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Roche Harbor

A picturesque little settlement at the northern tip of San Juan Island, owned and controlled by the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company, but with none of the depressing aspects of the typical “company town.” A pastoral air pervades the gardens and houses and the jagged rocks of the little cove. A small, white-steepled schoolhouse nestles snugly against a green-foliaged hillside. Roses and dahlias grow beneath tall, gay hollyhocks. Set between steep hillsides, the vine-covered and balconied Hotel De Haro (L), with its antique furniture, blends harmoniously with surroundings that re-create an atmosphere of the nineties. Arbored entrances lead to embowered and wistaria-hung gardens where immense outdoor fireplaces invite barbecues.

Roche Harbor continues to be a playground for the yachting set. The Hotel De Haro, virtually unchanged from its days as the hotel for investors and financiers visiting the lime plant, continues to provide accommodations for travelers not sleeping in their boats. Many of the remaining historical buildings associated with the Lime Plant remain in use as part of the Roche Harbor Resort, including an old warehouse that now serves as a general store and John McMillin’s former residence, which now houses a restaurant. Remnants of two masonry lime furnaces dating to the 1880s are present at the foot of the quarry ridge facing the harbor. New developments, including residential condominiums and resort amenities, have recently been added to the resort in a manner sensitive to the historic character of the harbor. These historic structures constitute the Roche Harbor National Register Historic District. A walking tour of historic Roche Harbor can be purchased at the front desk of the Hotel De Haro and is also available online.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Snug Roche Harbor

Snug Roche Harbor, virtually landlocked by little Pearl Island in its northern entrance, is a favorite anchorage for yachts cruising among the San Juans. Stripped of her sails and moored in the harbor is the famous clipper ship La Escocesa (Sp. “The Scottish Lady”). She was built in 1868 in Dundee, Scotland, and challenged Young America, a much larger vessel, to a race from San Francisco to Liverpool. Young America won, with a record cruising of 106 days; La Escocesa arrived 13 days later, losing her backers $40,000. In 1936 she was placed in service by the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company, but has not been used in recent years.



Columbarium, a strange structure, built for a purpose known only to the designer, the late John S. McMillan. Seven Doric columns, one with a broken shaft, encircle the columbarium. Within the circle is a large round stone table with six stone chairs, each inscribed with the name of a member of his family. A space is left for a seventh chair. The columbarium is actually a mausoleum constructed to memorialize McMillan and his family and is accessible via a short foot trail through the woods. The table, made of lime, is said to represent the family, with a chair for each of McMillan’s sons and daughters, which double as crypts for their ashes. McMillan was a devoted Mason and many symbols representing the values of the ancient order can be found at the site.

Henry Island

Henry Island is a fairly large, H-shaped island in Haro Strait. In 1841, the island was named by Cmdr. Charles Wilkes for his relative Midshipman Wilkes Henry, who was killed by natives in the Fiji Islands on July 18, 1840.

Pearl Island

Pearl Island is at north entrance of Roche Harbor. The island covers about three quarters of the harbor entrance. It was named by Cmdr. Charles Wilkes who stated that the name was for its shape and position, but it is not round and nearly blocks Roche Harbor.

Barren Island

Barren Island is on Spieden Channel. The name was given because the island was once devoid of vegetation.