Seattle & the San Juan Islands
For those beginning their cruise at the southern end of the range, the two most popular ports of embarkation are Seattle and Vancouver, thriving cosmopolitan cities that deserve exploration. Both Washington state’s “Emerald City” and Canada’s Vancouver (considered one of North America’s most elegant cities) feature spectacular natural maritime settings against a towering mountain backdrop. Some of the best cruising can be found between the two cities. This is the Sunshine Coast of the Pacific Northwest, known for above-average temperatures and safe anchorages. A must stop is Victoria at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. In this faded outpost of Empire, an intimate charm resonates in traditions such as afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel.
In East Sound with the most diverse landscape, Orcas Island offers the best recreational opportunities in the San Juan Islands. Moran State Park, one of Washington’s largest, is a mecca for hikers, bikers, campers, trail runners and outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes. The view from the top of Mount Constitution …
Laid-back Lopez Island (often referred to as “Slopez”) is the San Juans’ kind-of island. It shares similarity between Orcas Island because of its small village size and Shaw Island in that it offers big-time opportunities for peace and quiet.
There’s quiet and then there’s Shaw Island. With only one commercial operation-a general store run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist-Shaw is the place to go if the word “relax” is written at the top of your things-to-do list.
If it’s Orcas–those black-and-white sea pandas, that you want to see–head to San Juan Island. From May through September, close to 90 of these wonderful creatures ply the waters of Haro Strait, on the island’s west side. There, Lime Kiln Point State Park offers opportunities galore to observe the whales …
Hidden at the west end of Orcas Island, Deer Harbor is often missed by island visitors. It’s a shame, too because this sleepy harbor village boasts some of the best water views anywhere. The harbor’s kayak, charter and boat rental concessions offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy the waters up close. …