Finally, at long last, vacation has arrived! I am so excited to be heading to the San Juan Islands for eight days of fishing, crabbing, whale watching, and strolling the streets of the Washington State islands. Two years ago, my family ventured to Orcas Island and spent a week exploring the waters. This time, we have decided to station in the popular Friday Harbor, located on San Juan Island.
Visiting the San Juan Islands is an adventure, but it does help to do a bit of pre-planning. First, decide what you are interested in doing on your trip. We are focused on fishing and crabbing, and the whale watching is a bonus. We also do a bit of island hopping and exploring. Since we want to spend as much time on the water as possible, we bring our own boat. Our boat is not a special “sea-worthy” vessel. Instead, it is a small sporty Sea Ray 180 lake boat. We use our boat primarily at Lake Powell. I would not trust this boat on the open ocean; however, the San Juan islands are different. While they are considered the ocean, they are very protected from the elements common to the sea and most of the time you feel like you are riding in a very large lake and tend to forget you are actually in salt water. If you have a boat, I would highly recommend you consider pulling it along for the trip. If not, there are charters and boat rentals available so you can get your fishing fix in.
Anyway, if you are planning a trip to the islands, you first need to decide which island you would like to establish as your homestead. There are several options available, but the Washington State Ferry System provides service to the following four islands: Lopez, Orcas, Shaw, and San Juan Islands. The main ferry terminal is located in Anacortes, Washington, and there is also a Canadian based terminal in Sydney, British Columbia. Lodging is widely available, and there are many options ranging from small studios to large cabins that can sleep up to 24 or more. I find the following websites to be especially useful for booking lodging on the different islands: visitsanjauns.com, vrbo.com, tripadvisor, and flipkey. For our trip this time, we stayed with the Nichols Street Suites, and I have to say, it was an amazing little place. The suite is located above a small antique shop, Funk and Junk, in an old board and battin sided building. The place is quaint and funky with original artwork and a huge wrap around couch in a large bay window. It is also located a block from the main downtown streets, with convenient access to the marina, a grocery store, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping. It is a great little place to stay.
Once you have booked your place to stay, it is time to reserve your spot on the Washington State Ferry System. When I came two years ago, all you had to do to get a spot on the ferry was show up. However, the islands have become so popular, that the system has been revamped and now requires a reservation prior to setting sail. The ferry ride to the islands is a treat in and of itself. The time spent on the ferry varies depending on which island you are visiting, but generally you can expect to spend an hour on board. The ferries are enormous and provide a unique opportunity to view the landscape and wildlife in the island chain. Prices also vary depending on your final destination and all the information for booking a ride can be found at: www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. I will heed a small warning, and this is not meant to be discouraging but I think you should be aware before you head out, riding the ferry systems is not cheap. Bringing a full-size truck and boat can cost you well over $200 for the round-trip.
Once on the islands, there is a wide-variety of food, entertainment, expeditions, and even wildlife. We went for a couple hour drive our first evening on San Juan Island and visited Lime Kiln Point State Park and San Juan Island National Historic Park.. I have to say, I was amazed by the amount of wildlife we encountered on what I would consider to be a very populated and isolated place. At Lime Kiln, we saw a pod of killer whales. And in the National Park, we met up with a family of raccoons, Columbia black tail deer, a bald eagle, and a grey fox. The islands are also home to gray, minke, and humpback whales, seals, porpoises, sea lions, and otters. I am hoping to bump into a few more of the animals as we continue to explore the island network. Also, a must have for bringing to the San Juan Islands is a pair of binoculars. If you remember nothing else, at least remember the binoculars!
Well, that is just a little update on what I am doing for the next couple of days. Stay tuned, as I will be posting some more blogs on how to salmon fish the islands, which I am working on as we speak, and how to go crabbing, which is sooooo easy and fun! Also, I am going to be making some amazing meals with all this fresh fish and shellfish that I am planning on catching, so watch for those recipes too!