There are 172 islands
in the San Juan Archipelago. They
range in size from small rock islands to the largest island, 57 square mile
Orcas Island that sits in the center of the Archipelago. The highest point in the San Juan Islands
is also on Orcas Island, it is Mount Constitution with its 2,409 foot
summit. There is a road to the top
and the CCC Corps tower at the top offers the best view of the islands with
a 360 degree view.
For most visitors only
5 of the San Juan Islands are really accessible. They are Fidalgo, Lopez, Shaw, Orcas, and
San Juan. These are the islands that
are serviced by Washington State Ferries.
Of the five islands, Fidalgo is the eastern terminus and hosts the
main terminal for the ferry system in the San Juan Islands. The eastern terminal is in the City of
Anacortes. Fidalgo Island and
Anacortes are connected to the mainland by bridges over Swinomish Slough so
it hardly seems like an island. The
island is linked to the mainland by 4-lane Highway-20
From Fidalgo Island a
National Landmark, the Deception Pass Bridge, links Whidbey Island, the
largest island in Puget Sound, to the mainland via Highway-20.
Deception Pass not only separates Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands, it
also is the separation between Puget Sound to the south and the San Juan Islands
to the north. In the photo if you look carefully to the left of the cliff
on the right you can just barely see a 26 foot boat. It looks slightly larger than a dot from
this view point at the approach to the Deception Pass Bridge. At the point where the boat is the Pass
is nearly one half mile wide. The
tides through this pass exceed 8 knots (9.2 mph).
On Whidbey Island, over the bridge, you will find Deception Pass
State Park. This large park with a
campground also features Cranberry Lake that offers lake swimming and
fishing. A unique aspect of the lake
is that it shares a beach with the waters of Puget Sound. The beach at the lake’s west end is a
sandy spit between the lake and the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The park also has beautiful ocean beaches both facing Deception Pass
and facing west looking right out the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is one of the best places to get
beach access to Puget Sound.
The first ferry dock
you will come to west of Anacortes is Lopez Island. Lopez Island is 11 miles long from north
to south and about 4.2 miles across at its widest point east to west. It is one of only four islands of the 175
San Juan islands that are serviced by Washington State Ferries. Lopez island is the first stop out of the
Anacortes Ferry terminal. It takes
about 45 minutes for the ferry to go from Anacortes to Lopez island. The estimated population of Lopez Island
is over 1700 people and the population varies widely by the season.
Lopez is known as “The Friendly Island.” It is a favorite with cyclists because of
the absence of cars on the roads and the relatively flat terrain.
Shaw Island is the
least visited and the smallest of all the islands served by Washington
State Ferries. Shaw Island is almost
totally private with only one small county camping park. Shaw Island has no facilities for tourists
or visitors except for a small store that was run by the same nuns that operated
the ferry landing. Unfortunately the
religious order left the island and sold the store in 2004 so that quaint
tradition has ended after 20 years.
The Island is densely
forested and mostly undeveloped with only around 200 residents both summer and
winter. You will find “Keep Out” and
“No Trespassing” signs dotting the landscape along the roads and beaches.
The island has almost
14 miles of roads and most of the visitors to the island are cyclists that
leave their car on the mainland, take their bikes on the ferry, and ride
them on the island’s mainly flat and level roads for the day.
Orcas Island is the
largest island in the San Juan Islands.
Orcas Island measures 13.3 miles east to west and 8.7 miles north to
south. The highest point in the San
Juan Islands, Mount Constitution is also located on Orcas Island.
Orcas Island has no
major city. Instead the
infrastructure of Orcas Island is built around a group of unique villages
and hamlets such as; Orcas Village (at the Orcas Ferry Landing) West Sound,
Deer Harbor, Crow Valley, Eastsound, Olga, and Doe Bay. The island has 4 post offices; Deer
Harbor, Eastsound, Olga, and Orcas.
San Juan Island
San Juan Island is the
westernmost of the major island in the archipelago. San Juan Island hosts the largest city in
the four outer Islands served by Washington State Ferries, Friday Harbor. The city surrounds the ferry landing and
runs up the hill from the landing.
Although the city’s main function is to serve the locals there is
much to find of interest to the visitor.
At the north end of the
island you will find Roche Harbor Resort.
Although the resort’s main focus is its large docks for the yachting
community you will also find a hotel, restaurants, and cabins and
condominiums to rent. At sunset
every day they have a color guard take down the colors and shoot off a
cannon. For more information visit
our San Juan Island page.
San Juan Island
The Anacortes / Sidney BC (on
Vancouver Island) Ferry Run
In the summer there are
two ferries a day from Anacortes to Sidney on Vancouver Island. Of all the ways to get to Vancouver, this
is the most scenic running through the heart of the San Juan Islands. Reservations are required on this ferry
Anacortes to Sidney Ferry Schedule.