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Visit in Early September

NJ
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Visit in Early September

We are planning a trip in early September, and will be staying on Whidbey Island for 3 nights. We will have a rental car. We definitely want to visit San Juan and Orcas Islands. Is taking the car by ferry a better option than using the islands' shuttle service? Also, would taking the ferry on separate days for each island be a better choice, or would one day be enough for both islands? We aren't big hikers, and are more into aesthetic views and interesting food.

Any info would be GREATLY appreciated.

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San Juan Island
San Juan Island
San Juan Islands, WA
Orcas Island
Orcas Island
San Juan Islands, WA
San Juan Island...
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1. Re: Visit in Early September

I would say if you want to visit both Orcas and San Juan island it would be most convient for you to take your car with on the ferry. Distances to things on Orcas especially are quite spread out and the shuttle there does not run daily even in the summer (and when it does it doesn't go to all the parks etc).

If you buy ferry tickets to come out here to San Juan then stop at Orcas on your way back to the mainland in the same trip (doesn't have to be the same day, you can stay here as long as you want before heading to Orcas) you will save yourself money as then you won't have to buy another ferry ticket as your still traveling in the same direction.

If you don't like to hike there are still plenty of things to do and beautiful views to see on both islands. . The ferry arrives right in the town of Friday Harbor where you will find many small attractive gift & boutique shops, a wide variety of restaurants, a movie theater, 3 museums, 3 book stores, art galleries, a bowling alley, and neither fast food chains nor traffic lights. There is a nice marina that you can walk around in (no locked gates here) right in town which is busy in the summer and holds many large yachts and sailing boats, and some commercial fishing boats. The museum most tourists visit in town is The Whale Museum. Info on that is at whalemuseum.org/museum/details/gallery.html This is a nice little museum for learning about whales and orcas in particular. The museum has full-size skeletons of a whale and a variety of other exhibits and interactive displays. You can find more suggestions for things to do in town at: visitsanjuans.com/the-islands/friday-harbor

With your car you could also take some drives on our scenic roads and look for wildlife such as deer, rabbits, eagles, foxes, trumpeter swans, and raccoons. Some of the local ranches raise more than 'regular' cattle and have llamas, Scottish Highland cattle (the type with the large horns), and alpacas. Something unique for the Northwest is the island camel who lives in a field on Roche Harbor Road and often hangs around the fence there near a big barn. You could see views of much of the island stopping for awhile at places like Roche Harbor which has a nice marina (with more large yachts in the summer than Friday Harbor marina gets) as well as a few restaurants. In the summer it additionally has a small outdoor grouping of artist booths selling locally made art. Very nearby Roche Harbor resort is the outdoor Sculpture Garden at Westcott Bay where one can leisurely stroll around and view the many sculptures or just sit and look at the birds on the pond there. For more info on that see wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/westcott-bay-nature-…

Your best chance of seeing orca whales in season (which is considered May through mid Sept.) would be to take a motorized whale watch trip as the whales are more often seen off the west side of SJ Island and into the Canadian Gulf islands. From land orcas can sometimes be seen from a few parks on SJ island, Limekiln and American Camp, but then it’s really a matter of luck and timing. With a car or by shuttle van during their season you could go out to Lime Kiln Point State Park (also known as Whale Watch Park) and nearby the parking lot you could see the attractive lighthouse perhaps having a picnic at the nearby tables. This is a very scenic spot where orca whales can sometimes be seen along the coastline. There are also bald eagles, seals, porpoises, and the occasional minke or grey whale which can at times be seen as well from this park. However a motorized whale watch boat that can cover many dozens of miles in a short time span and has radio communication with all the other whale watch boats gives the best chance of one seeing orcas on a vacation visit. Information on Limekiln Park is at www.parks.wa.gov/parks/… and for whale watch boat tours see visitsanjuans.com/what-to-do/…A6

Other than hiking there are numerous other things to do on Orcas island. You should check out all the info on the island at the official islands web site which is at www.visitsanjuans.com/the-islands/eastsound for Eastsound Village, which consists of a few blocks of quaint shops, restaurants and inns situated on a picturesque inlet. On that same web site link you can see links on the left for more info on the smaller hamlets and other sites of interest on Orcas.

One special place to see on Orcas IMO are the magical wind sculptures at Howe’s outdoor gallery up a hill right before you get to the town of Eastsound (usually open in the warmer months). You can see what these look like on a youtube video at http://youtu.be/RshSaF_juGs

Here is a detailed general article on the Islands tripadvisor.com/Travel-g58727-c102104/San-Ju… and also you can find out a lot about the islands including all there is to do here at the many parks and I would suggest you check what lodgings are available on the dates you will be here in advance at the web site http://www.visitsanjuans.com (see the form on the right side of their main page).

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NJ
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2. Re: Visit in Early September

Thank you very much for the information. Now I have a logistics question. As we are committed to staying on Whidbey Island for three nights, which gives us two FULL days to explore other islands, is there a significant difference between San Juan and Orcas Islands, especially as we would not be staying overnight.

If we were to visit each island on separate days, would a visit to San Juan Island without a car, utilizing the shuttle service (which I understand is a hop-on, hop-off), and taking the car on the ferry only on our trip to Orcas? Obviously, financially we would prefer not to take the car twice!

Thank you for your advice.

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San Juan Island
San Juan Island
San Juan Islands, WA
Orcas Island
Orcas Island
San Juan Islands, WA
San Juan Island...
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3. Re: Visit in Early September

Where on Whidbey island are you staying? That can really matter if you want to come out here to the San Juans in two separate day trips. Keep in mind your driving time from wherever that is and that to travel the full length of long and narrow Whidbey island, which is ranked as the fourth longest island in the contiguous United States, so this drive can take quite a bit of time on mostly all 2 lane Highway 20 which gets a steady amount of constant cars and which is the only road that travels the length of the island. It's especially slow through the long strip mall filled Oak Harbor area.

Will you also be seeing parts of Whidbey on your trip? It's not as beautiful or unique as our San Juans but it does have its own charm and beauty in a number of places. Langley is our favorite of the Whidbey island towns. Check out the good & thorough one page Whidbey island info with links which is put out by the WA state parks department at

adventureawaits.com/2012/…

You could come out here just one day with your car and see what you can of San Juan and Orcas in that long day or you can come two days as walk-on passengers if you don't want to drive on two days. If you don't want to take a car with you to the SJs you can get to most of the most popular tourist spots and hiking trails via the San Juan Transit (but only from May through September 15th) during the day. You can get some info and links for websites for them at http://www.sanjuantransit.com/

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San Juan Island
San Juan Island
San Juan Islands, WA
Orcas Island
Orcas Island
San Juan Islands, WA
4. Re: Visit in Early September

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