Shielded from ocean storms and swells by Canada’s 300-mile-long Vancouver Island, the forested, steep-sided San Juan Islands in nearby Washington state offer up more than 300 miles of shoreline, countless anchorages, and short-distance cruising for those who love to explore.
Find a cove and settle in, then dinghy ashore to discover tide pools loaded with purple starfish. Walk hundreds of evergreen-scented nature trails to viewpoints high above the shore. Eat fresh Dungeness crab caught in your own trap. Or kayak from the boat through the bull kelp while spying bald eagles hidden in the treetops. San Juan Sailing shared this sample cruise from its base at Bellingham, Washington:
Day one: Sail six miles across Bellingham Bay to Lummi Island, then up scenic Hale Passage to hand-shaped Sucia Island. Anchor or pick up a mooring ball in Echo, Fossil, or Shallow bays.
Day two: From Sucia, cruise through Dall’s porpoise territory southwest along Orcas Island to either of two large and protected harbors, Prevost or Reid, at Stuart Island. Anchor or take a mooring ball. Stretch your legs on the historic trail through the forest to the lighthouse on Turn Point.
Day three: Head down Haro Strait on an ebb tide along the west side of San Juan Island for a run of 24 miles to Victoria, British Columbia. Clear Canadian customs and moor in front of the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel. From world-famous gardens to impressive architecture, the sightseeing pickings are rich.
Day four: Catch the flood tide and ride with the orcas up Haro Strait to Roche Harbor, a tranquil destination with an 1880s resort on the northwest corner of San Juan Island. Clear back into the United States. Radio for a slip or anchor in the protected bay. Walk the nearby sculpture garden. Enjoy the flowers at the Hotel de Haro. Take a dip in the pool. Play tennis. Then enjoy the shoreside pub and dine at McMillin’s Dining Room, overlooking the bay.
Day five: Head east to Jones Island for lunch, where deer eat from your hand. Or stop in at Deer Harbor Resort, at nearby Orcas Island. Then meander south back to San Juan Island and picturesque Friday Harbor, the largest port of call in the archipelago. Take a slip in the marina, or anchor north or south of the breakwater. There are lots of shops, restaurants, and night spots.
Day six: Travel east past the Gatsby-era Rosario Resort and Spa on Orcas Island (save this for your next charter here), through Peavine Pass, above Obstruction Island, then cross Rosario Strait to the east shore of Cypress Island and Eagle Harbor. Pick up a mooring ball, then hike to Eagle Cliff for a view that a photograph can’t capture. But try.
Day seven: Sail east below Sinclair and Lummi islands, then cross Bellingham Bay to the marina. Consider dinner and a bed-and-breakfast in eclectic Fairhaven, only a short drive or hardy walk away in the south end of Bellingham. Browse the many artisan shops. And don’t miss three-story Village Books.