Ashley Keegan

San Juan Islands

In the Salish Sea, 165 kilometers from Seattle, the San Juan Islands are an ideal place to enjoy the serene natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Ashley Keegan

Easily accessible by seaplane or ferry boat, the 172 islands are one of the most popular destinations in Washington state. Three of the largest—San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island—are the most visited and boast excellent amenities like quaint inns, tours, and restaurants.

San Juan Island, the second largest and most populated of the islands, includes visitor hub Friday Harbor with restaurants, shops, and a marina where whale-watching and kayaking tours depart. You can learn about local whale populations and the Salish Sea at The Whale Museum, and shop their gift shop for unique souvenirs. A short drive away is historic Roche Harbor, where travelers can enjoy a meal overlooking the water or walk through the more than 150 works of art in the eight-hectare San Juan Islands Sculpture Park.

Horseshoe-shaped Orcas Island is quieter than San Juan Island but no less attractive, with lush forests and farmland. Drive or hike to the top of Mount Constitution (the highest point in the San Juan Islands) in Moran State Park, where an observation tower affords 360-degree views of the Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound. Also on the island are the small towns of Eastsound, Olga, and Orcas, home to waterfront resorts, quaint inns, wineries, galleries, and charming eateries like Gertie’s, with cozy brunch and lunch fare, wine, and cocktails.

The third of the most visited islands is Lopez Island. At only and with just 2,500 residents, it’s definitely the smallest of the three but is known as the “friendly isle,” where locals might wave to you in welcome. The downtown marina and Lopez Village area brim with great shopping, dining, and a weekly farmers market in summer. Elegant restaurant Ursa Minor highlights the best ingredients of the season and surrounding islands, while Lopez Island Sea Kayak and Bicycle Works offer kayaking tours on calm waters as well as bicycles to rent for self-guided cycling routes. Be sure to visit Spencer Spit State Park for three kilometers of hiking trails and endless opportunities to spot marine wildlife and birds amid the saltwater lagoon.

Being surrounded by water, the San Juan Islands are also a great place in the Pacific Northwest to embark on a whale-watching tour. Board a boat from a local tour operator and then head out to known feeding spots, keeping a safe and respectful distance the entire time. Before you know it, a telltale spout of water or flip of a tail reveals glimpses of majestic marine mammals at play. It’s all part of that San Juan Island magic.

Travel Info: Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Island are a three-hour drive and ferry from Seattle. Take I-5 north and exit 230 for WA-20 west to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Washington State Ferries to Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan (Friday Harbor) leave every one to two hours and can be reserved at Kenmore Air offers seaplane rides to the San Juans from Lake Union. Clipper Vacations offers boat rides from downtown Seattle.


Great catch. Completed (and I made those adjustments elsewhere too)

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