Adventures / Kayak Journeys

Kayak the Marine Highway of San Juan

Kayak the wild coastline of America's San Juan archipelago for the chance to see whales and marine wildlife

This trip is no longer on sale

Trip Ref #9874

Adventures / Kayak Journeys

Kayak the Marine Highway of San Juan

Kayak the wild coastline of America's San Juan archipelago for the chance to see whales and marine wildlife

DURATION

4 nights

LOCATION

United States

ANNUAL LEAVE

3 days off work

SEASON

May-Sep

GROUP SIZE

Up to 12 people

MEETING POINT

Anacortes Ferry Terminal, Washington State

ACCOMMODATION

Campsite

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

No previous paddling experience is required but the fitter you are, the more enjoyable the experience will be.

Kayak the fabled whale highway, a wildlife hotspot that’s home to porpoises, sea lions and the densest population of harbour seals in the world

Paddling in the San Juan Islands is a great opportunity to look for whales: you can scout for Orcas, Greys, Humpbacks, and Minkes

Witness perfect sunsets as you camp inside peaceful marine parks in the Wasp Islands Group

All our reviews are verified

We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

Shelian, August 2022

Another well organised trip. The food was great (and plentiful), the equipment provided was a good standard and what can we say about the views - spectacular! Our guide was good company, and made sure that everyone got what they wanted from the trip.

Harriet, June 2022

Couldn't have asked for a better week away. Our guide Alex was amazing and made it such a fun and enjoyable week. The San Juan's are now my new favorite place in the world and I'm planning another trip back...we saw seals, eagles, vultures, deer, and porpoise a plenty and if that wasn't enough on our last day we saw Orcas. The food was delicious and such a good amount provided we never went hungry. An amazing route planned with gorgeous scenary - book it and you wont regret!

Jayne, June 2019

The organisation, scenery, route planning, food (tablecloths) were great

William, June 2019

The trip was fantastic. You feel totally at peace in the wilderness, whilst still being well looked after and seeing a ton of incredible wildlife; from orca to eagles!

Jill, May 2019

What a fabulous trip! A brilliant experience, highly recommended. The pre-trip support and organisation from Megan were exceptional, and our guide Alex was fabulous; highly knowledgeable, calm, patient and fun. The San Juan Islands certainly lived up to its reputation for stunning beauty and amazing wildlife. Just amazing.

Included

Guides

Local qualified guides, with a guest: guide ratio of 6:1

Accommodation

4 nights camping

Meals

Munch on tasty food throughout

Transfers

All local travel

Equipment

All your kayaking and camping equipment except for a sleeping bag

Permits

All taxes and licenses

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Anacortes Ferry Terminal

08:00 on Day 1

Ends

Anacortes Ferry Terminal

16:00 on Day 5

Transfers

Meet your host at their base located just by the Anacortes Ferry Terminal.

It is 90-minute drive from Seattle and parking is available. Due to the early start we recommend you arriving in Anacortes the day before your trip. There are some suggestions in the FAQ section for where you might want to stay.

At the end of your trip, you'll arrive back at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal between 14:00 and 16:00 depending on the conditions of the day. Please allow plenty of time for your onward journey in case of delays due to weather conditions.

Travel options

There are regular, direct flights to Seattle from major airports across the US and Europe.

Seattle to Anacortes by car: Anacortes is a 90 minutes drive from Seattle. Travel via the I-5 and take Exit 230 on Highway 20. From there you can follow the signs to the Ferry Terminal where parking is available for a nominal fee.

Seattle to Anacortes by bus: The bus shuttle from Seattle Airport departs every 2 hours and takes around 2.5 hours to the ferry terminal in Anacortes. Please have a look at the Sea-Tac (Seattle Airport) to Anacortes schedule. There are 3 drop-off points in Anacortes depending on where you're planning to stay.

Boarding the ferry: If you're travelling by car, please have your vehicle parked and be ready to board 40 minutes before the ferry departure time. Once on San Juan Island, the complimentary van shuttle will be waiting directly across the street from the ferry landing, or to your right (north) in the traffic circle just past the ice cream shop. Your host will let you know which bus stop you need before the start of the trip.

Please note that the buses depart at the specified times and do not coincide with Washington State Ferry schedules. Please allow extra time (in both directions) to ensure proper connections.

Day 1

Campsite · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2 – Day 4

Campsite · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Much of the food on this trip is seasonal and sourced from local organic farms in the Skagit and Samish River Valleys. A quick stop will often be made at the little grocery store in the quaint Orcas Island Village to replenish stocks and help support the local community.

Vegetarian, vegan and most dietary requirements can be accommodated on the trip - please request when booking.

What is the accommodation like?

San Juan

You’ll camp on various islands along the San Juan shoreline, mostly in Washington State Parks. Campsites have composting toilets, picnic tables and fire rings. Tents are 3-person models shared between 2 people.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space - single tents are available on request (see Optional Extras for costs).

Day 1

Get Paddling

Kayaking

6hrs

Board the complimentary shuttle from the ferry terminal to the San Juan Island Country Park and kayak north through the Orca Whale Sanctuary – keep your eyes peeled for your first whale sighting. Stop for lunch at a suitably scenic spot and then continue on to tonight's campsite. Relax, explore some of the nearby trails and then enjoy dinner while you watch the sunset over the ocean.

Day 2

Gentle waters

After breakfast and a briefing on today’s route, hit the water and let the tide carry you along. Stop for lunch on a small pocket beach where you can refuel, relax and take in the peaceful surroundings. Hop back into your kayak and continue your journey to tonight’s camp where you can relax at the water’s edge as you wait for dinner to be served.

Day 3

Relaxation kicks in

Wake early and appreciate the serenity of the islands with a coffee in hand. Today's pace depends on where you decide to go, but whichever direction you choose you’re sure to be surrounded by a beautiful coastal landscape with bald eagles and seabirds flying above. Tonight, you're likely to camp at Blind Island or Obstruction Pass - whichever it may be, you’re in for a delicious dinner, fun company and another stunning sunset.

Day 4

Cypress Island and Eagle Cliff

By now, you’ll be in tune with your surrounding and able to spot seals in the distance at a glance. Enjoy a morning on the water and stop at Smuggler’s Cover for lunch and a stretch. Continue paddling to Cypress Island where the landscape becomes wilder, with no farms and homes, just ancient trees covering the high slopes. Set up camp and take an evening walk to Eagle Cliff - the views are amazing so be sure to take your camera. It’s your final night, so enjoy a glass of wine and absorb a last, unforgettable sunset.

Day 5

Pelican Beach Sunrise

Get an early start to witness arguably the most satisfying sunrise you'll ever see as it appears over the volcanic mountain, Mt. Baker. After breakfast, choose your route back to Anacortes, arriving between 14:00 and 16:00 depending on the conditions of the day. Unpack, say farewell to your guide, team and kayak and then head back home, or maybe travel further in this lovely region.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • All kayaking and camping equipment (excluding a sleeping bag)as well as a complimentary insulated travel mug
  • Every person will be assigned 2–20L dry bags and 1–10L dry bag for storing their gear

What's available to hire?

Sleeping Bag (see Optional Extras for costs)

What do I need to bring?

  • Long underwear- polypropylene or synthetic, top and bottom
  • Shorts (1 pair, preferably non-cotton)
  • Pants (1 pair, preferably non-cotton)
  • 2-3 T-shirts
  • Sweatshirt (fleece or synthetic, cotton will not dry) or other insulating shirt x2
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Light rain jacket and rain pants
  • Water compatible shoes (Tevas, Chacos, water socks, old tennis shoes, etc)
  • Shoes for camp (light running or hiking shoes are great)
  • Baseball cap, or a brimmed hat
  • Wool or fleece hat for camp
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Two water bottles, 1 litre each (please fill them at the store, or before you arrive)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Sleeping Bag - must be compressible to fit into one of the 20L dry bags
  • Beer or wine
  • Toiletries
  • A small hand towel
  • Earplugs
  • Book, playing cards etc
  • Any favourite snacks (your host will provide a lot, but you may have special preferences.)
  • Camera (bring freezer grade Zip-Loc bags to protect it if it isn’t waterproof.)
  • Personal medicine if required (please inform your guide in case of emergency)

Optional Solo Tent Occupancy

Payable Before Departure

Optional Solo Tent Occupancy

Per Person

Sleeping Bag Rental

Payable Before Departure

Sleeping Bag Rental

Per Person

Single Kayak (instead of Double Kayak)

Payable Before Departure

Single Kayak (instead of Double Kayak)

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 51kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

This trip is designed for people with little or no previous paddling experience, however, the fitter you are, the more enjoyable the experience will be. Please note that you'll be crossing through the heart of the San Juan Islands and on some days will paddle over 19km, though this can be done by anyone with the right mindset.

Your guides are excellent paddlers and well-trained guides who can teach you the basic skills and show you the best places to go.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

The San Juan Islands have a very mild climate during the summer months and most trips will experience temperatures around 21°C during the day and mid-10s at night. Rain is not common but it's always good to be prepared.

The marine mammals typically seen are Harbor Porpoise, Harbor Seals, Southern Resident Orcas (these are the endangered ones, so seen less often), Transient Orcas (these are the thriving Orcas who feed on other marine mammals), Humpback Whales, Minke Whales and Gray Whales as well as many different types of seabirds including Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Peregrine Falcons and many other smaller marine birds.

Please note that not all of these wildlife sightings can be guaranteed, however, your experienced guides will do their best to increase your chances.

Your host recommends the following three accommodation options.

  1. Cap Sante Inn: Basic, friendly, affordable and located in old town Anacortes within walking distance of great restaurants.

  2. Ship Harbor Inn: Located within walking distance of the ferry and includes breakfast and picturesque views of the San Juan Islands. A taxi would be needed to grab a bite to eat as the town is a 4-mile drive away.

  3. Nantucket Inn: Located as you drive into Anacortes, this is a historic building that's been newly remodelled, with a huge outdoor area to hang out in.

You can leave any excess luggage at your host's base before you set off.

265 lbs for double kayaks and 225 lbs for single kayaks. These weights are generally the limits for your comfort and enjoyment of the activity.

Of course! Your host only has a limited number of single kayak available, so please request on booking. There is a small charge for a solo kayak: see the Optional Extras for costs.

Anacortes ferry terminal parking fees may vary per season, however at the time of writing the prices are:

1 day (0-24 hours) - $7.00 2 days (24-48 hours) - $12.00 3 days (48-72 hours) - $14.00 4 days (72-96 hours) - $17.00 One week (7 days/168 hours) - $22.00

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.

Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.

Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

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