San Juan Islands
Leafy hedgerows, soporific settlements and winding lanes with few cars. Where the heck are you? Not in continental America, surely. The answer is both 'yes' and 'no.' The San Juan Islands, a nebulous archipelago of approximately 172 landfalls, islets and eagle perches that lie splayed between the mouth of Puget Sound and Vancouver Island, BC, conjure up images of a sleepy American throwback where the clock last chimed in the 1970s, ’60s or even ’50s, depending on where you dock.
A laid-back and peaceful attitude is the archipelago's greatest hallmark in communities where cars are left unlocked and motorists offer salutary waves. Don't come for the Starbucks and casinos (there aren't any); come instead for the fishing, whale-watching, beachcombing, sailing, hiking, cycling, paddling, crabbing, clamming, philosophizing and memorable, psychedelic sunsets. The farm-to-table cuisine becomes even more sublime in the low-key atmosphere, especially when paired with Washington wines.