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The San Juan Islands, Washington
The San Juan Islands are located in the very north western corner of the contiguous United States and
nestle in between the US mainland and Vancouver Island, over the border in Canada. This archipelago
belongs to the state of Washington and is around 65 miles to the north of Seattle. Interestingly, while
Seattle is famous for its rain, the San Juan islands receive a lot less precipitation that that city to the south
because they are in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains which dominate the landscape to their
However, the weather here is by no means balmy. Snow is infrequent in winter, especially at lower
elevations, and yet there is often a bitter wind which can lead to brief periods of freezing conditions and
Arctic-like wind chill. Still, especially in the summer months these islands are a popular tourist
destination and temperatures will average around 21 degrees Celsius, allowing the many people who visit
this beautiful part of the world to enjoy outdoors recreation.
There are actually over 400 islands and rocky islets in the archipelago, though only 128 of these are
named. Most people who visit these islands will take the Washington State Ferries and end up on Lopez
Island, Shaw Island, Orcas Island or San Juan Island. Islands served by cruise charter services include
also Eliza Island, Sinclair Island and Blakely Island. You can get to all the other San Juan Islands if you
feel so inclined by taking a high speed water taxi offered by private businesses. Small planes also fly to
several of the San Juan Islands.
Most of the San Juan islands are quite hilly and offer a varied and undulating landscape and rugged
shorelines which are of much interest to nature lovers, wildlife watchers, artists and photographers. The
tallest peak on the archipelago is Mount Constitution which you will find on Orcas Island. The diverse
coastline of the islands offers sandy beaches and rocky ones, calm, deep harbours and shallow, reef-
strewn bays. Inland, much of the islands is densely forested with evergreen trees such as fir and pine as
well as the beautiful ochre-barked madrona trees.
Amongst the varied wildlife to be found on the islands and around them is a famous resident pod of orcas,
just one of the many marine species to be admired in this location. Amongst a rich and varied bird
population, the islands are home to the highest concentration of bald eagles anywhere in the continental
United States. There are plenty of wildlife spectacles to see here both on land and above and below the
For adventure seekers, the San Juan islands are ripe for exploration. Sea kayaking is just one of the
popular active outdoor pursuits that are enjoyed here. You could also go hiking or biking, or perhaps take
in the beautiful scenery from the back of a horse. There is also plenty for those interested in history, and
you can discover much about early Coast Salish settlements and the continuing development of the
culture and character of the islands. Eat local food, have fun and relax on a visit to the wonderful San
Juan Islands. TraveleZe