What is There to do in the San Juan Islands?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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Located offshore near the northwest corner of the United States, the San Juan Islands are a part of the San Juan Archipelago that is actually part of two different countries. The San Juan Islands are under the jurisdiction and considered a part of the state of Washington in the United States, while the Gulf Islands are under the jurisdiction of the Canadian province of British Columbia. Both Canadians and US citizens enjoy the vacation opportunities that are found on these islands, with some of the activities being available all year long.

The archipelago is composed of over four hundred islands, although only a fraction of the islands are actually inhabited. In fact, only six of the islands that are part of the San Juans of Washington State are accessible by ferry. One of the main draws of the San Juan Islands is the fact that each of these six islands tends to have its own particular character. This creates a situation where it is possible to journey around the islands and experience everything from quiet and restful to a full-blown festival environment. Along the way, different types of water sports pave the way for a lot of fun. Sea kayaking and what is referred to as orca watching, or whale watching, are very popular pastimes. In addition, the San Juan Islands also offer other points of interest as well.


Golf enthusiasts will feel perfectly at home in the San Juan Islands. Three of the islands – San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez – all have excellent golf courses that are both enjoyable and challenging. Both nine hole and eighteen hole golf courses are available, so it is easy to spend a couple of hours or a whole day enjoying golf. For travelers who prefer to do some exploring in the local stores, there are shopping villages that are located conveniently near each of the major golf courses. Plenty of local restaurants serve as great meeting places when the shoppers and the golfers decide to gather together after a day of fun.

Parks and public beaches also are a major part of the charm of the San Juan Islands. Hiking trails weave through the forests and hills to allow visitors spectacular views of the combination of shoreline, the Pacific Ocean, and the lush green of the mountain ranges. Lime Kiln Point State Park also offers a unique activity. Often referred to as the whale-watching park, Lime Kiln is located on the west side of San Juan Island and features a major expanse of waterfront that looks out over Haro Strait. Locals can advise tourists of the rights times of the day and year to enjoy the display of whales who move in and out of the strait.

Musical entertainment on the San Juan Islands ranges from intimate coffeehouses to highly orchestrated revues and variety shows. Just about every musical genre has representation somewhere on the Islands, with everything from country and western to classical to golden oldies rock and roll being features in one venue or another. Some of the entertainment is provided in street cafes, while other events are housed in concert halls scattered among the main six islands.

For sheer rest with some recreation, the San Juan Islands offer an excellent mix of feeling at home while still experiencing something new and different. From water sports to natural beauty and on to modern forms of entertainment, the San Juan Islands offer something for just about everyone.


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