San Juan Islands from Anacortes

Paddle from one of he launch points in Anacortes into the San Juan Islands. Trips vary in difficulty an length depending on the islands visited.

launch Points

  • Washington Park.  Use the day use area adjacent to the parking lot and boat launch. Then move your car to a day use parking area up the road or in Lot A to allow others to access this prime day use location by the water. Please do not park in the parking lot of, or launch from the boat launch. If the day use area next to the ramp is busy, park and launch from Lot A, a slightly longer carry.
  • Skyline Marina
  • Guemes Ferry Dock
  • See Padilla Bay & Nearby Islands for other nearby launch points into the islands.
  • Note that launching/landing is prohibited at the Anacortes San Juan ferry terminal.

on the water

paddling from Washington Park

  • Currents can be strong and turbulent in  Rosario Strait, where Guemes Channel, Bellingham Channel and Thatcher Pass all converge, especially during ebb tide. Significant wind waves can also build in this exposed area. Crossings should be made only when strong winds and fog are not a threat.
  • Commercial ships and pleasure boats ply the shipping channel and surrounding waters. VHF radios should be used to monitor traffic. Consider coordinating your crossing with Vessel Traffic Service.

washingtoN park from JAMES island

7.5 nm round trip, Sea Kayak III+

Paddle 3.5 miles across Rosario Strait, with potential exposure to strong tidal currents, turbulence, wind and boat traffic. Then relax for an overnight camp on pleasant James Island Marine State Park. The park has 3 clusters of campsites, two for general boating use and one Cascadia Marine Trail cluster of 3 sites on a hill above the west cove. There is no potable water available on the island, but there are plenty of aggressive raccoons to keep you company and steal your food.  Enjoy white sand beaches and forested trails.

Washington Park to Cornet Bay

Sea Kayak III+

Paddle from Washington Park in Anacortes to Cornet Bay with a car shuttle between them.

Washington Park to Friday Harbor

22 nm round trip, Sea Kayak IV

A classic one-way trip representing a serious test of paddling skills, navigation, tide and current planning, weather prediction and risk assessment. Cross Rosario Strait with a heading to compensate for the current. Depending on the route planned, exit the strait as far north as Belle Rocks or as far south as Boulder Island. If seas are already standing up crossing Rosario Strait, expect five foot breaking waves at Belle Rocks. Destinations further south will have far less chaos. Lesser tide rips exist at Bird Rocks and Kellet ledge. There is a rest beach at Watmouth Head. From there the classic route proceeds around the south end of Lopez Island with shelter and rest points in a series of small bays. Expect a counter current on this stretch even while the adjacent currents indicate ebb. On the north side of Iceberg Point on the southwest end of Lopez eat lunch and wait for the flood to build. It is possible to climb a steep trail to a stunning overlook. From Iceberg Point one can traverse cattle pass and find turbulent water by Whale Rocks, or play in the standing waves off Davis Point. Conditions are far calmer on the east side of Deadman's Island. After kayaking through Cattle Pass, ride the current to Turn Island and on into Friday Harbor. Rosario Strait and Cattle Pass both have the potential to be very rough. A swell coming from the southwest will produce breaking waves along the south end of Lopez. The traditional return trip uses wheels to roll onto the ferry and return (free) to Anacortes. It is only a 1.5mile walk from the Anacortes ferry terminal back to Washington Park, or stage one car at the Anacortes ferry terminal (fee) and shuttle back.

Burrows & Allan Islands

Sea Kayak III

Paddle in a "figure 8" around these two islands. Currents are an interesting feature of this trip.  The trip can be done in any currents, if you pick your route and use eddies to make progress when the current is against you.  Paddling a "figure 8" means that you will be paddling against currents at some point and makes for great practice in paying attention to the local conditions.  Currents are strongest in a flood tide.  A clean 3-4 kt eddy line develops at the northeast corner of Burrows island on a strong flood. There are two landing points for breaks.  First is the marine trail camp side on the east end of Burrows.  On the west side of Burrows you can land in the small cove just north of the light house and walk up to the light house. This is a great place for practice in wind and waves.  In a strong southerly blow you can launch from the protected beach south side of Anacortes and paddle in the lee of Burrows up to the light house where you can then make short forays into the seas coming in from the straight.

Cypress & Strawberry Islands

8 nm round trip, Sea Kayak III

Large fetches from more than one direction make the 8+ nm round trip from Anacortes to Cypress and Strawberry Islands make this a moderately difficult paddle. Pelican Beach managed by the Cypress Island Natural Conservation Resource Area is a great place to land and camp on Cypress Island.  It is open for camping  between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Strawberry Island is a small, 11-acre island located in Rosario Strait just off Strawberry Bay on the west side of Cypress Island in the eastern San Juan's. It is managed by the Cypress Island Natural Conservation Resource Area for day use as part of the Cascade Marine Trail.

Doe Island

23 nm round trip, Sea Kayak IV

Paddle from Washington Park near Anacortes crossing Guemes Channel to Strawberry Island.  Then cross Rosario Strait to camp on Doe Island. Launch early the next day for Lawrence Point. Cross Rosario Strait and paddle south through the Bellingham Channel, and then cross Guemes Channel to return to Washington Park.

Vendovi Island

6 nm round trip, Sea Kayak III

Paddle to Vendovi Island which was acquired by San Juan Preservation Trust in 2010 and now open to public. It is east of Sinclair Island, west of Bellingham, and between Guemes and Lummi Islands.

San Juan Islands Circumnavigation

80 nm loop, Sea Kayak IV

Paddle the outside edge of the San Juan Islands archipelago clockwise or counterclockwise. In a clockwise direction, the major islands encounters are Blakely, Orcas, Clark, Matia, Sucia, Patos, Waldron, Stuart, Spieden, Henry, San Juan and Lopez. This is a challenging, multi-day trip—using the tides to best advantage, this trip can be done in 4 days at a moderate pace. Consider San Juan County Parks and Washing State Parks for camping.

Jones Island

Wheel kayaks on the Anacortes ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Paddle 6 nm, crossing San Juan Channel and through the Wasp Islands to Jones Island for an overnight camp. Next day paddle back to Friday Harbor and catch the ferry back to Anacortes. This is good overnight trip for first time kayak campers. Alternatively, take the ferry to Lopez Island and paddle from Spencer Spit to Jones Island.

Information for Leaders


This route allows multiple bookings. Please check scheduled trips listed below in the "Activities" tab to see if there is another group already booked on the same day. If so, please coordinate with them to ensure you are carpooling and heading to different locations at different areas. Please keep groups to two per launch point.

permit information

The Mountaineers has a commercial use permit with Washington State Parks for all free and fee-based outings at state parks. Leaders should carry a print or digital copy of our  commercial use permit to show rangers they may encounter. 

  • Difficulty: *Varies*
  • Length: 7.5 nm
  • Rosario Strait & Bellingham WA001
  • Sea Trails Lopez, Blakely, Decatur & Shaw Islands WA002
  • NOAA Bellingham to Everett No. 18423
  • NOAA Strait of Juan de Fuca to Strait of Georgia No. 18421

Upcoming Activities

There are no activities scheduled at this location.

Trip Reports

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • Washington Park to James Island
  • Washington Park to Cornet Bay
  • Washington Park to Friday Harbor
  • Allan Island
  • Burrows Island
  • Burrows & Allan Islands
  • Cypress Island
  • Strawberry Island
  • Cypress & Strawberry Islands
  • Doe Island
  • Jones Island
  • Friday Harbor to Jones Island
  • Spencer Spit to Jones Island
  • Vendovi Island
  • San Juan Islands Circumnavigation

There are no resources for this route/place. Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.