Welcome to Decatur Island
Decatur Island is very unique so I’ve designed my site to try to give you a “feel” for this wonderful place and answer the questions I am asked regularly….
Where is Decatur Island?
Decatur Island is a very beautiful island, located about 70 miles north of Seattle…and 5 nautical miles from Anacortes. Very rural with narrow tree-lined roads, the island is home to about 70 full-time residents and about 237 households. Although it’s a non-ferry served island, it’s certainly not out of touch with the rest of the world. Power and phone lines are all underground and DSL is available.
Check out this earlier article from the Seattle Times.
How do I get there?
Two water taxis provide regular service to the island and four different airlines fly into the island on a charter basis. If you have your own boat, both Decatur Shores and Decatur Northwest have docks. A 2500′ private airstrip at Decatur Shores is available for pilots, who own property in this development.
Is it expensive to build on the island?
All materials come to the island by barge so additional transportation costs will be incurred during the building process. Licensed contractors are available on island, including an excavation company; however subcontractors may be needed for electrical, plumbing and insulation. Most individuals plan on adding 25% to their cost estimate for the “Decatur Factor”.
Decatur Construction has built a number of homes on the island and has a beautiful web site to showcase some of their past projects. Sometimes houses are even built in Seattle and brought to the island by barge.
The Decatur Island lifestyle may be for you…
If you want a rural environment, where nobody has to lock up cars or their home, you’ll love it here. Most residents are very independent but can be counted on to be “immediately there” in an emergency. The children enjoy freedoms that vanished long ago in a city environment…plus they learn how to clean a crab, spot an eagle, blow grass whistles, run a boat, catch cod and the fun of spotting a dragon in a cloud….
Many architects and designers have built award-winning homes at Decatur Northwest and on other parts of the island. The island lifestyle often inspires the property owners to create a home that explores the “fun” side of living away from the city.
Are there any services on the island?
The island has a small store and a one-room school (k-8) The store is mainly open in the summer months for ice cream, non-perishable foods and drinks, gift items and books. Upstairs is a small apartment that the owner rents on Airbnb. The store property is currently for sale and the locals are hoping somebody buys it, who loves to cook, and can open up the bistro for meals again…
A very fun nine-hole golf course offers a challenge to even the most experienced golfers and every 4th of July, there’s a tournament where as many as 90 golfers of all ages compete for the coveted trophies. Golf course has clubs, balls and everything you need to stop by and play a few holes….and some of the most unique driving ranges you’ll find anywhere.
“Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air.” – Jack Benny
Is there a school on the island?
The Decatur Island School is part of the Lopez School District and currently has eight students. The school has been the center for many community activities including potlucks, Saturday Markets, art auctions and political forums. The children benefit from advanced technology, hands-on science projects and educational field trips to explore the many resources of the Pacific Northwest. Often part-time residents will bring their kids to the school for a day or two to experience the uniqueness of being in a one-room school….and many don’t want to leave!
A couple of years ago, the school children decided the island needed a library and took it upon themselves to approach the owners of the golf course to see if they’d be willing to let them use a small abandoned building for the books. There is now a charming library on the island and you wouldn’t believe the selection you will find there!
Community market day every Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day
We know its summer again when the first market starts up again! Really more of a social event than a consumer event, the market is open to participation by anyone who might have something to sell. People from all areas of the island, walk or drive to where the tents are set up to see the projects the various artist have been working on or to taste some yummy goodies.
Everyone is welcome to come share their produce, craft creations, recycled items and baked goods. It’s a very fun way to reconnect with each other and share the island “spirit”. If you’ve got a favorite recipe, an item you’d like to recycle or a new art project you’d like to share, we’d love to have you join us!
What do people do for work on Decatur Island?
Most of the full-time residents are self-employed in either construction, fishing or real estate. However, there is also an editor, artist, teacher, retired flight attendant and mechanic on the island. Many families, from the Pacific Northwest have 2nd homes and visit the island as part-time residents and have wonderful times exploring the island and enjoying the many water-related activities. Gardening, hiking, making art, beachcombing or just sitting in the sun with a good book! Covid-19 has turned many of our part-time residents into full-timers. With many working from home, the island is a perfect place to live a more relaxed lifestyle while still getting the job done!
What about medical emergencies?
Luckily, medical emergencies don’t happen very often but when they do, there are about 20 people on the island trained in Wilderness First Aid and there is a first aid station at the airstrip and a smaller one at Decatur Northwest. The dispatcher on San Juan Island is wonderful at coordinating either the sheriff’s boat with paramedics or the Airlift NW helicopter to come an evaluate the patient and possibly provide transportation to a medical facility. Most people have a Airlift NW membership that supplements their regular insurance so they have little or no costs should they need to be transported.
To live on the Decatur Island, do you have to have a boat or a plane?
No…there are a number of airlines that offer charter service to the island and two passenger ferry companies: Paraclete Charters and Island Express Charters provide daily transportation on and off the island multiple times during the day. Many residents use these “water taxis” exclusively for their travel needs. Often, islanders state how fortunate they are to be able to travel to the island without having to endure long ferry lines to get here. A 20 to 30 minute boat ride is sure better than a couple hours on a Washington State ferry…
What about garbage and fuel?
Trash removal is the responsibility of each property owner. Most people recycle as much as possible and take their trash off-island regularly and bring their fuel in 5 gallon cans. Fuel can be purchased in bulk, from Richardson Fuel. The fuel barge comes to the island every 4-6 weeks.
Is there much social interaction among the residents of Decatur Island?
The summer months are when the island has the largest population and 4th of July weekend is the busiest. Residents get together to enjoy the market, participate in the parade and 5K Fun Run and golf tournament. That evening a private show of fireworks takes place at Davis Bay and is amazing!
Other events in the summer that bring people together include: a tennis camp and lecture series at Decatur Northwest, weekly market, science and environmental workshops and spring and late summer sheep roundups.
Are there a lot of public lands on Decatur Island?ll.
No…almost all of the island is privately owned but most of the beaches are state owned. Decatur Island is unique in that it has miles of lovely sandy beaches to enjoy but they aren’t readily available to the general public. There is a public boat ramp but no dock so rarely does anyone arrive who’s unrelated to an islander.
At the very south tip of the island there is a beautiful area managed by San Juan Preservation Trust, that can be accessed by water. It’s a fun destination for kayakers and hikers to explore….
What is Decatur Shores?
Decatur Shores is a development on the south end of Decatur Island, built around a 2500′ airstrip, dock and 10 acre waterfront park. Many pilots love being able to fly into the island and enjoy their homes. There are a number of properties for sale that are perfect for people with planes. Decatur Shores property owners enjoy all the benefits of owning waterfront and have protective CCR’s which specify the type of development that can occur. Lots and roads are very rural in character and numerous green belt areas provide privacy and protection to the abundant island wildlife.
A number of Seattle professionals own homes at Decatur Northwest….What is that area?
Decatur Northwest is an unique development on the northwest corner Decatur Island with beautiful home sites, two sandy walk-out beaches, a deep-water dock, year-round caretakers, a private passenger ferry, community gardens, tennis courts and much more. It offers a very desirable community lifestyle and many architects have won awards for the homes built here.
On the first weekend in May, there is a big sheep roundup to bring the 120 or so resident ewes and their lambs in for shearing and medical attention. It’s a very fun event to share with the children in your life.
How will I know if the island is right for me?
Come for a visit….Most people know right away and say it’s because the island just feels like “home”.