The San Juan Islands in Washington are home to charming towns and beautiful landscapes as well as a variety of outdoor activities. But I won’t lie to you, my obsession with whales is the main reason I planned to visit the San Juan Islands.
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Yes, the San Juan Islands are a great place to watch whales. What better way to do that than by multi-day kayaking trips? This is everything you need for planning a kayaking trip to the San Juan Islands.
How to get to the San Juan Islands?
There are many ways to get to the San Juan Islands. Each has its benefits.
The Washington State Ferry, which departs from Anacortes, is a great way for you to view the islands from the water. After stopping at Lopez Island and Shaw Island, the ferry will take passengers straight to Friday Harbor. The San Juan Clipper, which is also available in Seattle, will take you directly from downtown Seattle to Friday Harbor in three and a quarter hours.
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We recommend that you make a reservation if you plan on bringing a car to the Island, especially if your travels are between May and September. Walk-ons do not need to make a reservation.
There are many regional flights that take you to the San Juan Islands from Seattle, Lake Union or Lake Washington. This is a rare opportunity to view the islands from the air.
What to Expect on a Multi-Day Kayaking Trip to the San Juan Islands
My trip with Discovery Sea Kayaks saw me kayak approximately six miles each day for two days. However, the distances vary depending on each group’s skill (you don’t need to be an expert kayaker!). Although the trip was great, I wish I had more time. The more time you spend on the water, then the better chance of seeing whales.
Discovery Sea Kayaks will provide all of the camping gear for your trip. However, you are responsible for setting up and taking down the equipment at camp. All meals for your trip will also be provided. I enjoyed them as they were delicious and healthy and came from local organic gardens and farms. Please let the team know if you have any dietary restrictions. They will be happy to accommodate.
My Kayaking Trip Itinerary to the San Juan Islands
This is just a guideline. Itineraries can change depending on weather conditions, tides and other unforeseeable factors.
- Day 1
My group started our adventure at Jackson Beach, near Friday Harbor. We then made our way into Griffin Bay and the San Juan Channel. We continued on kayaking until we reached Jones Island State Park, near Orcas Island. Here we camped for the night.
- Day 2
We crossed Jones Island State Park’s San Juan Channel to Spieden Channel, following the north shore of San Juan Island. We stopped at Posey Island State Park for a while before heading back to Jackson Beach.
Despite being short on time, I could have taken the three-day tour and visited Smallpox Bay on the west side San Juan Island. You can also choose to take a longer trip and have your group spend the day on an island. This allows you to hike or paddle your kayaks.
The best time of year to visit the San Juan Islands
The weather in San Juan Islands is mild all year, but you will find the best weather and the least rain during June and September. There are also the best whale watching opportunities.
The summer months are the best time to see bioluminescence in water. Bioluminescence occurs because of a microorganism found in the water, Noctiluca, which emits a green glow when disturbed. Discovery Sea Kayaks offers tours that allow you to witness this amazing natural spectacle.
How long can you stay in San Juan Islands?
For the best island experience and to fully appreciate the San Juan Islands, I recommend at least three days, preferably four. The more time you spend on the trip, the greater your chance of seeing whales.
San Juan Islands Kayaking Trip Packing Essentials
Waterproof Gear: I recommend that you bring along a waterproof bag (20L) for clothes, a dry bag (10L) for camera gear, a pair or waterproof pants, rain jacket, water shoes, paddling gloves and a LifeProof phone case (for your phone).
Layers: Layering (noncotton) clothing is crucial for packing clothing that can be used in a range of outdoor conditions. Layers: Include a base layer top and bottom, fleece-lined leggings and moisture-wicking socks.
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Toiletries: You’ll need to have both sunscreen and bug spray on hand if you are going to be outside.