We’ve had the first frost of the year, the Halloween candy has all been eaten and I’m beginning to think about next year’s summer bike tours. One area becoming famous for summer cycling vacations is the San Juan Islands.
This Pacific Northwest archipelago is sandwiched between Vancouver Island and the Washington coast. You don’t go there if you’re looking for hilly 100-milers, however, these compact and quiet islands are perfect for beginner and intermediate riders.
The San Juan Islands are great for a summer cycling vacation for several reasons:
- Quiet lanes that snake through lush forests and pass bucolic farms
- Island hopping across emerald seas between four very distinct islands
- One of the friendliest welcomes anywhere in the United States
A great itinerary would start in Friday Harbor and visit all four of the islands reachable by scheduled ferry.
San Juan Island Bike Routes
Bustling Friday Harbor is the perfect base for exploring San Juan Island – the largest of the San Juan Islands. There are two great days of riding on the island: on the Northern Loop you can explore Roche Harbor and British Camp. The Southern Loop the highlights are Cattle Point and Lime Kiln State Park – the nation’s only whale watching park with its iconic lighthouse and old lime kilns.
Orcas Island Bike Routes
From Friday Harbor you can take the ferry across to Orcas Island – the hilliest of the islands – and base yourself in Eastsound. This kidney-shaped island is easily explored in a couple of days – one in the east and one in the west. For the western route, head out along the bucolic Crow Valley Road to Deer Harbor. An eastern route takes you down to the idyllic Doe Bay. A side trip up the 2,400 foot Mount Constitution is perfect for the more aggressive riders – or beginners who are happy to take it slowly.
Lopez Island Bike Tours
For many Lopez Island is the highlight of cycling tour of the San Juan Islands. This 15-mile island is one of the most peaceful and relaxed islands in the San Juan chain. It’s known as the Friendly Isle and don’t be surprised if drivers wave at you.
Shaw Island Bike Routes
Head back to Friday Harbor where you can take a day trip out to Shaw Island – the smallest of the San Juan Islands serviced by the regular ferries. There’s not much to see here other than sandy beaches, quiet roads and a historic general store – but that’s the charm.
Ideas & Tips
- Our favorite places to stay are Tucker House B&B in Friday Harbor and the Outlook Inn in Eastsound.
- For something off the bike, there is great sea kayaking and exhilarating whale watching out of either Eastsound or Friday Harbor.
- With a San Juan Islands bike tour, getting there is half the fun. You can fly into Friday Harbor from Boeing Field (Seattle) or take the fast clipper service (no vehicles) from downtown Seattle. Those with cars will likely want to use the Washington State Ferry service from Anacortes.
- And finally, for a special last night head down to Roche Harbor for the Colors Ceremony at sunset. In this ceremony, the flags of Washington State, Great Britain, Canada and the United States are all lowered to musical accompaniment and a cannon shot. Dinner at McMillin’s overlooking the water rounds things off perfectly.