Things to Do and Places to SeeWaggoner eNewsCaretakers cottage at Vendovi Island Preserve.

Pigeon guillemot on Vendovi Island Preserve.

In need of a quick escape? Or maybe, you want to take the boat out on a sea trial? Vendovi Island Preserve, a 217-acre island located seven miles north of Anacortes between Guemes and Lummi Islands, south of Bellingham Bay is the perfect day cruising getaway.  The Island is a portion of the San Juan Island Preservation Trust and to manage the delicate balance between protecting the ecological integrity of the island and human enjoyment it is open to boaters from April 1 to September 30, Thursday through Monday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Island provides for a peaceful day retreat:

  • Moorage
  • Wildlife and sea life
  • Well maintained trail system
  • Two beaches
  • Intriguing history

Breakwater next to dock on Vendovi Island Preserve.

A breakwater protects North Cove.

Exploring Vendovi Island Preserve

With our own desire for a nearby boating holiday, Arlene and I tossed Easy Goin’s lines and set a course for Vendovi Island Preserve. We were two and a half miles out when we ran into a thick soupy fog bank. The balance of the passage was made with the aid of the radar, GPS, chart plotter and heightened awareness. We eased our way to the north side of the island and the wide stable 75-foot concrete dock behind a rock breakwater. It was at the bottom of a -0.7 tide, and we only had 7-feet of water depth. The moorage is on both sides of the dock on a first-come, first-served basis with 3-hour limit. There is no overnight moorage or camping.

The only inhabitants, other than the wildlife, are the caretakers who live in a home overlooking the tiny harbor. In addition to greeting boats at the dock and answering questions, they also do maintenance and repairs of trails, buildings, systems, and machinery. They also conduct guided tours and beach cleaning.

Caretakers cottage at Vendovi Island Preserve.

The caretaker’s house overlooks the tiny harbor.

Once Easy Goin’ was secure, we downed our walking shoes to explore the Island. At the head of the dock ramp, is a kiosk with a sign-in sheet. Island rules and information including a map of the island and its 3-miles of well-groomed trails. The main loop trail is two miles in length and traverses the island through lush forest alive with singing birds. The highest point of the island is 330-feet, making for easy walking.

Trails on Vendovi Island Preserve.

The island is home to a variety of seabirds, such as purple martins, Harlequin ducks, and provides nesting habitat for pigeon guillemots.

There is also beaches and tide pools to explore.

Vendovi Island First Americans and Settlers

The history of Vendovi is quite intriguing. The earliest inhabitants were the Salish Native Americans who once used the island as a seasonal fishing camp. The original location can still be seen today in the form of a shell midden located on the west side of the island at Sunset Beach.

Shell middens on Vendovi Island Preserve.

Midden is evidence of Native American use.

The name Vendovi came from the Wilkes Expedition in 1841. A Fijian chief named Ro Veidovi was believed to have ordered the killing of the crew of a whaling ship, with at least one of the crew members reportedly having been cannibalized. When the expedition passed through the South Pacific, the chief was captured and taken aboard to stand trial in the United States. During the exploration trip from the South Pacific to New York via the Pacific Northwest, to ease the chief’s sorrow after the death of the ship’s pilot, who had become the chief’s friend and translator, Wilkens named the island Vendovi, a variation of the Fijian pronunciation of Veidovi.       

By the 1880’s homesteading was bringing families to the island. By the 1900’s the island had been logged, although small patches of old growth trees remain scattered on the island. In the 1920s the Vendovi Island Fur Farm raised foxes.Old sawmill on Vendovi Island Preserve.

A sawmill shed. 

Vendovi Islands Christian Groups and Modern Land Owners

In the 30’s a small Christian group led by Father Devine known as the Peace Mission leased a portion of the island. Located near the caretaker’s house, is their compound named “Peaceful Paradise of the Pacific.” The retreat faded away, followed by a handful of local owners, including the more recent Fluke family, founder of the Fluke Corporation, who purchased the island in 1965. A memorial site remains on the island for John Fluke Sr., who passed away in 1984, with a granite memorial commemorating his life.

John Fluke memorial on Vendovi Island Preserve.

John Fluke memorial.

In 2010, the Fluke family put the island up for action, where the private non-profit land conservancy, San Juan Island Preservation Trust, and an anonymous benefactor, won the bidding.

This was our first visit to the island and just the quick escape we were looking for, making for a wonderful day of exploration.

The view from the caretaker’s home of the harbor and Lummi Island.

To learn more about Vendovi Island Preserve go here, or visit The San Juan Preservation Trust. For Vendovi Island Preserve visitor guidelines and a trail map go HERE.

~ Deane Hislop

Want to read more by Deane? Click HERE.

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