Seattle, often known as the Rainy City or the Emerald City, is one of the best places to spend some time in the Pacific Northwest. Surrounded by water, forests, and mountains, it’s the biggest city in the region and a wonderful place for people who enjoy the comforts and conveniences of a big city, but still don’t want to be too far away from nature and green spaces for hikes, bike rides, and other outdoor activities.
Washington State’s biggest city is also nicely placed for all kinds of fun day trips. You can head north of the border and see some of British Columbia’s best cities like Victoria and Vancouver on a day trip from Seattle, or you can stay in the United States and see some lovely island locations like Bainbridge Island or the San Juan Islands, perfect for everything from family days out to romantic moments for couples.
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago located between Washington State and Vancouver Island. They're part of Washington State and are a popular spot with Seattle residents and visitors due to their beautiful scenery, rocky coastlines, amazing hiking trails, wildlife-spotting opportunities, and peaceful atmosphere. It’s quite easy to do a day trip from Seattle to the San Juan Islands. Read on to find out how.
Getting to the San Juan Islands from Seattle
There are actually a few different options available to you in terms of transport from Seattle to the San Juan Islands, and many people would say that the journey to the islands is a big part of the fun of going there. You'll get some stunning scenic views if you choose to travel by ferry, for example, or you can take a faster option to get more time on the islands themselves.
Getting to the San Juan Islands from Seattle by Car and Ferry
You can’t drive all the way to the San Juan Islands from Seattle, but you can drive up to Anacortes and then take the ferry over to the islands from there. The Anacortes - San Juan Islands service is one of the most popular and picturesque ways to get to the islands. In fact, it's ranked as one of the best ferry rides in the whole of the United States.
The drive to Anacortes from Seattle will take a couple of hours in total, but can be completed in less time than that on a good day with clear skies and no traffic. You'll need to take the I-5 out of Seattle and then Highway 20 to Anacortes, following the signs for the San Juan Island ferries once you get there. You can take your car onto the ferry too, letting you drive around San Juan Island when you arrive, but you'll need to pay extra and reserve in advance.
Getting to the San Juan Islands from Seattle by Clipper
If you'd just like to leave straight from Seattle to the San Juan Islands, you can hop on board the San Juan Clipper. It leaves direct from Pier 69 and has been a very popular option with Seattle residents for several decades now.
There are a few different tour packages you can enjoy by making use of the San Juan Clipper, including whale watching excursions. The clipper only runs from May through to October of each year, however, so it’s not always available. The journey takes between three and four hours.
Getting to the San Juan Islands from Seattle by Plane
If you'd like to get to the San Juan Islands quickly, you might choose to take a regional flight from Seattle's Boeing Field or catching a seaplane from somewhere like Lake Union or Lake Washington. The flight times are short and the views are often spectacular from the sky.
Important Information and Things to Do at the San Juan Islands
- Getting Around - If you'd like to see several of the San Juan Islands during your day trip from Seattle, you'll need to make use of the Washington State Ferry. It travels on inter-island routes, connecting the islands of San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez. You don't need to reserve your spot on board, but you should be sure to check the times and plan out your day in advance so you can really make the most of every minute. If you take a car, you can drive around the islands with ease, or you can rent bikes, mopeds, or other vehicles on either Orcas or San Juan Island. There's also a shuttle service on the three main islands.
- Things to Do - There's a lot to do at the San Juan Islands, and one day is simply not enough to see even a fraction of what these islands have to offer, but you can still fit plenty in if you plan ahead. One of the top activities at the islands is whale watching. You can also enjoy a scenic drive along the San Juan Islands Byway, or spend some time shopping and strolling around charming towns like Lopez Village and Friday Harbor. Sea kayaking is also possible and popular in this area, along with ziplining and wine tasting. There’s a lot of variety in terms of the activities offered on the San Juan Islands, so be sure to read up on the different options and plan out your day accordingly.