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Lesser Known Islands of the USA: San Juan Islands, WA

May 23, 2014 at 3:56 PM | by | ()

According to the calendar we’re just days away from the start of the summer season, and that means it’s time to turn our attention towards some great warm weather destinations. So get out on the water, wave goodbye to the mainland, and set you watch to island time.

What Are The San Juan Islands?

They might not be that lesser known to those in the know over in the Pacific Northwest, but if you asked some one on the other side of the country—there’s a likelihood they’d mumble something about the time they went to Puerto Rico. The San Juan Islands are off the coast of Washington, as they do the archipelago thing between there and British Columbia.

How To Get There

There’s many islands doing their thing within the chain, but only four are readily available to you thanks to little ferry fun. The Washington State Department of Transportation is all over it, and they’ll take you to spots like Lopez Island, Orcas Island, and Shaw Island—among some other spots. Head over here for the full schedule and rundown, and note that fares are going to depend on your destination and what not. The trip starts at around $13 per passenger between Anacortes and Friday Harbor, but just be aware that fares are not collected in the opposite direction.

What to Do

First and foremost we’d suggest taking in the scenery, because if you don’t call this area of the map home—it’s like a whole new world. Getting out into and onto the water is always a good option, and outfitters on the islands will be able to set you up with what you need. Besides taking in the sights and the sounds the main attraction here might just be whale watching, as orcas—you know, the ones that look like Shamu—do their thing off the coast and can easily be seen between May and October. There’s other species as well, so keep an eye out!

Where to Stay

Independent inns and smaller establishments seem to be the norm here, but that doesn’t mean they’re not bringing in the luxuries and comforts of home. We can’t vouch for any of the properties here yet, so feel free to drop some comments at the bottom to help us out. However, setting up base in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island at The Island Inn at 123 West seems to be a solid option. They have Euros, Suites, and Penthouses as options from which to choose, and rates seem to start at around $200 for rates during the summer months.

Who Goes There

Residents of Seattle, Vancouver, and the larger metropolitan area seem to be the target of tourism efforts to and from the islands. However, know now that you know about these islands too you can visit as well. Just be on the lookout for those rich executive types from nearby businesses like Microsoft and Starbucks—maybe ask for a free latte and a Windows upgrade?

Where to Eat

Again stuff is spread about depending on where you’re headed and where you are when you get hungry, so we’ll focus on the goings-on in and around Friday Harbor. Like many islands seafood is ubiquitous, so we hope you’re down with all the ocean has to offer. Try spots like Backdoor Kitchen, Coho, and Cask and Schooner, but just be sure to save room for some of the treats and temptations over at Bakery San Juan—cupcakes, tarts, breads, and more.

What Else

We love us some ferries when it comes to travel, but let’s not forget about the airplanes—especially seaplanes. Companies like Kenmore Air can get you from Seattle to the islands in less than an hour, and they don’t need any runways where they’re going. The journey is part of the experience rather than just a means to an end, so be sure the camera is ready for some scenery snapshots.

[Photos: BLMOregon and Rose Braverman]

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