After almost three years of talking about taking a trip to the San Juan Islands to see Orcas we finally made this trip happen! This wasn’t an easy trip to plan by any means, but I highly recommend it!
We began by booking our flights into Seattle Tacoma International Airport. Next, we had to figure out how to get ourselves from the airport to San Juan Island which was the island we had decided to stay on. We knew we didn’t want to rent a car because making a reservation to get your car on the ferry seemed tedious. We researched different ways we could get from Seattle to the Anacortes ferry terminal which is a couple hours away from Seattle. After exhausting all other options we decided to just take a Lyft or Uber and walk on to the ferry. The cost of the ride from the airport to the ferry terminal wasn’t too bad split 3 ways.
Although Anacortes is an adorable little town, the actual ferry terminal is a few miles away in the middle of nowhere. Luckily we arrived just in time to catch the ferry. The ferry ride to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island was about an hour and the scenery was beautiful!
Once we had arrived on the island we decided to start things off with a drink, so we climbed up to the rooftop bar of the Friday Harbor Crab House and toasted to us!
One of the first things we decided to do was hop on the Jolly Trolley for a tour around the island to get our bearings. It was such a great way to sit back and hear all about the history of the island and the lifestyle of the people who live there. Being driven around the island in an open trolley allowed us to see so much! We got to see the High School, the International School, the different Inns and businesses, the San Juan Vineyards, the Alpaca Farm, The Lavender Farm, Roche Harbor, The Lakedale Resort, The American Camp, The English Camp, the airports, the Cattle Point Light House and my Favorite Lime Kiln State Park (aka Whale Watch Park).
The trolley’s comprehensive route really allowed us to get a feel for the size of the island and its topography. I was surprised to see the hills, valleys, lakes, cliffs, and beaches. When we got to the other side of the island near Lime Kiln State Park we found ourselves under a rain forest like canopy. Temperature wise, it was cooler on this side of the island. We hopped off the trolley at this stop where our phones welcomed us to Canada. In this part of the island, you’re closer to Canada than you are to the United States. We followed some walking paths and trails over to Whale Watch Park from where we could see Victoria B.C. and the stunning Olympic mountain range and the Cattle Point Light House. Looking out towards the horizon all I could think about was how beautiful it was. It was sunny and clear and the peace and quiet were delicious. It was a huge bummer that while we were at Whale Watch park, we didn’t see any whales.
After reconnecting with nature a bit we hopped back on the trolley and headed back into town. We had rented a perfect little studio apartment that could comfortably sleep 5. It had everything we needed and the location was perfect. We were about 50 feet from a bakery, a cheese shop, 2 restaurants, a farmers market and a craft fair. We were only 2 blocks away from the grocery store, shops, restaurants, trolley and shuttle stops and the ferry terminal. The apartment had a deck with two distinct patio areas. One for our studio unit and one for the 1 bedroom unit next door. We got to meet the two women who were staying in the other unit and they were a real hoot!
Our second day on the island we went whale watching! It was my first time going out on a boat to go whale watching and this was the main reason we planned this trip… but we didn’t see any whales. It’s actually quite hilarious since the whale watching boats down in Orange County where I live have been posting non stop photos on Instagram all summer of all the amazing whales they’ve been spotting and I traveled all the way to Washington State to see none! We did see an adorable seal and got to witness seals feasting on a “bait ball” which is basically a school of fish. To fill our need for all things whale, we went to the whale museum where we at least got to see whale bones.
Our last day on the island we decided to go somewhere we hadn’t been yet to picnic. We had really been enjoying the cheese from the shop across from our apartment so we went to King market, purchased some supplies, packed ourselves up and took the shuttle out to the British camp. There we discovered a vista point where we got a 180 degree view of the snow capped mountains, the water and the hillsides. After our trail walk we located a table and settled down for a picnic under the trees.
Coming from a concrete jungle where life moves at a very fast pace, I appreciated the pace of “island life”. I kept longing to live in a place like San Juan Island where you have no choice but to live a simpler life at a slower pace. Everything is not accessible to you at any given time here. There is no Costco or Target. I don’t think Amazon offers same or next day delivery and if you want to leave the island, you have to plan around the ferry’s departure schedule unless you have your own boat or airplane.
Another island-ism we came across was the fickleness of business hours. For example, the business hours of the adorable coffee shop called The Salty Fox where we got our daily coffee and tea, were only from 7am-2pm so if we wanted a latte at 6am or a chai tea at 3pm, we were out of luck! We also learned that there was nowhere on the island to rent a DVD and the only place that sells DVDs closes at 9pm. Let me also mention that when we did go to purchase a DVD the next day there were only about 2 dozen options to pick from. We also discovered one night, that the restaurant across from our apartment called Cynthia’s where we had a lovely breakfast on the back patio was closing early one evening because they hadn’t gotten a single customer for dinner and although they had posted business hours, the bakery beneath our apartment never opened even though we saw a baker inside.
There isn’t much to do on the island after 9pm. Things begin winding down around 10pm and it’s pretty quiet by 11pm as we witnessed the night we decided to walk over to the new brewery that also happened to be just one block away from our apartment. I did notice however that when we were dilly dallying over a piece of pie at the Cheesecake Café & Bakery despite their business hours ending at 9pm and it being 9pm, they weren’t trying to get us to leave, but when we noticed the time we did shake a leg to let them get out of there.
On the final day of our trip we decided to catch the first ferry out. This meant rising before the sun. It was dark, quiet and very still. I’m so glad we did this because we got to watch the sunrise as we said good bye to the San Juan Islands and journeyed back to Anacortes.
Once we got to Anacortes, we grabbed coffees from a cute place called Calico’s Cupboard then rented a car and set off for Seattle where we casually stalked Dave Matthews. I had pretty credible intel on where we could find him. We started by driving by what my intel told us was his house several times. There was a van out front with hoses leading into the home and the door was wide open. Assuming he was in town and may have gone out for coffee to allow the crews to do whatever they were doing, we went by the two coffee shops my source reported he frequents. We even parked near the supermarket she shops in but didn’t go in. We didn’t find him. Luckily it was around 10am by this time and we didn’t see it fit to drive by his daughter’s school. Had it been closer to 8am I worry that we may have crossed the line by jumping into bushes in a schoolyard to catch a glimpse of him during drop off. After a quick stop by the Public market, we were back on the road to the airport to head home.