San Juan Islands

Fall a Glorious Time to Visit Haven of the Northwest

By and ; published Wednesday, January 4th, 2012



San Juan Islands draw sailors, outdoor lovers
Photo Credit: BLMOregon - flickr

Accessible by plane or ferry ride (both equally pleasant and scenic) from Washington State or British Columbia, the San Juan Islands are breathtaking.  Talk about location:  they sit in boundary waters, south of Vancouver, east of Victoria, B.C. and northwest of Seattle.  Whichever transportation mode you choose for arrival is equally thrilling:  the scenery is magnificent by air or by sea.  

This casual, outdoorsy destination has long been a haven for sailors.  Vacationers come here to go whale watching, sea kayaking, cycling, hiking, boating, or birding.  Packing is simple:  bring comfortable shoes, clothing that layers, and an adventuresome spirit.  Binoculars would be a good idea, too.  

Four main islands dominate the San Juans:  Orcas, Shaw, Lopez and San Juan.   There are actually 172 total islands in this spectacular archipelago, but the main four are where you'll find lodging, dining and shopping options.   Friday Harbor is the nightlife hub.  

Summer is far and away the most popular time to visit the islands, with temperatures averaging 70-80 degrees during the day.  but we like spring and fall, when evenings are a crisp low of 55 and daytime temps are typically about 75 degrees. 

As the most popular charter sailing and fishing area in the Pacific Northwest, most activities in and around the archipelago involve the water.  The whale-watching, fishing, and kayaking are unparalleled.  Humpback, gray and minke whales migrate through the area year-round.  Watch them from a ferry or charter boat, or get up close via kayak.  

Nature lovers and photographers will be amazed at the abundance of wildlife which calls the San Juans home, from American bald eagles to red foxes and Rufous hummingbirds.  

The next time you're wanting to try a new destination for a summer or autumn trip, the San Juans are a wonderful choice. 

Getting Here

There are many ways to reach the San Juans.

  • Ride the ferry from Anacortes
  • Fly from Seattle's SeaTac airport
  • Take a seaplane from Seattle's Lake Union
  • Take the Victoria Clipper from downtown Seattle or Victoria, BC


read more Where to Go When articles »


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