Sea kayaking and Orca Watching

San Juan Islands Travel Blog

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Anacortes
Since the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” has been added to my collection, I’ve been browsing through it and dreaming of far-away places that are worth a visit. For Labor Day weekend last year I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity to fly to the other side of the country and explore the San Juan Islands in the state of Washington. Friends who had lived in Seattle convinced me that it’s gorgeous there and that I would love it, so off I went.

Base camp for a trip to the San Juan Islands is the city of Seattle, famous for its Pike Place market and of course the birthplace of Starbucks coffee. After having checked out the city of Seattle and its many book stores and coffee houses, I took off at the crack of dawn on Labor Day to drive north to the town of Anacortes to board the public ferry which transports you to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island.
View on Roche Harbor


The ferry ride is number 4 on the World’s Top 10 Best Ferry Boat Rides, so I was excited. Unfortunately the weather was cloudy, but our luck turned once we arrived at the historic seaport of Friday Harbor where we picked up lunch (which included a nice bottle of Washington State red wine) and set out to drive to the north part of the island from which we would start a 3-hour guided sea kayaking trip. By the time it was time to put on the spray skirt, get acquainted with how to hold the paddle and how to communicate in order to paddle in unison, the sun had come out and a blue sky was greeting us. Needless to say I was way overdressed since I had expected typical Seattle weather, but we didn’t have one drop of rain.

We paddled along several islands, some of them privately owned and which displayed an abundance of signs warning people of this fact.
Roche Harbor
One island even had more KEEP OUT, PRIVATE signs than trees on it! Since we didn’t want to get into trouble with the law, we kept paddling until my neck and shoulders were so sore I thought I wouldn’t make it back. We saw beautiful landscapes, fancy sailboats, birds, and some fun seals. Unfortunately we didn’t see any orcas up close, but I think I would have freaked out anyway if one of them had come up next to our little kayak.

My shoulders got a break when we lifted our kayaks out of the water and planted ourselves at a picnic spot on Posey Island, which we had entirely to ourselves. Sampling the bottle of red wine was a nice way to relax the muscles and post-lunch kayaking went so smoothly that I felt I could paddle all the way to Canada.

When we got back to dry land, we left scenic Roche Harbor behind us and drove west to Lime Kiln State Park to visit the lookout point to see some resident orcas.
Resident Orcas seen from Lime Kiln State Park
Upon arrival, there were fishing boats making a lot of noise so I didn’t think we would get lucky, but after 10 minutes we heard the peculiar orca noises on the specially-designed radio they have near the lighthouse and soon enough we were able to see several orcas pass by the cliffs. It was very exciting and of course the highlight of the day.

I learned that the resident orcas that live in the Strait of Juan de Fuca only eat Chinook salmon and the males can eat up to 250 pounds of salmon a day. Transient orcas that just move through the Strait eat mostly seals or other marine mammals and are not seen as frequently as the resident orcas.

I was sad to leave the orca viewpoint as I thought it would be a great spot to watch the sunset, but we had to make our way back to the ferry dock to return to Seattle.
Stunning sunsets from the ferry
I wasn’t disappointed anymore once we were on the ferry and the sun started to set. The ferry ride was so beautiful with the sunset that I didn’t want it to end. It was the perfect ending to a very relaxing day. When my head finally hit my pillow at 11pm, I was still paddling and thinking of the San Juan Islands. I will definitely return and I suggest you check it out as well.

The San Juan Islands are located in the Salish Sea between three cities: Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria and two countries: US and Canada. There are actually more than 450 islands in the archipelago, but only 15 of them can be reached by public ferry. You can also reach San Juan Island by seaplane from Seattle, which only takes about 30 minutes and must be really cool.

I used eco tour company Evergreen Escapes for my tour. They are based in Seattle. I had a great experience with them.

 
Benjii3 says:
Love the snaps! And BTW, I think you've just added a new destination to my own RTW itinerary..."Suan Juan Island". Hoping to get there when I go to Vancouver and Victoria (August). Cheers...and keep snapping! :-)
Posted on: Jun 11, 2010
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Anacortes
Anacortes
View on Roche Harbor
View on Roche Harbor
Roche Harbor
Roche Harbor
Resident Orcas seen from Lime Kiln…
Resident Orcas seen from Lime Kil…
Stunning sunsets from the ferry
Stunning sunsets from the ferry
Stunning sunsets from the ferry
Stunning sunsets from the ferry
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San Juan Islands
photo by: asmulders