The San Juan Islands are located about 70 miles north of Seattle and are easily accessed by plane from SEATAC airport or by boat from Anacortes, on Fidalgo Island. There are four islands served by the Washington State Ferry system and the remainder of the islands can be reached by private boats, planes or efficient passenger ferries that shuttle passengers on a daily basis. The islands have a colorful history surrounding the fishing industry, agriculture and tourism that goes back to the 1800’s. Currently, the islands are a major vacation and 2nd home destination for pacific northwest residents; who love the scenic beauty, boating, hiking opportunities and laid-back lifestyle. The islands also host visitors from all over the world, who find the easy access from major airports and proximity to Canada very appealing as a vacation destination.
Of the ferry-served islands, each has a unique personality.
Orcas Island is the largest and has the most diverse topography. The village of Eastsound, in the center of the island, is a very active community with a top-notch community center; numerous restaurants and shops; three schools and a bustling senior center. About 5 miles out of town, is Moran State Park; a lovely area for camping, hiking, swimming and picnicing. Rosario Resort is adjacent to the park and has a very colorful history and is a fun place for off-island visitors to explore. The island charms many artists, newly weds, outdoorsmen and retirees; who all find something different to love about the island.
Lopez Island is the first stop on the ferry route and is known for it’s beautiful farmland, vineyards and charming village. Many sheep and cattle ranchers have chosen Lopez for it’s flat grazing land and proximity to the mainland. Located a short 40 minute ferry ride from Anacortes, Lopez is often enjoyed by bicyclists on the weekend and summer months.
Shaw Island is the smallest of the ferry-served islands and has very few commercial interests. A lovely county park, on the south side of the island, is a favorite destination for campers and many bicyclists love to ride it’s quiet roads in summer and fall. If you visit Shaw, be sure to stop at the general store at the ferry landing to pick up a map and a little bit of the local history.
San Juan Island is the last stop, before the ferry goes into Canadian waters, and passengers get off the boat in downtown Friday Harbor; a busy home to San Juan County government offices, US Customs and numerous retail shops and restaurants. Roche Harbor is a popular stop for many boaters on their way to northern waters and the resort has been known to host many beautiful weddings and family gatherings.