THINGS TO DO AROUND SEATTLE - #1 SAN JUAN ISLANDS
We were spoilt for choice when picking our 1st outing in Seattle. But with all the stress of moving to a new city, new apartment, new job and settling down, we picked San Juan Islands as it sounded just the right spot to get-away.
A lot went wrong that day…instead of getting an early head start, we couldn’t even hear the alarm in the morning. On our way there, I got my 1st speeding ticket and on reaching Anacortes, we missed the 10.20 ferry by a whisker! But all these omens just evaporated the moment we boarded the next ferry to begin our journey to San Juan. I don’t know if it was in the air, or was it just a state of mind, but standing on the deck with wind in my hair, sailing through the blue waters and being surrounded by loosely strewn land masses, I felt like Little Miss Sunshine!
San Juan Islands are actually a group of islands and you could choose to go to any of them – Orcas, Lopez, Shaw. But Friday harbor is probably the largest and the busiest with many options for activities, dining, etc and that’s where we chose to go. After 1.5 hr ferry ride, you drive out to Friday Harbor and for a moment you don’t know where to go or what to do. But just as you enter the main street, there is a Visitor Information Centre, and that seemed like a good place to start. The staff there gave us a quick overview of all the things we could do in our one-day trip by marking out on a map and highlighting the spots that we mustn’t miss while we drive around the island.
We started with a kayaking trip, which was 3 hrs of hard work and fun. It’s a great way to enjoy the water, the sights and sounds of the island and we also got up-close and personal with some sea lions and other fauna. Back to the island at 5 and starving, we dined at Cask & Schooner and then started to drive around the island.
Our first stop was the American Camp, aka San Juan Island National Historical Park. About 0.5 mile walk inside will take you through the camp, and bring you to a huge field expanse with faraway mountains in the background and water on both sides. The view is so beautiful, we just sat here for 30 mins to soak it in. Next we went to Pelindaba Lavendar Farm. The studio where they sell pottery, lavender products, etc was closed by the time we got there, but we still got to actually go inside the farm and find all the different varieties of lavender they grow. Saving the best for last, Lime Kiln Point State Park was the point of return, to head back to the harbor. The picturesque trail to the lighthouse is ideal for watching sunsets and if you’re lucky, you might get to see the whales too. Alpaca farm is another destination that falls this way, and if you have more time, you can drive up all the way to Roche Harbor and circle the island. The 3-hr whale watching tours are a must-do.
To make the most of a day trip, plan ahead, start early and you might be able to do a lot more. Biking would be a great way to explore the island too.
- Ferry schedule – aim to reach atleast 30 mins before the ferry departure time
- Summers are a busy time; so if you intend to stay on the island, book accommodations way in advance. Same applies for whale-watching tours. If you think you will land at the island and just join a tour, it won’t happen. Most get full on holidays.
- Long weekends get very busy so get to the harbor early for your return ferry. Maybe 2 hrs in advance. Check with the ferry guys at the harbor to get an idea of the traffic and potential delays, etc. We went there on July 4 for a day-trip, thinking we will take the 10PM ferry back. By the time we reached the ferry terminal at 9, the ferry got full, unable to take 40 odd cars. There were no accos available on the island. So we ended up bar-hopping till 2, slept in the car till 5, and then took the 1st ferry out of Friday Harbor at 5.30AM to reach Seattle by 9AM. Definitely one of the memorable trips!
Address to take the ferry from Anacortes: 2100 Ferry Terminal Road Suite A
Anacortes, WA 98221. Takes about 1.5 hrs from Seattle downtown to drive here.
$: Ferry fare for a vehicle - $60, ½ day or 3-4 hr kayak trips – around $60, Whale watching tours - $85.