The paradise known as The San Juan Islands consist of 172 islands* with names. There are four major, ferry served, islands: Orcas Island, San Juan Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw Island (listed here by size). You can reach them by Washington State Ferry, private or chartered airplane, or boat. Top-notch accommodations and amenities await you on the islands.
Historical museums on the three main islands are full of fascinating history. Or visit places like: Richardson Village on Lopez Island; Orcas Hotel, Orcas Island Art Works, or Rosario Resort on Orcas Island; or American Camp and English Camp on San Juan Island.
Some outstanding parks to visit are Odlin County Park and Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island; Moran State Park and Eastsound Waterfront Park on Orcas Island; or Lime Kiln Point State Park (ideal for whale watching) on San Juan Island. Campers and RVs are welcome in some of these parks too.
Look not only for good restaurants and accommodations in the “little cities” of the San Juans but also the many specialty shops. Check out Fisherman Bay Village on Lopez Island, Eastsound Village on Orcas Island, or Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. For live theatre, music, and dance performances, attend a play or musical at Lopez Center, Orcas Center, or the San Juan Community Theatre.
Outdoor activities are geared to boaters, bikers, hikers, kayakers, golfers, campers, and horseback riders. Special treats like whale watching attract visitors from across the planet. The islands are home to such marvelous creatures as bald eagles, harbor seals, river otters, and, of course, killer orca whales. Black-tailed deer are prominent so keep an eye out for these graceful animals, and be careful while driving.
Farmers Markets are popular and feature local produce, craftsmen, and cooks. Catch the farmers’ markets on Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan. Three abundant orchards and vineyards lure locals and visitors to them. Lopez Island Vineyards, San Juan Island Vineyards, or Orcas Island Winery. Local wines and ciders are often served in local restaurants like Island Hoppin’ Brewery on Orcas.
Shaw Island the smallest of the ferry-served islands has only 170 full-time residents and virtually no overnight lodging. Shopping is done at the store by the ferry landing. It’s a great island for bicyclists, nature lovers, and people who long for peace and quiet. Some visitors like to go to the other smaller islands like Blakely Island, Stuart Island, Cypress Island, Guemes Island, Decator Island, Waldron Island, and Sucia Island (Washington State Parks island). All of the islands are endowed with wonderful natural beauty but be sure to make any arrangements before showing up as most do not have accommodations for visitors.
How about good restaurants? There are around a dozen on Lopez Island and over forty on both Orcas Island and San Juan Island. Choices in accommodations revolve around things like waterfront or water view, a room or a cottage, pets allowed, handicapped access, kitchen included with cabin, etc. Some people prefer to stay in a place relatively close to the ferry landing.
No matter what you choose for your island adventure, remember, getting here is just the beginning…
* Interestingly, up here, islands are defined as having at least one living tree.