San Juan Islands itinerary

Old Sep 12th, 2011, 01:30 PM
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San Juan Islands itinerary

I'm here in Seattle (actually Bremerton) with my family. I am working while on "vacation" but have a 3-1/2 day weekend coming up. I'm planning to head out from Bremerton to Port Townsend Thursday, around noon-ish, and taking the ferry from PT to Whidbey Island for the afternoon. We are tent camping and will stay at Deception Pass Thursday night (and camping throughout the weekend).

Friday morning, take the ferry from Anacortes to the islands and spend the night, maybe two nights, "somewhere" on the islands. We could easily stay in two different places, as we are a well-oiled and motivated machine when it comes to setting up & breaking down the tent.

Sunday morning, take the ferry over to Sidney and spend the day exploring down to Victoria before taking the ferry to Port Angeles in the late afternoon.

Is this a feasible schedule? There are 5 of us - Mom & Dad and 3 kids; we all love outdoorsy activities like hiking, walking, maybe kayaking, whale watch, farmer's markets, etc. Anyone recommend any particular activities? Any kayak outfit recommendations (I'm thinking an hour or two would scratch our itch while not breaking the bank)?

While in BC, is there anything we should especially try to see? Is one day (and probably more like a half day with the two ferry rides) sufficient to do that area some justice, or would we be missing too much by zipping through like that? Should we skip BC altogether? When we were in Glacier a couple weeks ago, we drove up to Waterton Lakes in Alberta, and the kids would love to hop over to Canada again.

Just looking for some general suggestions. Thanks!
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 03:21 PM
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I think it's doable, but it's a lot of driving/ferry stuff; you'll spend a fair amount of time just getting places rather than being in places.

I might make a suggestion that you'd be free to ignore. Skip Whidbey and take the PA ferry over to Victoria. Camp somewhere near the city, or - better - head up the west coast of the island toward Port Renfrew and Pacific Rim National Park. There are a number of camping locations en route - Juan de Fuca Provincial Park (gorgeous) and you're not that far from civilization.

You could visit Victoria as a day trip, then either return to the mainland via the San Juans, or (better IMO) consider taking the BC ferry from Swartz Bay (near Sidney) to one or more of the Gulf Islands - Mayne, Pender, Galiano, Saltspring... which are like the San Juans, i.e., fabulous. Then you could either return to Swartz Bay and head back to Victoria for the PA ferry, or else continue over to Tsawwassen on the mainland (a little north of the border) and back into the US through Blaine.

If you DO decide to stick with the San Juans, I'd probably shoot for San Juan itself, as IMO it has more to offer for tourists than the others - Orcas maybe a tad more scenic, Lopez a tad more laid back, but SJI more historic sites, places maybe to see whales, and some very pretty settings, like Roche Harbor.

An interesting note about Saltspring Island - one I wasn't aware of, and I suspect very few Americans are, is that it was settled in the late 1850s by a large number of African Americans fleeing slavery in the US. They became the dominant landowners on the island and the most successful farmers. You can read a synopsis on Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saltspring_Island

Oh remember - Canada < > passports for all.
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Old Sep 12th, 2011, 06:39 PM
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I believe you will have a more enjoyable experience if don't go to BC and instead divide your time among Port Townsend, Deception Pass, and San Juan Island. (In Port Townsend you might stay at Fort Worden: http://www.parks.wa.gov/fortworden).

While on Whidbey Island, pay a visit to the little town of Coupeville.

HTTY
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Old Sep 13th, 2011, 05:26 PM
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Hmmmm... thanks all. Food for thought.

Gardyloo, wonderful suggestions for an alternate Canadian road trip; however, that seems like more trekking around than just going to the San Juans. But I do appreciate your advice about all the "getting there" in my current itinerary - I hadn't accounted for that. I was thinking of spending Friday ferrying from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, seeing SJI, and then getting a late afternoon ferry to Orcas Island in time to get to Moran SP to set up camp; then spend all day Sat. on Orcas I. However, the ferry times greatly impact the amount of time there, so I think we'll camp on SJI (any campground suggestions?) and get the 8:30 ferry Sat. morning. Then we can spend Saturday hob-nobbing around Orcas Island; we'd probably arrive at Orcas Village around the time we'd normally be breaking camp anyway, so no time lost on Orcas Island, but time gained at SJI.

Very cool info on Saltspring Island! We love learning those little tidbits of history. We do have passports (already used them in Alberta at Waterton Lakes NP).

A friend asked a Park Ranger in Olympic NP, if he could visit anywhere in the Pacific NW, where would he go? His reply was Deception Pass State Park, so we're really looking forward to that.

HTTY, I will check out Fort Worden, and we will almost surely stop at Coupeville. You're not the first person to recommend it, so I think we're gonna have to take it seriously. We are also considering skipping B.C., although it would certainly be fun. The ferries may again dictate how we manage that, and may force us to abandon the idea. Too bad - we've really wanted to go, but we only have so much time.

When we get home to Virginia, we are starting an Alaska Fund for a couple years from now, so we may have to put off Victoria till then.

Thanks again!
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Old Sep 13th, 2011, 05:35 PM
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Whoa, whoa, whoa! Just noticed a little tidbit that will greatly impact our trip: There's only one ferry a day from the SJIs to Sidney, and that's at 9:40 AM, and it leaves from Friday Harbor.

Looks like we'll need to reverse our trip and spend the first day on Orcas Island, and the second on SJI. Not a bad thing at all, but I'm sure glad I looked. That's good, too, because I think it will allow more time on Orcas Island since the WSF stops there first anyway from Anacortes.

More to think about...
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