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San Juan Islands Trip -- Advice?

Old 07-01-08, 08:17 AM
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San Juan Islands Trip -- Advice?

I'm in the early stages of planning a simple bike trip on the San Juan Islands.

Here's the plan so far:
  • In September or early October, drive car, with bikes attached, to an inn on Lopez Island (Possibly this one).
  • Each day, get on the bikes, and travel around Lopez Island, or take a ferry to another island for a day of riding.
  • Ride back to the inn.
What do you think?

One problem is that it's 10 miles from the inn to the ferry, so any trips to other islands will include these same 20 miles. DW is in good shape but doesn't ride as often as I do, so that might not be ideal. We could drive to the ferry, but that would be cheating.

Thanks,

Last edited by TromboneAl; 07-01-08 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 07-01-08, 11:06 AM
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Bring raingear. We can get rain anytime, but, usually September is usually gorgeous (dry, sunny) and October is about the time it can get rainy. Or not.
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Old 07-01-08, 01:37 PM
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One of the best reasons to go to the San Juans via bicycles is because bikes go to the front of the line for ferries while cars have to wait their turn. On busy weekends people sometimes wait 2 or 3 ferries to get on.

Have you considered inns on other islands? I've done all my riding on Lopez and San Juan Islands. Lopez is more rural. San Juan has more sites of interest (to me anyway) and Friday Harbor has a lot of services. Plus I think it's a cool, funky, touristy little town (if you like that sort of thing.)

Maybe you could stay on Lopez a couple of days, then transfer to San Juan.

Shaw is supposed to be the most bucolic of all the islands. Orcas has Mount Constitution (which I wouldn't recommend unless you're a hill climber.)

They're all beautiful, and I like the vibe. If you like beach combing, they've got some great beaches.
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Old 07-01-08, 01:37 PM
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I would go in early September, not October. September weather is normally outstanding. By October, the rain usually is starting to roll in (and it last til the following June).

You might also take the ferry all the way to Victoria, BC, or back to Anacortes. Also some nice riding around LaConner (on the way to Anacortes).
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Old 07-01-08, 02:46 PM
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Why not park the car in Anacortes and just bike to the islands?
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Old 07-01-08, 02:50 PM
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Lopez is the best island - by far.
You would be happier touring if you were in another inn - although that one is really close to the lovely Agate Beach. On Lopez there's a big hill to climb right after you get off the ferry - so you will have to do it every time you hop the ferry. Have you considered something in Lopez village? Maybe population - 50, 100 in summer. There's a little bakery with scrumptious goodies - a cafe, a store. Plus a nice view of the harbor.

Agree with others - by early October can get rainy.
And remember - the San Juans are hilly -
So gauge your miles accordingly.

J
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Old 07-01-08, 02:58 PM
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i agree with peaks. just park i anacortes and ferry to the lopez, san juan, orcas, etc. you might get a little bored just riding around lopez which can be done pretty much in a day...
also consider the gulf islands, ie. the canadian half of the san juans...
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Old 07-01-08, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
Lopez is the best island - by far.
You would be happier touring if you were in another inn - although that one is really close to the lovely Agate Beach. On Lopez there's a big hill to climb right after you get off the ferry - so you will have to do it every time you hop the ferry. Have you considered something in Lopez village? Maybe population - 50, 100 in summer. There's a little bakery with scrumptious goodies - a cafe, a store. Plus a nice view of the harbor.

Agree with others - by early October can get rainy.
And remember - the San Juans are hilly -
So gauge your miles accordingly.

J
Don't forget the Lopez Island Creamery.
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Old 07-01-08, 03:28 PM
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Thanks guys.

The only reason to consider October is rates are lower. But I think it might be worth the extra $100 (figuring five days).

Why not park the car in Anacortes and just bike to the islands?
I'd like that, but that means carrying all our stuff on the bikes.

On Lopez there's a big hill to climb right after you get off the ferry
Just the kind of info I was interested in, thanks.
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Old 07-01-08, 04:02 PM
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As an ex-resident and one who still visits Parental Units.

I say, "Drive on". If you are going Late September/Early October and not leaving the islands on a Sunday just drive. Why? Math and Logistics.

Parking Fees. May 1st,2008 - October 13,2008

* 1 day (0-24 hours) - $10.00
* 2 days (48 hours)- $20.00
* 3 days (72 hours) - $25.00
* 7 days (72-168 hours) - $40.00



Ticket Fee:

Car + Driver + Passenger = 44.60
or
Person x2+ Bike x2 = 31.70 + parking fees

When traveling between Islands there is no fee for Bikes / Passengers. Drive on then explore by bike. You are picking the very best time to see the islands yet avoiding most the crowds, enjoy.

Before the parking fees were added I used to park and schlep my stuff on the bike. Now, I just avoid peak times and drive on.

Trips:
Shaw is an easy 1/2 day trip.
Mount Constitution from Ferry to top and back is rigorous
San Juan has a few different loops for various skill levels.
Lopez is the best for casual goof off riding. There is only one small section of road I don't like riding.
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Old 07-01-08, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Thanks guys.

The only reason to consider October is rates are lower. But I think it might be worth the extra $100 (figuring five days).



I'd like that, but that means carrying all our stuff on the bikes.



Just the kind of info I was interested in, thanks.
Many ferry terminals have very steep climbs after getting off. You can always walk it up the hill. Wait until the ferry has unloaded, then walk or use your granny gears if you're fully loaded.

September is a very lovely time---worth the $100. If you can, be there during the weekdays, there will be fewer people.

If camping is your idea of simple, I highly recommend Odlin Co Park on Lopez Island. Call to reserve a campsite on the water. You can't reserve on-line. Do not go w/o a reservation if you are arriving by car. San Juan Co Park is nice too, to-die-for-view of the Strait (Juan de Fuca), but, it's hillier there.
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Old 07-01-08, 10:21 PM
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You would be happier touring if you were in another inn - although that one is really close to the lovely Agate Beach. On Lopez there's a big hill to climb right after you get off the ferry - so you will have to do it every time you hop the ferry.
Gotcha.

Lopez.jpg

Ferry is at the top tip. A is Lopez Farm Cottages, B is Edenwild Inn, C is Inn at Swift Bay, and G is Lopez Lodge. Edenwild is what some bike tours use. Any comments on these places?
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Old 07-07-08, 07:05 PM
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Rethink October

My friend and I went last October 13-22. We had a lot of fun riding the 4 main islands and then heading into Victoria where we rode the Lochside and Galloping Goose trails before heading back to Seattle on the Victoria Clipper. The positive part of riding in October was that we had the place to ourselves, literally. Very few tourists. The bad part was the very spotty weather. We did get a couple of days of sun, but for the most part it was drizzly and 41 to 45 degrees fahrenheit. Some don't mind that, but that made riding a little unpleasant for me. I would love to go back in early September.
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Old 07-07-08, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl
C is Inn at Swift Bay [ ... ] Any comments on these places?
Inn at Swifts Bay: highly recommended; good location; very comfortable, well-kept; friendly people.
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Old 07-07-08, 11:49 PM
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My wife and I visited San Juan Island and Orcas Island by bicycle last summer. We rode a tandem and schlepped our stuff from island to island with a BOB trailer.

Of the two islands we visited, Orcas was definitely our favorite. Be forewarned that the cycling is quite hilly, starting with a steep hill right at the ferry terminal. If you are up for an intense climb, the view from Mt. Constitution really is spectacular. Orcas Island Pottery is the best pottery gallery I have ever visited in my life. If you make it to the far end of the island, Doe Bay Retreat is a really nice place to relax, hang out, and take a soak in a hot tub with an amazing view.
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Old 09-14-08, 10:02 AM
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Thanks for the advice. Got back yesterday and we had a great time -- even made it up Constitution.

Click here for trip report with pictures.
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Old 09-14-08, 09:39 PM
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Great pictures. My wife and I just got back from a quick Lopez Island weekend trip ourselves. Such an easy trip from Seattle, and so scenic.

https://picasaweb.google.com/jgilfoy/Lopez#

Oh and for what its worth (approximately nothing) I've seen orcas from the West side of San Juan Island on a couple different occasions, so they are out there.

Last edited by Ashen; 09-14-08 at 09:42 PM.
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Old 09-15-08, 08:47 AM
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And for anyone searching for some tips:

1. It worked fine to stay at one island, and make day trips to the others. Just make sure you're not too far from the ferry (thanks, Jama).

2. If you do want to stay on different islands, go to San Juan first, then move east each time you move. That way you only pay for the first ferry trip, and the rest are free.

3. Odlin park looks really good for camping, and is close to the ferry (see Ashens photos). There are no showers, but Lopez village has public showers. If I were doing it again, I might want to stay at Odlin for a few days, then do a day or two in a hotel.

4. Lopez is the flattest and nicest for cycling. However, you will probably see most of the island in one day. But it would be OK to repeat.

5. Orcas had significantly more traffic that Lopez or San Juan. It's hillier too.
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