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10 Great Things To Do In Washington’s San Juan Islands

10 Great Things to Do in Washington’s San Juan Islands

Here are 10 great things to do in Washington’s San Juan Islands.

The San Juan Islands are America’s answer to Canada’s Gulf Islands.

What you’ll find is an archipelago of 172 islands on the Pacific coast, north and west of Seattle and just south of the Canadian border. The really good news is that they lie in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains and receive half the rainfall of Seattle. In fact, they boast that the sun shines 247 days of the year.

The San Juan Islands are the ideal place to bike, kayak, hike and relax. More specific suggestions are below.

"Spring daffodils for sale"

Spring daffodils for sale

The islands are easily accessible using Washington State ferries. There are multiple daily runs from Anacortes in addition to ferry service from late March until late September from Sidney, British Columbia, Canada. Once you’ve paid to leave Anacortes all the rest of the ferry rides between the islands are free. Yes free.

Three of the San Juan Islands are geared to the visitor.

Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Island

The total population of all the islands is just over 16,000 with close to half of the people on San Juan Island. San Juan and Orcas Island are of a similar size while Lopez Island is almost half the land mass.

"Lopez Island beach"

Lopez Island beach

So what can you do in the San Juan Islands?

  • Take your bikes with you on the ferry and explore each island – allowing a day or two per island. Lopez Island is quiet with super friendly locals. Look for big hills on Orcas Islands and a mixture of hills, farmland and coastal riding on San Juan Island.
  • Visit Moran State Park on Orcas Island and explore its network of hiking trails to lakes and waterfalls. Climb 2,409 foot Mount Constitution.

"Entrance to Moran State Park on Orcas Island"

Entrance to Moran State Park on Orcas Island

  • Explore Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island. You can whale watch from shore.

  • Visit Shark Reef Park on Lopez Island. Check out the seals on the rocks.
"Shark Reef Park on Lopez Island"

Shark Reef Park on Lopez Island

  • Have breakfast or grab a coffee at the cafe at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. This is a hopping spot with boaters visiting from all over the world.
  • Walk through the charming village of Olga on Orcas Island, home to Orcas Island Artworks.
"Artwork on a fence on Orcas Island"

Artwork on a fence on Orcas Island

  • The attractive town of Eastsound Village on Orcas Island is worth exploring. There are several good restaurants and plenty of places to stay.
  • The town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is filled with old wood frame buildings, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. From here it’s easy to organize a whale or wildlife cruise or perhaps a guided half day or day of sea kayaking. There are bookstores to browse through, espresso shops to linger in and plenty of harbour activity.
  • Beautiful west coast vistas (if it’s sunny) greet you on the road to Cattle Point – plus miles of quiet beaches – again on San Juan Island.
10 Great Things to Do in Washington's San Juan Islands

The road to Cattle Point in the rain

If you’re interested in visiting then take advantage of my offer of a free downloadable guide for biking the San Juan Islands. But you don’t have to bike to find the guide useful. There are suggestions of where to stay and eat, a list of companies offering kayak, biking and whale watching trips…. I loved my trip to the San Juan Islands but my three days wasn’t enough. Go for a week so you have plenty of time to relax.

Can you suggest other great things to do in the San Juan Islands?



Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. What do you think is the best to see in San Juan islands if you have only one day to visit?
    Have you had problems crossing the border with a bike in the car?


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