit is a replica of a 1913 log cabin constructed of driftwood by the Spencer family.  Spencer Spit was homesteaded in the late 1800s by a family named Troxell.  It was later sold to the Spencers who lived on the property for 50 years.  100 feet from the end of the spit is Frost Island and beyond that Decatur and Blakely Islands.  The lagoon formed by the spit is a great place to see waterfowl and shore birds.

From Spencer Spit, you meander across to Lopez Village – crossing the island and cruising alongside Fisherman Bay.  Lopez Village is the small commercial hub of the island. This is a pleasant place to stroll in search of food, wine, art and history – see Point of Interest below for galleries and museums and see Lunch below for suggestions on food.  Wine can be found at the Lopez Island Vineyards tasting room.  Art in abundance can be found at the Chimera Gallery – a cooperative of local artists and artisans.  History can be found at the Lopez Island Historical Museum, a charming mix of old photographs and bits and pieces of Lopez life in the past century.

From the village, you ride north to the ferry terminal – see the note in the Overview section above about allowing sufficient time.  An hour’s ferry ride then takes you back to Friday Harbor – your overnight destination.  After Lopez Village, the small port of Friday Harbor can feel like a busy metropolis.

Intermediate Route

The Intermediate Route begins with a ride from Eastsound to the ferry along Crow Valley RoadIf you want to avoid the initial 9-mile ride from Eastsound to Orcas Village, ask your guide for a morning van transfer.  They can then transfer you to the ferry when they collect your luggage. NOTE: such transfers need to be arranged at least 24 hours in advance to allow your guide to coordinate schedules and logistics.

If you want to get a little more sleep, you might want to skip breakfast in Eastsound and get some food in Orcas Village.Lopez_island

The ferry to Lopez takes around 30 minutes.  Once on Lopez you follow the Easiest Route to Spencer Spit State Park and on to the intersection of School Rd and Center Rd.  Here, you head south passing numerous farms – small working farms are still the norm here – before heading to the west coast and Shark Reef Sanctuary.

Shark Reef Sanctuary is named after the nearby reef and a ½-mile walk through old-growth forest will bring you to a rocky little bay. After reaching the shoreline, continue south to search for numerous harbor seal that fish in the rapidly moving currents offshore and often lounge with full bellies on nearby small islands.  Look out to sea and you will see Cattle Point on San Juan Island and the Olympic Mountains beyond.

After Shark Reef Sanctuary, you work your way back up the island toward Lopez Village; rejoining the Easiest Route at Fisherman Bay Rd just south of Lopez Village.

Challenge Route

Like the Intermediate route, the Challenge Route begins with a ride from Eastsound to the ferry along Crow Valley Road.  If you want to avoid the initial 9-mile ride from Eastsound to Orcas Village, ask your guide for a morning van transfer.  They can then transfer you to the ferry when they collect your luggage.  NOTE: such transfers need to be arranged at least 24 hours in advance to allow your guide to coordinate schedules and logistics.

If you want to get a little more sleep, you might want to skip breakfast in Eastsound and get some food in Orcas Village.

The ferry to Lopez takes around 30 minutes.  Once on Lopez you follow the Intermediate Route adding in a scenic loop to MacKaye Harbor from the intersection of Mud Bay Rd and Vista Rd.  A mile into this detour, you pass the Southend General Store and Restaurant – See Lunch suggestions below.


The Lopez Wave

Lopez is the flattest of the four main islands; an island of farms and pretty bays where people really do wave at each other.  If a driver does not lift his finger from the wheel as they pass you, they are probably a tourist.  If a driver takes his hand off the wheel and waves, they are probably a tourist.  It is all a matter of balance.


Lunch

Where you have lunch will probably depend on which ferries you take onto and off the island.

Lopez Village

There are several nice places to eat in and around the village.  Most are clustered around the center of the village; on or just off Lopez Rd.  They include the following (in order as you ride south to north along Lopez Rd).

Vortex Juice Bar has a good range of wraps, soups, salads and, of course, juices.  135 Lopez Rd. (360) 468-4740.  Mon – Sat, 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM / https://www.vortexonlopez.com

The Blossom Grocery has a good selection of local, organic and fair-trade produce at 135 Lopez Rd. (360) 468-2204.  Daily 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM /https://blossomgrocery.com

The name of Vita’s Wildly Delicious promises a lot and delivers on that promise.  This gourmet deli uses local ingredients (some that are grown right on the property) and has nice picnic tables out front.  Service can be slow by mainland standards, so it might not be the best place if you’re rushing for the ferry.  77 Village Rd (first right off Lopez Rd) heading north through town. (360) 468-4268.  Mon – Sat 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM /http://www.vitasonlopez.com

Holly B’s Bakery might just have the best baked goods; from brioche to bread and croissants to cookies, this family-run bakery has been a Lopez institution since 1976.  211 Lopez Rd. (360) 622-8133 / https://www.hollybsbakery.com

South of Lopez Village on Fisherman Bay Rd is the Waterfront Restaurant & Tiki Lounge at the Lopez Islander Resort.  The food is decent enough – a selection of burgers, salads and seafood – but the reason to come is the waterside patio.  2864 Fisherman Bay Rd. (360) 468-2233.  11:30 AM to 10:00 PM / https://www.lopezfun.com/en-us/islander-bar-grill

Further south on Fisherman Bay Rd is the Galley Restaurant & Lounge; solid restaurant serving reliable seafood, steak and pasta as well as a good range of beers on tap.  3365 Fisherman Bay Rd. (360) 468-2713.  8:00 AM to 8:30 PM daily.

Other

Collect a picnic in Orcas Village before boarding the ferry.  The best place for picnic supplies is the Orcas Village Store at the side of the ferry dock-10 Killebrew Lake Rd / (360) 376-8860.  Daily 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

The Southend General Store (open daily) has sandwiches and other picnic supplies.  Their Southend Restaurant (closed Sun) has both inside and outside seating and has decent burgers, sliders and tacos as well as sandwiches and salads.  3024 Mud Bay Rd. (360) 468-2315.

Ferry Options

Catching the 9:15 AM ferry from Orcas Village gets you to Lopez by 9:50 AM.  The next ferry is at 12:40 PM arriving in Lopez at 1:00 PM.  There are also 6:45 AM and 7:30 AM departures.

Ferries from Lopez to Friday Harbor depart at 1:05 PM, 3:50 PM (excluding Sundays) and other evening departures are available. This leg takes around an hour.

Catching the 9:15 AM ferry from Orcas and the 3:50 PM ferry from Lopez typically gives you time to complete the circuit of the island and have lunch.  If you want a later start (12:25 PM from Orcas) you could complete a quick circuit of the island and head straight for the ferry at 3:45 PM or stay on Lopez for an early dinner in Lopez Village before catching an evening ferry to Friday Harbor.

NOTE: There is no 3:50 PM ferry on Sundays.

NOTE: Ferry times can change or be cancelled at short notice.  We strongly advise that you confirm your ferry schedule the night before sailing between islands by phoning 1(888) 808-7977 or checking online at http://www.wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/ There is also a good app for iPhones and Androids that includes ferry schedules and alerts.  You can download the app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.wa.wsdot.android.wsdot&hl=en_US

Points of Interest

Sights

Windswept Studios feature the work of Steve Hill, an award winning plein air landscape and seascape painter who has a gallery on the east side of the island at 783 Port Stanley Rd – see map.  (360) 372-0468 / https://www.windsweptstudios.com

In Lopez Village, the Chimera Gallery is a showplace for Lopez artists and artisans. The studio is a cooperative with each working member contributing to its upkeep; including working a couple of days per month as a salesperson.  The gallery is located in the Lopez Plaza building on the south side of Lopez Rd, one door down from Holly B’s Bakery. http://www.chimeragallery.com 

The Lopez Island Historical Museum can be found at 28 Washburn Pl (at the intersection with Weeks Rd) (360) 468-2049.  Exhibits include photographs going back to the days of the first homesteaders / https://lopezmuseum.org

Stores

In Orcas Village the Orcas Village Store has a good selection of food.  Located at the side of the ferry dock at 10 Killebrew Lake Rd / (360) 376-8860.  Daily 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

The Southend General Store (open daily 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM / 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Sun) has sandwiches and other picnic supplies.

In Lopez Village, Lopez Village Market is a full-service grocery store.  162 Weeks Rd (360) 468-2266.  Daily from 7:30 AM to 7:00 PM.

Wineries

Lopez Island Vineyards has a tasting room in Lopez Village.  It is located on the LHS as you leave town – heading north on Lopez Rd.  265 Lopez Rd (360) 468-3644.  Wed thru Sun, 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM.  The vineyard is located on Fisherman Bay Rd but is not open to the public except for events or appointments / https://lopezislandvineyards.com

Request Itinerary

Lopez Island Excursion

Overview

Today you head over to Lopez Island – the “Friendly Isle.”  This 15-mile island is one of the most peaceful and relaxed islands in the San Juan chain.san_juan_islands_ferry

Once on Lopez Island, Intermediate riders cycle past driftwood-scattered beaches to Spencer Spit with stunning views of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. After cycling past small farms that produce fruits and vegetables, you get to Shark Reef Sanctuary where seals bask in the sunshine. From here you head back up to Lopez Village.

The Easiest Route follows the Intermediate route but heads straight to Lopez Village from Spencer Spit – skipping the loop to Shark Reef.

Riders cycling the Challenge Route follow all of the Intermediate route but also add in an extra loop to MacKaye Harbor on the southern tip of the island.

For all routes, the best place for lunch is Lopez Village; beautifully situated at the north end of Fisherman Bay. At the end of the day, you take the ferry back to Friday Harbor.

NOTE: Lopez may be named Slow-Pez but you will want to keep an eye on the time if you plan to catch a particular ferry.  It’s another 4½ -miles from the village back to the ferry terminal; a ride that includes 350 feet of climbing.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Your day starts with a ferry ride the Friday Harbor Ferry terminal.  The ferry to Lopez can take anything from 40 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes – so it is worth checking the timetable – see Ferry Options below.

Once on Lopez, you will complete a clockwise circuit.  After a short climb up from the ferry terminal, the ride hugs the soft curves of Shoal Bay and Swift Bay.  On Swift Bay, you pass Windswept Studios – see Points of Interest below.

An out and back to the east takes you to Spencer Spit State Park.  A 400-yard walk takes you down to the beach, which is strewn with driftwood.  At the end of the spit is a replica of a 1913 log cabin constructed of driftwood by the Spencer family.  Spencer Spit was homesteaded in the late 1800s by a family named Troxell.  It was later sold to the Spencers who lived on the property for 50 years.  100 feet from the end of the spit is Frost Island and beyond that Decatur and Blakely Islands.  The lagoon formed by the spit is a great place to see waterfowl and shore birds.Lopez_island

From Spencer Spit, you meander across to Lopez Village – crossing the island and cruising alongside Fisherman Bay.  Lopez Village is the small commercial hub of the island. This is a pleasant place to stroll in search of food, wine, art and history – see Point of Interest below for galleries and museums and see Lunch below for suggestions on food.  Wine can be found at the Lopez Island Vineyards tasting room.  Art in abundance can be found at the Chimera Gallery – a cooperative of local artists and artisans.  History can be found at the Lopez Island Historical Museum, a charming mix of old photographs and bits and pieces of Lopez life in the past century.

From the village, you ride north to the ferry terminal – see the note in the Overview section above about allowing sufficient time.  An hour’s ferry ride then takes you back to Friday Harbor – your overnight destination.  After Lopez Village, the small port of Friday Harbor can feel like a busy metropolis.

Intermediate Route

Like the Easiest route, the Intermediate Route begins with ferry ride to Lopez Island .  Once on Lopez you follow the Easiest Route to Spencer Spit State Park and on to the intersection of School Rd and Center Rd.  Here, you head south passing numerous farms – small working farms are still the norm here – before heading to the west coast and Shark Reef Sanctuary.

Lopez_IslandShark Reef Sanctuary is named after the nearby reef and a ½-mile walk through old-growth forest will bring you to a rocky little bay. After reaching the shoreline, continue south to search for numerous harbor seal that fish in the rapidly moving currents offshore and often lounge with full bellies on nearby small islands.  Look out to sea and you will see Cattle Point on San Juan Island and the Olympic Mountains beyond.

After Shark Reef Sanctuary, you work your way back up the island toward Lopez Village; rejoining the Easiest Route at Fisherman Bay Rd just south of Lopez Village.

Challenge Route

Like the Intermediate route, the Challenge Route begins with a ferry ride to Lopez Island.  Once on Lopez you follow the Intermediate Route adding in a scenic loop to MacKaye Harbor from the intersection of Mud Bay Rd and Vista Rd.  A mile into this detour, you pass the Southend General Store and Restaurant – See Lunch suggestions below.


The Lopez Wave

Lopez is the flattest of the four main islands; an island of farms and pretty bays where people really do wave at each other.  If a driver does not lift his finger from the wheel as they pass you, they are probably a tourist.  If a driver takes his hand off the wheel and waves, they are probably a tourist.  It is all a matter of balance.


Lunch

Where you have lunch will probably depend on which ferries you take onto and off the island.

Lopez Village

There are several nice places to eat in and around the village.  Most are clustered around the center of the village; on or just off Lopez Rd.  They include the following (in order as you ride south to north along Lopez Rd).

Vortex Juice Bar has a good range of wraps, soups, salads and, of course, juices.  135 Lopez Rd. (360) 468-4740.  Mon – Sat, 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM / https://www.vortexonlopez.com

The Blossom Grocery has a good selection of local, organic and fair-trade produce at 135 Lopez Rd. (360) 468-2204.  Daily 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM /https://blossomgrocery.com

The name of Vita’s Wildly Delicious promises a lot and delivers on that promise.  This gourmet deli uses local ingredients (some that are grown right on the property) and has nice picnic tables out front.  Service can be slow by mainland standards, so it might not be the best place if you’re rushing for the ferry.  77 Village Rd (first right off Lopez Rd) heading north through town. (360) 468-4268.  Mon – Sat 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM /http://www.vitasonlopez.com

Holly B’s Bakery might just have the best baked goods; from brioche to bread and croissants to cookies, this family-run bakery has been a Lopez institution since 1976.  211 Lopez Rd. (360) 622-8133 / https://www.hollybsbakery.com

South of Lopez Village on Fisherman Bay Rd is the Waterfront Restaurant & Tiki Lounge at the Lopez Islander Resort.  The food is decent enough – a selection of burgers, salads and seafood – but the reason to come is the waterside patio.  2864 Fisherman Bay Rd. (360) 468-2233.  11:30 AM to 10:00 PM / https://www.lopezfun.com/en-us/islander-bar-grill

Further south on Fisherman Bay Rd is the Galley Restaurant & Lounge; solid restaurant serving reliable seafood, steak and pasta as well as a good range of beers on tap.  3365 Fisherman Bay Rd. (360) 468-2713.  8:00 AM to 8:30 PM daily.

Other

Collect a picnic in Orcas Village before boarding the ferry.  The best place for picnic supplies is the Orcas Village Store at the side of the ferry dock-10 Killebrew Lake Rd / (360) 376-8860.  Daily 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

The Southend General Store (open daily) has sandwiches and other picnic supplies.  Their Southend Restaurant (closed Sun) has both inside and outside seating and has decent burgers, sliders and tacos as well as sandwiches and salads.  3024 Mud Bay Rd. (360) 468-2315.

Ferry Options

Catching the 8:30 AM ferry from Friday Harbor gets you to Lopez by 9:50 AM.  The next ferry is at 11:35 AM arriving in Lopez at 1:00 PM.  There is also a 6:10 AM departure.

Ferries from Lopez back to Friday Harbor depart at 1:05 PM, 3:50 PM (excluding Sundays) and other evening departures are available. This leg takes around an hour.

Catching the 8:30 AM ferry from Friday Harbor and the 3:50 PM ferry from Lopez typically gives you time to complete the circuit of the island and have lunch.  If you want a later start (11:35 AM from Friday Harbor) you could complete a quick circuit of the island and head straight for the ferry at 3:45 PM or stay on Lopez for an early dinner in Lopez Village before catching an evening ferry to Friday Harbor.

NOTE: There is no 3:50 PM ferry on Sundays.

NOTE: Ferry times can change or be cancelled at short notice.  We strongly advise that you confirm your ferry schedule the night before sailing between islands by phoning 1(888) 808-7977 or checking online at http://www.wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/ There is also a good app for iPhones and Androids that includes ferry schedules and alerts.  You can download the app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.wa.wsdot.android.wsdot&hl=en_US

Points of Interest

Sights

Windswept Studios feature the work of Steve Hill, an award winning plein air landscape and seascape painter who has a gallery on the east side of the island at 783 Port Stanley Rd – see map.  (360) 372-0468 / https://www.windsweptstudios.com

In Lopez Village, the Chimera Gallery is a showplace for Lopez artists and artisans. The studio is a cooperative with each working member contributing to its upkeep; including working a couple of days per month as a salesperson.  The gallery is located in the Lopez Plaza building on the south side of Lopez Rd, one door down from Holly B’s Bakery. http://www.chimeragallery.com 

The Lopez Island Historical Museum can be found at 28 Washburn Pl (at the intersection with Weeks Rd) (360) 468-2049.  Exhibits include photographs going back to the days of the first homesteaders / https://lopezmuseum.org

Stores

In Orcas Village the Orcas Village Store has a good selection of food.  Located at the side of the ferry dock at 10 Killebrew Lake Rd / (360) 376-8860.  Daily 6:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

The Southend General Store (open daily 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM / 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Sun) has sandwiches and other picnic supplies.

In Lopez Village, Lopez Village Market is a full-service grocery store.  162 Weeks Rd (360) 468-2266.  Daily from 7:30 AM to 7:00 PM.

Wineries

Lopez Island Vineyards has a tasting room in Lopez Village.  It is located on the LHS as you leave town – heading north on Lopez Rd.  265 Lopez Rd (360) 468-3644.  Wed thru Sun, 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM.  The vineyard is located on Fisherman Bay Rd but is not open to the public except for events or appointments / https://lopezislandvineyards.com

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Shaw Island Excursion

Shaw Island is today’s destination. Shaw is the smallest of the islands serviced by the regular ferries. On Shaw Island you will find sandy beaches, quiet roads and a historic general store – but not much else. And that’s just how the population of 240 likes it. One of the few places to visit – other than the beaches and parks – is the Benedictine monastery.  The resident nuns farm the land here and welcome visitors. Indeed, nuns operated the store and ferry terminal here until 2004. The island is small, and the riding is leisurely. Today is also a good day to enjoy sea kayaking or whale-watching or you can simply relax in Friday Harbor – shopping, browsing the galleries or visiting the Whale Museum.

Route Options

Easiest Route

After taking the ferry from Friday Harbor to Shaw Island, you ride around Blind Bay to the center of the island and the only two real tourist sights on the island: a small museum based in an old log cabin and the Little Red School House that still operates as the local elementary and middle school.  The opening hours for the museum are a little erratic but if someone is in the one-room library next door, they will usually open it up for you allowing you to browse the old photographs as well as an assortment of old fishing and farming equipment.shaw_island

From the center of the island you continue west through the forests to Neck Point: a pretty little turnaround point where the sea laps up to both sides of the road as it crosses a narrow peninsula.  From here you loop back around the north of the island along Ben Nevis Loop Rd for more scenic riding through the forest before enjoying a fast descent on Blind Bay Rd.

At this point you’ll have ridden 10 miles and it is an easy cruise, around Blind Bay, back to the ferry terminal to catch the ferry back to Friday Harbor.

Riders typically return to Friday Harbor on the early afternoon ferry.

WARNING: If this is a transfer day, you will want to ensure you are on the ferry that will get you back in time for your transport back to the mainland.  You should also note that, if you need support while on Shaw Island, your LifeCycle Adventures guide will need to travel out to you from Friday Harbor using the ferry.  For this reason, we recommend planning to arrive back at the ferry dock with plenty of time to spare to allow for extra time that you might be needed to fix a flat or attend to other mechanical issues yourself.  See Ferry Options below.

Easiest Route Extension

If you are not be quite ready to head back to the ferry, there is a pleasant detour to Shaw Island County Park on Indian Bay (itself a pleasant picnic spot).

For more miles still, you can continue further along Squaw Bay Rd around Squaw Bay and on to Hoffman Rd where the road turns to gravel.  Those confident riding on gravel may choose to climb up Hoffman Rd before descending back down to the ferry dock.  See map for more details.  [NOTE: we strongly advise that you don’t ride south/downhill on Hoffman Rd as the road is steep in places with a lot of loose gravel.]

Shaw_islandPart way up Hoffman Rd you will pass the entrance to Our Lady of the Rock Monastery – marked by a large metal cross.  The website for this Benedictine monastery says that they welcome guests of all faiths to pray and work with the nuns, sharing in a part of their lives.  That said, we would not recommend calling in without telephoning ahead.

Even if you don’t call in at the monastery you may well see one of the nuns – dressed in full pale-blue & white religious habit – driving a tractor or waiting at the ferry dock.  Until 2004, nuns operated the store and ferry terminal here.  Now, however, their numbers have shrunk, and they have a less pervasive presence.

A taste of convent life can be purchased at Shaw General Store in the form of Mother Prisca’s hot mustard.  Indeed, the Shaw Island General Store is well worth a visit.  Started in 1898, it is one of the oldest businesses in the San Juan Islands and on passing through its doors you get a very real sense of its antiquity.  It is also the main gathering place for islanders – who collect mail, leave messages and congregate here to gossip or while away the time waiting for the ferry.  The store also serves a descent espresso, deli sandwiches and ice cream.  You can even buy clothing, gifts and nails.

Other Options

For those who choose not to head across to Shaw Island, there are some other great ride options out of Friday Harbor.  The two main options are a northern loop up to Roche Harbor and a southern loop down to Cattle Point.  You could also take a short ride out on Roche Harbor Rd to the San Juan Vineyards.

Today is also a good day to go sea kayaking or whale-watching.  Or you can simply relax in Friday Harbor – wandering, shopping or visiting the Whale Watching Museum.  See Friday Harbor in the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook for more details of these activities.

Lunch

If riding on Shaw Island, The Shaw Island General Store is your best (only) option for lunch.  They have a good selection of sandwiches, baked goods and coffee.  Having lunch here also allows you to arrive back at the dock in plenty of time for the ferry – see warning above.  Located at the ferry dock and open daily 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM / https://shawgeneralstore.com

You might also choose to have lunch back in Friday Harbor.  See Friday Harbor in the Towns & Cities section of the guidebook for suggestions.

Ferry Options

Typically, riders catch the 8:30 AM ferry from Friday Harbor arriving on Shaw Island at 9:30 AM.  This gives you a little over three hours on the island before catching the 12:20 PM ferry that gets you back to Friday Harbor at 2:00PM.

Alternative outward and return ferries are available.

NOTE: Ferry times can change or be cancelled at short notice.  We strongly advise that you confirm your ferry schedule the night before sailing between islands by phoning 1(888) 808-7977 or online at http://www.wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/.  There is also a good app for iPhones and Androids that includes ferry schedules and alerts.  You can download the app at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/seattle/products/.

Points of Interest

Sights

The Shaw Island Library and Historical Society is at the intersection of Blind Bay Rd and Hoffman Cove Rd – in the center of Shaw Island.  The opening hours are a little erratic but if someone is in the one-room library next door, they will usually open it up for you allowing you to browse the old photographs as well as an assortment of old fishing and farming equipment / https://shawislandlibrary.org

Our Lady of the Rock Monastery is a Benedictine monastery of women located on the eastern side of Hoffmann Cove Rd.  We suggest phoning them ahead of time if you are interested in visiting. (360) 468-2321 / https://olrmonastery.org

Stores

Shaw Island General Store located next to the ferry dock sells sandwiches, ice cream, baked goods and coffee as well as some gifts and other produce.  Daily from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM.

Wineries

San Juan Vineyards is an easy 4-mile ride out of Friday Harbor at 3136 Roche Harbor Rd / (360) 378-9463.  The building itself – a restored schoolhouse – makes it worth the ride and the wines are pretty good too.  Some wine is produced with their locally grown grapes but much of their output is made from grapes grown elsewhere in Washington.  11:00 AM to 5:00 PM (closed Tues & Wed).  (360) 378-9463 / https://www.sanjuanvineyard.com 

Other Activities

Whale Watching & Sea Kayaking

See Friday Harbor in the Towns & Cities section of this guide for details of whale watching, kayaking outfitters, and other things to see and do in Friday Harbor.

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Sidney to Victoria

Overview

Today you head across the water to the port of Sidney on Vancouver Island, Canada.  From Sidney, you travel south to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.Victoria

Victoria is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.  It is known as the Garden City and is consistently recognized as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit.  Victoria’s downtown is set around a stunning harbor bustling with yachts, ferries, and floatplanes. Away from the harbor, there is a blend of old-world charm and vibrant international confidence complete with street performers and excellent museums.  It is also one of the most bike friendly cities in the country.

The Intermediate Route start at the Sidney ferry terminal and follows a mix of bike paths and sub-urban roads to Cadboro Bay.  After Cadboro Bay, you follow the coast for the final run into Victoria.

The Easiest Route starts with a van transfer from Sidney to Douglas Park.  From the park, you ride through the neighborhood for a few miles before joining the Intermediate route at Cadboro Bay for the final run in to Victoria.

Route Options

Easiest Route

After taking the ferry from Friday Harbor to Sidney, you will be transferred to Mt Douglas Park where the ride begins.  Before starting your ride proper, you could ride to the to the top of Mt Douglas for expansive views of the area (or ask to be driven up by your guide if it is later than noon when the park gates open).

From Mt Douglas Park, you ride south through the neighborhoods, climbing over two headlands before descending down into Cadboro Bay.  If the timing is right, Cadboro Bay is a good place to get lunch.

After Cadboro Bay, you ride along the coast, passing a series of inlets and promontories: Cattle Point, Willows Beach, McMicking Point, McNeill Bay, Gonzalles Bay, Pebbles Beach, and Clover Point.  Any of these make a nice stopping point from which to admire sea views that variously include the Gulf Islands, the San Juan Islands, and Mount Baker.  Willow Beach also has a quaint waterfront cafe.

Two miles outside of Victoria proper, you ride through Beacon Hill Park: a 200-acre city park that is the crowning jewel in Victoria’s park system.  There are natural areas, manicured flower beds, footpaths, and sports fields.  It is also home to the world’s tallest standing totem pole.  See Victoria in the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook for more details about the park.

Your ride ends on bike paths and sidewalks that bring you to the Captain James Cook Statue; directly across from the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Intermediate Route

After taking the ferry from Friday Harbor to Sidney, you head south along the coast on Lochside Drive.  You continue on-and-off Lochside Drive/Lochside Trail for the next 12 miles as it morphs between neighborhood street, country lane, paved path, and hard-packed gravel trail.  The route began life as railway line built by the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway to join Swartz Bay (at the northern end of the Saanich Peninsula) with Victoria at the southern end.  Along this route, you pass both Mitchell’s Farm and Galey Farms – see Points of Interest, below, for more details.Lochside_trail_victoria

After 12 miles, you leave the Lochside Trail and head east to Cadboro Bay past the University of Victoria.  If the timing is right, Cadboro Bay is a good place to get lunch.  After Cadboro Bay, you join the Easiest route, above, for the final ten miles along the coast into Victoria.

Lunch

Cadboro Bay

This coastal neighborhood community has a handful of restaurants and a good grocery store for picnic supplies.  These are all clustered on Cadboro Bay Rd at the intersection with Sinclair Rd.  Cadboro-Gyro Park is a nice place for a picnic.

Mutsuki-An is a popular local Japanese restaurant with great fresh sushi – 2560A Sinclair Road (off Cadboro Bay Rd) / (250) 595-0378.  11:30 AM to 2:00 PM / https://www.mutsuki-an-restaurant.com

Olive Olio’s Bistro and Espresso at 3840 Cadboro Bay Road / (250) 477-6618 has coffee, baked good and light meals (soups & salads).  7:30 AM to 5:00 PM.

The Thai Lemongrass Restaurant claims to have the “best authentic Thai food in Victoria.”  The food is good and there is outside seating but service can be a little slow.  3838 Cadboro Bay Rd / (250) 385-3838.  11:00 AM to 2:30 PM.  Closed Sunday / https://www.thailemongrass.ca

For a healthy option, try Jusu Bar serving very fresh salads, snacks and smoothies.  They also have some great raw bars if you just need a fix to get you the last ten miles.  2560B Sinclair Rd / (250) 590-8215.  7:30 AM to 6:00 PM (9:00 Am to 5:00 PM weekends.) / https://www.jusubar.com

On the opposite side of Cadboro Rd from the restaurants, Pepper’s Grocery is good for picnic supplies.  Locally owned and operated, Pepper’s has a full range of salads, soups, sandwiches and more. 3829 Cadboro Bay Road / (250) 477-6513 / https://www.peppers-foods.com

Just behind Pepper’s, the Smugglers’ Cove Pub has beer and good pub grub in a Tudor-style building.  Some outdoor seating on the 2nd floor.  2581 Penrhyn St / (250) 477-2688.  11:30 AM–11:30 PM / http://smugglerscovepub.com

Other

In the center of Willows Beach, Kiwanis Willows Beach Tea Room makes for a scenic rest stop.  This is a good old-fashioned seaside café with fine views and friendly service.  Located just off Beach Drive a ½ mile after Cattle Point.  2740 Dalhousie St / (250) 592-1612.  10:00 AM to 4:30 PM / https://www.kiwanisoakbay.ca

There are a cluster of cafes and basic eateries at Victoria University on Finnerty Rd, just off the described routes.

Fast riders may choose to push on to Victoria for a late lunch.  See Victoria in the Towns and Cities section of this guidebook for details on lunch options in the city.

Ferry Options

Catching the 9:45 AM ferry from Friday Harbor gets you to Sidney BC at 11:05 AM.  Your guide will accompany you, with your luggage, on this ferry crossing.

NOTE: Ferry times can change or be cancelled at short notice.  We strongly advise that you confirm your ferry schedule the night before sailing with your guide or by phoning 1(888) 808-7977 or checking online at http://www.wsdot.com/ferries/schedule/ There is also a good app for iPhones and Androids that includes ferry schedules and alerts.  You can download the app at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/seattle/products/.

Points of Interest

Sights

At 6 miles on the Intermediate ride, Michell’s Farm Market has fruits and vegetables grown on their farm as well as baked goods, honey and more.  2451 Island View Dr (@ Lochside Dr) / (250) 652-6770.  Daily 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM /http://www.michellsfarm.com

At 13 miles on the Intermediate ride, the world’s tallest gnome marks the Galey Farms store.  They have farm-grown fruit as well as some other produce.  Located just off the route at 4150 Blenkinsop Rd / (250) 477-5713.  10:00 AM to 5:00 PM / http://www.galeyfarms.net

Stores

In Cadboro Bay, Pepper’s Grocery has a good selection of picnic supplies as well as regular groceries.  3829 Cadboro Bay Road / (250) 477-6513 / https://www.peppers-foods.com

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Victoria Loop Days

Overview

Explore Victoria and its surrounds – there is plenty to keep you entertained for several days.  You can cycle up the coast, to either Mount Douglas or Butchart Gardens.  You can meander on the bike trails to Hatley Castle.  Alternatively, you might take some time off the bikes to explore the city sights.Victoria

The Easiest Route is an urban adventure along regional bike trails. This peaceful route meanders over the Selkirk Trestle, and through quiet neighborhoods and parks. Your destination is Hatley Castle, an Edwardian castle set in over 500 acres of landscaped grounds on the shores of Esquimalt Lagoon.

The Intermediate Route heads via Cadboro Bay to Mt Douglas for 360° views including the Haro Strait, the Saanich Peninsula, and south to downtown Victoria.

Challenge Riders loop up to Butchart Gardens via Cadboro Bay.  As well as being a great place for lunch, these world-renowned gardens are well worth exploring: the grounds cover 55 acres and there are over 900 plant varieties.

If this is your final day on Vancouver Island, you may choose the one-way Intermediate Route to Butchart Gardens where you will be met by your guide (with your luggage) for your transfer to the ferry terminal or the airport.  NOTE: this one-way option is only available on departure days.

There are also a host of things to do off the bike.  The harbor boat tours visit historic landmarks, First Nation sacred territories, and float home communities. Fisherman’s Wharf makes a great stopping-off point for sushi, fish and chips, or a scoop of ice cream. Other water activities include kayaking and whale watching.  Back on dry land, the city’s sights include the Parliament Buildings, the British Columbia Museum, Craigdarroch Castle, and Beacon Hill Park.  See Victoria in the Towns & Cities section of this guide for more details about these sights and things to do.

Route Options

Easiest Route

Today’s ride is an urban adventure along regional bike trails. Once out of Victoria proper, you will follow the Galloping Goose Trail for 8½ miles. This trail is mostly paved but turns to hardpacked gravel for a short section as you get close to Hatley Castle.  The Selkirk Trestle, at two miles, is a 1,000-foot-long bridge across the beautiful Gorge Waterway.  The route continues through quiet neighborhoods and parks en route to Hatley Castle.  Hatley Castle was completed in 1908 and served as a dormitory for two years for cadets and staff officers at Royal Roads Military College.  It is now the administrative center of Royal Roads University and is home to three distinct gardens and a museum.Hatley_Castle

For lunch, you can have a picnic overlooking the Esquimalt Lagoon in the landscaped grounds of the castle or stop in at the Habitat Café which is also on the grounds.

You make a loop through the woods north of Hatley Castle then retrace your route back along the Galloping Goose Trail for 4 miles where you will turn onto the E&N Rail Trail. This paved, 4.5-mile trail section leads you through Portage Park, a traditional First Nations shortcut from Esquimalt Harbour to Portage Inlet and Victoria Harbour. You will exit the E&N Rail Trail 1 mile from Johnson Street Bridge. You will be on Esquimalt Road for 0.2 miles before entering less busy side roads leading up to the bridge crossing and your return into Victoria.

Intermediate Route

This ride leaves the inner harbor of Victoria and follows the shoreline and scenic bike route around the coast for ten miles before reaching Cadboro Bay. Willows Beach (with its old-fashioned beachside café) and Cattle Point (with its scenic overlook) are both good stopping off points.

After Cadboro Bay, you climb up to Mount Douglas.  As a bonus for early risers, the road from the park gate up to the summit (Churchill Drive) is closed to motorized traffic until noon to help promote walking and cycling.  However, the one-mile road to the summit is very steep and all but the toughest cyclists are likely to walk at least some of the way.  At the end of the road, you walk the final 500 feet up a trail to the lookout points.  If cycling to the summit seems a little too stressful, there are many walking trails that will get you there too.  However you get there, those that persevere all the way to the top will be rewarded with 360° views of the peninsula – north up the Saanich Peninsula, east to the Haro Strait, and south to the city of Victoria.  On very clear days, you can also see the Olympic Mountains and Mt Baker in the United States.

NOTE: Skipping the in-and-out ride up Churchill Drive to the summit saves two miles and 500 vertical feet of ascending.

On leaving the park, you return to Cadboro Bay through the neighborhoods.  If you want to visit gardens but don’t want to do the Challenge Ride to Butchart Gardens, take a short detour to Finnerty Gardens at the University of Victoria (at mile 19, turn right onto Finnerty Dr, go around Ring Rd and onto University Dr. See Points of Interest below for more details about Finnerty Gardens.  From Cadboro Bay, you follow your outward route back to Victoria.

Cadboro Bay is a good place for lunch – either on the way out or the way back.  Cadboro Bay is also the best place to collect a picnic if you want to eat in Mt. Douglas Park – either at the summit or at one of the secluded sandy beaches.

Challenge Route

The Challenge Route follows the Intermediate route to Mt Douglas Park.  From here it continues north to Cordova Bay where you head west to cross the Saanich Peninsula to Butchart Gardens.  The ride across the peninsula is on small lanes that snake past woodlands and small farms. Before reaching Butchart Gardens, your route leads you past the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. See Points of Interest, below, for more details.

Butchart_GardensThe Butchart Gardens are a National Historic Site of Canada with 55 acres and over 900 plant varieties.  See Points of Interest, below, for more details.  The gardens also have several places to eat and nice locations for a picnic – see Lunch section below.

The return route to Victoria is more direct: south, down the center of the peninsula.  After a section on the medium-trafficked Wallace Drive, the route moves on the quieter Interurban Rd and Interurban Trail.  The Galloping Goose Trail then takes you into the center of the city including crossing the 1000-foot-span of the Selkirk Trestle and the Johnson Street Bridge.  Your ride ends back at the inner harbor, at the statue of Captain James Cook.

Intermediate Route to Butchart Gardens (one way, departure day only)

This ride follows the, above, Challenge Route out to Butchart Gardens and ends there.  Your guide will meet you, with your luggage, at the gardens and from there transfer you to the ferry terminal or airport.

NOTE: this option is only available on your departure day and by prior arrangement with your guide.  24-hour notice required.

Lunch

Hatley Castle

At the midway point of the Easiest route, the Habitat Café, serves hot meals as well as a ready-to-go items including soups, salads, sandwiches, and baked goods.  The café is in the buildings of the Royal Roads University; 500 feet north (uphill) of Hatley Castle on University Drive. (250) 391-2576.  7:00 AM to 7:00 PM (9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Sat & Sun) / https://trufflescatering.net/habitat/

Cadboro Bay

This coastal neighborhood community has a handful of restaurants and a good grocery store for picnic supplies.  These are all clustered on Cadboro Bay Rd at the intersection with Sinclair Rd.  Cadboro-Gyro Park is a nice place for a picnic.

Mutsuki-An is a popular local Japanese restaurant with great fresh sushi – 2560A Sinclair Road (off Cadboro Bay Rd) / (250) 595-0378.  11:30 AM to 2:00 PM / https://www.mutsuki-an-restaurant.com

Olive Olio’s Bistro and Espresso at 3840 Cadboro Bay Road / (250) 477-6618 has coffee, baked good and light meals (soups & salads).  7:30 AM to 5:00 PM.

The Thai Lemongrass Restaurant claims to have the “best authentic Thai food in Victoria.”  The food is good and there is outside seating but service can be a little slow.  3838 Cadboro Bay Rd / (250) 385-3838.  11:00 AM to 2:30 PM.  Closed Sunday / https://www.thailemongrass.ca

For a healthy option, try Jusu Bar serving very fresh salads, snacks and smoothies.  They also have some great raw bars if you just need a fix to get you the last ten miles.  2560B Sinclair Rd / (250) 590-8215.  7:30 AM to 6:00 PM (9:00 Am to 5:00 PM weekends.) / https://www.jusubar.com

On the opposite side of Cadboro Rd from the restaurants, Pepper’s Grocery is good for picnic supplies.  Locally owned and operated, Pepper’s has a full range of salads, soups, sandwiches and more. 3829 Cadboro Bay Road / (250) 477-6513 / https://www.peppers-foods.com

Just behind Pepper’s, the Smugglers’ Cove Pub has beer and good pub grub in a Tudor-style building.  Some outdoor seating on the 2nd floor.  2581 Penrhyn St / (250) 477-2688.  11:30 AM–11:30 PM / http://smugglerscovepub.com 

Butchart Gardens

If you are doing the Challenge ride, the obvious place for lunch is the Butchart Gardens: 800 Benvenuto Avenue, Brentwood Bay (250) 652-4422.  There are three options.  The Coffee Shop in Waterwheel Square has simple sandwiches and snacks.  Set in a former greenhouse, the Blue Poppy Restaurant is a self-service restaurant serving casual fare with no reservations needed. 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM.  For more formal dining (reservations required), The Dining Room has a more sophisticated (and expensive) menu that changes seasonally. Lunch 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  (250) 652-8222.

The gardens are also a nice setting for a picnic lunch gathered en route.  See Pepper’s Grocery in Cadboro Bay, above.

Other

If you plan to collect a picnic in Victoria, Market on Yates has a good selection of picnic items.  7:00 AM to 11:00 PM. 903 Yates Street / (250) 381-6000.

Points of Interest

Sights

Hatley Castle National Historic Site is located on the Royal Roads University Campus and has 15 km of trails on over 560 acres. There are three distinct gardens and a lagoon to explore. There are self-guided tours of the gardens ($9.75 pp) and guided “estate” tours of the castle and grounds ($18.50).  Guided tours are at 10:30 AM, 11:45 AM, 1:30 PM and 2:45 PM.  The castle itself is only visited on the guided tours.  2005 Sooke Rd / (205) 391-2666.  8:30 AM to 4:30 PM / http://hatleycastle.com

Mount Douglas Park is the largest park in the Saanich area with Mount Douglas (738 ft) at its center and secluded sandy beaches on its northeastern coast.  On a clear day, there are spectacular, 360° views that include the Olympic Mountains and Mt Baker in the United States as well as the Saanich Peninsula and downtown area of Victoria in Canada.  Cyclists ride up to the summit along the very steep Churchill Drive.  Towards the top of this road, there is a short (500 feet) walking trail to the viewing point at the absolute summit.  Churchill Drive (the paved road to the summit) is closed to motorized vehicles until noon to help promote walking and cycling.  The road is open to vehicles from noon to dusk /https://visitorinvictoria.ca/mt-doug-park/

The Victoria Butterfly Gardens is a tropical jungle experience. Thousands of butterflies (up to 70 species) fly through the buildings, and their newest exhibit, The Insectarium, houses insects and invertebrates from around the world. Poison dart frogs, tortoises, flamingos, iguanas, tropical birds and more are on display or flying free among tropical flowers and lush gardens. Adults $16.50 CAD$. 1461 Benvenuto Avenue / (877) 722-0272. 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM through the summer. (July-August until 5:00 PM) Stroll the grounds for up to one hour past closing – https://www.butterflygardens.com

Butchart Gardens was created on the site of an exhausted limestone quarry.  The project was started in 1909 by the owner Jennie Butchart and completed in 1912 creating a sunken garden that was open to the public.  The gardens have been added to over the years and now include the original sunken garden as well as a rose garden, a Japanese garden, an Italian garden and a Mediterranean garden.  The gardens are still owned by the Butchart family and in 2004 were designated a National Historic Site of Canada with 55 acres and over 900 varieties of plants.  Also, in 2004, two totem poles were carved in Classic Coast Salish style in recognition of the rich cultural heritage of the First Nations.  The entrance fee is $33.80 per person in summer (slightly less in spring and fall).  800 Benvenuto Avenue / (250) 652-4422.  8:45 AM to 10:00 PM in summer (9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Sept to May) / https://www.butchartgardens.com

Finnerty Gardens is a lovely oasis on the edge of the University of Victoria campus.  Entrance is free and the public welcome.  There is a self-guided walking tour that starts and ends at the interfaith chapel.  University Drive / (250) 721-7211 / https://www.uvic.ca/finnerty/

Stores

In Cadboro Bay, Pepper’s Grocery has a good selection of picnic supplies as well as regular groceries.  3829 Cadboro Bay Road / (250) 477-6513.

See Victoria in the Towns & Cities section of this guide for Stores and Things to Do in the city.

Safety and Enjoyment

Your safety is our first priority and should be yours, too! Here, we share some ideas on helping you get the most from your cycling tour – safely and while having fun.

Riding Safely

We have a few simple rules we ask you to follow:

    1. Always wear a cycle helmet fastened securely while cycling.
    2. Do not ride at night or in the dim light of dawn or dusk.
    3. Ride in single file and with the direction of traffic.
    4. Carry identification, details of your medical/travel insurance and emergency contact details.
    5. Sign an accident waiver indicating you are fit to ride and understand the risks.
    6. All cyclists under 16 years of age:
      • Must wear a florescent safety triangle or high visibility clothing.
      • Need to be accompanied by an adult over the age of 21 who is responsible for their safety at all times while cycling.

Daily Bike Checks

Your rental bikes are checked and tuned before every trip.  However, it is useful to do some regular checks just to keep things running smoothly. These checks should take less than five minutes to do.  Of course, if you’re in any doubt or have any concerns, give us a call and we’ll have a guide come out to you.  If they can’t fix a problem they’ll arrange for a new bike.

Brakes: 

  • Do both brake levers engage the brakes smoothly?  This test is best performed first on a stationary bike and then on a moving bike.
  • Are the shoes spaced evenly on either side of the wheel and the brake blocks close to but not rubbing on the wheel rims?
  • Are cables OK – not frayed – and under tension?

Handlebars & stem:

  • Check alignment – does the wheel point forward when the handlebars point forward?
  • Holding front wheel between legs check for lateral movement when flexing/twisting handlebars.
  • With front brake engaged, move bike back and forth to check for any rocking.  If there is movement, the headset may need tightening.

Gear changing.  This check is easily done as you set out at the start of your ride:

  • Check all front gears engage/change smoothly
  • Check all rear gears engage/change smoothly
  • Are cables OK – not frayed?

Chain:

  • If you’ve been riding in rain or on wet roads, you may want to wipe off your chain and apply a little lube the night before.  In the morning, run a clean rag over the chain to remove any excess oil.
  • But don’t overdo it; an over-oiled chain just attracts dirt.

Wheels & tires:

  • Inflate front & back tires to recommended tire pressure which should be written on the side.
  • Check front & rear wheels spin smoothly with little friction or noise and are true (no wobbles).
  • Check there are no loose or broken spokes in either wheel.
  • Check tires including sidewalls for cuts or other damage.
  • Check tires for any foreign bodies embedded in the tires and remove / replace tires as needed.
  • Are the quick-release mechanisms secure, correctly engaged and pointing backwards?

Frame:

  • Check for cracks and alignment in the frame, the headset & the handlebars – especially if you accidentally dropped the bike.
  • Pay extra attention and feel for problems in carbon forks and carbon rear stays where fitted.
  • General check for any loose parts.

Riding Safely

Here are our favorite top tips to help you have a safe trip.

  1. Ride predictably in smooth lines and avoid weaving or wobbling. When you stop – for example to check your map – we recommend that you move off the road. The more people there are in your group, the more important this becomes.
  2. Stay alert, be aware and anticipate; anticipate what other vehicles will do, anticipate what gear you will need to be in after you stop and anticipate the approaching road surface – do you need to avoid gravel, potholes or broken glass? Should you dismount to cross railroad tracks?  [FACT: 50% of urban accidents happen solo.  That is, people just fall off of their own accord.  A little anticipation would work wonders here.]
  3. Be as visible as you can be. Our fluorescent triangles are available to all guests and we recommend that riders of all standards wear them.  [When riding with our florescent triangles, we have noticed that cars give us a noticeably wider berth as they pass by.]
  4. Choose a safe riding position on the road. Stay as close as is safe to the right-hand side of the road as possible but do not be cowed into a dangerous riding position.  For example, avoid riding on grit, or dangerously broken pavement or where you are at risk of being hit by an opening car door.
  5. Obey the law. Drivers will give cyclist more respect, and you are far safer, if you obey all the traffic laws – including stopping at stop signs, riding on the right-hand side of the road and not riding under the influence of alcohol.  [FACT: 10% of ‘cyclist at fault’ accidents are caused by cyclist using the wrong side of the road.]
  6. Ride assertively but defensively. At intersections, make eye contact with drivers.  Assertive riding is easier for drivers to predict, but cars are bigger and harder than we are, so we always try to avoid getting into confrontations with them.  [FACT: 63% of cyclist collisions occur at intersections.  The most common cause of accidents, where the driver is at fault, is the driver’s failure to yield the right of way.]
  7. Check out your bike and make sure you are confident that it is roadworthy. Everyday check brakes, tires, quick release mechanisms, pedals and headsets.  Everything should fit snuggly and move smoothly.  Whether you are riding your own or a rented bike, the roadworthiness of that bike is your responsibility.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Cyclists

[Apologies to Stephen Covey]

As well as having a safe tour, we are keen for you to enjoy cycling and achieve a real sense of accomplishment.  This is likely to include riding within your limits and not exhausting yourself before lunch.  Here are some thoughts on how to stay happy on your bike.

  1. Eat before you are hungry. Even moderate cycling burns around 300 calories per hour so eat plenty of snacks such as power bars or trail mix.  We need to eat in enough time to allow our bodies to process the food and get the fuel to our legs before the fuel gauge reaches on empty.  Recovering from a fuel deficit is very difficult and will leave you tired for the rest of the day.  So, indulge yourself.  [Everybody’s metabolism is different, but when riding extended distances, it is typical to need to eat something every 45 minutes.  A nice big bowl of pasta the night before and a carbohydrate rich breakfast in the morning also help.]
  2. Drink before you are thirsty. It can get very hot on the bike in this area.  As you sweat, you will lose both water and essential salts.  You will not notice the effects until it is too late.  Drink plenty of water before you start to ride and then take regular sips en route.  [A good target is to drink either water or a sports drink at least every 30 minutes.]
  3. Ride at a pace that feels comfortable. Even when climbing hills, it is good practice to be able to keep a conversation going without being out of breath.  This means changing down to a low gear, keeping your cadence high and taking things easy.  If you are a slow rider riding with fitter friends, have them ride at your pace rather than you struggling to keep up with them.  This will also help them avoid sore legs the next day.
  4. The sun can get very intense, especially in the middle of the day so keep your shirt on and use a high factor sunscreen. [Watch for being burned through the gaps in your cycle helmet.  Many of the best helmets have extra wide gaps for better ventilation.  A bandana under the helmet can make all the difference.]
  5. Relax and change your hand position regularly. This helps avoid shoulder cricks or back aches.  Drop handlebars are better for being able to do this than straight handlebars.
  6. Check your bike. A sticking brake or skipping gear stops you relaxing and can be dangerous.  If you are unsure, talk to your guide, who will be happy to help you check things out if you have a concern.
  7. Smile, you are on vacation!

Seat Height Adjustment

Seat height adjustment is more craft than science.  The most important thing is that you feel safe and confident on the bike.  However, getting your saddle to the right height will also help you stay comfortable on longer rides, avoid saddle sores and conserve your energy while you pedal.

Bike fitters can spend hours getting your fit just right, but here are some simple rules of thumb.

  1. Stand and hold or prop yourself up against a wall.
  2. Position the pedals so the pedal cranks are vertical (one pedals at 12 o’clock and one pedal at 6 o’clock).
  3. Get on your bike and place your feet on the pedals. Move your foot so that your heel is on the pedal at 6 o’clock.
  4. When your seat is at the correct height, your leg (of the foot at 6 o’clock) should be straight but your knee shouldn’t be locked (technically, there should be a 25-30-degree flexion in the knee when the pedal is at the bottom most point).

If your seat is too low, it will make it harder to pedal and you may get knee pain at the front of the knee.  Too high and your hips will go from side to side which will make you tend to ride in too high a gear and you may develop pain at the back of your knees.

Saddle Sores

Saddle sores are the great unmentioned subject of cycling.  However, if you have not been riding much recently and start doing a lot of miles on a bike, you may well become just a little too familiar with this phenomenon.

To prevent sores, it’s helpful to know what they are.  Definition: A saddle sore is a skin ailment on the buttocks due to, or exacerbated by, riding on a bicycle saddle.  It often develops in three stages: skin abrasion, folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles) and, finally, abscess.  If it’s not obvious from the definition, it is better to stop the sores in the early stages than try and treat it in the final stage.

The best cure of all is to not get them in the first place.  The best way not to get them is to gradually build up your riding mileage and get used to your bike seat.  Doing rides before you come on the trip will help with this.  Other good preventative measures include:

  • Reducing the friction due to bobbing or swinging motion while pedaling, by setting the appropriate saddle height – see above.
  • If you have a favorite saddle, bring it along and we’ll fit it to your rental bike.
  • Wearing good cycling shorts, with a high-quality chamois insert.
  • Use petroleum jelly, chamois cream or lubricating gel on the chamois to further reduce friction.
  • Do not sit around in damp bike shorts after your ride and thoroughly wash and dry the affected area.
  • A friend who guides extreme mountain biking trips in the Colorado Rockies swears by putting hemorrhoid cream on the affected area. If all else fails, it’s worth a try!

There are pharmacies in all the main towns you’ll stay in if you need medical treatment.  Our primary message would be, if you think you have them, don’t ignore them.

Fixing a Flat

Of course, we hope you won’t ever need this skill – but just in case here is a checklist for fixing a flat – or repairing a puncture in your tyre as the English would say!  If it seems as though there are a lot of steps, you may be reassured by the fact we have seen all these steps completed in just over a minute

Remove the wheel. Sounds simple, but a couple of hints might make this easier.

  • If it’s the rear wheel, first put the chain on the smallest cog. This makes it easier to remove and replace the wheel.
  • Undo the quick release.
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to unscrew the quick release a little to get it over the lips on the fork – they’re known as lawyers’ lips!
  • You may have to loosen the brakes a little to get the tire past the brake blocks if there is still some air in the tires. On hybrid bikes this usually means squeezing the brake calipers together and unhitching the cable.  On road bikes there is usually a release mechanism on the caliper itself (or on the brake lever).
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel just drops out under gravity.

Let the air out of the tire.

  • For Presta valves, loosen the small nut at the top of the valve and press down.
  • For Schrader valves (like the valves on car tires) press the tip of a tool or stick onto the valve tip.

Before doing anything else, spin the wheel to see if you can find out what caused the flat. If you find it, either remove it now or mark it so you can remove it when you remove the tire.

If you’re very lucky, you’ll now be able to ease the tire off the rim with your bare hands. But to do this you may well need bear’s hands. Alternatively, you’ll need to use tire levers (irons):

  1. Insert the curved end of two tire levers under the edge of the tire about two spokes apart.
  2. Lever back the first tire lever to take the tire off the rim being careful not to pinch the inner tube and so add an extra hole to patch! Hook the free end of the lever around a spoke.  This leaves your hands free to lever back the second tire lever.
  3. Keeping the hooked lever stationary work the other lever around the tire until one side of the tire is completely removed from the rim but leaving the other side still seated on the rim. If a tire is very tight, you may need to engage a third lever.  When the third is in place, the middle one can be removed and re-inserted farther over.
  4. Remove the valve stem of the inner tube first then pull the rest of the inner tube from the tire. Try to keep the inner tube oriented with the tire so that when you find the hole you can navigate back to the same point in the tire and double check that what caused the flat isn’t still embedded.
  5. Look over the external and inside of the tire for damage and embedded debris. Remove any objects.  Then run your finger around the inside of the tire (carefully!) to detect any glass or thorns.  As a final check, inflate the tube and locate the puncture hole.  Check the tire at the corresponding place to ensure the offending object has been removed.  If you skip this step or are just a bit sloppy you may have another flat five minutes after getting back on your bike!
  6. Hopefully, you have a spare tube that your nice tour company gave you at the start of your ride. If not you’ll need to repair the hole in the old tube using a patch kit.
  7. Place some air in the new (or repaired) tube – just enough to give it some shape. Insert the valve stem on the tube into the valve hole in the wheel and then ease the rest of the tube into the tire.  Then ease the tire wall so the tube is sitting in line with the wheel not hanging outside of the wheel.

Now the tricky part.  Starting at the valve, work the tire back onto the rim using your thumbs or the muscle in the palm just under the thumb (actually the abductor pollicis brevis though knowing this won’t help you get the tire back on).  If the last section is hard to get on, try these things:

  • Ensure that the tire that is inside of the wheel is sitting well into the rim.
  • Hold the wheel horizontally against your stomach with the section of wheel without the tire on furthest away from you. Then use your abductor pollicis brevises to roll the tire onto the rim.
  • If none of this helps, use tire levers to work the bead onto the rim. However, if you resort to this there is a real risk of pinching the inner tube and creating another hole and being back to Step 4 above!

Inflate the tire.

As you inflate ensure that the tire is sitting evenly in the wheel.  If not, let out a little wire and reseat the tire in the rim.

When inflated, spin the wheel to ensure there are no bulges or wobbles. If there are, deflate the tire, reseat the tire on the rim and re-inflate.

Replace the wheel. (This is pretty much the reverse of Step 1.)

  • If you didn’t need to loosen the brakes to get the deflated wheel off, you may find you need to do it now to get it back on. A tap with the palm of your hand can also do the trick to ease the tire past the brake blocks.  DON’T FORGET TO RETIGHTEN THE BRAKES BEFORE HEADING OFF!
  • If it’s the front wheel, you will need to retighten the quick release a little after getting it over the fork lips before reengaging the quick release. The pressure needed to close the quick release should be enough to leave a small mark on the palm of your hand but not so much you need to apply all your strength and all the strength of your cycling partner to close it.
  • For the back wheel, you may need to ease back the derailleur a little before the wheel drops into place.

My Customized Itinerary

If you’ve made it this far, there’s likely an Oregon cycling trip in your future. We’d love to create the perfect custom itinerary for you! Please submit your request below for a no-obligation personalized cycling vacation to be created for you.

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