The Best Time to Visit San Juan Islands (Hint: When We Go)
Washington State: Home to the Seattle Mariners, Kurt Cobain, the Space Needle, and Pike Place Market. What makes Washington especially beautiful is the San Juan Islands.
With Mount Baker serving as a comforting sight on the horizon, the San Juan Islands offer the temperate ruggedness a pacific northwest rain forest has to offer. The inlet contains the smaller Shaw Island, surrounded by three primary islands: Lopez Island, Orcas Island, and San Juan Island, the largest island of the three.
So let’s dig into some travel tips for the best time to visit this perfect place no matter whether there is sunny weather or you find yourself in the rain season.
Don’t worry, I’ll touch upon the ideal weather and temperatures to visit for kayaking, and whale watching since that’s our bread and butter. 🧈
Weather and Temperatures in the San Juan Islands
Forget Hawaii! June, July, August, and September, is the peak summer season for the San Juan Islands. When visiting the San Juan Islands, you can expect average temperatures to reach the high 60s, and low 70s in the summer months.
Plan a day trip visiting other islands less frequented by tourists. Arrive in the early morning or closer to nightfall to beat the mad rush of visitors for a prime island hopping experience—you may feel like you have the entire island to yourself!
In contrast, visitors are met with an average temperature in the high 30s, to mid 40s well into October and during the winter months. Temperatures can occasionally dip to below freezing. However, the forgiving nature and mild climate of western Washington offers fun things to do all year round. Catch spectacular views of the surrounding bay area, walk the shore line, or beach comb for treasures.
|Month||Avg High (F)||Avg Low (F)||Days of Precip.|
Visiting in Spring
Spring is a wonderful time to visit the islands for a number of reasons!
- Tis’ the season for birdwatching! Situated along the path of the Pacific Flyway Migration route, over 200 species of birds fly past the San Juan Islands in Springtime.
- Island hikes are especially beautiful in Spring, as the archipelago awakens with life after a dormant winter. Consider a hike through Moran State Park, offering over 38 miles of maintained trails.
- Cold weather might get you down, but around this season, the average temperature starts to warm up.
Visiting in Summer
I’m walking on sunshine!
- The best weather – think sun, sand, and orca whales during prime season time.
- In the same breath, the summer sun draws large crowds to the San Juans.
- Ferry rides can be packed with visitors seeking the perfect island escape.
The end of Summer / beginning of Fall is when we like to explore the San Juans. Because we’ve got an organized crew, we don’t have to battle the crowds. Instead, we explore the area like local pros with all of the exclusive spots, views, and SHE-nanigans the San Juan Islands have to offer 😏
Visiting in Fall
Happy Fall y’all. Don your coziest knit sweater for an ocean-side stroll. Or be like us and don’t don anything at all!
- Beautiful Fall weather brings colorful foliage, crisp sunny weather, and fewer visitors as wintertime draws near.
- Prices drop, making it more affordable to extend your day trip into a weekend getaway. The beautiful Friday Harbor House offers gorgeous marina views of surrounding islands in the distance.
- Opportunities for island hopping begin to wind down during the Fall months. Fewer services may be available between the islands, with only one ferry running per day in some instances.
Visiting in Winter
A whale of a time in the winter months.
- Each island will feel like you have the whole place to yourself, as the volume of peak season visitors is cut in half. A San Juans trek in the winter months will have you oohing and aahing at snowy scenescapes while taking part in island adventures like snowshoeing across the island’s flat roads.
- While the temperature rarely dips below freezing in this mild climate, dress warmly and layer up for outdoor activities.
Best Time to Visit San Juan Island and Friday Harbor
The Washington State Department of Transportation provides detailed timelines in two-month increments through to the end of the current sailing season. These schedules provide the best times to visit the Islands via the different ferries, depending upon days of the week and time of day.
Ferry Schedules by Time of Year
The summer months of June, July, August, and September, are a great time to plan your trip via the Washington state ferry from Anacortes. Reservations can be booked in advance.
Frequent sailings are available during weekdays for visitors looking to catch the ferry from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands in addition to routes from Friday Harbor. Westbound and eastbound routes throughout the week offer sailings nearly every hour, with increased departures in the morning and after work periods. Alternatively, leave the car at home by taking advantage of walk-on ferry rates calculated per person.
Peak Tourist Season on San Juan Islands
Expect beach weather, a picnic in the sunshine, and peak season for travelers during the summer months (June, July, August, and September). Trip times take longer due to overcrowded ferries of passengers looking to take advantage of the sunny weather. The peak tourist season also brings additional fares and surcharges applicable to each car load driving onto the ferry, in effect from May 1 to September 30.
Off season months are typically the best time to visit San Juan Island for a tourist-free adventure. While the Fall and Winter months might start to get a bit chilly, there are still plenty of activities to partake in.
Best Time of Year for Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands
Whale watching season on San Juan Island is fairly extensive, with tours and excursions beginning as early as March, and ending in the Fall.
Best Time to See Orcas in San Juan Islands
Orcas live in San Juan Islands year-round, giving visitors something to look forward to even while whale-watching in brisk fall weather.
Best Time of Year to Visit the San Juan Islands for Hiking
Lopez Island, San Juan Island, and Orcas Island each offer beautiful hikes all year round with varying difficulty and scenic viewpoints. For Explorer Chick’s San Juan Islands Kayaking and Camping trip, our August week-long excursion holds plenty of hiking on Orcas Island, and traversing Friday Harbor for wildlife.
Best Time of Day for Kayaking
Kayaking is best done in the calm morning hours. Ferries allow for passengers to bring aboard their bikes and kayaks, making transportation of equipment a breeze.
Ready to explore the San Juan Islands and get up to some SHE-nanigans?
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Meet the Writer
Lindsay Stroud is a freelance content writer and ghostwriter from Vancouver, Canada. Her published works can be found on Jiyubox and Passion Passport, in addition to producing ghostwritten content for Owl Labs and Wonderment. Her favorite destinations include Berlin, Stockholm, and Florence. In her spare time, you’ll find her exploring local foodie joints throughout her neighborhood, or planning itineraries for future trips.
Favorite Outdoor Adventure: spending time by the ocean and exploring walking trails in her local neighborhood.