Taking your boat for a camping vacation cruise isn't expensive or difficult if you know the places to go and what to do. If you're going to camp aboard I recommend that you start out in Bellingham, all the places to travel are close by. But if you need a campground for your home base you should reserve a site at Washington Park in Anacortes and launch your boat at the park ramp..
Recommended #1 best #6 last #1 being the very best in my opinion Oak Harbor is ranked #6 simply because they are farther away.
- Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham - unlimited free parking, fresh water rinse hoses, guest docks, restaurants (you will be glad you began and ended your trip here) (updated 10/1/21) I just became aware that Squalicum Harbor has changed their free parking to FIVE days maximum. This is bad news for some of us that like to take 7-10 day cruises. I recommend calling them. Cornet Bay requires payment but at least has much longer parking.
- Cornet Bay at Deception Pass State Park - lots of pay to park, guest docks, nice place and float to hang out.
- La Conner (south end Swinomish Channel) city ramp, float, on street parking, cheap fees, guest docks.
- Washington Park in Anacortes - limited pay parking, double ramps with float but open to swell and waves from Geumes Channel, no guest docks, very nice on site campground, easy bike ride or hike to ferry.
- Twin Bridges (north end Swinomish Channel) County ramp, limited pay parking, small float that's dry at low tide, security risk area NOTE: It's just a little further to La Conner and well worth it!
- Oak Harbor - free ramp, $2/day parking, guest docks nearby, full marina services nearby, long walk to town!
- Cap Sante in Anacortes is not listed because they have a sling, not a ramp, Cap Sante would be second choice if you want to sling your boat in. Guest docks and big RV or trailer pay parking lot. (you can spend a lot of bucks here)
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For first timers, see articles titled "San Juan Islands for First Timers"