We were expecting a quaint bed and breakfast, so imagine our surprise when we opened the gate to the Boathouse, a Malibu-like mansion 800 metres from Willows Inn, on a sandy beach with expansive decks and stunning views of the San Juan Islands. We got drunk on the magnificent sunsets and fell asleep to the sound of waves lapping right below the window. I didn't want to leave.
The Willows Inn has a room for every taste and budget. It operates much like it did a century ago, with cabins up and down the road - and now farther back in the forest. The main inn offers more traditional lodgings; the Farm House Yurt, equipped with Wi-Fi, a full kitchen and bathhouse, would make a magical retreat. The main inn - the footprint hasn't changed in 100 years - offers more traditional lodgings, with elevated beds fit for a princess and original art in each room.
Rates include a big home-style breakfast in the main dining room, with thick, peppery bacon from last year's resident woolly pig. (Go tour the farm and have a peek. He looks like a bear.) If you don't have dinner reservations, the inn's Taproot Pub offers delicious snacks, baked goods and small meals. The grass-fed-beef burgers, piled high with fresh greens, are sumptuous.
Every night before dinner, guests and a few locals gather for cocktails and canapés in the front room. It's a good opportunity to meet up with the lovely innkeeper, Riley Starks, who can tell you all about the history of the island (it was once a haven for smugglers) and share some amusing anecdotes about how a glowing New York Times article has affected his slice of San Juan paradise.
"We took 300 reservations in the first three weeks after the article was published," he recalls with a laugh. "We used to take reservations by hand. That had to change."
Willows Inn has risen to the occasion. It's such a beautiful place to stay, we've already booked a return visit for salmon season.
2579 West Shore Dr., Lummi Island, Wash.; 888-294-2620; willows-inn.com. From $145.
Getting there: It's a 1½-hour drive on the I-5 from Vancouver to the ferry landing at Goosberry Point. Round-trip fare for the ferry is $13 (U.S.) for car and driver, and $7 for each additional passenger - cash only. When you exit the ferry slip, turn right and travel 5.6 kilometres until you come to Willows Inn.
Special to The Globe and Mail