San Juan Islands Travel Guide
The San Juan Islands are a beautiful place to visit at any time of year. An archipelago located in the Pacific Northwest’s Salish Sea, just between the state of Washington and Vancouver Island, these islands are teeming with wildlife, outdoor activities, and festivals celebrating local artists. The five main islands are san Juan, Shaw, Orcas, Lopez, and Lummi, and all are accessible by car or passenger-only ferries. This part of the world is an excellent destination for adventurers looking to see marine wildlife, explore wilderness, and taste some of the best seafood in the world.
San Juan Island
This is the second-largest but most populous of the San Juan Islands. This small-town community provides fairly quiet, rural living, but it boasts a vibrant tourism industry. Favorite attractions include The Whale Museum, a small contemporary art museum, and the San Juan Community Theater. Camping is also available around the island, but some of the smaller islands in the archipelago are better suited for wilderness exploration. Still, there is plenty to do on San Juan Island – from exploring family-run aquaculture farms to hunting for red sea urchins and pinto abalone in tide pools.
Clocking in at just 7.7 square miles and a year-round population of 240, Shaw Island is one of the smaller islands in the archipelago. This is a popular destination for summer tourists, who flock to the island for its agricultural community and outdoor recreation. Shaw Island has a county park, a historic general store, and a post office. There is also a member-supported library and a historical museum, both located close to the center of the island. This is a great place for a quiet day trip from one of the larger San Juan Islands.
Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands. Accessible via the Washington State Ferries system and seaplane, the is one of the only islands to allow cars. Popular attractions include the Crow Valley School Museum, Camp Orkila, the Orcas Island Historical Museum, and Moran State Park. With several parks, hiking trails, and waterfalls, this is a great island to visit if you’re looking for some outdoor adventure.
A small but beautiful island, Lummi Island has a year-round population of 822 that nearly doubles in the summertime. Accessible by a 20-car ferry, the island boasts a general store, a couple of restaurants, a handful of bed and breakfasts, a post office, a fire station, and a small library. The island hosts a weekly farmers market and a chili festival each summer, and it is known primarily for the delicious seafood caught off its coast. There is an incredible reefnet salmon fishing operation, the most sustainable fishing company in the world, located right off of Lummi Island called Lummi Island Wild. We promise if you visit here, you will become a customer for life. Just phenomenal people at this company doing phenomenal work.
Though Lopez Island is the third largest of the San Juan Islands, it has no highways and no bridges connecting it to other islands. Lopez is home to several tourist-related business, most of which are cute, country-style rental homes and bed and breakfast operations. Known for its gorgeous ocean views, vineyard, and its gourmet restaurants, this is a great place to visit with the family. Lopez Island is also a popular destination for bicycle tourist, and motorists are known to wave at ever bicyclist and pedestrian they pass on the island’s roads.