This site has oodles of information about boating and the San Juans, it helps to use the search box BELOW to find what interests you.
Search - "things to do" or try "places to go"
search - Sucia Island
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try - kayak - try CAMPING - try Anchoring

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Fast Track to the San Juan's and Patos Island State Park

In keeping with this sites purpose to help newcomers get to the San Juan's, you will find listed below selected posts and links.

These posts are the bare essentials needed to get you off on that trip to the San Juan's, the rest is up to you. (click on the links)

  1. Where to launch your boat and park your rig!
    • Where to Launch your boat and park your rig
      • First choice = Bellingham - (Squalicum Harbor)
      • Close runner up = Deception Pass State Park (Cornet Bay)
      • La Conner city ramp (Swinomish Channel)
      • Washington Park - Anacortes
      • Cap Sante - Anacortes (sling only)
  2. Suggested Itinerary!
  3. All the Parks with complete descriptions and chart snips!
  4. Rent if you don't have a boat!
  5. 12 fuel docks- marinas - resorts - you should know about before you take off into the unknown!

Is this all you need?
Of course not, but if you are a competent boater, the above posts will answer many questions you want answered.

Anchor at Patos Island State Park
Patos Island Anchorage

Did you know you can ask silly questions? Use the e-mail box on the left side somewhere.


Waterfront San Juan County Parks for Camping

San Juan County parks are pretty much ignored by the boating crowd, could it be that the lack of overnight floats keeps them away?

Anchor and paddle to shore at  Small Pox Bay on Haro strait in the San Juan Islands
SJ County Park is an easy dinghy ride from anchor in Small Pox Bay.  This popular campground is great for  kayakers heading out to Haro Strait for Orca watching.
Shaw Island Campground
Shaw County Park Campground picnic shelter
     On Lopez Island is Odlin County Park, the only county park  with a dock.  You can load and unload but the sign says to limit your tie up to two hours.  Out in the bay are a handful of buoys and decent anchoring, but expect swells from passing traffic. This park would make an excellent rendezvous spot with friends arriving by ferry, or in twenty minutes you can ride your bike to Lopez Village for snacks or provisions.  Beachfront camping rounds out a really nice place.

     Shaw Island, boasts Shaw County Park in Indian Cove. (off Upright Channel across from Odlin county park) While offering a protected bay for anchoring, the beach is somewhat  flat making dinghy landing a chore and wet feet likely. The campground is cliff front in the trees requiring using a stairway to access from shore.  A wooden boat ramp gets your vehicle across the sand but leaves a lot to be desired at anything but high tide.

     San Juan Island County Park is located at Small Pox Bay on Haro Strait.  The road from Roche to Lime Kiln Park (Whale Watch Park) provides vehicle access.  The quite small rock free bay is easy to drive into from Haro Strait offering room to anchor one or two boats front and center in front of the ranger station. The beach is dinghy friendly and has a boat launch ramp provided your skiff is an easy launch and your car is four wheel drive.  This park is a favorite for orca watchers that crowd the point jutting from shore offering elevated unobstructed viewing equal to that at Lime Kiln Park.

 (FYI, you can make reservations up to 90 days in advance at all three San Juan county parks at  or google San Juan County Parks) All the parks offer bike and hiker sections.
Odlin park county dock on Lopez Island
Odlin Park on Lopez island has a two hour dock limit -
find Odlin across from Indian Cove and  Canoe Island on Upright channel.

Shaw Island County Park
The house on right side marks the edge of public beach at Shaw Island County Park. Up in the trees are campsites, grassy fields, restrooms and a picnic shelter. This park is very hard to spot, none of the facilities are visible from the water.


North to Patos Island

Patos is as far north as you can get and still have some land to land on before entering Canada.(Okay, I know Point Roberts has some land, but we have no need for customs today)

        Patos is just north of Sucia, hardly two miles depending on where you measure, so you can run up there in just an hour or much less.  What you will have when you get there is two islands, Patos and Little Patos, together they create a pretty cool little anchorage. Run your boat all the way to the north end and enter alongside the lighthouse, have your camera ready, its a picturesque  place for sure.  There are no docks so puttster up to the dinghy beach and drop anchor in front of the picnic area. Back in the woods 75 yards or so is a nice campground along the trail to the lighthouse.

         Basically there are two trails to hike.  There is a one-miler or so that makes a circle in the woods and is sort of boring, so you have been warned. The other is a ten minute walk out to the lighthouse and most of it is akin to a road.  Be sure to visit the lighthouse, recently volunteers have been holding open house during peak summer months. Inside they have old photos, scrap books, artifacts and you can climb the light tower.  (it's hot up there if the sun is out)

         If you want to keep your walking to an absolute minimum on perfect concrete pathways, run your dinghy ashore next to an old concrete thing with a post sticking out of it.  It's left over from when the coast guard needed a landing spot. This concrete thing is well inside the protection of the anchorage bay, but its at least halfway or closer to the light house.  You will have to scramble up a rock or two, but right at the top begins a three foot wide concrete path that goes all the way to the light house. We choose this route if we are only headed for the lighthouse, its saves rowing and walking, and if we are anchored right in front, why not!

         A little warning about the tiny channel between Patos and Little Patos:
         Yes you can run your boat through there but, there may be a current and at low tide it gets a little thin. It's kinda creepy when you can see bottom on both sides of your boat. We take our boats through, but only dead slow into the current, never with the current.  If you are the least bit concerned, just go around, it's only one or three minutes and you get to take a picture of the lighthouse to boot.

          I recommend visiting Patos for lunch or spend the night, On our last trip to points further north we used Patos as a jumping off point and a return point, it was like coming home.

Light station at Patos Island

Museum and lighthouse at Patos Island

Anchoring at Patos Island
 This is the concrete thingy,  (you have to see it) the teensey dinghy beach and the trail is to the left between the rock and the post.  BTW, you could anchor here and stern tie to that post.  You can see the picnic area and main dinghy beach way, way beyond the anchored boats, so this saves some walking and rowing.
Patos Island Park

Concrete trail on Patos Island
 This trail was built to US Coast Guard standards, it's probably a foot thick.
Patos Island
There is a lot of old foundation concrete out in the grassy areas on both sides, with a little sleuthing you can figure out where the buildings were, and imagine much of the original installation. Pictures and drawings inside the building show where everything was.
Lighthouse at Patos Island
 Volunteers camp in the campground and maintain hours for visitors, you could spend several hours inside learning the history, its well on its way to being a museum.  Don't forget the Stuart Island lighthouse has a similar setup and they do call it a museum.