Preferred Destinatin - The San Juans

Preferred Destination - The San Juans

October 26, 2012

Ride to the San Juan Islands – A one or more day excursion

By Deborah Angus
Photos courtesy San Juan Islands Visitors Center

Day trippers, here is a fabulous one- or two-day excursion for you that is sure to thrill, and it all culminates in a visit to the San Juan Islands.

Just about 147 miles from Lakewood, Washington, the San Juans are accessed by making a straight shot up Highway 5, then going west on Rt. 20 (exit 230) to Anacortes. There, motorists, bicyclists and foot travelers can catch a ferry at the terminal coined the "Gateway to the San Juans."

Step onto the ferry and you have officially entered the state's newest byway, the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway. And yes, the byway is combination traditional pavement and marine-based transportation. Considered an equally thrilling part of a visit to the San Juans, the ferry ride from Anacortes to Friday Harbor can be one to two hours. Ferry-goers can travel on the ship's deck and enjoy the fresh air or relax in the enclosed interior that features huge windows for riders to enjoy the scenic view.

Many visitors make their first stop at Friday Harbor, the largest marina in the San Juans. Friday Harbor is a quaint and eclectic combination of marina and town center where visitors can find boats and yachts to see and enjoy along with restaurants and boutiques, galleries and museums.

Once you have disembarked from the ferry, however, you are most likely interested in tackling the roads on this approximately 18 mile long by 4 mile wide island! Take note, the only gas stations on the island are in Friday Harbor, so if you need, be sure to gas up!

For riders, easy destinations here include the two national historic parks, Michell Bay Landing, Roche Harbor (on the national register of historic places), and Kiln Point State Park. Along the way, you will encounter farmland, forest, glimpses of the Salish Sea and a number of different bays, and some narrow and winding roadways. Overall, it's an amazing amount of scenery for the motorcycle enthusiast.

If you take some time to revel at the beauty of the sea, keep a close eye for Orcas, known to occasionally swim by Mt. Finlayson in the southern part of the island. Or, if you are dead set on seeing one of those mammoth beasts in the water, visit Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of the island. Known as Whale Watch Park, at least three orca pods are know to frequent the area in the summer.

If you are skirmish about traveling unknown areas or just want to know more about the San Juans, take advantage of the many companies that provide whale watching, kayak, cruise, walking, shuttle bus and other tours. Or check out this great driving map, complete with recommended stops by the San Juans’ visitor’s center.

Skip Over to Orcas Island
If you have saturated your visit of San Juan Island but still want more, hop back on the ferry at Friday Harbor for Orcas Island. Here you can ride the final 19.5 miles of scenic byway through Moran State Park by Cascade Lake to Doe Bay.

While in Moran, take a detour via the narrow and windy road to the top of Mt. Constitution. Complete with one-way bridges, hairpin turns and observation towers, the 2,409 ft. summit is said to be the best view in Puget Sound and a veritable thrill for riders. At the stone observation tower, take in the 360-degree view where on a clear day you can see Vancouver, the Cascade and Olympic Ranges, and all of the San Juans.

Mt. Constitution is part of Moran's 5,000 acre park that hosts 30 miles of hiking trails, lakes, waterfalls and campsites. The destination might be a good excuse for making the ride into a weekend excursion with your favorite riding partner!

What to do in the San Juans this Weekend

Savor the San Juans
This theme runs the entire month of October and highlights food and art and culture through a variety of events in Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Islands.

Farmers' Market
  • 10 AM to 1 PM, Saturday, Oct 27, Brickworks Plaza
  • Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
This Saturday, enjoy the Farmers' Market featuring island grown vegetables and fruits and other foods. Artisans selling jewelry, pottery, paintings, photography, soaps, healing oils and more will have their kiosks open, and food vendors will be open to tend to that open-air appetite! The Farmers' Market is open every Saturday spring to fall in Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands.

Shellfish Farm Hatchery Open House and Tour
  • 10 AM to 4 PM, Saturday, Oct 27, Sweetwater Shellfish Farm
  • 203 Shoreland Drive, Lopez Island
As part of the Islands' Great Island Grown Festival, many local farms and fisheries are open for touring and business. Find out about the local shellfish industry and take a tour of this interesting hatchery. Fisheries on the island sell locally, to grocery stores, and restaurants across the county, including Seattle!

Prix Fixe 3- and 4-course Dining
For $30 to $35 per person, you can enjoy fine cuisine at a number of San Juan Islands' many restaurants. See for a list of over 10 establishments to choose from.

Great Pumpkin Weekend
  • Various times, Saturday & Sunday, Oct 27 & 28
If you are looking for more family-friendly events, check out the variety of activities San Juan has scheduled for Halloween at There's a little bit for everyone with carving contests, face painting, hayrides, and spooky story telling.

Halloween Fruit Tasting, The Funhouse Commons
  • 4 to 5:30 PM, Saturday, Oct 27, 30 Pea Patch Lane, Eastsound
Bring apples and pears from your neighborhood grocer to compare against others from around the region. Learn about apple and pear nutrition, genetics and other interesting scientific matters.

Story Sources

  • San Juan Scenic Byway, Part I:
  • San Juan Scenic Byway, Part II:
  • San Juan Scenic Byway, Part II:

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