Steeped in history and abounding in natural and native habitat, Vendovi Island is one of the newest boating destinations in the Salish Sea.
Lying on the eastern fringes of the San Juan Islands, Vendovi is an off-the-beaten-path island that is now open to the public for daytime exploration. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the San Juan Preservation Trust, which purchased the island in 2010, this relatively untouched gem has been gaining local acclaim for its pristine forests, colorful wildflower displays and relaxing beaches.
Vendovi Island lies a mere seven miles north of Anacortes and nine miles south of Bellingham, near the islands of Lummi, Guemes, Sinclair and Eliza. What makes the 217-acre island so special is the lack of development it has avoided over the past number of decades.
Visitors to the island can enjoy close to three miles of hiking trails crisscrossing the native forests of Douglas firs, big leaf maples and western red cedars. Under the trees, giant sword ferns, salal bushes, salmonberries and thimbleberries thrive. During the spring and summer months, Vendovi’s southern grasslands come alive with vibrant colors of flowering camas, paintbrush, fawn lilies and more.
With its relative isolation and absence of development, Vendovi Island is also a haven for sea birds, eagles, harbor seals, river otters and Douglas squirrels. No deer currently live on the island, which helps lend to the thriving and lush native flora.
Two amazing pebble beaches, aptly named Sunrise and Sunset due to their east- and west-facing directions, lend to the beauty of the island.
Vendovi’s history begins with the Coast Salish people, who used the island as a seasonal camp for collecting food including shellfish, salmon, berries and roots. With European exploration of the Pacific Northwest beginning in the 1800s, the island was bestowed its name by naval captain Charles Wilkes in 1841 during his expedition into Puget Sound and the Salish Sea.
Returning from the South Pacific, Wilkes had on board a captured Fijian chief by the name of Vendovi. Apprehended for the deaths of the crew of a U.S. whaling ship, Vendovi was being taken to New York for trial.
As American and European settlers began arriving in the area, Vendovi was used for raising various animals including sheep, pigs and foxes. During the depression years of the 1930s, the island was also home to the International Peace Mission movement, which included a small sect of worshippers led by Father Divine, an African-American spiritual leader.
In 1965, John Fluke, founder of the Everett-based Fluke Corporation, purchased the island. Used as a family retreat with a small house and outbuildings constructed on the northern shore, Vendovi has remained relatively untouched, flourishing in its native flora and fauna.
When the island went up for auction in 2010, the San Juan Preservation Trust (SJPT) was able to buy it for $6.4 million. With $3 million donated by an anonymous donor and a bridge loan offered for the remaining balance of $3.4 million, the island was saved temporarily from future development.
Today, the SJPT is campaigning to “Save Vendovi Island” by collecting donations to pay off the remainder of the loan to permanently protect this unique island (for further information on the SJPT or to donate to “Save Vendovi Island” visit www.sjpt.org).
For those arriving to the island by boat, an 80-foot dock protected by a rock breakwater is located on the island’s northern shore (kayakers may land at the beach near the dock). Daytime visits to the island are welcome (no overnight stays) from May 1 through Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Caretakers on the island are available to help answer questions and direct visitors to the island’s various trails and beaches.