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The San Juan Islands are known for their rural PNW landscapes here in Washington. “Are the San Juan Islands worth visiting?” is a top question on Google, and I’m here to give you the answer: yes, they are! But more than that, the San Juan Islands are perfect for an elopement. I’m here to break down all the steps to plan your elopement on the San Juan Islands, and give you all the extra tips and tricks I have about the area to make your planning process and experience smooth and enjoyable.
What are the San Juan Islands? Where are They?
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago located off the very northwestern coast of Washington, just a stone’s throw away from the Canadian border. There are 172 named islands that make up the archipelago, and the entire region is known for being the place to go for relaxation and outdoor enjoyment. The main islands to visit are Orcas, San Juan, Lopez, and Shaw.
The San Juan Islands are the ancestral lands and waters of the Coast Salish people, who have called the region home for centuries. When you visit, I encourage you to honor and learn about this history and respect the native rights of the area.
Traveling to and from the San Juan Islands for Your Elopement
Like a lot of island regions, you may be wondering how to get to the San Juan Islands in the best way when you’re coming from a great distance! The ferry will be your best friend, for both getting to the islands from the mainland, and traveling between the islands.
If you are coming from outside of Washington, fly into the Seattle airport (SEA). Bellingham is also a good option. From there, you’ll drive to Anacortes, WA, which is where the Washington State Ferry will be to take you to the San Juan Islands for your elopement.
I highly, highly recommend renting a car. This will be the easiest way to get from any airport to the ferry, and around on the islands. If you opt not to rent a car, consider mopeds or bicycles to get around on the islands themselves. The public transit system is also an option, but make sure you build in extra travel time.
The Ferry System
You can book your ferry to the San Juan Islands on the Washington Ferry website here. Give yourself 2-3 hours to drive to Anacortes from either Seattle or Vancouver, BC. Include a 30-minute buffer between when you arrive at Anacortes and when you get on the ferry. You’ll have to check in 30 minutes before departure.
If you’ve never been on a ferry before, you have two options. You can book to drive your car (or rental car) right onto the ferry, so that you can use it while on the islands. The Washington Ferry also has a terminal parking option, and you can then just board the ferry as a “walk-on” passenger if you decide to book that way instead.
Tickets on the Anacortes/San Juan Islands route are round-trip, so it’s one easy fee and you’re all set. Here’s a link to more ticketing information.
To get from island to island once you’ve arrived on the San Juan Islands for your elopement, you can take the interisland ferry! These do not run on a reservation system like the Anacortes route, but rather on a first come, first serve basis. Because of this, you should try to arrive at the ferry you’d like to take about 45 minutes before departure (60 in the summer).
For the interisland ferry, walk-on passengers ride for free. If you bring your car between islands, you’ll be charged a fee when headed westbound from each island. Eastbound travel is free for cars. This can get confusing, so check out San Juan Island’s interisland ferry travel page here.
Where to Stay on the San Juan Islands for Your Elopement
Where you stay for your elopement on the San Juan Islands may depend entirely on the location you’ve chosen to hold your ceremony. However, since interisland travel is fairly easy, you can always sleep on one island and head to another to elope.
Here are some lodging options I like on the islands:
- Lakedale (on San Juan Island): near Friday Harbor, I like Lakedale because it has lots of accommodation choices. You can go “glamping” in a yurt, stay cozy in the lodge, host the whole family in a cabin, or rent an RV site or standard campsite. The versatility of Lakedale allows you to stay comfortable while making your elopement more personal.
- Cabins & Cottages on the islands: okay, there’s too many of these to try to list all the great ones! I love cabin and cottage stays because they’re built better for longer stays, and lots may even allow you to bring your pets with. These cottages and cabins are on Orcas, Lopez, or San Juan.
- West Beach Resort (on Orcas Island): this is the cutest waterfront resort where you can rent a private beachfront cabin. Whether you hold your elopement right here or not (it’s a beautiful spot), this is a super tranquil place to rest.
Elopement Locations on the San Juan Islands
It would take me pages and pages to detail all the amazing places you could hold your elopement ceremony on the San Juan Islands. For this guide, I’m going to stick to some locations on the main islands, but know that you always have more choices than these, and there’s lots to explore!
On Orcas Island
Mt. Constitution: this peak is the highest point on all of the San Juan Islands. There’s a stone tower atop the peak that replicates Russian watchtowers built in the 12th century. This is the place to get 360 views of all the islands, Mt. Baker in the distance, the North Cascades, and more. The road to Mt. Constitution is open year-round, but can close in the case of heavy snowfall. Early summer is the best time to come here, especially in the mornings. Even if the sunrise is foggy, this is a dreamy location to exchange vows.
On San Juan Island
Roche Harbor: This historic seaside resort with lots of green, green gardens. They have a full-service spa and are close to lots of great hiking trails. Conveniently, you can also rent a boat here for whale watching (or for getting married!). You can host a large wedding or intimate elopement at Roche Harbor.
Lime Kiln State Park: this is a popular day-use park on the west side of the island. It’s considered one of the absolute best whale-watching locations in the whole world from May to September. There’s a historic lighthouse, and of course, the lime kiln that the park is named for. There are some trails (a bit of which are ADA-accessible), rocky cliffs for looking out at the harbor, and lush trees.
San Juan Vineyard: a historic vineyard and winery with a beautiful old-fashioned chapel! They have award-winning wines you can sip on to celebrate your elopement.
On Lopez Island
Point Colville: views of the Puget Sound, wildflowers in the summer, and an easy hike down to Watmaugh Bay Beach. What could be better than this for an elopement day?! There’s gorgeous sights off the bluffs, and this is also a great spot for a relaxing picnic with your partner.
Activities for Your San Juan Islands Elopement
No elopement is complete without some fun and adventure! If the views and setting for a San Juan Islands elopement weren’t enough, I love this place for elopements because of all it offers for experiences, too. The San Juan Islands are a great elopement location that you can extend into a honeymoon for more exploration and excitement. Here’s some of my favorites I recommend doing while you’re here:
- Hiking: nearly every location I listed in the last section has great hiking! Whether it’s trails that weave through the trees, along the cliffs, or even just a walk down the beaches, taking a hike to soak in the sights and sounds of the area is a must.
- Whale watching: duh!! You simply can’t visit the San Juan Islands and not go whale watching. You can do this via a boat tour, or find a scenic spot like Lime Kiln State Park. Bring your binoculars!
- Aerial tour by seaplane: Friday Harbor Seaplanes offers private aerial tours around San Juan Island. A bird’s eye view of the islands and the sea is simply stunning. You can also check out San Juan Seafaris or Westwind Aviation.
- Kayaking: when the weather is nice, kayaking on the Sound is the best! There are tons of kayaking and paddleboarding options to explore here.
- On San Juan Island: San Juan Island has a lavender farm, an alpaca farm, and lots of wineries that are all worth a visit.
San Juan Islands Elopement Packages
Meet Your Photographer
Memories are the most precious thing we have, and I’m here to give you gorgeous photos of them! I’ve been serving the greater Seattle area and the San Juan Islands as an elopement photographer since 2020. Washington is one of the most diverse landscapes in the US, and this makes it perfect for an adventurous elopement.
For me, elopement photography is about more than just your pictures. I’m honored to serve you in helping plan your entire experience from start to finish — from timelines, to permit assistance, to straightening your tie before the ceremony.
And there you have it — all the info to get you started with planning your elopement on the San Juan Islands. I can’t wait to hear about your plans for the day! Reach out to me here for elopement photography and all the moral support as you plan.