The San Juan Islands

Traveling the Pacific Northwest’s San Juan Islands by Boat

Traveling the Pacific Northwest’s San Juan Islands by Boat

The San Juan Islands, WA

Just 80 miles north of Seattle is a boater’s paradise – the San Juan Islands. Tucked between the U.S. and Vancouver Island, Canada, the San Juan archipelago consists of more than 450 islands at high tide surrounded by intricate straits and waterways.

One of the best ways to explore this beautiful landscape is by boat. From the water, visitors can cruise from island to island and anchor or dock at a number of marinas and bays.

Whether aboard your own boat or a chartered one, abandon the ferry schedule for a chart-your-own-adventure on the water.

Get On Board:

Anacortes Yacht Charters  offers a range of boats for charter – perfect for the size of your group and budget. 

There’s a reason cruising is so popular in this area. You’ll find the waters often calm, as well as each island, marina and bay offering its own local flavor and picturesque attractions. 

The San Juan Islands, located in the Northwest corner of Washington State, are like no other Archipelago. They boast diverse natural beauty with their rocky shores, sandy beaches, towering forests and sweeping grasslands while also offering rich culture and history. The 700 plus islands in the San Juan chain vary in size from 10 feet to 10 miles wide and are home to hundreds of anchorages, harbors and coves. One unique feature of the San Juan Islands that make them perfect for boating is their protected waters. Because the whole island chain is hidden away behind Vancouver Island, the seas are refreshingly calm. You can access the islands by ferry, airplane, personal yacht, bareboat yacht charter. Here are a few descriptions of some of the most popular San Juan boating destinations. 

A few ideas for your do-it-yourself on-water itinerary:

  • Lopez IslandSpend the evening docked at the Lopez Islander Marina. From the marina, take a short walk to the weekend farmer’s market for locally grown produce or tasty baked goods from Holly B’s. If it’s crabbing season, be sure to drop those crab pots before heading to dinner.  
  • Stuart IslandAnchor in idyllic Reid Harbor for a more secluded getaway. 
  • San Juan Island, Roche Harbor: One of the San Juans’ largest marinas, Roche Harbor Resort & Marina offers a quaint island vibe with boat-filled docks. Don't miss the sunset ritual of the playing of the United States and Canadian national anthems, the lowering of the country flags and firing of the cannon. Upon arriving, you'll feel as though you have taken a step back in time. Stroll along the cobblestone pathways of this historic village as you gather gourmet treats at the general store, or simply enjoy the beautiful sounds of the organ concerts that resonate through the marina. The captivating beauty and serenity of this harbor is certain to keep you dreaming of visits to come.
  • San Juan Island, Friday HarborThe largest of the archipelago’s marinas, Friday Harbor is the perfect way to round out a San Juan Islands adventure. Dock at the marina and stroll through town, just blocks from the docks, for ample dining, shopping, and nightlife options.  The island is known for its rich marine history including the infamous Pig War (the war really did begin over a pig!) and remains an active port for commercial fishing. Today visitors have an array of activities at their disposal whether it’s a whale watching adventure, sea kayak trip or a relaxing afternoon in the park listening to the summer concerts. Restaurants, galleries and accommodations are plentiful at Friday Harbor and provide a little something for everyone.

In addition to scenic cruises between islands, enjoy all sorts of on-water activities in this corner of America, including: crabbing, salmon fishing, whale-watching, sea kayaking, picturesque sunsets and wildlife gazing. 

Whatever the on-water interest, the Pacific Northwest’s stunning San Juan Islands have it all.

When You Go:

Salmon Fishing: Have one of these experienced local fishing charters out of Anacortes show you the ropes: Dash One ChartersCatchmore Charters

Kayaking: Bill and Karen Corson run the Outdoor Adventure Center on Lopez Island with a menu of salt and fresh water kayaking adventures.