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Kayaking in the San Juan Islands

05.24.17

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Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
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  • Dusk paddling near Matia Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Clear waters at Matia Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Fox Cove viewed from Fox Point.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • A sunset from Fox Point.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • View to Mount Constitution from Sucia Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Ewing Cove on Sucia Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • View from North Beach to Matia Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Paddling near Matia Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Sunset view from Sucia Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • A kayaker crosses from Orcas Island to Sucia Island at dusk.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • View from Eastsound to Fishing Bay and Indian Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • The beach at Cascade Bay.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • A crab on the beach on Orcas Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Obstruction Island paddle.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • A kayaker at Blind Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • A kayaker at camp on Blind Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Seals rest on one of the small rocks near Cactus Island on the southern side of Johns Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • An orca off the Cattle Point coastline with the Olympic Mountain Range in the distance.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Cattle Point: Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus).- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Cormorants rest on a rock near Posey Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • One of the campgrounds at Posey Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • A view of the water from the town of Friday Harbor.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • The rare egg-yolk jellyfish (Phacellorphora camtschatica).- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • The crossing to Stuart Island is notorious for fast currents near Spieden Island and big water on stormy days.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Turn Point Lighthouse is a great day hike from either Reid or Provost Harbor.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Kayakers explore the shores along Turn Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • A gray whale flips its tail out of the water near Turn Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • One of the camps on Turn Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Blind Island is a popular place to stay on the northern side of Shaw Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • The sun sets over Puget Sound.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • One of the beautiful campsites on Jones Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • The kayak launch at Smallpox Bay.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • An orca in the Haro Strait.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • One of the many scenic campsites on James Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Cormorants fly over the water near Burrows Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • The sun sets over the Patos Island Lighthouse.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
  • Matia Island offers kayakers a nice place to take a break before heading to Patos Island.- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands
Article
Team

Serene bays, abundant wildlife, inter-island commutes, hiking and biking trails, solitary campsites: a tour through Washington's San Juan Islands will likely redefine your sense of wonder. Easily one of the most picturesque destinations on the West Coast, this archipelago consists of 128 named islands and hundreds more nameless ones. The possibilities for exploration are endless, so long as you are willing to make the journey. By far the most popular way to reach the larger islands such as Orcas, San Juan, and Lopez, is through one of three ferry services, while charters and private services may serve the smaller islands. These services make a trip to the islands an easy commute from Seattle.

The launch at Smallpox Bay. Photo by Shane Kucera.

If you are looking for a little more solitude in your adventure, however, consider paddling to one or more islands for an overnight. Imagine pulling your kayak up onto a small beach, unloading, and camping just steps away from the water. Solitude is much more likely in the San Juans, and sea kayaking is a fantastic way to explore the less frequented spots of this amazing corner of the country. Here are a few great paddles in the islands to get you started. 

Don't forget essential navigation and communication tools for any paddle into the sound. You'll want to monitor tides, understand where shipping lanes are, keep your own bearings and position, and carry a radio to monitor shipping traffic and to use for your own communication.

Maps, radio, and a current table are helpful when navigating through the San Juan Islands. Photo by Matthew Williams.

Explore more adventures in the list below, and don't forget to post some photos when you get back!

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