San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are a scattering of forested islands in the serene waters to the north of Puget Sound in Washington state, adjacent to British Columbia. Ferries, private boats, kayaks, and orca (whales) criss-cross the waters, while float planes and bald eagles soar overhead. The islands are largely rural, with a few small towns on some of the islands. The year-round population is small, but swarms of summer visitors come to for the scenery and outdoor life, and a lucky and wealthy few have vacation homes tucked into the islands.
There are about 700 islands and reefs between Vancouver Island to the west and the mainland to the east. The sea border in the Haro Strait divides them into the Southern Gulf Islands of Canada to the west, and the San Juan Islands of the United States to the east. To the south lies the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, and to north is the Strait of Georgia and the US-Canada boundary on the 49th parallel.
176 islands are large enough to be named. The four largest — Orcas, San Juan, Lopez, and Shaw Islands — are served by ferry from the Washington mainland, and are the most heavily visited.
For our purposes, this article covers the US islands only, which exactly consist of San Juan County, Washington. Fidalgo Island to the east is treated as part of the mainland. It and the Puget Sound islands to the south are covered in the Puget Sound region's article.
Cities and Islands
The islands are mostly rural, with only a few towns large enough separate coverage. An article thus general covers an entire major island, perhaps with some of the surrounding small islands as well.
Lots of bicycles and walking, but mostly cars.
The San Juan Islands are the most popular sailing charter area in the Pacific Northwest. This is a good chartering area for beginners; the waters are reasonably protected even in storms off the Pacific. You can find independant information on yacht charters in the San Juan Islands at sBoats.com