Off the coast of Washington lies a group of islands that make up the San Juan Archipelago. Known for pristine landscapes, thriving orca populations, and a laid-back vibe, the San Juan Islands are a refreshing escape from the bustling mainland.
At one time, the islands were occupied and disputed over by both the British and the Americans. Today, parks protect the diverse ecosystem, home to orcas, bald eagles, sea lions, and more, and artists draw inspiration from the peaceful nature all around.
On this Boundless Journeys tour, we visit the two largest of the San Juan Islands â€” at island pace, of course. Enjoy sweeping mountaintop views on San Juan Island and explore galleries and artists’ studios on Orcas Island. Delight in fresh-caught seafood at renowned restaurants, ending each day at relaxing accommodations in bucolic settings.
A short ferry ride from Seattle but seemingly a world away, our Boundless Journeys tour captures the scenic beauty and relaxed pace of life that makes the San Juan Islands truly special.
Arrival, San Juan Island, & American Camp
Welcome to San Juan Island! Your guide will meet you in Friday Harbor upon arrival of your the San Juan Clipper from Seattle. Soak in the welcoming ambiance and relaxed pace of life as we stroll this historic town's square-mile of galleries, museums and cafes.
The second-largest of the islands in the archipelago, San Juan has the largest population, at around 7,000. A tranquil haven of thriving farmlands and quiet forests, San Juan Island attracts artists, sportsmen, and outdoor enthusiasts year-round.
From Friday Harbor, we'll make our way to the foot of Mt. Grant where we begin our ascent to the summit. We hike past towering Douglas firs and colorful wildflowers to reach a sweeping 360-degree panorama of mountains, islands, and water. Clear views reveal the Cascades, the Olympics, and Mt. Rainier, as well as Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
In the afternoon, we head to the American Camp area at the southern part of San Juan Island. Here, we stroll the grassy slopes of the long-deserted Belle Vue Sheep Farm towards picturesque Grandmas Cove. We continue our hike along the coast, overlooking the scenic Strait of Juan de Fuca. After a visit to sandy South Beach, we return to the trailhead to visit the site of the American Camp. Claimed by both the British and the Americans, tensions on San Juan Island escalated into the "Pig War" when a British pig found its way into an American garden. Each side established a war camp. Today, we'll visit the relics of the American Camp's historic buildings including the officer's quarters and the building that housed the camp's laundress'.
This evening, we return from our hike to settle into our lakeside accommodation before dinner at a favorite local restaurant, featuring cuisine made from locally-sourced ingredients from the land and sea.
Snug Harbor ResortFriday Harbor, USA
Snug Harbor’s incredible setting is unparalleled on San Juan Island. It’s perfectly located for adventures throughout the islands or as an ideal place to unwind and relax. Wi-fi is avialable throughout the property and all cabins and suites offer uninterrupted stunning views of Mitchell Bay.
Whale-watch & Roche Harbor
This morning, we head to the harbor to explore the waters around San Juan Island on an exciting whale watching boat tour. Keep an eye out for the playful humpbacks, inquisitive minkes, and majestic orcas that call these waters home. Year after year, the same whales return to the area, and your friendly guides will give you a rundown of who's who. An area rich in marine wildlife, other animals we're likely to see include harbor seals, Dall's porpoise, and sea lions.
Back on land this afternoon, we'll make a visit to the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park at Roche Harbor. The walking paths of the 20-acre park allow us to explore an outdoor collection of over 150 sculptures. Stroll past a scenic pond and through open meadows admiring artwork by local, national, and emerging artists.
Tonight's relaxing dinner is at another local favorite, where you'll get a taste for genuine San Juan hospitality along with delicious homemade food.
English Camp & kayaking Griffin Bay
Today, we head to the north side of San Juan Island to visit English Camp, the counterpart to American Camp. After a tour of the Visitors' Center, we take a path towards Garrison Bay where we'll find the camp's historic buildings. Once a vast compound, the blockhouse and commissary still remain, while the Visitors' Center occupies the barracks. We'll stop to admire the camp's lush formal garden, with its manicured flower beds and shrubs â€” a recreation of the original garden, which served as a beautiful reminder of the officers' English home.
From English Camp, we follow a forested trail along the shore of the bay to Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm, a cooperative aquaculture farm. If time allows, we may also stop at a local distillery to sample handmade shrubs and gins.
After lunch, we head out from Friday Harbor on kayaks. No experience is necessary as our kayak guides will provide basic instruction. We glide through the serene waters in the shadow of Mt. Baker in search of pelagic wildlife as we explore the tidal zone of Griffin Bay. We paddle around Dinner Island and enjoy splendid views of the Olympic Mountains cresting above Cattle Pass.
Upon landing back in Friday Harbor you may choose to either return to the hotel to freshen up before dinner or wander the studios and galleries with sculptures, paintings, jewelry, pottery, and other crafts. The inspiring natural beauty of the San Juan Islands attracts artists of all kinds, making Friday Harbor the perfect place to view original works by the area's artists.
After our full day, we'll gather again for dinner.
Orcas Island & Moran State Park
This morning we board a ferry for Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands. Its hilly terrain and dense woodland offer exciting opportunities for hiking and walking, and the island's horseshoe shape has an extensive coastline with secluded bays and beaches.
Although its name is similar to the area's endangered whale, the name Orcas actually comes from "Horcasitas," the name of the Mexican viceroy whose expeditions arrived in the area in the late 1700s.
From the ferry dock at Orcas Village, we transfer to Moran State Park on the opposite side of the island. With 38 miles of hiking trails, five freshwater lakes, and the archipelago's highest mountain, Mt. Constitution, opportunities to explore the island's diverse landscape abound. Here, we'll stroll beside picturesque lakes, trek to secluded waterfalls, and ascend towering Mt. Constitution. From the stone lookout at the mountain's summit, we're treated to sweeping views of the San Juan Archipelago islands scattered through deep blue waters, with Mt. Baker and the North Cascade mountains in the distance.
Next, we visit the spa at Doe Bay Resort & Retreat (optional) where heated, outdoor, saltwater soaking tubs soothe tired muscles and melt away stress. Admire stunning views of the bay from the tubs or spend some time relaxing in the spa's dry sauna.
Once we're thoroughly refreshed from the spa, we check in to the night's charming inn.
Rosario ResortEastsound, USA
The historic Moran Mansion, listed on the National Historic Register, is the centerpiece for the resort and marina spread out on 30 acres along the shores of Cascade Bay on Orcas Island. The Mansion houses waterfront dining and a full-service spa, including an outdoor pool and whirlpool. All rooms offer spectacular water views, with most guest rooms located directly on the water.
Art studios & farms
After breakfast, we set out to explore the studios and galleries, which feature the works of Orcas Island's many artists. From pottery to jewelry, painting to glasswork, photography to stonework, Orcas Island is home to a thriving community of local artists. We'll stop to admire artwork and speak to the artists themselves about their craft. As we peruse the studios and galleries, perhaps you'll discover a special piece to bring home.
Throughout the day, we'll visit with local farmers whose bounty graces the tables of the island's restaurants and kitchens. We'll also have a chance to speak with the vegetable farmers, ranchers, and crafters responsible for supplying the ingredients for tonight's dinner at a restaurant in town.
On our final morning on the San Juan Islands, we transfer to Orcas Village to board the ferry. Enjoy the views of Shaw, Lopez, and Blakely Islands on the way to Anacortes. From here, we transfer to Seattle for journeys home or more west coast adventuring.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these or the order visited should the need arise.
Jun 4-9, 2023
Aug 6-11, 2023
From $4,595 Per Person
First two reserved:$395
See single supplement policy below.
MAKE IT PRIVATE
9+ Guests: $4,595 per person
5-8 Guests: $5,095 per person
Make it Private price is based on Land Cost only, and a guarantee of the specified number of guests in double occupancy. For groups smaller than the numbers shown, or those requiring single occupancy, we reserve the right to adjust the per person price. Additionally, some trips have minimum group sizes. Please call 1-800-941-8010 for details.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This may not apply to certain trips with unique accommodation arrangements. Please see specific trip information for more details.
Boundless Journeys' trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. This journey is rated 2, easy to moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The walks on this trip are day walks with some vehicle support. Much of the walking on this tour will be on flat terrain, well-worn nature trails, and town streets. There is a half-day of easy kayaking and no experience is necessary.
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA
Most Convenient Airport: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington (SEA)
Meeting Time and Place: Your guides will meet you on the first day of your trip upon the arrival of the San Juan Clipper at 12:00 pm, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Please be dressed for walking.
Departure Time and Place: We will provide transportation for the approximate 2-hour journey from Anacortes to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) on the final day of the trip.
The San Juan Islands enjoy an average of 247 days with sunshine and about half the rainfall of Seattle, thanks to the "rainshadow" effect of the Olympic Mountains to the south.
San Juan Islands
Fine dining in the San Juan Islands means tasty food — often locally produced — served in a laid-back atmosphere. Vegetarians can be accommodated with advance notice. Specific dietary restrictions can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact us with any questions.
Heather Harding has been living and guiding professionally for decades on Washingtonâ€™s Olympic Peninsula, the San Juan Islands, and the American Southwest. She began her Northwest guiding career in 1997 on the waters of the San Juan Islands where she worked on boats as a whale researcher and naturalist studying the killer whales and other marine mammals. She expanded her research and boat tour range to include waters off the coasts of North and Central America. For the last 15 years, Heather has been focusing her guiding on land-based tours in the rainforest and rain shadow of the Northwest, the canyons and plateaus of Utah and Arizona, and the steamy tropics of Cuba.
Eric has been a wilderness and adventure travel guide for almost 40 years. His career has taken him to every continent except Antarctica in a variety of positions from mountaineering guide, to academic researcher, to assignment photographer. Eric currently guides in western U.S. National Parks, British Columbia, and Cuba, where he first led an academic bicycle tour in 2003. Besides guiding, Eric's freelance photography work specializes in adventure travel and cultural and environmental conservation. When he is not guiding, Eric spends time with his two children, bicycling, reading, and living on Washingtonâ€™s San Juan Island and the Olympic Peninsula.
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work—the mark of a truly great leader—our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own. Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Walking and hiking, 1-4 hours per day; whale watch on Day 2 and kayaking on Day 3 (no experience necessary)
This trip can be your own adventure by taking over one of our scheduled dates, or we can request a fresh one.
By: Matt Holmes
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