Discover the top places to go and the best things to do by boat in the San Juan Islands.
The difference between a truly wonderful vacation and a ho-hum boat ride is the memorable experiences and special places visited along the way. These are some of our favorite haunts and things to do. Maybe some will become your favorites as well.
- Matia Island one-mile loop trail: This easy one-mile loop immerses you deeply into the shaded forest the minute you take your first steps. Towering trees, oversized ferns, and thick mosses line the trail. Our first walk many years ago was so serene and calming that even our young kids were quiet and talked in whispers. Matia Island pictorial
- Pygmy deer on Jones Island: The northwest is full of wildlife and deer are everywhere, or so it seems sometimes. However, apparently, the many deer on Jones Island have developed to a much smaller size. Even the older bucks with big racks are only about waist-high. Many of the deer are tame, and some are downright annoying. One time a deer met me at the water's edge as I came ashore in the dinghy. Several times deer have joined us around our campfires looking for handouts and letting the kids rub their heads and pet them. I remember once a spike kept crowding too close to the fire, he was intent on getting at a bag of corn curls. It is against park rules to feed the animals so I don't know how they learned to expect treats from boaters. Jones Island deer
- While Deception Pass isn't located within San Juan County, any boating enthusiast would be remiss not to include it in their cruising itinerary. In fact, Cornet Bay, with its well-facilitated ramp, serves as a prime launch point for those embarking on their nautical adventures. But, here's a piece of advice – don't just launch and rush through; take the time to savor the breathtaking scenery.Consider planning part of your voyage around the four daily occurrences of slack tide. At slack tide, the turbulent waters temporarily calm, providing an excellent opportunity for exploration. A mere quarter-mile beyond the pass, still within the park's boundaries, you'll discover Sharpe Cove. Here, you can moor your vessel at the floating dock, and at the head of the ramp stands the remarkable Maiden of Deception Pass.This extraordinary statue, carved from a towering cedar tree, stands at an impressive twenty-five feet. It portrays a Samish woman gracefully holding a salmon aloft. The story it tells is one of unwavering sacrifice, representing a Native Indian woman who risked her life to ensure her people would never go hungry. It's a powerful testament to the deep connection between the indigenous people and the land.Just a stone's throw from the Maiden lies Rosario Beach, a renowned tide pool area. It's a place where nature's wonders are on full display, offering an opportunity to observe a rich variety of marine life and coastal ecosystems up close. So, when charting your course through these waters, ensure you dedicate some time to exploring Deception Pass and its fascinating surroundings. The remarkable beauty and cultural significance of the area are sure to leave a lasting impression on any adventurer. Deception Pass
- Did you notice?
- As a writer wannabe, I enjoy playing with words. Lately, I have been kicking around artificial intelligence. The next passage and the preceding passage were passed through an AI program. I supplied the basic information, the fluffy language, not so much, enjoy.
- The Swinomish Channel, a hidden gem for seasoned boaters, provides a picturesque and relaxing alternative to the sometimes turbulent waters of Deception Pass. Many visitors who park long-term at the Cornet Bay boat ramp in Deception Pass Park, myself included, choose to embark on this delightful detour. When heading out, instead of veering right into the unpredictable waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Rosario Strait, consider retracing your route for a few miles and setting a course through the serene Swinomish Channel. This not only offers a respite from the challenges of the Pass but also shields you from the often encroaching fog in the Straits. As a delightful bonus, you can make a pit stop at the charming town of La Conner. Nestled along the banks of the channel, La Conner welcomes boaters with open arms. The town offers four docks, perfect for short-term or overnight stays. A leisurely stroll along the charming boardwalk presents a plethora of quaint shops, inviting bistros, and even a provision store for all your needs.So, when charting your course, why not opt for the scenic great circle route, meandering through the Swinomish Channel? Along the way, take in the breathtaking scenery, and don't forget to treat yourself to a delectable ice cream cone at La Conner, making your journey all the more memorable. (not bad, but not me)
- The San Juan's are full of hikes, walks, and places to explore and I'm not going to list all of them on Sucia, Stuart, Matia, James, Jones ... But two hikes beckon me back again and again because they reward me, not just exhaust me. Hiking to the top of *Eagle Bluff on Cypress and the top of *Youngs Peak, aka Young Hill at English Camp. Both hikes are thigh burners and just plain hard work. Both are short and intense, we pace ourselves, rest, and keep coming back. The summit views are worth it. Bring cameras and water. Go to this link and then scroll down to #7 and #9
- Use your dinghy, kayak, or paddleboard to explore Echo Bay: Sounds simple enough and you probably already plan to, but I suggest you go to Ewing Cove at the far northeast end of Echo Bay. You can sneak in with your big boat but using the dinghy allows you to paddle through some narrow slots and get up close to some cool cliffs and rocks. You can even go ashore to use the privy, have a campfire, or drop off passengers who want to make the long hike back through the woods to Fossil Bay. Ewing Cove has two buoys and is at the far north end or point of Echo Bay on Sucia Island. Watch for rocks, follow your chart, watch the sounder, and go slow.
- Sculpture Park at Roche Harbor: I don't believe the park is part of Roche Harbor but if you go by boat, you need to get a slip at the marina or anchor and go ashore at a dinghy dock. Once on shore, walk uphill past the pool and cabins, and cross the road, you can't miss it. It's free, donations are welcome. We enjoy strolling through the fields, meadows and woods. The unique large art pieces are spread out over twenty acres. Some spin and whirl, some are interactive, and some have deer grazing nearby. There is something for all ages and dogs are welcome too.
- Turn Point lighthouse museum hike: Chances are that you already know about this very popular destination. Most newcomers will be staying at either Prevost or Reid Harbors and then hike the 2.5 miles (one way) from the State Park docks. You can save two miles and an hour by taking the dinghy to the county dock at the far north end of Prevost Harbor. We usually anchor near the county dock and then leave the dinghy tied to the small float while we walk out to Turn Point.
- Moran Museum: You should stop by Rosario Resort in East Sound on Orcas Island. You may anchor, tie to a buoy, ask for a complimentary slip, or spend the night. While you are there make your way to the third floor of the mansion-turned-resort office and restaurant. The top floor museum is dedicated to the early days of Robert Moran and the San Juans.
- Friday Harbor music on the promenade: The short promenade that runs between the marina office and main street is a small city park. Most summer weekends the stage is filled with musicians entertaining cruisers and locals. It is lots of fun and free, Music will drift out on the dock to your boat but not if you are somewhere else. When planning your travels, plan Saturday at Friday Harbor.
|Turn point museum at the lighthouse|