At a coffee shop in Lopez Village, the friendly barista was very patient with an elderly Australian man who was having trouble paying with his credit card. Internet service is spotty on the very best of days on Lopez Island. When it was my turn to place my order, in comes a local who was working at a shop a couple of doors down, to order his daily joe for him and a co-worker.
As he took a seat to wait his turn, he joked to the barista. “Can I sing for my coffee today?”
The barista was amused. “Only if it’s a Disney tune.”
He promptly dove in with “A Whole New World” from the movie, Aladdin. I decided to chime in (since I’m a Disney fanatic) and soon we were singing a somewhat muddled acapella. The barista flashed a wide grin, and two strangers instantly became my friends.
Such as it is on Lopez Island. Where everyone (and I mean everyone) will wave to you, whether walking along the road or from their cars, as you pass each other. Less populated than San Juan or Orcas Island, Lopez is an oasis of rolling farmland interspersed with forests, and quiet, isolated beaches.
How to Spend 24 Hours on an Island
We arrived in late afternoon, off the ferry from Anacortes, and promptly made our way to the Airbnb I had booked on the southern tip of the island. I knew that internet service was iffy here, but surely there were enough satellites up in space where my iPhone 7’s GPS would work without a hitch, right?
Uh….not really. After driving southward blindly while simultaneously trying to pick up a GPS signal, we were ½ hour into what was supposed to be a 20-minute drive before we finally received a very weak signal. Just enough to get us there. (Note to self: next time you visit Lopez, write down directions!) My husband made some feeble joke about it being an island, and we would eventually find our tiny cabin without GPS.
Don’t count on that either. While Lopez is smaller than the other two main islands, there are plenty of roads and dead end drives to get you thoroughly lost if you are not familiar. We arrived at our home for the evening: a cozy modern tiny house with an (uncomfortable) Murphy bed, bathroom w/shower and kitchen just large enough for one person at a time. Hey, it was only one night, right? The upside: it was all ours, and on its own secluded plot of land in a picturesque patch of tree-covered perfection.
We unloaded our stuff, relaxed for a bit with a couple of beers, then took advantage of the remaining sunlight to do a bit of exploring on the southern end of the island.
Agate Beach Park
Much of this beach is private land, so heed the signs and be respectful of the people who live here. This is an awesome spot to watch the sun set. On our visit, we ran into some horse owners walking their horses, and I had a lovely conversation with an old fisherman about life in the Pacific Northwest.
Watmough Bay Beach
An easy-peasy quarter-mile hike will take you to this very quiet beach tucked in between two cliffs, where sailboats drop anchor and just chill for a while. This is a popular place to kayak, as well.
Shark Reef Sanctuary
The name is misleading – there are no sharks here. But it’s a fantastic coastal trail nonetheless. Meander along a prairie trail mere feet from a rocky cliff near the water that separates Lopez from San Juan Island. Towards the end of the trail, stand very still…you may just hear the growls and snores of nearby sea lions lounging on the beach below.
Lopez Hill Trails
For easy to moderate trails in pristine forest land, take a hike in the middle of the island. Bikes and horses are not allowed! For this wooden sanctuary is very fragile. As they say, “Leave only footprints.”
Now back to civilization! (With still very limited cell phone/internet reception.) This tiny little village has lots to experience, with a library, a museum (open Wednesdays – Sundays) a chocolate shop, a coffee shop and bakery, and several other gift/souvenir shops. Even on rainy days, enjoy your coffee and pastry outside under the canopied front porch and strike up a conversation with a local who will enlighten you about the ways of island life!