San Juan Islands

by Brian on September 5, 2003

I was happy to see the NY Times article on the ferries between the San Juan islands. I was over there this summer for a conference and a group from the conference took one of the ferries to Lopez island. It really was incredibly beautiful. The Times story online has one photo hinting at the kind of views you get, and there are a few more photos in the print version. If you’re anywhere near the San Juans, getting out to the islands is highly recommended.

A word of warning though: if you’re kayaking on the waters between the islands, and it looks like a ferry might be bearing down on you, it probably is a ferry bearing down on you and it will probably get to you quicker than you think. I managed to stay well out of ferry routes the short time I was out there, but friends who were a little more adventurous had some impressive horror stories to tell.



Alan 09.06.03 at 1:06 am

Wow, reading about the ferries brings back a flood of memories. I worked on Orcas Island for a summer and rode the ferries a couple of times a week. Missing a late ferry meant a long wait at the terminal, but the ferry ride itself from Anacortes to Orcas was always a nice experience. You find a nice spot to lean against the rail and watch the water and feel the wind, and it no longer matters that you’re late and in a hurry. Riding the ferries through the fog is neat, too. (Oh, and living alternately on Orcas and in Squamish, BC was just about the best itinerary ever.)

And here I am, landlocked in the desert, again.


Ophelia Benson 09.06.03 at 5:34 pm

Ah yes, the San Juan ferry; not bad at all. The BC ferry is similarly stunning – the one from Tsawassen to…wherever it is: on Vancouver Island somewhere north of Victoria.

Or even the briefer and less island-dotted but still beautiful ferries in or near Seattle. I can see five routes from where I live. The Edmunds-Kingston run north of Seattle, the two Vashon Island runs to the south, and two from downtown Seattle to the other side of Puget Sound. They’re none of them what you’d call ugly.


nick sweeney 09.09.03 at 2:50 am

You’re thinking of Sidney, ophelia: I spent an R&R month this year on Galiano Island, part of the Canadian Gulf Islands to the north of the San Juans. Sidney is vital to Gulf Islanders: they go there to stock up on groceries, to order parts and get repairs done that the island communities can’t cater for themselves (though they manage well enough most of the time, being jacks of all trades).

What’s charming, in a way, is the NYTimes talking about the ferries as an odd public transport network. I’m sure the Gulf Islanders think the same of the Subway. But those BC Ferries rides, despite the formica and the rotten, rotten coffee, are breathtaking. Life-affirming. From the egrets perching on driftwood, to the excitement if an orca comes into view.

But the ferries shape your day. If you want to go shopping, you have to leave early and be back before the last boat departs. It’s a dawn-to-dusk culture there, and it’s one I got, briefly, to love. That first night ride from Tsawassen to Sidney was breathtaking, and it never lost its wonder.

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