San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands, Washington

The delightful San Juan Islands are an ideal spot for a Northwest summer vacation. These islands are one of Washington state's true treasures. Each island is a fabulous destination on its own, but together the islands make an amazing summer vacation destination. Northwest Washington has a particularly beautiful summer - not too hot, but warm and sunny with lush vegetation and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Visitors to the San Juan Islands will find that the fresh ocean air and isolated island experience makes for a perfect getaway.

The San Juan Islands are located in the Salish Sea, between the Canadian city of Vancouver and Seattle. They are a part of the San Juan Archipelago, which includes the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, the archipelago is comprised of over 700 islands and reefs. Most of these islands are tiny, less than 200 of the islands are large enough to have names. The four main islands are San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island

Access to the San Juan Islands is limited to ferry, private boat and plane. Only four of the islands have public ferry service, the Washington State Ferry System serves, Shaw Island, Lopez Island, Orcas Island and San Juan. The ferry departs from Anacortes Washington, however these ferries do not run as often as the run is quite long and sometimes inter-island vehicle traffic. In addition, these ferries can get quite crowded during the summer, so planning ahead is a good idea.

Between the islands there are 408 miles of mixed rocky and sand waterfront. In fact, San Juan County has more shoreline than any other county in the nation. All these miles of shoreline make the San Juan Islands the ideal location to enjoy a variety of water activities. Throughout the islands visitors can enjoy sea kayaking, whale watching tours and boating. If you are worried about rain disrupting your water sports, as the San Juan Islands are located in northwest Washington, which is of course know for its rain, you are in luck, the San Juan Islands are located in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and get less rain than many other parts of the northwest.

Beyond the water activities that can be enjoyed on each of the islands, visitors will find much more to do. Visitors can take a day trip to one of the islands, or expand their trip and spend multiple days exploring each island. Each of the islands has its own unique character and is worth spending some time getting to know. The islands are different geographically and the atmosphere on each island is different.

Shaw Island, the smallest of the islands with ferry service has a relatively small full-time population. Visitors to Shaw Island should know that there is very little overnight lodging on the island. However, it is a great island to explore on bicycle and be sure to keep your eyes open for some of the beautiful Washington nature and wildlife.

Lopez Island is the next largest island with ferry service. The main town on Lopez is Lopez Village. Visitors to Lopez Island can enjoy the nice little town, which has shops, museums and more. Lopez also has Lopez Island Vineyards, which is a delightful spot to visit. This island also has a few parks worth visiting, including Odlin County Park and Spencer Spit State Park. Lopez is also a particularly good island for bicycling. Bicyclists on the island have the unique opportunity to observe some of the islands wildlife and nature. Lopez Island is dotted with farmlands and views of the water.

San Juan Island has rocky shores mixed with sandy beaches, and the land of the island is a mix of prairie, pastures, lakes and forests. This interesting mix land makes San Juan a great spot to explore. San Juan Islands main town is Friday Harbor, where the ferry docks. Friday Harbor has great dining options as well as live entertainment and specialty shops. Visitors can take some time to explore American Camp and English Camp National Historic Parks. The San Juan Island Vineyards and Wescott Bay Orchards provide visitors to San Juan with delightful dining options. Lime Klin State Park is one of San Juan Islands great spots to enjoy whale watching.

Orcas Island, the largest of the islands is also an amazing destination. This island has a thriving art culture, as well as lots of local agriculture. In addition, Orcas has summer camps for children to enjoy. The land on Orcas Island is a blend of farms, forests, valleys, mountains and lakes. Visitors to Orcas can explore Mount Constitution, the tallest mountain on the islands, with a half mile elevation. The main village on Orcas is Eastsound, where visitors can enjoy shopping, dining and entertainment. Visitors to Orcas should also explore Orcas's Moran State Park and Eastsound Waterfront Park.

Visitors to the San Juan Islands will find delightful accommodations on all of the islands. Throughout the islands there are a variety of outdoor activity options, including boating, bicycling, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, camping and even golfing. Each main island has unique shopping, dining and entertainment, and throughout the islands there is a thriving local agricultural culture and visitors can enjoy the Farmers Markets with their fresh fruits and vegetables. The islands remain fairly wild and provide visitors with the chance to observe and enjoy some of the unique northwestern nature and wildlife. Visitors should keep an eye out for bald eagles, river otters and even orca whales.