Once part of a mountain range that connected Washington State to Vancouver Island, the San Juan archipelago is made up of more than 170 islands (and an additional 300 rocky 'islands' at low tide). 128 of these islands are named.
Located between the straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands are sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island. Protected by the Olympic mountains, these special islands boast a moderate and dry climate, receiving, on average, only 29 inches of rain a year.
|A Samish fisherman drying his catch|
The San Juans have been inhabited seasonally for about 2000 years. They were used as summer homes by people of the Lhaq'temish (Lummi), Samish and Songish tribes. Today about 60 of these islands are populated with farming, fishing and tourism as the main commerce. Over time, urban refugees, including artists, have sought out the solitude found in these islands.
|90 Orca whales are year round residents of the San Juan Islands|
Drawn by the natural beauty of these islands, and seeking relaxation and nature inspired activities - whale watching, kayaking and bicycling, the islands are popular destinations for weekend getaways and stay vacations. The height being the summer months.
Eighty-three islands are protected under the San Juan National Wildlife Refuge and the region is home to about 90 orcas from three resident pods that eat the abundant salmon, as well as some transient orcas dining on harbor seals, river otter, Stellar sea lions, common minke whales, and Dall's porpoise, all which are often seen from shore. The islands is also home to various seabirds like the Great Blue Heron, black oystercacthers, numerous shorebirds like the trumpeter swans and Canada goose, bird of prey like the Perefrine falcons, northern harriers, barred owls, and diving birds such as rhinocerous auklet, pigeon guillemots, and the endangered murrelet.
|Washington State Ferry in the San Juan Islands|
The most populated and visited islands Lopez, Orcas, San Juan and Shaw are served by the Washington State Ferry System. To reach any of the other islands, except Guemes Island which is accessed by a short 7 minute ferry crossing from the north end of Anacortes, you will need to arrange for your own transportation via private boat or seaplane.
|Guemes Island-Anacortes Ferry|
If you are planning a visit to the San Juan Islands, these links might be of help -Where to Stay
|Sea Plane, WSDOT Ferries, Chartered Water Vessel,|
San Juan Airlines and NW Sky Ferry
Up until the mid seventies, the San Juans were primarily agricultural - that's when living in the San Juans became the 'thing'! Natural beauty with outdoor adventures like whale watching, fishing, boating and hiking combined with friendly people and a quick ferry ride from the mainland beckons visitors, and some just don't want to leave. Small town living in unparalleled beauty draws artists, business owners, and millionaires. Even with the increase of year-round residents and second (third or fourth) home owners, the small town feel remains.
With the increased population and destination point for tourists and nature lovers, the ferry lines can be long, especially in the late spring to early fall months, summer being the toughest on wait times.
Islands, like Guemes Island, with quick access from Seattle/Tacoma and Vancouver B.C. are becoming en vogue. A 90 minute drive from Seattle/60 minutes from Vancouver puts you at the north end of Anacortes where you pick up the Guemes Island Ferry - a 7 minute crossing. Two general stores, one with a sweet cafe and bar allows for a quick stop before unpacking your cares.
If you would like more information on this beautiful estate or other homes for sale in the area, let me know. I love any excuse to visit this spectacular area.
Until next time,
la chasse au bonheur