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An Adventurous, Affordable, Honeymoon in Seattle and the San Juan Islands

After our beautiful wedding in San Marcos, Texas, we flew out to Seattle for about one week of Pacific Northwest exploring. We’d start in Seattle and then head up to the San Juan Islands for a few days. The greenery and wildlife of the area was just spectacular, especially in June, and we loved starting our marriage with such a fun adventure.

Just a Quick Seattle Overnight

We flew from Austin to Seattle, then took the Link light rail from the SeaTac airport directly into downtown Seattle. I think the ticket was $6/one-way and took about an hour. Once we got downtown, we transferred to a bus that took us to the Queen Anne neighborhood where we’d booked an Airbnb room for the night for $90. We just rented a room in a single lady’s house, but it was perfect for just one night. We were just across Lake Union from the Fremont neighborhood, with some big name tech offices, like Google and Tableau. Our Airbnb host said that her small room is nearly almost always booked with visiting employees.

About to land in Seattle! We lucked out and had a sunny day, which was great for aerial pictures.
About to land in Seattle! We lucked out and had a sunny day, which was great for aerial pictures.
Waiting for the Link rail at the airport to head into downtown Seattle.
Waiting for the Link rail at the airport to head into downtown Seattle.
Our Airbnb in the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle.
Our Airbnb in the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle.

After we checked into our Queen Anne Airbnb room, we walked across the Fremont bridge to check out Gas Works Park with its view of downtown Seattle and Lake Union. Then we looked up a place for dinner and decided on a casual Italian place called SWeL Restaurant.

Gas Works Park in Seattle. Photo courtesy of wikipedia
Gas Works Park in Seattle. Photo courtesy of wikipedia

Getting to the San Juan Islands from Seattle

We woke up early on our first full day of the honeymoon, packed our things, said goodbye to the Airbnb host and caught a bus back to downtown Seattle. We took a brief pause at Macrina Bakery for some coffee and pastries and then headed to the Seattle dock. We were going to catch The Clipper (a ferry) from Seattle up to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The Clipper tickets were about $50/person and the trip took about 3 hours. Cruising past the various islands and navigating through the PNW sounds was such a fun way to travel. The Clipper had a master naturalist onboard, who narrated the journey and pointed out wildlife and shared history.

About to get on The Clipper ferry from Seattle to Friday Harbor.
About to get on The Clipper ferry from Seattle to Friday Harbor.
Jason's great photos from the Clipper ferry ride from Seattle to Friday Harbor.
Jason’s great photos from the Clipper ferry ride from Seattle to Friday Harbor.

Jason's great photos from the Clipper ferry ride from Seattle to Friday Harbor.

We docked in Friday Harbor around lunchtime and were hungry. Friday Harbor is the main landing spot for visiting the San Juan Islands and has a few restaurants and shops. It only has a population of about 2,000 people and is a very walkable little downtown. We grabbed our bags, walked down the Clipper ramp and grabbed some fish tacos at Friday’s Crabhouse.

Friday Harbor views at Friday's Crabhouse on San Juan Island.
Friday Harbor views at Friday’s Crabhouse on San Juan Island.

The Clipper had a special deal where you could sign up to come back on board the same afternoon and go on a whale watching tour. We signed up and headed back to the Clipper at the dock after having our lunch. The tour was great! We lucked out and got to see about 3 Orcas and we were told that was exciting because some tours don’t see any at all. It was also fun to learn more about Orcas, like the fact that they eat hundreds of pounds of Wild Salmon and that each one has a unique mark on their dorsal fin.

Jason took some great pics of the Orcas playing in the water.
Jason took some great pics of the Orcas playing in the water.
jumping orca san juan island
And one was even jumping!
We even got to see some seals basking in the sun on the rocks. Photo credit: Jason
We even got to see some seals basking in the sun on the rocks. Photo credit: Jason

For lodging on San Juan Island, we rented a small condo with a full kitchen, bedroom and living area. It was in a complex called the Sandpiper and you can view the listing here. It was within walking distance of downtown Friday Harbor and a good spot for basecamp. We didn’t rent a car on San Juan Island, so we wanted to be pretty central. On our second day of honeymooning, we rented bikes from a shop called Discovery Sea Kayak Tours and Bicycles. We walked over to the shop after breakfast, paid about $30/bike and cruised around the island for most of the day, covering about 30 miles.

We started from the bike shop, then went south to San Juan Islands National Monument and checked out a lighthouse, then we headed north again and took a left on my favorite road of the day, False Bay Dr, and road up a big hill to Lime Kiln Point State Park, where we bought snacks from the concession stand and sat a picnic table for a few minutes watching kayakers, then we headed back into town on San Juan Valley Road and passed art studios and farms. We were both pretty tired by the end but had a great time seeing the island that way.

The 30 mile bike ride we did on San Juan Island, starting in Friday Harbor.
The 30-mile bike ride we did on San Juan Island, starting in Friday Harbor.
Heading south on Cattle Point Rd, en route to San Juan Island National Monument from Friday Harbor.
Heading south on Cattle Point Rd, en route to San Juan Island National Monument from Friday Harbor.
Nice roads and just a few cars passing. Great cycling conditions on San Juan Island!
Nice roads and just a few cars passing. Great cycling conditions on San Juan Island!
Cruising out of Friday Harbor. Photo credit: Jason
Cruising out of Friday Harbor. Photo credit: Jason
Beautiful landscape shots from our bike ride to the Southern part of San Juan Island.
Beautiful landscape shots from our bike ride to the Southern part of San Juan Island.
Paused for a photo...you can sort of see the mountains in the background.
Paused for a photo…you can sort of see the mountains in the background.
Scenic backdrops everywhere on this bike ride. Photo credit: Jason
Scenic backdrops everywhere on this bike ride. Photo credit: Jason
Reading about the history of the American Camp in the San Juan Island National Park.
Reading about the history of the American Camp in the San Juan Island National Park.

Both of us together at American Camp on San Juan Island.
Both of us together at American Camp on San Juan Island.
Seeing all sorts of wildlife on our bike ride! Photo by Jason
Seeing all sorts of wildlife on our bike ride! Photo by Jason
Made it to the lighthouse at Cattle Point on San Juan Island. We had to descend a big hill on our bikes...and then climb back up! Photo by Jason
Made it to the lighthouse at Cattle Point on San Juan Island. We had to descend a big hill on our bikes…and then climb back up! Photo by Jason
Watching the wildlife from the rocks below the lighthouse at Cattle Point.
Watching the wildlife from the rocks below the lighthouse at Cattle Point.
Taking a cycling break at Lime Kiln Point State Park for a snack and to watch kayakers and look for Orcas.
Taking a cycling break at Lime Kiln Point State Park for a snack and to watch kayakers and look for Orcas.

After our full day of bike riding, we were pretty tired and hungry. We showered, took a little nap and then headed into Friday Harbor to have burgers and beer at Cask and Schooner. We called it an early night and headed back to the Airbnb. The next day, we’d be catching the ferry over to Orcas Island for a few more days of fun.

Downtown Friday Harbor. That's Cask and Schooner on the corner. Photo by Jason.
Downtown Friday Harbor. That’s Cask and Schooner on the corner. Photo by Jason.
Sunset in Friday Harbor. Photo by Jason.
Sunset in Friday Harbor. Photo by Jason.

From San Juan Island to Orcas Island

Riding on the ferry from San Juan Island to Orcas Island. Photo by Jason
Riding on the ferry from San Juan Island to Orcas Island. Photo by Jason

I guess we’re on our fourth day of honeymooning now? Is that right? Haha. Regardless, we had another full day of adventure in store! What’s really neat about the San Juan Islands is that you can travel from one to the other for free on a local ferry. So, we walked back down to the Friday Harbor dock and got on the next ferry headed to Orcas Island. The trip took about an hour and dropped us on the far south end of the West Sound. What’s unique about Orcas Island is that it’s a horseshoe shape with the main town being located in the “bend” of the horseshoe. We assumed we’d be able to walk around the island or catch buses, but we were there before the busy time of the year and would’ve been stranded, had it not been for Orcas Island Rental Car! We called up the only car rental place on the island and they just so happened to have an available gold PT Cruiser for us to rent. Haha. It was a little pricey at $65/day, but we figured it’d end up being cheaper than taxis and we could see more. What was so fun was that right after we got off the ferry, we were instructed to just walk right up to the car parked near the dock and open the door…everything was unlocked and the keys were inside. So easy!

We hopped in the car and drove toward our lodging. Jason had some Texas friends who’d moved to Orcas Island and were now running a B&B called The Blue Heron. One of their “rooms” was actually a backyard teepee, complete with a king-sized bed, electricity and a stove. So that’s where we stayed for a couple of nights! We shared an indoor bathroom with other guests and enjoyed hot coffee and fresh bagels each morning in the communal kitchen.

For our first adventure on Orcas Island, we decided to hike up Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park. We drove over to the East Sound and parked our car at a trailhead on Mt. Constitution Rd. We hiked up 2 miles to get a spectacular view from a stone tower built on top of the mountain. It was stunning to see all of the different islands in the distance and all the different shades of green and blue.

Trail signs for the hike up to the top of Mt. Constitution. Photo by Jason.
Trail signs for the hike up to the top of Mt. Constitution. Photo by Jason.
Green and woodsy trail up to Mt. Constitution. Photo by Jason.
Green and woodsy trail up to Mt. Constitution. Photo by Jason.
Views from Ellsworth Tower on top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island. Photo by Jason.
Views from Ellsworth Tower on top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island. Photo by Jason.
Views from Ellsworth Tower on top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island. Photo by Jason.

For our first dinner on Orcas Island, we had pizza at Island Pie, with views of the water. Then we drove back to the West Sound and tucked in for the night in our teepee. When we woke up, it was pretty rainy and cold, so we figured we’d check out Doe Bay, since so many people had suggested it. We paid about $15/person and walked through the secret gate to this clothing-option spa. Haha. Jason and I kept our swimsuits on (G-rated), and enjoyed lounging in the warm pools of water and looking out over the bay. I don’t think I made eye contact with anyone there and we didn’t stay longer than an hour, but it definitely felt good on such a cold day.

Jason about to get his spa on at Doe Bay on Orcas Island.
Jason about to get his spa on at Doe Bay on Orcas Island.

We spent our last afternoon on Orcas Island reading in coffee shops, stopping into local retailers and just trying to stay warm and dry. Then, to get back to Seattle, Jason organized a seaplane ride for us! We got on a tiny 8-person Kenmore Air plane at the Orcas Island airport and flew over all of the islands, blue water, and trees, to land safely back in Seattle. This was our big splurge and it was totally worth it! Jason booked the tickets, but I think they were about $150/person. Back in Seattle, we stopped by the Pike Place Market, shared some insanely good (and big) from Honest Biscuits, explored the Ballard neighborhood (Jason got to watch a cycling crit), then caught an Uber back to our airbnb room near SeaTac airport, since we left early the next morning.

The tiny Orcas Island Airport. Photo by Jason.
The tiny Orcas Island Airport. Photo by Jason.
We rode on this tiny plane and I was freaking out! It was so cool to see all of the little towns and the landscape. The pilot even said that you can sometimes see Orcas. Photo by Jason.
We rode on this tiny plane and I was freaking out! It was so cool to see all of the little towns and the landscape. The pilot even said that you can sometimes see Orcas. Photo by Jason.
Saying goodbye to Orcas Island from the sky. Photo by Jason.
Saying goodbye to Orcas Island from the sky. Photo by Jason.
Made it back to Seattle! Photo by Jason.
Made it back to Seattle! Photo by Jason.
Both of us on the tiny Kenmore Air plane.
Both of us on the tiny Kenmore Air plane.
Quick stop at Pike Place market.

We had a wonderful, adventurous, honeymoon and got a great taste of Seattle and the San Juan Islands. There’s still so much to see and do…we’ll have to go back!

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