San Juan Islands in Washington State

Last Updated on June 4, 2019 by Estrella

San Juan Islands in Washington State
San Juan Islands in Washington State

If you are new to Washington State, or not so new, there is one place that is worth a visit. The San Juan Islands. The ferry ride alone is worth the trip. Even if you don’t want to drive, just go on one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world. If you want to take a vacation, but don’t have the time to, then this is the place to go. You can make it a one-day trip, or stay overnight. You will be glad to have visited the San Juan Islands in Washington State.

What’s so special about the San Juan Islands?

Orcas Island

This is probably the most beautiful island in the San Juan. Once you get off the ferry and follow the main road, you’ll see sheep and cows and horses. One of the shop keepers told me that there are several black sheep on the island, and that year, they would have black wool. Some residents meet regularly to turn hair from their animals into yarn. This tells you the island has a community feel.

If you like to have an aerial view of the San Juan, you can have a biplane ride. This will be an experience you won’t forget. Remember the movie Out of Africa? The biplane that Meryl Streep was in gave her a sweeping view of the stunning safari below.

Mt. Constitution

And don’t forget the view from Mt. Constitution, which is around 2,400 feet high. At the summit is a tower that many like to climb. It gives a 360 degree view of all the surrounding islands. And if you are lucky enough to be the only one there, the silence is something you an actually hear. A very special treat.

About 2 miles from the summit is a small area that can park 2 or 3 cars. The view from this point is actually more stunning than from the summit, I believe. There is a low fence as railing. Many have ventured out on a small path (at your own risk) that hugs the hill. Spend some time here. It’s where heaven and earth meets.

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

First, let me clear up the name. San Juan Island is one of the islands in the San Juan Islands. It is the last stop when you take the ferry from Anacortes. Friday Harbor is located on San Juan Island. Besides the lavender field and other attractions, many come for the whales.

You can either go out on a whale tour, or drive to Lime Kiln Point State Park and wait for the whales. I suggested this to a client. And within 20 minutes, he saw the whale show of his life. This was in July. It would be a good idea to call ahead to find out if the whales have been seen, if your main purpose is to see whales. You might call a whale touring company. Even if you don’t use their service, they know where and when the whales were spotted.

Lopez Island

A quiet island. People don’t even lock their doors here. Children in school bus wave to you. In fact, it’s known as the friendly isle. If you want to unplug, this is the place to be. Walk on the beach, hike, do some bird watching, read, relax. There is no rental car, no public transportation, no traffic lights, no shopping malls, no theater. There are lovely Bed and Breakfast so you can spend more time to relax. Here is a link on what you’ll find on Lopez Island.

Shaw Island

This is a unique isle. The smallest of the islands served by the ferry, there is no market, restaurant, or hotel. However, there is a general store that is well-stocked with a deli by the ferry landing.

Besides the University of Washington biological preserve and the Shaw County Park, consider visiting Our Lady of the Rock Benedictine Monastery. The nuns who live there run an active farm and encourage visitors. In fact, they welcome guests of all faiths to pray and work with them. Here is a link to the monastery.

So, there you have it! The 4 islands in San Juan serviced by the ferry. Even if you have just one day to get away, do take this trip. And take the last ferry back so you can see the stars. Away from city lights, this is one star gazing you’ll remember.

If you enjoy this article, here is one on Seattle hikes for families. It goes into hikes that the entire family can enjoy.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email

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