June 29, 2017

San Juan islands Planning Part 1: Which Island?

Ever since I heard about San Juan Islands in Washington, I have always been wanting to visit. There are many islands that make up the San Juan Islands, but only four of those islands that are reachable by Washington State Ferries leaving from Anacortes town, which is 1 and half hour drive from Seattle.

Those four islands are: San Juan, Orcas, Shaw, and Lopez. These islands are still under-developed, especially Lopez and Shaw. Let's take a look at each island to help you planning a trip there and decide which island to visit or maybe visit all of them.

You can take Washington Ferry from Anacortes town to Four San Juan Islands

San Juan Island
This is the most developed island. The Friday Harbor is a town itself on the island that has various types of lodgings, restaurants, and shops available. The ferry also stops right in the center of activities in this town, making it super convenient to check things out without having to drive. This is perfect for a half day to one full day trip. With that in mind, if you want to explore more on the San Juan Island, you will need to drive. Renting car on the island is also an option, but this requires super well in advanced reservation as availability is very limited.

Orcas Island
This is the second most developed island. Just the name of the island itself is intriguing. As the name suggests, whale watching activity is one of the highlight things to do on the island. If you are into hiking, there's the Moran State Park. Lodging is more limited compared to San Juan Island, but it provides more relaxing atmosphere for those that don't like crowds and just want a quiet lazy island time. Staying on Orcas Island, you will definitely need a means of transportation.

Shaw Island
This is the least developed island among all four islands. You will find the island is very private. It has more local residents that live on the island than tourists, and therefore it's not really visitor friendly. You can go ride bicycle and explore the island or stop for a picnic, but if you are looking for more things to do, Shaw island is not an ideal destination for that. You will also need transportation to do things on this island.

Lopez Island
Lopez island is not as developed as San Juan and Orcas, but it definitely has a lot more to offer than Shaw island. It's a very bike-friendly island. With that being said, walking is not recommended to visit Lopez island. You will need to drive or cycle, making this a perfect half-day or one day excursion from the other islands.

San Juan Islands in Washington may not be on everyone's list of places to visit; but if you are looking for a weekend getaway to have some "island" time that's just a short ferry away from the mainland, all four unique islands: San Juan, Orcas, Shaw, and Lopez, each has its own characteristic to offer visitors.

If you are looking for a pedestrian friendly town on the island and it offers a lot of things to do, then go to the Friday Harbor on the San Juan Island. If you are looking for more tranquil time, then consider going to Orcas Island. I'd say that for any first time visitor, these two islands are the most popular ones among all four. Lopez island is ideal for a day trip from these two islands, and so is Shaw island; however, Lopez has a lot more to offer than Shaw. If you have multiple days of vacation, you may as well do island hopping on San Juan Islands. Thanks to the Washington inter-island ferry service.

Check out more articles on San Juan Islands, Washington

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