Why You Should Start Planning Your Trip to the San Juan Islands Now (Plus 7 Amazing Vacation Rentals)
A weekend of hiking, whale watching, and sipping on homegrown wine awaits in this stunning 172-island archipelago off the coast of Seattle.
Summer may be winding down, but the San Juan Islands are just about to hit their sweet spot.
A mecca for whale watching, wine tasting, hiking, and world-class dining, this Puget Sound paradise is frequented in the 75-degree months of high summer. But, postpone your PNW vacay until early fall and you might just skip out on ferry traffic and island crowds (while still enjoying alfresco-dining weather).
Here are seven glorious rental properties, from luxurious lodges to a rustic treehouse, to help jumpstart your San Juan Islands travel planning.
Perched on a cliff overlooking Orcas Island’s Cascade Bay, this modern cottage boasts vaulted wood ceilings, expansive windows, and cork floors. The contemporary retreat is ideally located, with Moran State Park to the east and the Rosario Resort, a historic compound featuring a museum, marina, spa, restaurant, and hotel, directly below.
Satisfy your city craving with a waterfront dwelling just a stone’s throw from San Juan Island’s lively Friday Harbor. This one-bedroom cottage has incredible views of Shipyard Cove Marina and is a quick drive to shops, museums, restaurants, and the ferry terminal. Make a week of it and cruise back to downtown Seattle on the San Juan Clipper (which runs regularly into October).
This brand-new home has all the amenities of a modern escape, plus a picturesque location along the rocky coastline of Orcas Island, where you can watch boat and bald eagle traffic sail on by. Get your nature fix, then stroll on down to Eastsound Village, where you can gallery hop and sip on cocktails in Orcas Island’s quaint downtown.
You can’t beat the views from this Lopez Island treehouse, suspended between two Douglas firs in a clifftop setting. The modestly appointed cabin has a kitchenette, a memory-foam bed, and an outdoor shower, but we suspect you’ll be spending more time outside sipping wine and admiring the sunset from the balcony, or hiking one of the many mossy trails next door at the Upright Head Preserve.
This 4-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot luxury home sits atop Mt. Dallas, the highest point on San Juan Island, affording five-star views of Haro Strait (which separates the US from Canada) and the distant lights of Vancouver. Outfitted with three fireplaces, two Jacuzzis, a library and two levels of decks, it’s the perfect getaway for extended families.
Nestled on the rugged, sparsely populated Lummi Island, this adorable waterfront cottage is the perfect quiet getaway for those looking to get immersed in the outdoors. Stroll the pebbly beaches (and watch for orca fins!) or go for a hike out in nature – you might just run into world-renowned chef and forager Blaine Wetzel, who helms the kitchen at Lummi Island’s famed Willows Inn. (Make a reservation well in advance for a table.)
Beachfront for a Bargain
Samish Island, informally considered one of the “inner San Juan Islands” is within driving distance (sans ferry) of Seattle but feels worlds away. No restaurants or town center make hiking and tranquility the big draws here. Just steps from the water, this tiny 340-square-foot guesthouse is the perfect location for both – and, in October, you can book a weekend for less than $100 a night.
Photos, from top: Airbnb (2); HomeAway (2); HomeAway (2); Airbnb (2); HomeAway (2); Airbnb (2); Airbnb (2)