One of the many things Washington is known for is its astounding beauty and plethora of outdoorsy excursions; and while many of our islands offer their own brand of style and comforts, they all offer an amazing vacation. While these aren’t (by far) the only islands Puget Sound and the Straits offer, they are prominent vacation destinations.
There are three islands to the north, sometimes referred to as the San Juan Islands, that rock against the United States-Canada border. Though they largely comprise the three main islands, Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan Islands, there are 172 named island and reefs within the San Juan County, all closely guarded between Washington and Victoria, BC.
This massive archipelago is largely only accessible by air or water, with none of the islands with close enough proximity to for other options. Dozens of ferry options connect the islands. But that’s all right. An easy island-vibe leaves you refreshed after a few moments.
The three major islands listed above hold most of the lodging and dining options for visitors. Horseshoe-shaped Orcas Island is otherwise known as the “Gem of the San Juans” – and if you’re curious why, you’ll have to check it out for yourself! Lopez Island is known for its friendliness, far away from the Seattle-freeze we’ve all grown so accustomed to. And San Juan Island holds the secrets from the Washington’s past, including an alpaca ranch, a lavender farm, a winery with historic tasting room, and more!
Another sibling pair are the Whidbey and Camano Islands. Either great options for escaping the hustle and bustle of nearby Seattle, these islands offer a rural getaway with wide-open beaches, scenic vistas, outdoor adventures, and other great shopping and dining options!
The smaller of the two, Camano Island is a great place for a day-trip or weekend getaway. Only an hour north of Seattle, they offer a plethora of activities from golfing, to art to island and state parks, the options are endless.
Whidbey Island hugs its little sibling, protecting it from the harshness of Straits. As of the fourth largest island in the contiguous United States, it’s a diverse island that offers some of the best Pacific Northwest Retreats. Visit Deception Pass, small towns, or ingrain scenic views of the Puget Sound and far-off mountains into your mind. Or enjoy small shops and boutiques, galleries, or any of the other countless annual festivals they hold throughout the year.
Moving closer to Seattle, Bainbridge Island is just a short ferry ride across the water. With a history and natural beauty, Bainbridge Island offers acres of parks, miles of trails, historical sights, and tons of attractions and celebrations. A photographer’s paradise, enjoy picturesque views of the Olympic Mountain Range and Puget Sound, with stunning and colorful sunset to boot! Try the golf club, rock gym, sailing, or scuba dive at Exotic Aquatics.
Blake Island Marine State Park is a bit different than the other islands on this list. First off, it’s a largely uninhabited island that serves as a preserved showcase for Northwest Coast Indian arts, culture, and foods; and is only accessible via private boat or private tour. The main attraction is Tillicum, a Native American meal and cultural event, but other activities include scuba diving, kayaking, hiking, camping, and bird-watching. You can also dig for clams – yum, razor clams! Check out the Argosy Cruises’ Tillicum Excursion for more information on the Tillicum event!
Vashon Island is another near-Seattle adventure, with a direct ferry ride that departs from West Seattle’s Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal. Small strawberry farms operate throughout the island, playing tribute to its origins as a heavy strawberry cultivator. Beautiful beaches, eclectic shops and restaurants… It’s not wonder many flock to the area for a short day-trip or extended, island stay.
Just minutes from Tacoma, Fox Island is a unique island community with picturesque views of Mount Rainier, McNeil Island, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and the Olympic Mountain Range – you can even see Tanglewood Island’s iconic lighthouse!
The last one is probably the closest to Seattle, but Mercer Island packs a ton of fun into one, tiny island. Dozens of parks of water opportunities are unique to the Island and with its proximity to Seattle and the Eastside, you’re only a short trip to and from home! Luther Burbank, Aubrey Davis Park, Mercerdale Park, Island Crest Park, and Pioneer Park are among the local favorites; but other activities include several Spring and Summer festivals (including Summer Celebration), the Mercer Island Farmers’ Market on Sundays, their NEW Earth Day Celebration, their Movies in the Park series, and more!
Sometimes, you need a cup of coffee. Sometimes, you need an entire island to rejuvenate your senses. These local options are great for invigorating your senses and helping your city-worries melt away – and they’re nearby location means you don’t have to stay “on island” if you don’t want to!
What are you favorite Washington islands to visit?
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