Seattle- San Juan Island: The Orca Sighting

Three-day weekend! Sarah and I decided to take our adventure a little further out of Seattle this time.  Driving north toward Canada there is a small island off the coast of Anacortes called San Juan Island. This island is home to some of the coolest creatures in the ocean, Orcas. Our goal; to see them in action cruising the coastline for Harbor seals.

After a quick 1.5-hour drive to Anacortes we hopped on the ferry and arrived at Friday Harbor. Driving through a quaint touristy area you get out of Friday harbor to see old farms, rolling hills, and beautiful homes. We ended up at a lavender farm Sarah found on the inter-webs and walked about the area for a bit before checking into our lodging. Side Note: our travel nurse buds love soap, weirdly enough, so we bought them a bar of Lavender Soap! Cheers, Bijan Soap Man.

We ended up staying at Lakedale resort which was one of the last spots available on the island even for 2 nights during the week. The place is super popular. Sarah was able to book 2 nights in a “Glamping Canvas Tent”. Man, what a set up. It offered a queen mattress, futon, table and chairs, fire pit and an outside table with an umbrella. Lakedale resort is an area just north of Friday harbor. It is a large island surrounded by freshwater lakes warm enough to swim in and beautiful enough to sit and watch while having a beer. The resort had an adult camp like feel which explained the occupancy rates being so high. Lakedale was a playground of activities and featured a ton of outdoor games, activities and even Tie die T shirts Sarah couldn’t stop talking about.

We got settled in and toured the grounds on the free bicycles to borrow, made some dinner and drinks in preparation for our whale watching the next day. Glamping in 50-degree weather could be my new favorite activity. The breeze through the mesh windows with extra blankets, felt like sleeping outside but on a super comfy queen bed. We woke up early for coffee and the complimentary breakfast a short walk away from the tent and started the day. The whale watching tour was at noon with San Juan Safari. Unfortunately, after receiving a call from the company, their more intimate smaller boat was having engine problems, so we were able to join the larger boat for the trip. No splash suits! And beer to buy! Turned out to be a great turn of events.

After making our morning Tie die T shirts at camp we headed over to San Juan Safari’s boat and boarded at the dock in Friday Harbor. The clouds were dissipating, sun shining, and the hunt for orcas began. I bought a beer and sat down to listen to the naturalists speak about orcas in detail ranging from identification to intelligence. 20 minutes into the tour, the boat received a call from one of the other whale-watching vessels and confirmed an orca siting of T137A, or Volcker, a female in her late thirties with 3 of her 4 kiddos. The anticipation was stratospheric.

The vessel has been cleared to come as close as 200 yards to the orcas but can be skewed due to the uncertainty of direction of travel when orcas are hunting the coastline. We were able to see them within 100 yards and took some pictures. It was a surreal experience seeing such large mammals in the ocean. Based on our experience, we highly recommend San Juan Safaris, check them out here.

After a nice day on the ocean, we ended the day eating at a great restaurant just above San Juan Safari called Downriggers. Downriggers had some delicious raw oysters on a half shell pictured below. The restaurant was perfect after boating and featured an outside deck with views of the harbor. This three-day weekend was quite the experience and I implore you to take the trip out of your comfort zone and see what San Juan has to offer.




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