THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS
Washington's San Juan Islands
Sprinkled around the North Puget Sound, just two hours from Seattle and a stone's throw from Victoria, British Columbia, are the lush and green patches of paradise that make up Washington's San Juan Islands. The three main islands, Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and San Juan Island/Friday Harbor, encompass the rugged yet refined culture and beauty that the Pacific Northwest is known for and draw in millions of visitors each year. If you plan to be in Washington, venture out to the San Juan Islands, explore the wilderness, observe native marine wildlife, and experience the warm and friendly welcome that awaits you.
Getting to the San Juan Islands
Traveling to the San Juan Islands is an exciting adventure in itself. From Anacortes, you can catch the Washington State Ferry, which makes stops at all four of the main islands. While on the ferry, be on the lookout for Orca whales, Humpback whales, and other marine wildlife. There are also several private charter airlines that make daily trips from Victoria, British Columbia and Seattle. You can also travel on your own private marine vessel and dock at one of the many marina slips sprinkled around the islands.
Adorned in thick evergreen forests, cascading waterfalls, and sandy shorelines, Orcas Island is a destination for true nature lovers. Orcas Island features nearly 40 miles of hiking and cycling trails, as well as campgrounds and outdoor recreation spaces. Hike up to the summit of Mount Constitution and take in a panoramic views of the Puget Sound, Mount Baker, and the rest of the San Juan Islands. Orcas Island has four main villages, each showcasing their own unique personalities and charm:
• West Sound is the oldest village and has welcomed farmers, fishermen, and pioneers in search of a homesteading lifestyle for centuries. West sound has locally owned restaurants, boutique gift shops, and several bed and breakfast inns. Be sure to dine at Red Rabbit Cafe during the spring and summer months and support the farm to table movement.
• East Sound is known as the commerce hub of the island and features everything from art galleries and gourmet restaurants to history museums and day spas. East Sound is rich with early Washington history and is home to a grouping of historic cabins that were constructed during the late 1800s that are worth checking out.
• Deer Harbor is a quaint little village that welcomes visitors who want to explore nature. Deer Harbor features a marina for private and commercial vessel docking and also serves as the gateway for local whale watching tours and fishing trips.
• Olga is considered to be the artistic center of Orcas Island and is home to a cooperative warehouse that supports the creativity of over 40 local artists. In Olga, you will find several gourmet eateries that doll out fresh caught seafood, fragrant baked goods, and handcrafted espresso drinks
Spanning a distance of over 15 miles across, Lopez Island is the southern most island of the region and is a Mecca for camping and all things nature. Lopez Island has a celebrated food culture that calls upon visitors to stop into one of the local eateries and enjoy something fresh and decadent. The land was first cultivated by European immigrant farmers in the mid 18th century and continues to thrive as a agricultural hub to this day. Lopez Village is the official downtown region of the island and it is where you will find gourmet espresso drinks, restaurants that serve up farm-to-table specialties, art galleries, boutique gift stores, and a couple of local history museums. Head out to the shoreline and hop aboard a whale watching boat, do some fishing, or simply enjoy the breeze blowing through your hair.
San Juan Island/Friday Harbor
Known as the main attraction of the area, San Juan Island is home to the quaint little village of Friday Harbor. Friday Harbor is an idyllic small town harbor community and the center of tourism in all of the San Juan Islands. The town center overlooks the Puget Sound and offers antique shops, gift stores, art galleries, a museum dedicated to whales, two lighthouses, relaxing seafood restaurants, and even a bookstore. If you are looking for a weekend retreat, Friday Harbor is the place to go. Whether you have always dreamed of spending the night on a farm, in a historic bed and breakfast inn, or a minimalist hostel, there are lodging options that are just right for you.
WHEN TO VISIT
The Pacific Northwest wakes up and comes alive during the spring months. It is a time of year when new plant life blooms, a sweet aroma can be detected in the air, and the local whale population returns home to frolic and play in the cool ocean waters of the sound.
The San Juan Islands experiences mild temperatures during the warm months of the year, rarely exceeding 90°F. The summer months are bustling with tourist activity, so if you do not like crowds, head out to the islands during the spring and fall months. Travel out to the San Juan Islands and experience the quieter side of Washington. Skip the airplane and hop aboard one of the state operated ferries, a privately owned charter boat, or pack up your own marine vessel and enjoy all of the natural beauty along the way. The local motto for the area is "getting here is half the adventure" and you will have the journey of a lifetime taking in the sites, meeting the residents, and exploring the town villages.