Whale tail“On a bike, you feel the breeze coming off the sea, and experience depth in every view of the trees. You hear an orca’s tail slap,” says Ahart. He should know; he’s been cycling around San Juan Island, where he owns a bike shop, Island Bicycles, for the last 33 years.

A two-wheeled tour of the Northwest’s San Juans—a 172-island archipelago accessible by ferry from Seattle—begins on San Juan itself: Arrive at the 2,000-person town of Friday Harbor and be primed for an impressively scenic and varied three-day riding experience. Multiple island bike shops offer rentals.

The terminal is a block from Harrison House Suites and the adjacent Tucker House Inn (pictured on left). Both bed and breakfasts are owned by husband and wife team David Pass and Anna Maria de Freitas, who like to serve up choices: Tucker’s Victorian rooms have wrought iron beds and pedestal soaking tubs. Harrison is Craftsman style, and features suites with private outdoor hot tubs—and savory crepes (among other imaginative breakfasts) brought right to the room.

Tucker HouseIt’ll be easy to work off the calories on the first ride. The “black diamond” loop, as de Freitas calls the approximately 43-mile, clockwise and hilly circumnavigation of San Juan, includes a quick stop at driftwood-filled Jackson Beach, a ride-by of the 80-year-old Cattle Point Lighthouse and its expansive views of the Haro Strait, and a cruise up the island’s West Side Road, a supreme stretch of chip seal pavement good for spotting orcas swimming just a few bike lengths offshore. This loop also runs through Lime Kiln Point State Park, which is nicknamed Whale Watch Park.

The next morning, an inter-island ferry—free for those traveling by bike—takes you west to Lopez Island. Save for the uphill start, a 30-mile, clockwise circuit of the island is a flat reprieve. Four miles in is Lopez Village and organic coffee at Isabel’s Espresso. Another five and riders will find Shark Reef Sanctuary, a rocky outcropping where seals gather and the tide can move so fast that “you’ll swear you’re looking at roaring rapids,” says Ahart.

Turtleback Farm InnAfter another night spent at Tucker or Harrison—riders can stow unneeded gear at either—one can ferry to Orcas Island and feel transported into the Cascades. Here, the crowning accomplishment of the three-day island tour is the 8.5-mile, sea-level-to-summit ascent of the island’s Mount Constitution. The fastest riders finish the 2,200-foot climb in under an hour, but those who want a more leisurely trip through verdant Moran State Park can appreciate the old, rustic structures and bridges, and take five with a swim at Cascade Lake.

Then it’s a nice long coast—a good ways to the Turtleback Farm Inn(pictured on right), which is six miles from the ferry terminal and a world away from big-city bustle. Ask for a room in the 19th-century B&B’s more modern Orchard House, where a king-size bed and private deck await. The next morning guests can splurge a little or even a lot: Thanks to Turtleback’s century-old orchard, breakfast often includes some very fresh apple pie.


B&Bs listed in this article:

Harrison House Suites - Friday Harbor, WA

Tucker House Inn - Friday Harbor, WA

Turtleback Farm Inn - Eastsound, WA