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Showing posts with label San Juan Islands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label San Juan Islands. Show all posts

10 Adventures To Try In The San Juan Islands

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The Essential San Juan Islands Guide

I call the San Juan Islands - "Hawaii of the Pacific Northwest" !

The coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest, between mainland Washington and Vancouver Island, contain hundreds of islands, some little more than sandbars, others rising 3,000 feet. Among these, the San Juans are considered by many to be the loveliest.

The San Juan Island offer something for everyone. The islands are especially attractive to adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts.

We spent a few gorgeous early fall days, exploring the two of the most fun islands - Orcas and San Juan. Below, I offer a few suggestions if you plan to do more than just sitting on the beach and enjoying the sun :

Tips On Visiting The San Juan Islands

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The San Juan Island Archipelago consists of a staggering 172 islands, some only visible during extreme low tide, and well over 300 miles of shoreline. The three largest islands are geographically unique: Orcas being the hilliest, Lopez the flattest, and San Juan Island is a combination of both.

Though, there are a few bigger islands that are popular among see kayakers and boaters, the three big ones ( Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan ) are most visited by "leisure travelers" ( with Lopez Island being more popular among "recreational cyclists" ).

Below I want to share a few tips that I wish I new before visiting Orcas and San Juan Islands this September :

1 - When To Go

Any time !  There is no better time than island time !
Ideally, the best time to visit the islands is during summer : the views are simply amazing !
But summertime is also the busiest ( not to mention more expensive ! ). You can always travel during the week, but even that won't guarantee you short lines at the ferry terminal, or a camping spot on the same day.

That's why, for this particular destination, in my opinion, the best time to travel is either early fall or spring.
In Washington state, summer "extends" well into September/October : the weather is still warm, and the sun is still shining ! Plus, it's less crowded, and the hotels and local businesses start charging "off-season" prices.

2 - Taking A Ferry To The Islands

The trip by a ferry is an adventure of its own !
The trip from Anacortes to San Juan island is about an hour long, with a few stops at Shaw, Lopez, and Orcas islands.
In summer time, the lines are long, and you're recommended to arrive to the terminal at least an hour before the departure time.In September we got on a ferry just 30 minutes before its departure.
Though in Anacortes you pay for round trip, if you want to travel from Orcas to San Juan, it will cost extra ~$20 ( round trip ).

3 - Take a car...or not

At some point I was debating whether to take a car or not. Since my son and I were camping for 3 days, and we had our bikes and a kayak with us, I had to take a car.
But some adventurous people do choose to take just a bike to explore the islands. This way, you can pitch a tent at one of many camping spots ( or even better, anywhere by the water ! for FREE ! ), or get a room at a hotel/resort.
Just keep in mind, Oracs Island is considered to be the largest, and the hilliest ( with Mount Constitution at almost exactly a half-mile elevation ). But you always have an option to rent one of the islands' cute scoot-cars from Susie's Mopeds.

4 - Where To Stay

The islands  offer you a whole world of choice when it comes to where you want to stay. Depending on your preferences you can choose from primitive camping to high priced hotels and resorts, or somewhere in between ( B&B's, cabins, bungalows ).
Since the islands are extremely popular, even prices for camping go as high as $25 + per night. Plus, reservations ( even for camping ! ) are recommended week(s) ahead.
But again, in early fall, we were lucky to get a camping spot right by the water on the same day !