9 Days in Seattle and the San Juan Islands


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Seattle has one of the most picturesque settings of any large city in the United States, and it offers easy access to some of the country’s most impressive landscapes. An itinerary combining the civilized pleasures of the city with the natural beauty of the San Juan Islands would make an ideal vacation.

This itinerary includes two of my favorite hotels in Seattle, allowing you to conveniently explore different parts of the city, as well as my two favorite hotels in the endlessly scenic archipelago just to the northwest. The best time of year to visit is May through September, when the rain gives way to (almost) reliable sunshine and the whale watching is at its peak. Also keep in mind that some of the top restaurants in the islands are not open all week long.

Our itineraries are for your inspiration. If you do not see specific departure dates listed, please contact Andrew Harper Travel to customize this itinerary to fit your needs.
Highlights

    • Enjoy incredible seafood at our favorite local restaurants
    • Visit five local breweries 
    • Go kayaking off Whidbey Island
    • Hike to the top of Mount Grant
    • Visit Seattle's best museums 
    • Observe pods of orcas on half- or full-day kayak trips


Day 1 : Seattle

Arrive in Seattle in the early afternoon. Check into the Four Seasons, with its stylish contemporary décor, full-service spa, glamorous outdoor pool and fine views of Elliott Bay.

Head to the nearby Pike Place Market, have a snack of top-notch macaroni and cheese at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, and then sit down to a flight of Washington wines at The Tasting Room, perhaps accompanied by some pâté or charcuterie.

Return to the Four Seasons to relax by the pool before dinner, perhaps at Matt’s in the Market.

Day 2 : Explore

Spend a full day exploring central Seattle, visiting sites like the well-curated Seattle Art Museum, the joyously colorful Chihuly Garden and Glass museum, and the historic (if a bit scruffy) Pioneer Square district.

I also recommend pausing for a first-class craft beer at either Cloudburst Brewing, a no-frills space with particularly commendable IPAs that are popular with locals, or Old Stove Brewing Co., a touristy but cheerful spot with a broad range of beers.

For dinner tonight, consider the fine restaurant in the Four Seasons, or head farther afield to Canlis, which has both superlative food and sensational views.

Day 3 : Whidbey Island

Pick up a rental car and head north, taking the ferry at Mukilteo to Clinton on Whidbey Island. The Inn at Langley is a short drive farther north.

Check into your room (or better yet, a Cottage or Suite) with splendid views of Saratoga Passage.

Walk into downtown Langley and lunch at the casual Prima Bistro, which has a roof terrace overlooking the water, though power lines mar the views somewhat.

Spend the afternoon browsing the art galleries and shops in Langley, or perhaps head down to the marina and rent a kayak from Whidbey Island Kayaking (call in advance on weekdays and in the shoulder season — it’s a mom-and-pop operation).

Have dinner tonight at the superlative restaurant of The Inn at Langley.

Day 4 : Explore

Spend a full day exploring the southern half of Whidbey Island. Wander in Langley, kayak or hike in South Whidbey State Park (my favorite route is the Wilbert Trail). If the weather is clear, take in the views of Mount Rainier from Double Bluff county park. And leave time to relax on the balcony of your room at The Inn at Langley, ideally with a bottle of wine. The Village Wine Shop and Tasting Room on Second Street has a good selection of Washington bottlings.

This evening, have dinner at Orchard Kitchen (open Thursday to Saturday from July to September, Friday and Saturday only October to June) or Roaming Radish’s gastropub, (open Wednesday to Friday).

Day 5 : Travel to Friday Harbor

After a buffet breakfast at The Inn at Langley, check out and continue north on Whidbey Island. If you left early enough, stop for a hike in Fort Ebey State Park. The short trail to Pondilla Lake, surrounded by conifers and dotted with water lilies, is a worthwhile trek. Also consider following part of the Bluff Trail. From the sign in the parking lot, it’s a short uphill walk to the first gun emplacement built to guard the island during World War II.

Have a casual lunch of superb fish and chips at Seabolt’s Smokehouse in Oak Harbor (the classic cod is my favorite). The décor is only a step above a fast-food joint’s, but the seafood is delicious.

Continue north to Deception Pass State Park, famous for its scenic bridge spanning the gorge. The parking lot closest to the bridge is often full; park instead at North Beach, where a path through cool forest leads a quarter mile to the bridge.

It’s another 20 minutes north to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Reserve your ferry tickets in advance, and be sure to arrive 45 minutes to an hour before your departure time. Bring a snack to enjoy on one of the picnic tables with views of the Salish Sea and Mount Baker.

Take the ferry to Friday Harbor, a beautiful hourlong trip through the forested, humpy archipelago of the San Juan Islands.

The freshly renovated Friday Harbor House is just a couple of minutes from the ferry terminal. Check into a room with a full harbor view, ideally on a high floor (to avoid being too close to the restaurant patio).

Have dinner at Friday Harbor House’s excellent market-driven restaurant.

Day 6 : Explore

The shops and galleries of Friday Harbor are more touristy and less appealing than those in Langley. Instead of spending time in town, I recommend exploring the island. Consider a half- or full-day kayak excursion with Discovery Sea Kayaks, which runs small-group tours on the far side of the island from Friday Harbor. Pods of orca whales live there, and it’s possible to observe them from your kayak or from one of the whale-watching cruises available on the island.

If time and energy permit, you might also hike to the top of Mount Grant, the peak of which is surrounded by a new nature preserve, narrowly saved from becoming a housing development. The panoramic views from the summit are breathtaking.

Have dinner tonight again at Friday Harbor House or at the newly refurbished Duck Soup (open Thursday to Sunday), about a 10-minute drive from your hotel.

Day 7 : Return to Seattle

Return by ferry to Anacortes, and drive back south to Seattle. Instead of driving all the way into downtown, head instead to the Hotel Ballard, about 20 minutes northwest of the center. This chic hotel is within walking distance of numerous stylish shops and restaurants in the surrounding Ballard neighborhood, a lively mix of commercial, residential and light industrial space.

After a walk up and down Ballard Avenue NW, have a swim in the immense health club adjacent to the hotel (guests have complimentary access), followed by dinner at Stoneburner, the Hotel Ballard’s popular brasserie-like Mediterranean restaurant.

Day 8 : Explore

Spend today exploring Ballard and the vicinity, starting with a visit to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (also known as the Ballard Locks) and its fish ladder. A five-minute drive north brings you to the Golden Gardens Park, which has a wide sweep of beach overlooking the bay and the distant Olympic Mountains.

Lunch at Ray’s Boathouse, a fine seafood restaurant right on the water with a splendid terrace. If conditions are too cool or windy to sit outside, the window tables indoors also have magnificent views.

Return to the Ballard neighborhood, park at the hotel and walk to one or more of the nearby brewpubs. On no account miss the brand-new Obec Brewing, my favorite microbrewery in Seattle. I also recommend trying Stoup Brewing (just down the block) or the new Lagunitas Brewing Company tasting room closer to the hotel.

Numerous good dinner options are within a short walk. If you’re willing to endure a bit of a wait, The Walrus and the Carpenter oyster bar is one of Seattle’s most popular restaurants. Alternatively, consider dining on the fine Italian fare at San Fermo.

Day 9 : Return Home

Drive to the airport, return your rental car and fly home.

Day 1 : Seattle

Arrive in Seattle in the early afternoon. Check into the Four Seasons, with its stylish contemporary décor, full-service spa, glamorous outdoor pool and fine views of Elliott Bay.

Head to the nearby Pike Place Market, have a snack of top-notch macaroni and cheese at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, and then sit down to a flight of Washington wines at The Tasting Room, perhaps accompanied by some pâté or charcuterie.

Return to the Four Seasons to relax by the pool before dinner, perhaps at Matt’s in the Market.

Day 2 : Explore

Spend a full day exploring central Seattle, visiting sites like the well-curated Seattle Art Museum, the joyously colorful Chihuly Garden and Glass museum, and the historic (if a bit scruffy) Pioneer Square district.

I also recommend pausing for a first-class craft beer at either Cloudburst Brewing, a no-frills space with particularly commendable IPAs that are popular with locals, or Old Stove Brewing Co., a touristy but cheerful spot with a broad range of beers.

For dinner tonight, consider the fine restaurant in the Four Seasons, or head farther afield to Canlis, which has both superlative food and sensational views.

Day 3 : Whidbey Island

Pick up a rental car and head north, taking the ferry at Mukilteo to Clinton on Whidbey Island. The Inn at Langley is a short drive farther north.

Check into your room (or better yet, a Cottage or Suite) with splendid views of Saratoga Passage.

Walk into downtown Langley and lunch at the casual Prima Bistro, which has a roof terrace overlooking the water, though power lines mar the views somewhat.

Spend the afternoon browsing the art galleries and shops in Langley, or perhaps head down to the marina and rent a kayak from Whidbey Island Kayaking (call in advance on weekdays and in the shoulder season — it’s a mom-and-pop operation).

Have dinner tonight at the superlative restaurant of The Inn at Langley.

Day 4 : Explore

Spend a full day exploring the southern half of Whidbey Island. Wander in Langley, kayak or hike in South Whidbey State Park (my favorite route is the Wilbert Trail). If the weather is clear, take in the views of Mount Rainier from Double Bluff county park. And leave time to relax on the balcony of your room at The Inn at Langley, ideally with a bottle of wine. The Village Wine Shop and Tasting Room on Second Street has a good selection of Washington bottlings.

This evening, have dinner at Orchard Kitchen (open Thursday to Saturday from July to September, Friday and Saturday only October to June) or Roaming Radish’s gastropub, (open Wednesday to Friday).

Day 5 : Travel to Friday Harbor

After a buffet breakfast at The Inn at Langley, check out and continue north on Whidbey Island. If you left early enough, stop for a hike in Fort Ebey State Park. The short trail to Pondilla Lake, surrounded by conifers and dotted with water lilies, is a worthwhile trek. Also consider following part of the Bluff Trail. From the sign in the parking lot, it’s a short uphill walk to the first gun emplacement built to guard the island during World War II.

Have a casual lunch of superb fish and chips at Seabolt’s Smokehouse in Oak Harbor (the classic cod is my favorite). The décor is only a step above a fast-food joint’s, but the seafood is delicious.

Continue north to Deception Pass State Park, famous for its scenic bridge spanning the gorge. The parking lot closest to the bridge is often full; park instead at North Beach, where a path through cool forest leads a quarter mile to the bridge.

It’s another 20 minutes north to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Reserve your ferry tickets in advance, and be sure to arrive 45 minutes to an hour before your departure time. Bring a snack to enjoy on one of the picnic tables with views of the Salish Sea and Mount Baker.

Take the ferry to Friday Harbor, a beautiful hourlong trip through the forested, humpy archipelago of the San Juan Islands.

The freshly renovated Friday Harbor House is just a couple of minutes from the ferry terminal. Check into a room with a full harbor view, ideally on a high floor (to avoid being too close to the restaurant patio).

Have dinner at Friday Harbor House’s excellent market-driven restaurant.

Day 6 : Explore

The shops and galleries of Friday Harbor are more touristy and less appealing than those in Langley. Instead of spending time in town, I recommend exploring the island. Consider a half- or full-day kayak excursion with Discovery Sea Kayaks, which runs small-group tours on the far side of the island from Friday Harbor. Pods of orca whales live there, and it’s possible to observe them from your kayak or from one of the whale-watching cruises available on the island.

If time and energy permit, you might also hike to the top of Mount Grant, the peak of which is surrounded by a new nature preserve, narrowly saved from becoming a housing development. The panoramic views from the summit are breathtaking.

Have dinner tonight again at Friday Harbor House or at the newly refurbished Duck Soup (open Thursday to Sunday), about a 10-minute drive from your hotel.

Day 7 : Return to Seattle

Return by ferry to Anacortes, and drive back south to Seattle. Instead of driving all the way into downtown, head instead to the Hotel Ballard, about 20 minutes northwest of the center. This chic hotel is within walking distance of numerous stylish shops and restaurants in the surrounding Ballard neighborhood, a lively mix of commercial, residential and light industrial space.

After a walk up and down Ballard Avenue NW, have a swim in the immense health club adjacent to the hotel (guests have complimentary access), followed by dinner at Stoneburner, the Hotel Ballard’s popular brasserie-like Mediterranean restaurant.

Day 8 : Explore

Spend today exploring Ballard and the vicinity, starting with a visit to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (also known as the Ballard Locks) and its fish ladder. A five-minute drive north brings you to the Golden Gardens Park, which has a wide sweep of beach overlooking the bay and the distant Olympic Mountains.

Lunch at Ray’s Boathouse, a fine seafood restaurant right on the water with a splendid terrace. If conditions are too cool or windy to sit outside, the window tables indoors also have magnificent views.

Return to the Ballard neighborhood, park at the hotel and walk to one or more of the nearby brewpubs. On no account miss the brand-new Obec Brewing, my favorite microbrewery in Seattle. I also recommend trying Stoup Brewing (just down the block) or the new Lagunitas Brewing Company tasting room closer to the hotel.

Numerous good dinner options are within a short walk. If you’re willing to endure a bit of a wait, The Walrus and the Carpenter oyster bar is one of Seattle’s most popular restaurants. Alternatively, consider dining on the fine Italian fare at San Fermo.

Day 9 : Return Home

Drive to the airport, return your rental car and fly home.

9 Days in Seattle and the San Juan Islands

Contact an Andrew Harper Travel advisor to book your custom itinerary.

or call (630) 734-4610

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