Roche Harbor Road
Friday Harbor , WA 98250


Every day Never Closes


For those who have never visited Roche Harbor; it may seem like only an historic hotel and popular marina but it’s really much more. Looking more like a "turn of the century" small coastal community than a resort; the original structures of the lime manufacturing business and the owner’s mansion have been incorporated into an idyllic modern setting. White buildings set against dark forests, brick walkways, wooden boardwalks, flowering gardens, secluded courtyards, and new construction that attempts with some success to uphold the flavor of the early 1900s all combine to give a pleasant overall impression.

There’s plenty to do here but not so much that you feel overwhelmed. So much is readily accessible that there isn’t the urgency to see and do everything quickly. There are tours and island experiences you can arrange through the resort but there’s also a wonderful variety of things you can do on your own, many so near that you won’t even need your car.

A good place to begin is the reception desk at the historic Hotel de Haro. Free maps, walking guides, and most importantly local information will be a big help. The staff is exceptional and will cheerfully answer most if not all of your questions. From the cluster of historic structures in the center of Roche Harbor you can walk to the north to visit the fascinating McMillin Mausoleum built as a full size outdoor dining room with numerous symbolic features built into it. On your way you’ll pass the historic church with its unique stain glass window. For those wanting a little more distance to their outing; go past the former employee cottages, outdoor swimming pool and beach; and connect with the Roche Harbor Trails. These lead past the airport and sculpture garden and onto interesting forest and wetland loops. Eventually these trails connect with the Roche Harbor Highland trails that lead even further to wooded summits and mountain lakes.

In what appears as a Quixotic blend of new and old, no visitor can miss the mammoth ruins of two lime kilns located virtually across the street from the hotel and sporting two new and quite popular bocce ball courts at their base. These mammoth structures of rock, wood, and arched masonry are so massive that photographers will find difficulty in framing them in photos. Just be careful of those bocce ball courts as you back up. Adjacent to these kilns you can walk by more ruins and artifacts on your way to the limestone quarries hike that is just around the corner and up the hill.

For those visiting with cruising boats the marina attractions are obvious but even those on foot or in small craft can enjoy this harbor. Roche Harbor is rinsed daily by the changing tides of the deep clean waters of Haro Strait and the water clarity even in the harbor is exceptional. It’s not unusual to see seals swimming upside down in the crystal waters as they dart under the outer docks. On the south shore adjacent to overnight parking, you’ll find a small boat launch, a favorite for people doing short day paddles or even overnights to Posey Island State Park.

With all this wonderful activity you’ll eventually need a break. Choose from three restaurants each located in one of the original historic structures. There’s also a general store in what had been a lime warehouse and even a miniature street of sidewalk shops offering local items, souvenirs, and tasty treats. Famed for its sunsets, the summertime visitor can also enjoy a delightful evening tradition. At the appointed time (usually around 8 PM but you’ll want to check at the hotel desk) the "Colors Ceremony" begins. The multiple flags flown in the small park between the Limestone Café and the Marina are lowered each evening to the accompaniment of music. As each flag is sequentially lowered a different tune is played. During this time, based on long tradition, no services are performed. No meals are served, no messages are taken, no fuel is pumped; everything and everyone takes a moment to respect the ceremony. Just be warned! When the announcer says "ladies and gentleman the salute;" it means that in a couple of moments you’ll be jolted by the firing of a cannon. More than one camera has flown into the harbor by a startled visitor.

Roche Harbor provides an ideal location to enjoy many different and not necessarily incompatible island experiences including: sailing, paddling, cruising, hiking, mountain biking, walking, historical sites, wildlife observation, fishing, shellfish harvesting, shopping, art viewing, dining, and maybe even just some plain no frills relaxing. Whatever your interest, Roche Harbor really does have something for everyone. Make sure you visit and decide for yourself what your favorite activities will be.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 7/22/2009


From Friday Harbor ferry dock, drive uphill and turn right onto Second Street N, (becomes Guard Street), at intersection turn right onto Roche Harbor Road. Continue on main road. Drive through welcome arch to Roche Harbor then turn left. Follow signs to Roche Harbor parking. About 10 miles from ferry dock.


Parking | Biking Trails | Restrooms | Walking Trails | Banquet Facilities | Beer and Wine | Breakfast | Dinner | Espresso | Lunch | Outdoor seating


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