A rural expanse framed by 63 miles of rugged Pacific Northwest coastline in the San Juan chain, Washington State’s Lopez Island is big with back-to-the-landers, software moguls, and artists looking for tranquillity amid the giant fir trees.
Its position in the rain shadow (that’s Pacific Northwest-speak for sunnier than Seattle), relatively flat terrain, and a rep for friendly locals—yes, they’re waving at you, perfect stranger—make it ideal for cycling. So ditch the car on the mainland, hop a ferry or seaplane, and take a spin on two wheels. Here’s how to do it.
> Get Centered: Didn’t bring your own ride? Reserve a rental with Village Cycles, which will drop off a bike for you at the ferry landing.
Warm up with a two-mile pedal south to medicinal herb farm Whispers of Nature to walk its labyrinth, clearing your mind of mainland worries and tuning in to the island’s neo-hippie vibe.
> Local Largesse: Once you reach Lopez Village, follow your nose to Holly B’s Bakery for a marionberry scone. On Saturdays, the farmers market showcases the island’s generous bounty, from Barn Owl Bakery’s wood-fired, organic bread to Papa George’s sockeye salmon, caught locally by reef netting, a fishing technique developed by the indigenous Coast Salish.
Duck into the tasting room at Lopez Island Vineyards for a nip of the coveted island-grown organic wines such as the floral Madeleine Angevine, a grape that originated in the Loire Valley. Enjoy a languid lunch (or dinner) of Shoal Bay clams and chorizo at the Bay Café, overlooking Fisherman’s Bay.
> Art Fix: The island has a thriving community of artists, some of whom sell their work at the farmers market, like ceramicist Nancy Bingham’s pottery hand-painted with nature scenes inspired by the Northwest.
> Soak Up the Scenery: A long ride due south is rewarded by quintessential Pacific Northwest seascapes. At Shark Reef Sanctuary, trace the wooded path on foot to a rocky shore where harbor seals and sea lions lounge in a backdrop of San Juan Channel and Cattle Point Lighthouse.
This piece, reported by Margaret Loftus, first appeared in the May 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.