San Juan Islands: Orcas and San Juan

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Our anniversaries are typically spent on the Oregon Coast, but we quickly realized that we so often flee to Oregon that we haven’t investigated much of Northern Washington. For our seven year dating anniversary we booked a five day trip to the San Juan Islands.

To get there from Seattle, we drove north then hopped on a ferry in the town of Anacortes. The ferry makes several stops before arriving at Orcas so we had about an hour and a half on the ferry with the most gorgeous weather.

Tip: If you are planning to head to the islands, book a ferry spot in advance and show up about 45 minutes before your reservation. The reservation isn’t a ticket, but guarantees you a ticket if you show up for your spot. The ferries fill up VERY quickly so planning in advance is definitely a must!

Before hopping on the ferry in Anacortes, we stopped at the Predators of the Heart sanctuary for the most amazing wolf encounter experience.

Predators of the Heart – Anacortes

Ohhhh this day..I don’t even know where to start! We received tickets to this experience from my parents for Christmas last year and we took the opportunity to use them on our way to the San Juans foe the weekend. Predators of the Heart is a non-profit animal sanctuary that takes in exotic animals that were born in captivity, then abandoned, and have no where else to go. Since the animals can’t be released back into the wild, Predators of the Heart jumps in to rescue them to give them a home to live out the rest of their lives.

The Wolf Encounter experience was created to help fund the ever-growing facilities and animal needs. Proceeds from the tickets go right back into upgrading the animal homes and creating more room for future animals that will inevitably need rescuing. There are wolves, obviously, but there are also sloths, cougars, bobcats, lynx, hawks, owls, vultures, skunks, opossums, foxes, and more.

I am always hesitant about animal sanctuaries as I worry about the intent, treatment of animals, profits, etc. I couldn’t have felt MORE comfortable and more thankful for a facility like Predators of the Heart. Knowing someone saves animals that are scheduled to be euthanized and gives them a home to live in peace makes my heart so happy. You can even add Predators of the Heart as your destination for charitable donations from every amazon purchase through AmazonSmile. They are always in need of heal due to their constant in-flux of abandoned animals.

Mt. Constitution – Orcas Island

Our first full day on the island started with a drive to the top of Mt. Constitution. It was a quick stop, but provided the most beautiful views of the Sound and Mt. Baker.

Town Center – Orcas Island

This town reminded me of every Hallmark movie I had ever seen (I have seen a lot). Filled with small shops and restaurants, you can spend an entire afternoon snacking and shopping. We grabbed a coffee and headed to the shop of one of my favorite potters. I have followed Forest Ceramic Co. for a little while, ordered some pieces over the phone, but had never visited in person. Being able to shop the gallery in person was a dream!

Orcas Island Pottery

Speaking of pottery.. I have a bit of an obsession. We spent most of our time on Orcas Island driving the winding roads. We came across this sign for Orcas Island Pottery and followed a winding road to the end. We were greeted with the most beautiful and quaint cottage right on the water. There was pottery scattered all over the property, weaving in and out of the flower beds. There was even a treehouse we could climb. We ultimately bought a few pieces to bring home and bought a piece for my mom for Mother’s Day which they were able to ship to her.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse – San Juan

On our last day in the San Juan Islands, we took an inter-island ferry to San Juan. San Juan is definitely the most public-friendly island as it has a lot more activities for non-residents to do. Orcas is much more protected and private.

Our first stop was Lime Kiln Point State Park. This park is said to be one of the best places in the entire WORLD to whale watch from land. After walking around the lighthouse for about 15 minutes, we were greeted by some Humpbacks!

English Camp – San Juan

Driving North from Lime Kiln, we stopped at English Camp. The English and Americans had joint occupancy of the San Juan Islands in the late 1800’s and this area is where the English set up Camp. The grounds are so beautifully maintained and are shaded by the most beautiful flowering trees.

Roche Harbor – San Juan

Alright – While everything in the San Juans is right out of a Hallmark movie, there is no way Roche Harbor wasn’t the backdrop of some romantic movie.. or even a Wes Anderson film, perhaps?

From the houses scaling the hill like the Painted Ladies of San Francisco to the vintage hotel, romantic gardens to the colorful marina, this small maritime town transports you to another time.

Cattle Point Lighthouse – San Juan

Our last stop before heading back to the Harbor to catch a ferry was Cattle Point. This beautiful water-side park sits atop rocky cliffs and provides the perfect backdrop for a Julie Andrew’s style frolic through the hills.

Friday Harbor – San Juan

Our first and last stop of our day on San Juan. We started out morning by catching the 7:20am ferry, so of course we needed to stock up on coffee and pastries before we did anything else.

After we finished our last stop on the Island, we drove back to Friday Harbor, grabbed some strawberry ice cream, and waited for the ferry.

Tip: the inter-island ferries only run from about 7am to 5pm and only run once every few hours. If you are taking a day trip, we highly recommend taking the earliest ferry to allow yourself the whole day.

Where We Stayed – Orcas Island

Spring is a busy time to visit the San Juan Islands because the weather is just getting good, and everything is in bloom. If you can snag a place to stay though – it is the BEST time to go. We stayed on Orcas Island in a guest house of an island resident. The guest house had a garden, the most gorgeous and spacious private deck, and a hot tub. We couldn’t have imagined a more perfect home base for our anniversary getaway.

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