Ultimate Guide to Spring at Roche Harbor Resort

Hotel de Haro at Roche Harbor Resort. Photo by Jack Riley
Roche Harbor Resort Hotel de Haro. Photo by Jack Riley

While summer boating roots run deep at Roche Harbor, this historic destination also blooms during the shoulder season. The site — a former lime quarry and manufacturing plant in the late 1800s — is now the pinnacle of luxury on San Juan Island. Modern lodging options (along with more modest historic ones), a host of dining establishments, and a plethora of nearby things to do make Roche Harbor the ultimate destination for families, couples, and gal-pal getaways.

Getting to Roche Harbor

The fastest and most convenient way to get to Roche Harbor Resort is a direct seaplane flight from Kenmore or Lake Union to the Roche Harbor Marina. Alternatively, you could catch a flight from Boeing Field to Friday Harbor Airport, roughly an 18 minute drive to the resort. Direct seaplane flights to Friday Harbor Marina are also available from both our Seattle terminals and Tacoma

Top Things to Do at Roche Harbor During the Spring

Roche Harbor Resort

Spring at Roche Harbor is arguably the best-kept secret. The crowds are fewer. The flowers are waking from their winter slumber. And, the restaurants are resuming a more regular schedule. Plus, the crisp cool air is the best weather for a hearty round of bocce ball! Discover some of our favorite things to do at Roche Harbor this spring. 

Explore the Flower Gardens

The gardens at Roche burst with color. Just outside Hotel De Haro, a collection of lush flowerbeds and a fragrant flowering arbor feel a bit like stepping into a magical world. But the vibrant displays aren’t limited to the primary garden. As you stroll the cobblestone walkways and boardwalks, you’ll find hanging baskets and flowerbeds abound. Those with littles may have fun trying to count how many different miniature gardens you spot.

Visit the San Juan Island Sculpture Park

San Juan Island Sculpture Park
Two of the Sculpture Park’s interactive exhibits can be seen here, including the Starfish Sandbox on the left and Friendship Pole on the right. Photo by Jack Riley.
Art at San Juan Island Sculpture Park
The art is positioned amongst vibrant gardens, adding additional whimsy and fun. Photo by Jack Riley.

Located just outside the entrance to Roche Harbor, San Juan Island Sculpture Park spans 20 acres. Though relatively flat, the habitats are quite diverse ranging from a freshwater pond to a saltwater touch of the ocean and forest to grassy meadows. Five distinct walking paths have been established, each offering unique views. Throughout the park more than 150 art installations from roughly 90 different artists are on display. Some pieces are permanent, and others are temporary, either on loan or for sale. 

Dog and kid friendly, this is the perfect place for a gentle stroll or leisurely picnic. The pieces lean towards whimsy and fun, such as a large bronze frog by Frog Pond named ‘I’ve Been Kissed’ and a hand forged prawn by Zackarya Leck.

Dinosaur lovers will want to keep an eye out for the wood triceratops. (It’s located in the garden near the park’s entrance.) Be sure to stop by the Friendship Totem. Visitors are invited to carve their name into the roughly 25-foot poll using an electric engraver. Want to also build your own sculpture? The Starfish Sandbox is open to all.

Both the Friendship Totem and Starfish Sandbox are located near the Welcome House, where there are also bathrooms, picnic tables, and benches. This is a great place for parents to relax while their littles play.

‘Trek’ to Afterglow Vista

The Mosoleum at Afterglow Vista
The Mosoleum is supposed to represent the family dinner table and the unity of the McMillins during life and death. Each chair has a corresponding column representing each individual along with a broken column which represents the unfinished work left behind after one’s death.

The ‘trek’ to Afterglow Vista is a short one — roughly a half mile round trip. It winds through an old cemetery, gently ascending to the massive mausoleum. This is the final resting place of the McMillin family, the founders of the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company. It was designed by the family’s patriarch, John S. McMillin, and features massive pillars and a large limestone table. 

While the location is rumored to be haunted, don’t worry. The trail is only open from dawn to dusk when any lingering spirits will be resting. Trail maps are available at the resort’s Hotel De Haro.

Sample Award-Winning Brandy at San Juan Island Distillery

Just over a mile from Roche Harbor, San Juan Island Distillery is known for its award-winning brandy, stunning hand-pounded copper still, and ‘cannon fire.’ (The distillers, Suzy and Hawk Pingree, have a small cannon that they fire when a bottle of Navy strength gin is purchased.) 

The distillery is also home to Westcott Bay Cider, the second oldest ciderworks in Washington. While brandy was the Pingree’s initial focus, the long aging process encouraged them to flex their creative muscles with other spirits. The tasting room is open on Saturdays from 1 – 4 p.m. But if your schedule doesn’t allow, have no fear. You can text the Pingree’s (360-472-1532). They happily welcome impromptu visits, assuming they’re not out making a delivery. 

Play Bocce Ball

Bocce Ball at Roche Harbor Resort. Photo by Jack Riley.
A classic Italian sport, bocce ball is the perfect mix of leisure and strategic competition. Photo by Jack Riley.

Get everyone involved with some healthy competition. The resort’s two 65-foot bocce ball courts are a family-friendly activity, perfect for those of all ages. Use of the courts is complimentary for guests, including the life-size scoring marker for keeping track of who’s up.

Take a Dip in Tarte Pool Center

Tarte Pool Center at Roche Harbor Resort. Photo by Jack Riley.
When not going for a dip in the heated pool, catch some rays with a view or try your hand at ping pong. Photo by Jack Riley.

The only heated outdoor pool on San Juan Island, the Tarte Pool Center also features a splash pool for children. Free to guests and open to visitors, it offers views of the marina and the surrounding grassy lawn. 

Be Pampered at Afterglow Spa

In a category all its own, Afterglow Spa is one of the best things to do at Roche Harbor for those who need to rest, rejuvenate, and be restored. Re-opening mid-spring, this luxury spa is an intimate sanctuary ideal for individuals and small groups. Services range from facials and deep tissue massages to manicures and pedicures. 

Planning a family photo shoot while you’re at Roche Harbor and want to get glammed up? They do that too. Haircuts, blowouts, and lash sets are also available at the spa. 

Lodging at Roche Harbor

Located on the northwest edge of San Juan Island, the resort’s 2,200-acre grounds ring a protected marina and wharf. The full-service marina feels a bit like a floating village, thanks to the sprawling 377 slip dock system that can accommodate up to 150-foot vessels. But steal your gaze away from the collection of high-end yachts and you’ll discover the gentle hillside offers a collection of cottages, homes, and historic buildings.

Ideal for Romantic Getaways Quarryman Hall & Historic McMillin Suites

Roche McMillins Suite
Generously sized, the McMillin Suites are ideal for lounging or entertaining. Photo by Jack Riley.

Reminiscent of a boutique-style hotel, Quarryman Hall is ideal for the romantic couple’s getaway. Many of the suites offer views and fireplaces. Large sitting areas and quaint decks encourage lounging — all while putting you just steps from the resort’s amenities.

The Historic McMillin Suites offer spacious decks, sprawling views, and luxurious spa-like bathrooms. Fireplaces and generously sized sitting rooms would allow for entertaining another couple for cocktails, which is particularly delightful during sunset. 

Great for Families: Historic Cottages, Village Homes & Condos

The historic cottages at Roche Harbor are one of the most popular places to stay during the spring, especially for families. Each cottage is equipped with a full kitchen, making it easy to prepare your own meals. Gas fireplaces offer a cozy touch and each cottage has a BBQ perfect for cooking al fresco.

The resort’s new Village Homes are plushily designed houses with gourmet kitchens and an open floor plan. A bit more removed from the resort’s core, they can offer the perfect mix of getting away from the bustle while still keeping you close to the resort’s amenities. 

Budget-Friendly: Hotel De Haro & Condos

The simple, historic guest rooms at Hotel De Haro are the resort’s most affordable option. Most of the rooms utilize a shared bathroom located in the hallway — a design that’s reminiscent of the traditional 19th-century layout. 

The condos are nestled beside the shoreline, just a short walk from the resort’s core. While older (they were built 30 years ago) they offer useful amenities like fully equipped kitchens and two- or three-bedroom solutions. These are ideal for groups and families that want a more modest lodging expense. 

Dining at Roche Harbor

The San Juan Island restaurant scene is hard to beat — not the least of which are the dining options are Roche Harbor. From fancy to casual, all three of Roche Harbor’s restaurants offer waterfront views and delectable menus. And while not at the resort, we’d be remiss not to mention the nearby shellfish farm where you can shuck and grill your own oysters.

McMillin’s Dining Room

Burger at McMillins Dining Room. Photo by Jack Riley.
Steakhouse worthy, this hearty burger comes with thick cut steak fries and decadent garlic aioli. Photo by Jack Riley.
Crispy calamari at McMillins Dining Room. Photo by Jack Riley.
The crispy calamari appetizer comes topped with jalapeno strips for a touch of heat and pumpkin seeds for a bit of extra crunch. Photo by Jack Riley.

Date-night worthy, McMillin’s Dining Room is a fine dining tradition on San Juan Island. The waterfront restaurant overlooks the marina and boasts an impressive Northwest-inspired menu. Seafood here is a highlight, with options like crispy calamari served with a cilantro-lime aioli. The restaurant’s classic 60-day aged Nebraskan prime rib, slow roasted for 10 hours and served with house-made horseradish whipped cream has been a staple for generations. Looking for the undercover winner? The half-pound wagyu steak burger topped with smoked bacon and grilled onions hits the spot. 

Madrona Bar & Grill

Opening on May 2, the Madrona Bar & Grill is a laid-back bistro with an expansive deck ideal for those sweet sunny days in the San Juan Islands. The spectacular views are paired with a casual menu and impressive selection of cocktails and mocktails. Want to catch the M’s game during dinner? Multiple TVs are also located throughout the bar and restaurant’s interior. 

Lime Kiln Cafe

Making donuts at Roche Harbor
Fresh and delicious, the donuts at Roche Harbor’s Lime Kiln Cafe can’t be beat.
Donuts at the Lime Kiln Cafe
Frosted or naked as the moment they were fried, you can’t go wrong with a donut at Lime Kiln Cafe.

The donuts here are legendary. Cake-like babies made fresh daily, it’s not uncommon that they sell out. Arrive early to get your pick. But it’s not all sweet treats. A classic dinner, the Lime Kiln Cafe serves breakfast and lunch with casual country-style service. 

Westcott Bay Shellfish Co.

Farming in the water? It’s a thing. Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. is a saltwater farm that cultivates and harvests some of the best oysters, and mussels in the Pacific Northwest. The waterfront farm invites visitors to take an active role in lunch — by shucking and grilling your own oysters! Grills and shucking knives are provided, and the staff will happily provide a shucking tutorial to anyone who needs one. Dress up your oysters with specialty butters and pair it with a local cider or wine for a full island experience.

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