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San Juan Islands

Photo by Mark Gardner

San Juan Islands Itineraries

San Juan Island in 2 Days

Whales and eagles, wine and fine dining, kayaking and biking

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The San Juan Islands, in extreme northwest Washington state, include 172 named islands and reefs. When you visit the San Juans you’ll most likely be going to the four islands served by ferry; San Juan Island (Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island. The sailor and kayaker may want to explore farther afield.


Getting to the San Juan Islands

Getting to the San Juans is a memorable experience in itself. The Washington State Ferry from Anacortes gives you a taste of the area’s beauty. Don’t be surprised if whale watching starts during your ferry crossing.  Ferries accommodate cars as well as walk-on passengers and cyclists. Many focus on San Juan Island when they visit and take a ferry from Anacortes (consider spending time exploring this quaint town on Fildago Island.) You can also take the Victoria Clipper from Seattle’s waterfront. Feeling adventurous? Catch a Kenmore Air seaplane in the Seattle area and land right on the water.


What to See and Do in the San Juan Islands

National monument status permanently protects the precious lands in the San Juan Islands and when you visit, you’ll understand why. There is so much to do in the San Juans whether you want to relax on the deck with a book and end your day in a farm-to-table restaurant or go whale watching, kayaking and hiking. No matter what your choice of activity (or lack thereof), you’ll notice the casual laid-back island vibe in the San Juans. And you’ll be surrounded by stunning natural beauty and resident wildlife.

Outdoor recreation is the draw, but there are things to do in town too. The four islands have shops, restaurants and museums. Each island has art galleries featuring area artists. Enjoy a whale museum or lighthouse tour. There are wineries, lavender and alpaca farms to visit.

The San Juan Islands are romantic and a great destination for honeymooners who want a casual, relaxing experience. Families enjoy the museums, biking, whale watching and visiting historical sites.


When To Go

The high season is summer. The best time to visit the San Juan Islands is between April and October.
Summer is nice and warm but it means higher prices.

How Much Time To Spend

While you can take a ferry from Anacortes and enjoy Friday Harbor in a day, the San Juans deserve much more of your time. You can take several days to drive around San Juan Island and enjoy the sights or spend your vacation kayaking, hiking, touring and relaxing.

High and Low Season

The high season is summer. The best time to visit the San Juan Islands is between April and October.
Summer is nice and warm but it means higher prices.

Weather and Climate

The San Juan Islands enjoy an average of 247 days with sunshine and about half the rainfall of Seattle, thanks to the “rain shadow” effect of the Olympic Mountains to the south. It’s no wonder visitors are attracted to the islands year round! Check out the 7-day forecast for Friday Harbor as an example.

Time Zone

Pacific

What To Pack and Wear

As with most places in the Pacific Northwest, casual, outdoorsy clothing is the norm. In all seasons, layering is ideal. And make sure your top layer is waterproof. Bring gear and clothing for the activities you anticipate doing. For example, you might need a warm jacket and hat for a whale watching cruise but can get away with shorts and a t-shirt in the summer at the Farmer’s Market. Always have walking shoes on hand.

Transportation

Getting There

Getting to the San Juans is a memorable experience in itself. The Washington State Ferry from Anacortes gives you a taste of the area’s beauty. Don’t be surprised if whale watching starts during your ferry crossing.  Ferries accommodate cars as well as walk-on passengers and cyclists. You can also take the Victoria Clipper from Seattle’s waterfront. Feeling adventurous? Catch a Kenmore Air seaplane in the Seattle area and land right on the water.

Background

Head to the San Juan Islands for an escape from city and suburban life. The islands are located in northwest Washington state.

Life on the San Juans is more natural, more relaxed. You’ll enjoy the mellow islands vibe, a temperate year-round climate, and long, lazy hours of doing just what you want.

You can count on temperatures around 70° in the summer and 40° in the winter. A happy confluence of weather systems also accounts for the high level of air quality you’ll appreciate across the San Juans.

There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County, however the four ferry served Islands; San Juan Island (with the county seat Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island are the most populous and host the vast majority of lodging and dining options and tourism activities.

Casual is the rule on these islands, from clothes to the friendly greetings you’ll receive. It’s a place known for natural beauty and relaxation.

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