Roche Harbor Resort, San Juan Island
15th May 2023
Roche Harbor Resort, on San Juan Island, has come a long way from its beginnings when Hudson’s Bay Company built a trading post at the head of Roche Harbor in 1845. Joe Ruff homesteaded the property after the British abandoned it, and in 1881 the Scurr brothers, Robert and Richard bought the property with intentions to launch the area’s lime industry.
In the mid-1880’s, John McMillian bought out the Scurr brothers and formed the Roche Harbor Lime Company, and Roche Harbor became a full-fledged company town. At the height of its glory, the town was home to about 800 people.
McMillin died in 1936 and his youngest son, Paul, managed the company until he sold it and all the land in 1956 to Reuben Tarte. At the time the lime had ran out and the village was dilapidated, but Tarte envisioned making Roche Harbor the best marina and resort on the West Coast. The facilities today are the direct result of Tarte family efforts.
The entire Tarte family had a hand in transforming the lime works into a resort and marina. Every structure on the grounds at Roche Harbor has a story. Clara Tarte, Reuben’s wife, brought the resort’s famous flower gardens back to life and had the little church on the hill consecrated as Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel. Today, the chapel’s carillon call provides calm over the harbor. The family rebuilt the Hotel de Haro, converted the McMillin home into a restaurant and bar, and built the tennis courts, pool, and airstrip. They also installed underground wiring to serve the resort and marina.
Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel
The Tarte family sold Roche Harbor in 1989 to a partnership and the facility continued to grow and improve the property, as the years have gone by.
There’s more to Roche Harbor Resort than just being greeted enthusiastically or pampered with amazing service.
Arriving at your assigned slip, you are greeted by ever-attentive uniformed dock staff standing by to assist. These cheerful young people greet arriving boaters, catch mooring lines, assist as needed in the docking process and answer any questions.
Roche Harbor has all the amenities a visiting boater could need: fuel, propane, water, power (30, 50 and 100-amp), water hook-ups, showers, laundry, post office, Wi-Fi, and on dock garbage service. A complimentary mobile pumpout barge named M.V. Phecal Phreak with the motto “We take crap from anyone.” A pumpout station is also available at the end of the fuel dock.
When arriving from Canada, Roche Harbor is a U.S. Customs port of entry. During the summer months it can be busy and it’s common to wait for our opportunity to dock and process through.
Upland, the grounds are beautiful and groomed. There is espresso, ice cream, art and crafts kiosks, gift shops, boutique, the Afterglow Spa, a well-stocked General Store, Lime Kiln Café, Madrona Bar & Grill and McMillin’s Dining Room. Guests of the resort are invited to take advantage of the swimming pool and tennis courts at no additional charge. Activities such as kayaking, fishing and whale-watching tours can be booked at the head of the guest dock and you can rent a moped from Susie’s Mopeds to explore the island.
Garden Areas Are Beautiful
Westcott Bay Sculpture Park is located at the entrance of the village, on what was once McMillin’s Bellevue Farm.
Roche Harbor’s cemetery and the McMillin family mausoleum are silent reminders of the people who contributed to local life during the lime company era. Visitors can pick up a trail map at the hotel that will lead them through the forest to the lime company rock quarries or to a lookout where the view of Garrison and Westcott Bays.
Just before sunset the flags of Roche Harbor, Washington state, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States are retired. The dock staff lower the flags while the tunes of the “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” “The Washington Post March,” “God Save the Queen,” “Oh Canada,” and “Star Spangled Banner” each take a turn filling the evening air. Ending the ceremony, a cannon is fired and the boats in the harbor blow their horns in salute. If you haven’t yet, definitely add Roche Harbor Resort on your places to visit!
Everything Comes To A Halt During Sunset