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Washington’s San Juan Islands at a Slower Pace

Immerse yourself in the heritage and pristine nature of the San Juan Islands as you learn about the region’s ecosystems, visit historic sites and enjoy an expert-led ferry ride.
Rating (5)
Program No. 10013RJ
5 days
Starts at

Washington’s San Juan Islands at a Slower Pace

Immerse yourself in the heritage and pristine nature of the San Juan Islands as you learn about the region’s ecosystems, visit historic sites and enjoy an expert-led ferry ride.
5 days
Starts at
Program No. 10013 RJ
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At a Glance

Enjoy a truly unique Northwest experience. Savor the ocean breezes on an expert-led adventure aboard a Washington State Ferry, chugging through deep-green waters as you glide from Friday Harbor past Orcas, Shaw and Lopez Islands in the Salish Sea. Search for orcas from coastal vantages and learn more about their sophisticated social structure at the unique Whale Museum. Uncover the Island’s rich history; from the indigenous coastal Salish people to the eclectic culture of today’s islanders.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Voyage through the San Juan archipelago aboard the inter-island ferry as it chugs through the islands. A naturalist lectures while you enjoy the views!
  • Uncover the fascinating story of maritime exploration in the islands and the important role it has played in the settlement of this scenic area.
  • Visit Limekiln Lighthouse, a whale research and observation outpost and one of the best land-based sites to spot Orca whales in their native habitat.

General Notes

You might be interested in a more active, six-night version of this program, "Island Hopping on Three of Washington's San Juan Islands" (#18520).
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Friday Harbor
by Mike Vouri, San Juan Historical Society, Julia Vouri
A book that reviews the rich history and residents of Friday Harbor throughout the past 100 years.
Living High: An Unconventional Autobiography
by June Burn
This autobiography chronicles Farrar and June Burns travels around the United States and their experience homesteading in the San Juan Islands, teaching Eskimos and traveling across the United States in a covered wagon. She wrote extensively for various periodicals and wrote several books. Burn's autobiography Living High: An Unconventional Autobiography (1941) documents much of her early life story, particularly her time on Sentinel and Waldron Islands in Washington’s San Juan Islands. The book has been republished several times.
San Juan Islands, Afoot and Afloat
by Marge & Ted Mueller
Thousands of visitors are drawn annually to the San Juan Islands, which are famed for their safe, scenic boating, lush meadows and dense forests, abundant bird life, and fascinating bits of history. Most of those visitors (and residents alike) have relied on this best-selling guide to outdoor recreation in the Islands. Now in a fully revised third edition, the book covers everything you want to know about park and marina facilities, beaches, shorelines, historic sites, natural science, and marine life. Whether you arrive by land, sea, or air, this fact-filled guide is a must for enjoying the best of the San Juans.
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5 days
4 nights
11 meals
4 B 3 L 4 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Crowne Plaza Seattle Airport

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration & Orientation: After you have your room assignment, head to the conference room at 5:00 p.m. to register with the Road Scholar program staff, which is also where our Orientation session will take place. You’ll receive a welcome packet with your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, and other important information. If you will arrive later than 8:00 p.m., please ask for your packet when you check in. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the Conference Dining Room, we’ll enjoy a catered buffet meal featuring green salad, an entrée, sides, and a choice of dessert, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Seafarer's Memorial Park, Ferry to San Juan Island
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Friday Harbor Suites

Activity note: Walking approx. 1/2 mile throughout the day; mostly paved trails and paths; periods of standing for less than 1/2 hour. Getting on/off motorcoach; driving approximately 100 miles from Seattle to Anacortes; about 2.5 hours. Getting on/off ferry; ride is approx. 20 miles from Anacortes to Friday Harbor; about 1.5 hours. Short shuttle ride from ferry to Friday Harbor hotel.

Breakfast: In the Conference Room, the extensive breakfast buffet features a variety of choices, including an egg dish, breakfast meats and breads, fresh fruit, yogurt, hot and cold cereals, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: On our way to San Juan Island via motorcoach after checking out of the hotel, we’ll stop at the Seafarer's Memorial Park in Anacortes, WA. At Seafarer's Park, we'll learn from a local resident expert about the evolution and importance of Anacortes' maritime industries.

Lunch: At Seafarer's Park in Anacortes, WA, we’ll have a catered picnic lunch served buffet-style, with soft drinks, juice, water.

Afternoon: We'll then board the Washington State ferry bound for San Juan Island. You may wish to enjoy the view of the National Scenic Byway through a tapestry of Islands from the inside passenger cabins or from the outside decks as we take our 1.5 hour journey through the archipelago to Friday Harbor. Upon arrival at the dock in the late afternoon, we’ll make a quick transfer via shuttle check into the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a tasty buffet meal featuring salad, a main entrée, sides, vegetables, and dessert, plus coffee, hot and iced tea, milk, water. You may bring other beverages of your own with you.

Evening: We’ll then be joined in the hotel conference room by a local resident expert who will offer an insider’s look at contemporary life in the Islands and explores issues affecting island life.

San Juan Island History, Inter-Island Ferry Trip
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Friday Harbor Suites

Activity note: Walking approx. 1/2 mile to/from ferry; mostly paved walkways and sidewalks. Getting on/off a ferry; ride is approximately 3 hours; some stairs aboard.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a breakfast buffet with choices including an egg dish, hot and cold cereals, breakfast breads and spreads, and a variety of fresh fruits, plus juice, milk, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Through a visit from a local resident historian and author, we’ll settle into the hotel conference room to learn about the history of the San Juan Islands. After a short break, we’ll walk to the San Juan Island Historical Museum to view artifacts from days gone by, learn more from the executive director of the museum about the industries of San Juan Island, and visit historic buildings on the grounds.

Lunch: At the hotel, we’ll have a buffet meal featuring a soup of the day, salad, and dessert, topped off with coffee, tea, water. You may bring other beverages of your own with you.

Afternoon: We’ll then set out from the hotel and walk approx. 5 blocks to the dock where we will board the inter-island ferry for a field trip as it chugs through the islands. On-deck narration will be provided by a naturalist who will be happy to answer any questions you may have while also helping to spot marine and wildlife as we cruise the islands.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a tasty buffet meal featuring salad, an entrée, sides, and dessert, plus coffee, hot and iced tea, water. You may bring other beverages of your own with you.

Evening: Gathering in the conference room with a local resident expert associated with the Port of Friday Harbor, we’ll engage in a presentation on the history of the water trade in the San Juan Islands. We’ll focus on some legitimate business trade and some smuggling, both of which had significant impacts on the archipelago.

San Juan Island Excursion, Musical Farewell Program
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Friday Harbor Suites

Activity note: Walking up to 1.5 miles throughout the day; some paved, some uneven pathways, dirt trails with exposed rock and tree roots. Getting on/off mini-buses; driving approx. 55 miles total; 5 ride segments of about 1/2 hour each between stops.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Then, we’ll set out via mini-buses for a field trip with our Group Leader around the south end of San Juan Island to American Camp National Park where we will stop at the Visitor’s Center for an overview of the Pig War, during which both American and British troops occupied the island. Afterwards, we’ll walk to the redoubt area and view the remaining American Camp structures. Next, we’ll head to Pelindaba Lavender Farm where we will hear first-hand from the owner/operator about how this Lavender Farm came to be, why the farm fills an unserved niche, and how it sustains the local community. Additionally, we learn how the lavender is grown, harvested and how it is used in final products. As we cross the island toward Limekiln Lighthouse, we’ll keep an eye out for wildlife along the scenic west coast of the island.

Lunch: At the Limekiln Lighthouse, we’ll have sack lunches featuring a sandwich, fruit, chips, bakery treat, and bottled water.

Afternoon: Our field trip will continue with our Group Leader at Limekiln Point State Park, one of the best places in the world to view whales from land, and home to Orca research outpost and lighthouse. Keeping an eye out for the whales as they search for their main food source, salmon, we’ll make our way with our Group Leader to the lighthouse research center to see the studies being done on Orcas. Continuing, we'll travel to the northern tip of San Juan Island to explore the National Historical Park at English Camp with our Group Leader. While here, we’ll see the parade grounds, formal garden, historical buildings, and the blockhouse, all of which remain from the times of British occupation. As we look around, we’ll take note of contrasts with the American encampment we saw earlier on the south end of the island. We'll then return to Friday Harbor where the remainder of the afternoon will be free for independent exploration. You may wish to visit the Whale Museum, explore the town, or just relax.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a tasty buffet meal for our farewell dinner, with, coffee, tea, water. You may bring other beverages of your own with you. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: Joined by a beloved local musician in the hotel conference room, we’ll be treated to an exclusive musical performance to round out our program. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program Concludes
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 7:15 a.m. Ferry transfer to Anacortes, WA, is approx. 20 miles; about 1.5 hours. Driving approx. 100 miles from Anacortes to Seattle; about 2.5 hours. Drop-offs at SeaTac International Airport and the starting hotel will be at approximately 12:30 p.m. and 12:45 p.m., respectively. Scheduling outbound flights after 2:30 p.m. is advised.

Breakfast: Early hotel buffet.

Morning: Once checked-out of the hotel, we’ll depart Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, via the Washington State Ferry. Upon docking in Anacortes, we’ll transfer to a chartered motorcoach and ride to Seattle with drop-offs at SeaTac International Airport and the starting hotel. This concludes our program. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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