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VOL. 130 | NO. 77 | Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

Nature is a Stage in San Juan Islands

LANCE WIEDOWER | Special to The Daily News

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An island getaway can have water sports, delectable seafood, amazing drinks, lots of sunshine, sand and the beautiful scent of saltwater in the air.

But not all island getaways are created the same. The San Juan Islands in Washington State has plenty of the above, but you’re not taking a ferry to Friday Harbor to soak in the sun. To be clear, the islands do get sunshine – 247 days with it annually – and roughly half the rainfall of nearby Seattle. But relaxing in the sun probably isn’t the No. 1 item on a to-do list for a visitor to the San Juan Islands.

Why should the San Juan Islands even be on the radar of Southerners? One of the draws to the Pacific Northwest is the natural beauty of the region. The San Juan Islands is just part of that, but arguably one of the most beautiful. It’s a side note to a Seattle or Vancouver visit, but arguably could be its own destination.

It’s called nature’s theme park, and it’s hard to argue. Moran State Park offers 38 miles of hiking, cycling and horseback riding trails that go by waterfalls, lakes and mossy forests on Orcas Island.

Hike Mt. Constitution and enjoy views from nearly 2,500 feet above the sea. Take a sea kayaking adventure with one of several outfitters that can take you on overnight adventures around the islands, or go out on a whale-watching cruise to see the massive creatures in their element.

Seals, sea lions and a variety of shorebirds are visible from the islands’ miles of shorelines.

When we visited Seattle, we decided to spend a day exploring Friday Harbor where we boarded a whale-watching cruise that took us around beautiful San Juan Island. At the time, I had not been to Canada and found part of the excitement of the day to be sitting on a cruise, watching whales explode through the water’s surface with Canada’s Vancouver Island in the distance.

And getting to Friday Harbor was half the fun. The hour-long ferry ride from Anacortes just north of Seattle had us weaving in and out of several islands in the San Juan system.

There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County. The ferry system only serves four of those islands: San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island. Most of the lodging options and activities are on these main islands, including Friday Harbor, which is the county seat.

It’s a full day to just visit the San Juan Islands on a day trip from Seattle, and probably only worth it if you decide to take a 30-minute flight.

But for those visitors who have more time, consider staying a night or two in one of the islands’ resorts, B&Bs or vast number of camping opportunities.

And whether you go for a day or a week, enjoy the magnificent sunset over the islands.

Read Lance Wiedower’s travel site tripsbylance.com or follow him at @tripsbylance.

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