Bustling San Juan Island is perfect for visitors interested in wildlife-centric activities. Book a whale-watching boat trip with marine naturalists on board, or stay on shore at Lime Kiln Point State Park, also known as “Whale Watch Park” for its reputation as one of the top spots in the world to view whales from land—you may also see porpoises, seals, otters, and sea lions offshore, as well as bald eagles soaring along the coastline.
Sleepy Lopez (known as “Slopez”) is an ideal destination if you’re looking to spend mellow days outdoors—cycle the bike-friendly country roads (expect waves from locals), wander the local beaches, kayak in protected bays, or sign up for a guided hiking tour offered by Island Adventures at Edenwild Boutique Inn.
Horseshoe-shaped Orcas Island is home to a handful of under-the-radar eateries with impressive reputations. In Eastsound, James Beard–recognized chef Jay Blackinton recently opened Aelder, a high-end sibling restaurant steps away from his equally delicious pizza spot Hogstone. Doe Bay Cafe on the southeastern shore of the island is celebrated for its seasonal local fare, much of it sourced from the onsite garden. Stop at Buck Bay Shellfish on the way for a dozen oysters. For foodies with an interest in the arts, Orcas also boasts an annual film festival, grassroots music event Doe Bay Fest, and art studios dotting the island.
Spanning nearly 60 miles, Whidbey Island plays host to a number of state parks and attractions. Fort Ebey State Park features mixed-use trails and spectacular sunsets, while the Langley Whale Center showcases exhibits about the resident orca and gray whales.
Accessible from the mainland, a short drive from Stanwood, the waterside community of Camano offers small-town shopping at its finest, from charming boutiques to galleries where you’re likely to strike up conversations with owners and artists alike.
Photos by Jim Maya and Dana Halferty