Sail away to this gorgeous archipelago in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.
Sandwiched between the state of Washington and Vancouver Island in Canada in the Salish Sea, the San Juan Islands comprise four main islands and hundreds of smaller islands and rock formations. The San Juans are popular for getaways, particularly in the summer months, and offer all sorts of things to do, from biking and hiking trails to kayaking expeditions and whale-watching trips. The Washington State Ferry system offers service to the islands from Anacortes, Washington or from British Columbia. There’s also a passenger ferry—the Puget Sound Express—that links Friday Harbor on San Juan Island with the city of Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula.
Orcas Island is the biggest island in the San Juans, and has plenty of amenities, including restaurants, museums, shops, and camping options. It’s also home to the largest of Washington’s state parks—Moran State Park—a fantastic place for hiking, and boating. Tent and RV camping is available in the park, but campers need to secure reservations ahead of time. If you have your own boat, you can also visit nearby Sucia Island Marine State Park, an uninhabited, pristine spot directly north of Orcas Island.
San Juan Island is popular among adventurers and history lovers, and the San Juan Island National Historical Park is a must-visit for anyone who wants to learn about the Pig War, a boundary dispute between Britain and the U.S. that all started because of a trespassing pig. The park is for day use only, but you'll find tent and RV sites at San Juan County Park on the west side of San Juan Island, overlooking Haro Straight, and at the San Juan County Fairgrounds.
The third-most populated island in the chain, Lopez Island offers 63 miles of shoreline and a mix of forests, farmlands, galleries, and boutiques. The island is popular among cyclists, with quiet, mostly flat roads, and has a few great places to camp, including Spencer Spit State Park, which has reservable and hiker/biker sites, a dump station, flush toilets, but no hookups or showers, and Odlin County Park has seven RV sites for vehicles less than 30-feet-long, but no hookups.
Shaw Island is the smallest of the four main San Juan Islands that are accessible by ferry, with a year-round population of only around 200 people. You can camp at Shaw County Park, which offers 11 tent camping sites, a boat launch, picnic tables, and fire pits. Island facilities are limited, but there is a general store by the ferry landing where you can buy food and supplies.