Table of Contents:
- What are the San Juan Islands?
- San Juan Islands Elopement Locations
- San Juan Islands-Adjacent Elopement Locations
- FAQ’s About Eloping in the San Juan Islands
- What is the best time of year to elope in the San Juan Islands?
- How long should you spend in the San Juan Islands?
- Do you need a passport to go to the San Juan Islands?
- What permit(s) do you need to get married in the San Juan Islands?
- Do you need a car on the San Juan Islands?
- What is the best time of year to see whales in the San Juan Islands?
The San Juan Islands are truly one of the crown jewels of Washington, if not the entire Pacific Northwest. Filled with opportunities for outdoor adventure + exploration, unique tourist activities, phenomenal scenery, and more, the San Juan Islands make for an incredible place to hold your elopement! That’s why I created this guide to where to elope in the San Juan Islands, because it can be hard to choose from all of the beautiful options you have.
Keep reading to learn all about the islands (plus some bonus nearby islands on the Puget Sound), which one might be the right choice for your elopement ceremony, what to do on each island, and where to stay!
What are the San Juan Islands?
We’ll start off with a little info about the San Juan Islands themselves so you can learn more about the location you’re potentially eloping at.
The main islands
Although there are more than 150 (172, to be exact) named islands in San Juan County, the three “main” islands are:
These are typically the main islands visitors travel to because they’re three of the four that you can travel to via ferry, and have plenty of things to do. Shaw Island is the fourth ferry-accessible island, but is more limited than the other three in opportunities for visitors.
How to travel to the San Juan Islands
To get to any of the San Juan Islands, you’ll have to take a Washington State Ferry from Anacortes! From spring to fall, you can sometimes take the San Juan Clipper directly from Seattle to Friday Harbor, but that route isn’t available in 2022.
Looking for more of an adventure? Take a seaplane or private plane charter to one of the islands! What’s more fun than getting to view the stunning scenery from above on the way to your elopement celebration?
By private boat
Or maybe you want to take a ride on the water but want a little more privacy – you can totally book a private boat ride to the islands for a higher cost.
San Juan Islands Elopement Locations
San Juan Island
San Juan Island (aptly named) is home to an abundance of incredible opportunities for visitors, whether you’d like to spend your time meandering through fields of lavender, visiting lighthouses, kayaking on the water, or walking the docks of Friday Harbor. The second largest island in the San Juan Islands & one of the most popular tourist destinations, San Juan Island has so much to offer to every type of person, every type of couple who comes here for their wedding or elopement. Invite your guests for an afternoon of whale watching, or rent a kayak and head out on the water at sunrise. Rent a bike and explore the many trails the island has to offer, and no matter what you do, you must take advantage of the beautiful scenery all around you!
Best San Juan Island/Friday Harbor Elopement Locations:
Where to Stay on San Juan Island:
Orcas Island is another one of the most popular destinations in the San Juan Islands, nicknamed “the gem of the San Juans” – and for damn good reason. Adorned with luscious green forests, crystal clear lakes, and plentiful opportunities to enjoy the incredible views, Orcas Island is truly a little piece of heaven you’ll never want to leave. Say your vows overlooking a lake at the gorgeous Moran State Park, hike to the summit of Mount Constitution for unforgettable scenery, or go whale-watching at Deer Harbor. Take full advantage of “the Emerald Isle” (another one of the island’s nicknames), and be intentional about enjoying the beauty around you with the loved ones you’re with!
Best Orcas Island Elopement Locations:
Where to Stay on Orcas Island:
Lopez Island is the third and final of the three most popular islands, sometimes called “the Friendly Island” for its welcoming residents and overall warm, friendly atmosphere. Here, you’ll find massive fields & farmlands, quieter bays & beaches, and plenty of mountain views, of course – including distant views of Mount Baker! You’ll love wandering around Lopez Village if you like to explore unique little towns and popping into local shops, art galleries, museums, bookstores, restaurants, breweries, & more. Make sure to stop at the Lopez Island Farmers Market while you’re there for an abundance of local artisan products, from breads to produce to handmade art pieces!
Best Lopez Island Elopement Locations:
Where to Stay on Lopez Island:
- The Field House Farm Stay
- Garden Cottage
- Sunrise Waterfront Retreat with Hot Tub
- Luxury Seaside Romantic Getaway
San Juan Islands-Adjacent Elopement Locations
Now, these next few islands aren’t technically a part of the San Juans, but I like to consider them San Juan-adjacent. Whidbey Island, Lummi Island, the Hood Canal, & Camano Island are all part of the Puget Sound, and offer similarly stunning views + elopement opportunities as the San Juan Islands!
Whidbey Island is the largest of the islands that make up Island County, just a quick 15-20 minute ferry ride from Seattle. Home to the popular & ever-beautiful Deception Pass State Park Whidbey Island has an endless amount of beautiful scenery to offer, along with plenty of places to go hiking, walking, cycling, fishing, kayaking, you name it.
Best Whidbey Island Elopement Locations:
- Deception Pass State Park
- Admiralty Head Lighthouse
- Bush Point
- Ala Spit County Park Trail
- Beach View Farm Trail
Where to Stay on Whidbey Island:
Would you be surprised to learn that Camano Island is yet another island with an insane amount of beautiful landscapes + outdoor opportunities to offer? 😉 Just an hour’s drive from Seattle, Camano Island is home to a variety of local artists, quiet beaches, easy hikes, and delicious seafood. You can explore the many wooded trails, secluded beaches covered in driftwood, wide open grasslands, and end the day at one of the local restaurants for some excellent cuisine.
Best Camano Island Elopement Locations:
Where to Stay on Camano Island:
Lummi Island is an underrated island just a short ferry ride from Bellingham, featuring plenty of beautiful views of the Salish Sea and secluded spots to visit without crowds. The island is tiny (so tiny that there’s not even a gas station!), but has so much to offer, from a trip to the Artisan Wine Gallery to a gorgeous hike up to Baker Preserve, to full-day guided kayaking tours through Moon Dance Kayak.
Best Lummi Island Elopement Locations:
Where to Stay on Lummi Island:
- The Willows Inn
- Nettles Farm
- The Chrysalis Inn & Spa (nearby in Bellingham)
Finally, we’ve got Hood Canal, located between the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains of Washington. It’s one of the four main basins of the sound and has so many incredible things to offer visitors! Whether you’d like to spend your time golfing, hiking, fishing, scuba diving, wine tasting, listening to music at local restaurants, or even skydiving, Hood Canal has it all.
Best Hood Canal Elopement Locations:
Where to Stay on the Hood Canal:
FAQ’s About Eloping in the San Juan Islands
What is the best time of year to elope in the San Juan Islands?
The best time of year to visit the San Juan Islands is definitely summer, typically from April-May to September-October. This is when temperatures are the warmest, the days are long & sunny, and you’ll experience the least amount of PNW rain possible!
How long should you spend in the San Juan Islands?
If you can, spend a few days or a week in the San Juan Islands! You can definitely make it a weekend trip if you’re visiting from somewhere nearby like Seattle or Bellingham, and if you only visit one island.
But visiting multiple islands is such an amazing experience, and gives you so many more opportunities than you’d get by limiting yourselves to just one of them! Every island has so much to offer on its own. I’d recommend spending a day or two on each island, and island hopping via ferry throughout the week, if you’re able to set aside that much time for your trip.
Do you need a passport to go to the San Juan Islands?
Nope – the San Juan Islands are a part of Washington state, not part of a separate country! You’ll only need a passport if you’re visiting from outside of the U.S.
What permit(s) do you need to get married in the San Juan Islands?
The permits you’ll need to get married in the San Juan Islands depend on the exact location of your official ceremony. Some parks and public locations may require a special activity/special use permit of some sort, or may require you to inform local government offices of your ceremony date & location. Once you’ve narrowed your location options down to a few, I’d recommend researching those specific locations and looking up whether or not they have any specific permit restrictions or rules for wedding ceremonies.
Do you need a car on the San Juan Islands?
After you’ve arrived on an island via ferry, you’ll definitely want a car of your own to get around the island freely. If you’re flying in from out of state, you can rent a car on the mainland before making your trip to the islands – that way, you have the ability to drive around and explore as you please.
If you won’t be able to bring a car with you, or would rather not rent one, make sure you stay somewhere that has easy access to restaurants, shopping, and any activities you’d like to do! You can bring or rent a bike, too, or use public transit – but it’s way more fun having your own transportation and not having to rely on anybody else.
Friday Harbor is one of the best, most easily walkable places in the San Juan Islands. So if you really don’t want to bring a car or have to rely on public transit, I’d recommend staying in or near Friday Harbor!
What is the best time of year to see whales in the San Juan Islands?
The best time to visit the San Juan Islands, in general, is April-October, as I mentioned above. But if you want to elope in the San Juan Islands & be able to experience the incredible whale watching that the islands have to offer, you’ll want to narrow down your elopement date to a smaller window. The best time to go whale watching in the San Juan Islands is typically from June to September, during the heat of the summer!
More Washington Elopement Destinations + Resources
By now, I hope you’ve fallen just as in love with the San Juan Islands as I have – the amount of potential for a stunning elopement on any of the islands is out of this world.
If you’re still considering your options as far as where you want to elope, I’ve got plenty of resources for you featuring more of the most beautiful elopement locations in Washington!