With more than one hundred named islands, there’s no doubt that you’ll never run out of things to see or do when you’re in San Juan Islands. The archipelago itself is a certified tourist attraction, especially for those who are looking for some nice peace and quiet without having to leave the country.
It is tempting to think you can explore every interesting nook that the islands offer in one visit, it will be more practical to create a plausible itinerary for your San Juan Islands cruises to fully maximize the vacation days spent on this beautiful archipelago.
Whether you plan a seven-day vacation or just a weekend getaway, here are a few place that should be on your must-see list.
San Juan Island National Historical Park
If you are even a bit of an historian as well as a naturalist, then you’ll appreciate visiting the national historical park situated at the south end of the San Juan Island. The national park is actually a vivid reminder that nations can resolve international disputes without resorting to violence. The infamous “Pig War” between the American and British governments is an amusing and inspiriting part of island history.
Aside from its rich history, the national park is also considered home to more than 200 species of migratory birds and a nesting place for our endangered bald eagles, the national bird of the United States.
The national park is just one of the many state parks in the archipelago – all of which are accessible only by boat or ferry. This is because there are no bridges that connect the islands to each other. Having to travel by water seems to only increase the romance of the islands.
This is not a single place, but rather a series of places that you need to visit to get a deeper understanding on the most famous tourist attraction in the island – whale watching. In fact, San Juan Islands is one of the best places in the United States to get up-close and personal with the mesmerizing orcas, minkes, grays, and humpbacks.
The Whale Trail starts the moment you set foot on the Washington State Ferries, followed by a trip to The Whale Museum where you can learn all about whales from the experts. There you will find some curious whale displays, hear a whale’s song, learn how to identify different kinds of whales, and understand the rules and regulations in whale watching. You can even adopt a whale and get the latest updates and activities of “your whale.” The Whale Trail also includes a visit to the San Juan National Park and Lime Kiln State Park for the highlight of the day: Both are interesting in their own right, but if your timing is good, you can actually watch the orca whales right from shore. Be sure to bring your binoculars.
Shark Reef Sanctuary
Though whale watching is the more popular recreational activity in the archipelago, hidden deep at the west side of Lopez Island by the surrounding forest is the Shark Reef Sanctuary. Young children and adults alike are sure to appreciate the sight of seals, sea lions, and otters basking on the rocky shoreline.
Birdwatchers will also appreciate the myriad of eagles, kingfishers, and cormorants as they seek to dine on the vast seafood offering. You need to do a bit of walking to get there, but you’ll soon see that it is all worth it.
Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park
Standing at 2,409-foot tall, Mount Constitution is considered as the highest point in San Juan Islands. Located a half mile above the Orcas Island, it houses the stone tower replica from 12th century Caucasus region. From the tower, visitors can have a 360-degree view of the surrounding areas to give the best maritime view of all time.
Mount Constitution serves as a haven for hikers and bikers as it offers a fantastic panoramic view and highly accessible trails (unless there is heavy snowfall). For those who may not be able to hike, the summit is accessible by car.
Aside from the sights, San Juan Islands is also known for its delectable cuisine using fresh seafood harvested from the wild. It’s always nice to know that after all the adventure and explorations, there is a warm and sumptuous meal awaiting you at the end of the day.
The Pig War, NationalParkService.gov
American Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park, VisitSanJuans.com
Shark Reef Sanctuary, WashingtonTrailsAssociation.org