The Perfect San Juan Islands Itinerary

Post Summary: The Perfect San Juan Islands Itinerary

Washington State is seriously magical. With temperate rainforests, the high desert, a fourteener, stunning mountain ranges, a gorgeous coastline, AND islands, we couldn’t ask for more!

In this post, you’ll learn all about how to spend your time in the San Juan Islands of western Washington with this San Juan Islands itinerary. Let’s get started!

Lake Cascade on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, Washington

How many days do you need in the San Juan Islands?

One of the coolest facts about the San Juan Islands is that there are 172 named islands and reefs and San Juan County!

Because of this, you can spend as much or as little time as you’d like there, exploring one island or many.

Have only a weekend in the San Juan Islands? Take a 3-day trip exploring one island, like Orcas Island, San Juan Island, or Lopez Island.
Want a longer adventure? Spend your entire summer sailing through them all!

You can also hop between multiple islands during your trip in the San Juan Islands, as many islands are accessible by ferry or charter boat.

Getting to the San Juan Islands

Berty Mandagie taking the San Juan island Interisland Ferry from Friday Harbor to Orcas Island

There are three ferry-served islands in San Juan County that go to and from San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Lopez Island.

Shaw Island is also accessible by ferry, though it has limited camping and visitor amenities. You may travel by foot, bike, or vehicle on the ferries, and eastbound rides are FREE!

This summer, the San Juan Island ferry schedule starts as early as 4:15AM (westbound from Anacortes) and the final ferry departs at 10:05PM (eastbound from Friday Harbor to Anacortes).

View of Ferry Terminal in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island in Washington State

San Juan Island ferry rates for adult passengers are $15.85, kiddos aged 5 and under ride free, and prices for vehicles start at $61.70. Tickets are valid for 90 days after purchase. 

You can calculate the cost of your San Juan Islands ferry ride before you go, pay for your ticket in advance, or walk on.

While Washington’s ferries operate on a first-come-first-served basis, summer reservations are HIGHLY recommended for those traveling between the Port Townsend/Coupeville and Anacortes/San Juan Island routes, especially if you plan to travel by car.

You can also travel between the San Juan Islands by charter boat or kayak tour.

The Perfect San Juan Islands Itinerary (1 Week)

Have fewer days? Scroll to the bottom to see our 5-day and weekend San Juan Island itinerary examples! (…coming soon!)

Day 1: Anacortes to Friday Harbor

Before you get on the ferry to Friday Harbor, you’ll start your San Juan Islands itinerary in the “Island gateway” of Anacortes, Washington.

Here, you’ll find adorable gift shops and one of the best coffee shops to recharge before your trip, Pelican Bay Books and Coffeehouse.

After you make your way to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, you’ll take the beautiful 1.5-hour ferry ride across the Puget Sound to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.

Friday Harbor is extremely walkable, and the historic, square-mile town and harbor is so charming.

Look closely, and you might recognize some of the buildings from Practical Magic–a popular movie filmed in the PNW!

In downtown Friday Harbor, you’ll find handmade goods and art at FERN, trendy gifts and clothing at Pebble, and unique kids’ toys at The Toy Box.

After you day of exploring Friday Harbor, grab a local craft beer at San Juan Island Brewing Co., coffee at Crows Nest Coffee Shoppe, or eat at the popular restaurant, Downriggers, for great food and Pacific Ocean views.

Up for a unique San Juan Island excursion? Get a spectacular view of the Salish Sea islands from above on a flightseeing tour by Friday Harbor Seaplanes (prices start at $149).

Day 2: Take a Wildlife Tour

The San Juan Islands are known for their ocean wildlife–namely whales!

The best time to see orcas in the San Juan Islands is between April and October. So book a whale watching tour or kayak trip soon!

Take a whale watching tour in the San Juan Islands with San Juan Excursions. You might catch sight of orca, humpback, minke, and gray whales.

Emily Mandagie taking a whale watching tour on the Victoria Clipper

Another way to see whales during your San Juan Islands trip is on a half-day kayaking tour or full-trip kayaking excursions. Don’t forget to be Whale Wise as you kayak!

To keep things budget-friendly during your trip, a cheap Friday Harbor activity is to see whales/orcas off the shore of San Juan County Park or San Juan Island National Historical Park.

Want a DIY option instead? Go beachcombing at Cattle Point Lighthouse or hike down to Grandma’s Cove to check out the tide pools (tide chart)!

Day 3: Go Hiking Around San Juan Island

Best Things To Do In Washington State - Visit San Juan Islands Lime Kiln State Park -

For the third day on your San Juan Island itinerary, explore Lime Kiln State Park (Discover Pass required) and San Juan Island National Historical Park (no entrance fee).

In Lime Kiln State Park, you can hike the easy, 1.4-mile Lime Kiln Point State Park Loop Trail that passes by the Lime Kiln Lighthouse.

Don’t forget to bring your binoculars! Lime Kiln is considered one of the best places to go whale watching in the world!

Any birders out there? You might even catch sight of a Yellow Warbler, Green Heron, or Bald Eagle while at Lime Kiln State Park.

In San Juan Island National Historic Park, hike to South Beach for a picnic or beach bonfire among the driftwood-strewn beach.

Grandma’s Cove offers opportunities for secluded swimming, and Cattle Point Lighthouse is perfect for great views.

Day 4: Explore Roche Harbor Area

Day 4 is all about exploring the Roche Harbor area.

It’s a stunning coastal harbor with beautiful views of the Haro Strait between the Pacific Northwest islands and Canada.

Roche Harbor is most famous for its historic Roche Harbor Resort and Hotel de Haro.

Summer gardens at the Roche Harbor Resort with Hotel de Haro in the background

The hotel was named after the Spanish explorer, Captain Lopez de Haro. He became one of the first Europeans to sail among the San Juan Islands over 200 years ago in 1787!

The land’s ownership eventually made its way to Reuben J. Tarte, who opened the resort in 1956.

You can see the historical landmarks and structures for yourself, or take it all in by staying overnight in a historic cottage or suite.

If you dare, visit Afterglow Vista–the mausoleum where the Roche family is buried. It’s also one of the most haunted places in Washington!

To refresh yourself after a long day of exploring (and ghosts?!), grab a bite to eat at the Lime Kiln Café.

Feeling fancy? There are plenty of our renowned ocean-front restaurants at the Roche Harbor resort.

Day 5: Ferry to Orcas Island

Emily Mandagie standing with baby on an empty San Juan Island Interisland Ferry

No San Juan Island trip is complete without at least one island hopping excursion! The second most popular island in the grouping is Orcas Island.

Your first stop should be Orcas Village Store. It’s a great place to grab some groceries or gas before venturing out to other parts of the island.

Lucky for you, it only takes just over 30 minutes to drive from the Orcas Island Ferry Terminal to the other side of the island.

You’ve got an entire day of adventuring ahead of you!

After leaving the ferry terminal, there are plenty of options to add to your Orcas Island itinerary:

While making your way across the island to Eastsound, Washington, be sure to make a stop at Brown Bear Baking for delicious French pastries, breads, coffee, and sandwiches!

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway in Washington, look no further than the Outlook Inn! This centrally located Orcas Island resort is the perfect blend of luxury, adventure, and relaxation!

Colorful kayak rentals on the waters of Rosario Beach on Orcas Island in Washington State

Also, don’t pass up visiting Rosario Village. Here, you’ll find a resort with a spa, cocktail bar, and restaurant in the historic mansion.

You might even get to see a few seaplanes land at the nearby Rosario Seaplane Base!

Day 6: Hiking at Moran State Park

Known for its 8,000-foot-tall Mount Constitution, Moran State Park takes up a great portion of the eastern side of Orcas Island. It’s a beautiful place to spend day 6 of your San Juan Island itinerary.

You can also hike up Mount Constitution, which is a 6.7-mile roundtrip hike with 1,500 feet of elevation gain. Don’t forget your hiking snacks for this one – it’s a half-day adventure at least!

Not up for the hike? You can drive up to the historic stone watchtower at the summit. Up top, there are 360º views!

Cascade Falls in Moran State Park on Orcas Island in Washington State

While in the park, start your morning on Orcas Island by hiking to the 40-foot Cascade Falls. It’s one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Washington (3 miles roundtrip with 200 feet elevation gain).

On the way back to your accommodations, eat lunch or dinner in Eastsound. Here, there are a lot of food and drink options. Our favorites are Island Hoppin Brewery, New Leaf Cafe, or The West Side Kitchen.

Day 7: Orcas Island to Anacortes

Emily Mandagie standing with baby on an empty San Juan Island Interisland Ferry

After exploring Orcas Island, make your way back to the Orcas Island Ferry Terminal. Here, you can take the ~1-hour ferry ride back to Anacortes, Washington.

Once back in Anacortes, grab a delicious smoothie at Cosmic Veggies.

Afterward, drive (or hike!) up Mount Erie for stunning views of the Olympic Mountains, North Cascade Mountains, Lake Campbell, Deception Pass, and the San Juan Islands spread across the vast Pacific Ocean.

You might even catch a glimpse of Mount Baker on a clear day from the north side of the mountain!

And there you have it: an adventure-filled San Juan Islands itinerary! What do you think of our one week plan? Did we miss any of your favorite spots? Tell us in the comments!