Our farm is located on the western flank of the Turtleback Mountain Preserve and is surrounded by hundreds of acres of pristine forest, wetlands and rugged coastline.
There are extensive trails and secluded roads for hiking, mountain biking, and riding, a large freshwater lake that is ideal for swimming, and many scenic spots for picnicking.
From our farm, guests may hike up to the summit of Turtlehead Mountain where there are spectacular views of the surrounding San Juan Islands, coastal mountain ranges and Canadian Gulf Islands or access the public trails on the Turtleback Mountain Preserve.
Many guests enjoy hiking out to the salt water coastline where they can spot seal, porpoise and occasionally otters and Orca whales.
"From the moment we first saw Turtlehead Farm, we knew this was the spot for us, and we did not look at a single other location for our wedding."
"Working with Ellen was like having a fairy godmother on hand to make all our dreams come true. She is endlessly calm, patient and thoughtful, and the property reflects care for the details and the environment…and some major attention to having fun!"
"Despite our bold choice of a winter wedding date in the Pacific Northwest, the barn was warm and inviting and the party glowed through the fog. The farm has a place in our hearts forever, and I’m still stunned by how lucky we were to find it and for it to find us!"
Turtlehead Farm is located on Orcas Island, one of the most rugged of Washington State’s San Juan Islands. The farm is nestled within pristine forestland bordered by the Turtleback Mountain Preserve and the coastline of Puget Sound.
Rising above the property is the “head” of Turtleback Mountain, a vista featuring magnificent views of the Canadian Gulf Islands, Vancouver Island, Olympic Mountains, and beyond to the Pacific Ocean.
Jack and Jan called Turtlehead Farm home until Jack's passing in 2018.
Jan still lives in the main house on the property. They were former owners and directors of Camp Nor’Wester on Lopez Island. Both are active members of the Orcas Island community and own and operate Westsound Lumber Company.
Their daughter Ellen Helsell moved back to the farm in 2007, after successfully co-founding The Harbor School on Vashon Island, where she resided with her family for 25 years. As one of the next generation stewards of the property, she returned to start a business that combined her love of horses and the land.
Now as owner and manager of Turtlehead Farm, LLC, Ellen spends her summers sharing the abundance of joy life offers on the farm.
The farm’s original homestead, built by Swedish settlers in 1860, still stands in a grassy field by a rushing stream and old apple orchard. Hugging the shore are the remains of lime quarries and kilns once worked by Serbo-Croatians and Austrians at the turn of the century. Remnants of logging camps and skid roads on the land are visible reminders of early pioneer life in the San Juans.
Ruth Brown, owner and director of Four Winds Camp, gifted Turtlehead Farm to the Helsell family in the mid 1950s. Jack and Jan Helsell first developed the property in 1970, beginning with the construction of a circular blade sawmill. Timber from the land was harvested and milled to build the new hewn log homestead, which sits on the site of an old turkey farm.
Jack loved to collect horse-drawn farm equipment, and in those early days, the Helsell family used draft horses to plow, disc, harrow, and clear the fields. As the years went by, the farm grew to include a hewn log guest cabin, gambrel-roofed barn, machine shop, blacksmith shop, woodworking shop, greenhouse, and large organic garden.
"My husband and I, along with our kids have fallen in love with your guest home. It's just so cozy and felt absolutely perfect for our little family. Our son adored the horses, and often walked down to visit them several times a day. The grounds are just incredible and we can't wait to visit again! Thank you for your hospitality."
With much gratitude, The Morelands
"Thank you so much for the unforgettable farm stay. It was the best place to be for our 3 months long family-holiday, and it could not have been a better place to be. We loved the landscape, the horses, chickens and swimming in the lake, Sophie loved the rope swin in the barn! We felt very welcome....and would like to come back...in a couple of years." Guests from Switzerland
"What a magical place you have created here. Thank you for what you do to preserve nature and this way of life....we need more people like you! This was one of the most relaxing and beautiful vacations Gary and I have spent together.
It could not have been more perfect - and visiting with you made it even better!" Lisa and Gary R
Just getting ready to load up the car and head for home...We enjoyed yet another blissful week here at "our" cabin. It seems we always leave with a little bit more of ourselves intact...
Always grateful to have this place to return to. And your kindness, hospitality and friendship over the years have been gifts. So thank you - AGAIN! ....we will try to sneak in another visit before the "high season" descends on the Island."
Warmest regards, The B's
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