About 100 miles north of Seattle, the San Juan Islands offer a breathtaking respite from the bustle of city life. Comprised of 172 islands in total, four of which -- San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez, and Shaw -- are serviced by the Washington State Ferry service, the scenic archipelago makes a cozy getaway for Seattleites looking for a dreamy Pacific Northwest weekend or staycation spot.
In fall, you’ll find significantly smaller crowds, but still good weather. According to the visitors bureau, the San Juans get an estimated 247 days of sunshine a year -- with about half the precipitation of Seattle, thanks to the Olympic Mountains’ "rain shadow" effect. It’s possible to bounce between the three major islands (the small Shaw isn’t considered a tourist destination) in the span of a couple days, or pick one and really get to know it.
Either way, getting around by car is definitely the way to go in the fall, especially if you want to hit all three islands, or if you opt for Lopez, which doesn’t have public transit or car rental facilities. But first, you’ll need to take the ferry, which departs from the Anacortes terminal, about 80 miles north of Seattle. The ferry ride takes anywhere from 40 minutes to 1.5 hours (depending on the route), and offers magnificent views of the island’s lush maples and rocky cliff sides, making the passage an experience all on its own.
As for what to do when you’re back on land? Allow this guide to clue you into the best places to eat and things to do when visiting the San Juan Islands this fall.