The San Juan Archipelago comprises about 700 islands that straddle the U.S.-Canadian border between the cities of Seattle and Vancouver. About 100 of the islands are permanently inhabited, and public ferries serve approximately 15 of those. The islands are about a 30- to 45-minute trip by seaplane from Seattle. The area encompasses a rich marine ecosystem, with a dazzling array of charismatic fauna, from deer to bald eagles to orcas. (The latter are particularly captivating: Three pods, or about 90 killer whales, reside part of the year around the islands). The land and water can be explored by all manner of transport, from yacht or kayak to bike or hiking trail.
The San Juan Islands Scenic Byway connects several country roads and ferry routes, tracing an old Native American canoe trail through island villages, past farmers’ markets, oyster farms, wineries and artisan shops. Orcas Island is the largest in the archipelago and includes Moran State Park, a 5,000-acre preserve of woodlands, lakes and waterfalls.