whale watching in the San Juan islands

Itinerary: Spend the Perfect Weekend in the San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago of 172 islands and reefs between Seattle, Washington, and Vancoucer, Canada. Four of the islands can be accessed by ferry: Orcas Island, San Juan Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw Island. A true San Juan Island experience will include whale-watching, farm-to-table cuisine, and a good dose of outdoor recreation. We’ve put together a weekend-long itinerary to help you make the most of your weekend in the San Juan Islands.

Day 1: Whale-watching, History, and Craft Beverage Tastings

Drive your campervan onto a Washington State Ferry in Anacortes, Washington for a scenic ride to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. You’ll land on this historic, one square mile island in about an hour and a half. Grab a cup of coffee and a pastry in town and then head out for a whale watching tour, one of the most unforgettable experiences you’ll have on your visit. Pods of Orca whales call the waters off the islands home, so take to the sea for a view of these stunning creatures in their natural habitat.

Once you’ve enjoyed your whale-watching excursion, head back to San Juan Island for a look into the history of the islands. American Camp at the San Juan Island National Historic Park on the south end of the island was the site of a land dispute between the British and American inhabitants that resulted in a 12-year long standoff. Expect to find structures from the 1800s, including officers’ quarters, laundress quarters, and the parade ground.

Conclude your evening on San Juan Island with a craft beverage tasting at the San Juan Island Distillery and Westcott Bay Cider. You can try 12 varieties of their small batch gins and hard ciders as well as an apple brandy.
San Juan Island Distillery - San Juan Islands

Spend the night at San Juan County Park where you’ll find rocky bluffs, gravel beaches, and water views across open meadows. Reservations recommended.

Day 2: Kayaking, Hiking, and a Spa Visit

Day 2 starts with a ferry ride to Orcas Island. There’s no better way to start the day than to wake up with views of Puget Sound. If you’re ready to spend more time on the water, jump on a kayak tour from Orcas Island to truly experience the coastline and view the wildlife, including bald eagles, harbor seals, otters, and seabirds.

Whale Watching San Juan Islands - Washington

After your morning tour, head to the 5,252-acre Moran State Park for 38 miles of hiking trails, including trails to the summit of Mt. Constitution, the highest point in the San Juan Islands, for 360-degree views of the surrounding area, including Mt. Baker and the North Cascades. You can also drive to the summit if you prefer.

Built at the turn of the 20thcentury, Rosario Resort & Spa is on the National Register of Historic Places. The grounds today include the Moran Mansion and museum as well as lodging, dining, and spa facilities. Treat yourself to stunning views, a delicious meal, and a relaxing afternoon at the spa.

You can spend the night camping at Moran State Park or head back to the mainland from Orcas Island after your long weekend. A weekend in the San Juan Islands is a weekend well spent.

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