Visiting the San Juan Islands?

Old Nov 20th, 2005, 08:33 AM
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Visiting the San Juan Islands?

We plan to visit the San Juan Islands for 3-4 days (with car). Is it best to stay in one locale and then travel by ferry to the other islands for day visits--or should we plan on staying in several different locales?

It's a bit confusing determining how to "sightsee" the islands, and how much time to allow for the several main islands.

Thanks for any tips!
suelh is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2005, 09:13 AM
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Yes it is challenging - the inter-island ferries are not that cheap, and without a car you're stuck at the docks, so what's the point?

A day per island is plenty (IMO) so with 3-4 days you could see the highlights. I'd limit it to Orcas, Lopez and San Juan. San Juan has some interesting places - Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor (very cute hotel complex there), English Camp (site of the Pig War with Canada) and decent whale viewing from Lime Kiln park.

Orcas is big and quite rural, and has some decent hills suitable for walking. Some okay (not great) places to stay, but (I think I'm in a minority here) I find it rather boring and would place it at the bottom of the priority list.

Lopez is also quite pastoral, no "wow" factors, but many people (us included) think it's the best, solely because you get onto "island time" right away. Great for cycling, poking around - very relaxing.

So IMO (and just mine) if it were me I'd suggest San Juan and Lopez, just to get a sense of the variety of the islands.
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Old Nov 20th, 2005, 12:05 PM
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Well, just for the opposite opinion, Orcas is my favorite. I think its hands-down the most scenic and it has a ton of great b and bs and vacation rentals (there are FANTASTIC beachfront homes for rent all over Orcas), plus the best restaurants. It also has the best hiking (in Moran State Park). But, public beach access is limited-that's its drawback-so stay at someplace with beach access. I do like Lopez a lot too, and San Juan does have the best whale viewing and it has a wonderful National Historical Park, though it's also the islands' commercial center and so is the most developed and touristy.

In 3-4 days I would do 2 islands at most. With the expense and the waiting times at the ferry dock, if you do any more you'll waste too much time. I would base myself on Orcas and take a day trip (a long one-get up early) to San Juan to see the Historical Park and either view whales from Lime Kiln State park or do a half day tour (kayaking is great). Or,you could do 2 nights on one island and one on another-that might not be too much hassle.
christy1 is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2005, 12:48 PM
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Hey, and don't forget to check out Anacortes. That's the town you take the ferry from. Interesting galleries and great food.

Also, you pass right by my house on the way to the ferry -- so wave, why don't you? It's the one overlooking the Guemes Channel with the gold heron wind vane.

nukesafe is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2005, 06:54 PM
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suelh....well, you asked, so here's yet another opinion!

We've been to the San Juans once and stayed the entire 5 days at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. We flew to Seattle & were met by friends who lived there, so lucky for us, they knew their way around the entire area. We drove to Anacortes, ferried to Friday Harbor, drove to the B&B & didn't get back into the car until we returned to Anacortes 5 days later.

MOPEDS! Sound corny, I know, but we saw every nook & cranny of San Juan, Orcas & Lopex Islands on those mopeds. And it was FUN! Plus we could go in a pack or split up & meet for lunch (or cocktails or dinner). And they are very easy to navigate, around the islands and on/off the ferries. I was concerned about the noise but several local residents assured us that they prefer the mopeds to huge SUVs clogging their roads.

We stayed in one place and enjoyed not having to pack/unpack several times. Between the ferry system, which made it very easy to do day trips to other islands, and the mopeds, which made it easy to get all over each island, we covered a lot of ground.

Hope this helps. The San Juans are breath taking...enjoy!
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