It’s one of those mornings Pacific Northwesterners crave on gloomy, wet days. Above Mt. Baker’s white-tipped peak is a pale blue sky with wispy cotton clouds and cormorants sun themselves on pilings as I board the Anacortes ferry. Soon I’ll be cruising through the green-backed San Juan Islands to my final destination―Friday Harbor House―the only boutique hotel and restaurant with a view of Friday Harbor.
An hour later, the ferry cruises into the harbor. Perched above the marina on a bluff, is a row of bright orange umbrellas which remind me of sunning Monarch butterflies. Above that is the words Friday Harbor House Inn & Restaurant on a contemporary grey and brown building nestled next to the coastal town of Friday Harbour.
Innkeeper Margie O’Brien greets me when I check-in and shows me to my room, which is one of two rooms with a corner balcony. From it, the view stretches from one side of Friday Harbor to the other, and the ferry I disembarked is now loading its next round of passengers.
The contemporary bedroom has soothing clean lines with a lounging chair next to a gas fireplace, a flat screen television (which I don’t plan to turn on) and plenty of books to read. The oversized jetted tub takes advantage of the view too. And, in the refrigerator sits a purchasable bottle of champagne for that romantic moment. All of it says you have arrived at your island getaway.
Friday Harbor House has 23 rooms, which range in size from queen, king and suite. The majority have a harbor view and some a partial view. Its smaller size puts it in the boutique hotel category, and unlike many larger hotels the front desk is not open 24 hours. Instead, a number is posted for after-hour assistance.
“A boutique hotel can offer a more personalized and individual experience,” said O’Brien. “We want to exceed expectations and help guests make their experience unique.” Recently, their island savvy and knowledge of local shops and services helped a guest with his marriage proposal.
A variety of room packages merge this a one-of-a-kind Friday Harbor House experience with San Juan Island life, like the Relaxation Vacation which includes a wellness snack and a 60-minute massage from Lavendara Day Spa, the Epicurean Escape includes a cheese and charcuterie plate and a bottle of wine upon arrival, as well as, a five-course tasting dinner for two at The Bluff (the hotel’s restaurant), and the Cozy Island Hideaway sets guests up with a bottle of wine, a cozy fleece blanket and a $45 gift certificate to Griffin Bay Bookstore. There are also seasonal packages like A Festive Feast in Friday Harbor, which includes sparkling wine and Christmas Eve dinner for two at The Bluff. A full list of packages can be found on their website (http://www.fridayharborhouse.com).
Accommodations include a continental breakfast and it’s quite a spread with eggs, sausage, bacon, house-made granola, pastries, bagels with their signature steelhead cream cheese spread, fresh fruit and juices. Guests can enjoy their morning fuel on the outside patio under the orange umbrellas and watch the harbor activity, which is what I did, or sit inside the restaurant.
That evening, after my partner arrives on the evening ferry, we dine at The Bluff. We start with a cheese plate, which includes balsamic fig preserve they prepared from their own figs, a Brazilian “we make it, you shake it!” Caipirinha cocktail and clam and salmon chowder. Our entrees are wild caught salmon and flat iron steak with white wine risotto and vegetables. Every dish is beautifully presented and the white wine risotto is the best we’ve ever had. Dessert is a soft baked chocolate chip cookie―my new favorite―and the island cobbler, both topped with ice cream.
With our bellies fully loaded, we head up to our room and hang out on the balcony. Under the glowing moon the slow-paced island lifestyle takes hold as we relax and watch the ferry cruise in and out of Friday Harbor.