Scenic USA - Washington
San Juan Islands Scenic Byway
|Photos by Jim Stiles
Jim Stiles Photography
With average high temperatures between 45 and 70 degrees, the San Juan Islands seem the perfect vacation destination most any time of year. Scattered over the Puget Sound, this large archipelago of over a hundred islands overflows with natural beauty. Whidbey and Camano islands are among the most popular seasides destinations in the state. Visitors may arrive on Whidbey from the north by driving through Fidalgo Island and over the stunning 200 foot high Deception Pass Bridge, or by taking the state ferry to the southern port of Clinton. Visitors to San Juan and Orcas islands must either fly or take a ferry. Although noted for their beauty, sunshine and slow-paced atmosphere, these larger islands are also a haven for art galleries, cultural sites and historic landmarks.
Washington State’s newest scenic byway, established in 2008, invites visitors to explore Orcas and San Juan island. After crossing the Puget Sound, country roads lead to a long intinerary of island stops, including American Camp NHP, Cattle Point, lavender and alpaca farms, parks and vineyards. For lighthouse fans, there's a must-see stop at Lime Kiln State Park to enjoy the lighthouse. Other popular stops include whale watching overlooks, the English Camp NHP, and this wonderful view at Roche Harbor.
The Orcas Island tour loops around East and West sounds (a long inlet) on this horseshoe shaped island. Branching out from Orcas Village at the ferry terminal, the byway passes West Sound and the Turtleback Mountain Preserve. One of the largest undeveloped properties on the island, the preserve is laced with trails for hiking, bird watching, and lofty views of the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands. Next up is either Deer Harbor to the west, or roads on an eastward direction around East Sound.
On the eastern side of the island byway sightseers may wish to spend more time exploring Moran State Park and Mount Constitution, the highest point in San Juan County. This side of the island also takes in Mountain and Cascade lakes, the Rosario Resort and historic Moran Mansion, Doe Bay Resort and Retreat, and Obstruction Pass State Park.
Beginning in 2015, ferry passengers heading to the islands may use the Save A Spot Reservation System for a worry free Puget Sound trip. Once on the islands, lodging accomodations vary greatly from first class resort hotels and rental homes, to cottages, bed and breakfasts, cabins and campsites.
Brochure and Byway Maps
Passenger Ferry and Vehicle Fares
Additional Points of Interest
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