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Washington

Best of the Pacific N.W.: Exploring Three of Washington’s San Juan Islands

Program No. 18520RJ
Enjoy nature, learn about orca whales, visit a lighthouse, discover museums and immerse yourself in history and tradition as you explore San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands.

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At a Glance

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the San Juan Archipelago while you uncover the cultures and landscapes unique to San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands. Meet historians, artists, farmers, preservationists and other islanders who make up the fabric of these communities, and explore scenic shorelines, mountain vistas, rare coastal prairie and the region's iconic evergreen forests.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking between 1-2 miles over the course of each day, with some paved paths, and some dirt or uneven paths or trails with exposed roots. Standing up to one hour in museums and outdoor classroom locations. Elevators unavailable at most locations. Buses do not have lifts.

What You'll Learn

  • Spend a day on Orcas Island to enjoy the panoramic marine vista from Mount Constitution and a unique schoolhouse from the 1800s.
  • Ride the Washington State Ferry to Lopez Island to discuss and view sustainable farming and housing on the islands.
  • Take field trips on San Juan Island to National Historic Parks, a picturesque lighthouse and more.

General Notes

Select dates are designated for small groups and are limited to 24 participants or less.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
Profile Image
Michael Vouri
Michael Vouri retired as the chief of interpretation and historian for San Juan Island National Park after more than 21 years. He has written books about the Pig War, the Royal Marines and San Juan Island. He has worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers, a U.S. Air Force public affairs officer, and as assistant director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. Michael has been a Road Scholar instructor on San Juan Island since 1997 and a Group Leader since 2016.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Michael Vouri
Michael Vouri View biography
Michael Vouri retired as the chief of interpretation and historian for San Juan Island National Park after more than 21 years. He has written books about the Pig War, the Royal Marines and San Juan Island. He has worked as a reporter and editor for newspapers, a U.S. Air Force public affairs officer, and as assistant director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. Michael has been a Road Scholar instructor on San Juan Island since 1997 and a Group Leader since 2016.
Profile Image of Shona Aitken
Shona Aitken View biography
Shona Aitken has a degree in ecology and a background in environmental education in her home country of Scotland, and from two years spent in Sweden. She is currently the education coordinator for Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center on San Juan Island. She teaches people about local wildlife and increases awareness of the impact of human activities on wild creatures.
Profile Image of Kevin Loftus
Kevin Loftus View biography
Kevin Loftus is the executive director at the San Juan Historical Museum. Kevin spent his formative years in Chicago before heading to Northern Arizona University. After graduating, he answered a call to the corporate world in Dallas, Texas. A love of cycling led to learning about the San Juan Islands. Upon first visiting San Juan Island in 2000, Kevin realized the Islands were calling, becoming his home in 2005. Kevin became the executive director of the San Juan Historical Museum in 2008.
Profile Image of Keith Keyser
Keith Keyser View biography
Keith Keyser has called the Pacific Northwest home since 1974 after migrating from the East Coast. He attended Evergreen State College and obtained a B.A. in childhood development. After college, Keith taught elementary and middle school for 25 years in Idaho and Washington. Keith has resided on San Juan Island since 2006, enjoying backpacking, kayaking, gardening, wild crafting, and woodworking. Keith works as a landscaper, teacher of sustainable agriculture, and rustic wood furniture maker. Keith started working with Road Scholar in 2011.
Profile Image of Andre Entermann
Andre Entermann View biography
Originally from Southern California, Andre Entermann grew up surfing and wanting to be a firefighter. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, a visit to Lopez Island in 2005 stirred a stronger desire for a simpler life. In 2008, he relocated to Lopez and began working as a farm apprentice. He met Elizabeth Metcalf in 2012, who shared his dream of owning a dairy. In 2014, the Washington State Department of Agriculture granted Sunnyfield Farm a license to sell raw goat milk and cheese.
Profile Image of Kelley Balcomb-Bartok
Kelley Balcomb-Bartok View biography
Kelley Balcomb-Bartok spent his early summers in the San Juan Islands immersed in Orca whale culture. As a researcher for the Center for Whale Research, he became intimately familiar with the Southern Resident Orca whale population as they traveled through the inland waters of Washington and British Columbia. Kelley's experiences with whales led him to a career in the media communication field, developing a greater appreciation and understanding of the beauty and diversity of the San Juan Islands and surrounding region along the way.
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.
Year
2024
  • 2024
  • 2025
Date and Direction
Oct 12 - Oct 18 (Seattle to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island)
  • Jul 20 - Jul 26 (Seattle to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island)
  • Sep 14 - Sep 20 (Seattle to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island)
  • Oct 12 - Oct 18 (Seattle to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island)
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Select trip year and date
2024
  • 2024
  • 2025
Oct 12 - Oct 18 (Seattle to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island)
  • Jul 20 - Jul 26 (Seattle to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island)
  • Sep 14 - Sep 20 (Seattle to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island)
  • Oct 12 - Oct 18 (Seattle to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island)
While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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7 days
6 nights
16 meals
6 B 5 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Seattle
D
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 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 Room, we’ll enjoy a catered Northwest-style dinner plus coffee, tea, water.

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.

DAY
2
Hibulb Cultural Center, To San Juan Island, Island Life
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
B,L,D
Earthbox Inn & Spa

Activity note: Driving approx. 96 miles total; about 3 hours. Morning drive of approx. 81 miles to LaConner, WA; about 1.5 hours. Afternoon drive of approx. 15 miles to Anacortes; about .5 hour. Walking up to 1.5 miles throughout day; standing for up to 2 hours at museum. 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: Vouchers for breakfast will be available and breakfast will be served in the lobby restaurant.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel, we’ll visit the artfully designed Hibulb Cultural Center for a field trip led by a museum docent. The cultural center has over 23,000 square feet of exhibits and classrooms and the natural history preserve is 50 acres dedicated to telling the story of the “salmon people,” the Tulalip Nation. The artifacts, carvings, art and interactive displays weave insight and understanding to the land, the people, and the culture of the many Northwest Tribal ancestors.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have lunch. Coffee, tea, and water are provided, and other beverages are available for purchase.

Afternoon: We'll 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 meal featuring salad, a main entrée, sides, vegetables, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water. You may bring other beverages of your own with you.

Evening: A local resident expert joins us to offer an insider’s look at contemporary life in the Islands and explores issues affecting island life.

DAY
3
Island History,San Juan Island Excursion, Meet Local Artist
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
B,L,D
Earthbox Inn & Spa

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day; some paved walkways, some uneven pathways and dirt trails with exposed rocks and tree roots. Riding in mini-buses for approx. 55 miles total; 4 ride segments of about 1/2 hour each.

Breakfast: Served in the hotel conference room.

Morning: A local resident historian will join us in the hotel conference room for a presentation on San Juan Island history. 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 get 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. 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.

Lunch: At Limekiln Lighthouse, we’ll have our sack lunches featuring a sandwich, chef's choice side (whole fresh fruit, chips, or deli salad), beverage, and a chef’s choice fresh bakery treat for everyone.

Afternoon: 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 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.

Dinner: Served in the hotel conference room. Coffee, tea, and water are provided. You may bring other beverages of your own with you to dinner.

Evening: Gathering in the hotel conference room, we’ll attend a presentation given by a local guest artist showcasing the creative and artistic spirits that are abundant in these islands.

DAY
4
Orcas Island, Mt. Constitution, Historic Schoolhouse
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
B,L
Earthbox Inn & Spa

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day; some paved walkways, some dirt paths with uneven surfaces or exposed tree roots; some stairs (less than 60 steps total for all stairways); periods of standing up to 1 hours at all locations. Getting on/off mini-buses; riding on mini buses for approx. 20 miles total; 4 ride segments of about 1/2 hour each. Getting on/off ferry; ride is approx. 20 miles roundtrip; approx. 1 hour each way.

Breakfast: Early breakfast served in hotel conference room.

Morning: We’ll start out by boarding the inter-island ferry for the scenic cruise to Orcas Island. Arriving at the dock, we’ll transfer via mini-bus to Moran State Park and Mount Constitution (the highest point in the islands). At Mount Constitution, we’ll enjoy panoramic views of surrounding islands and the Cascade Mountain range while we learn about the unique history of Moran State Park.

Lunch: On Orcas Island, we’ll have our sack lunches featuring a sandwich, chef's choice side (whole fresh fruit, chips, or deli salad), beverage, and a chef’s choice fresh bakery treat for everyone.

Afternoon: After lunch, take some time to independently enjoy and explore the galleries, bookstores, and shops in the waterfront Village of Eastsound. After rendezvousing at a predetermined time and place, our field trip continues to an historic 1800’s schoolhouse. A local historian joins us to share the story of this preserved one-room schoolhouse and its role in the community. Next, we’ll visit a unique Farm Preserve designed to ensure the future of local agriculture. The 185 acres Preserve spans Orcas Island’s Crow Valley, encompassing an expanse of scenic open-space, habitat resources, and productive agricultural land that is made perpetually available to future generations of farmers. Back aboard the ferry in the late afternoon, we’ll cruise through the islands and return to Friday Harbor in time for dinner.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Wildlife, Friday Harbor Museums, Pre-Dinner Reception
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
B,L,D
Earthbox Inn & Spa

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day; 25 steps with railing at Whale Museum; standing for up to 1.5 hours at each museum; mostly sidewalks or paved walkways.

Breakfast: Served in the hotel conference room.

Morning: A wildlife rehabilitation expert will join us in the hotel conference room to begin our morning with an informative presentation about the wildlife that call the San Juan Islands home. We’ll learn about the rehabilitation efforts and techniques of the organization while also learning about the specific characteristics of local species. Following our presentation, we will set out for a walking field trip to the San Juan Island Historical Museum, where a docent will lead an exploration showcasing the exhibits. We’ll then return to the hotel for lunch.

Lunch: Served in the hotel conference room.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will set out for a walking field trip to the Whale Museum. A docent will lead an exploration showcasing the exhibits. Enjoy some afternoon free time to explore Friday Harbor or otherwise enjoy as you wish! We’ll meet up at the hotel before dinner to enjoy social time together in the hotel conference room. Enjoy a wine reception featuring Washington wines hosted by Skagit Valley College and your group leader. Celebrate the long term partnership of SVC and Road Scholar, and take time to socialize before dinner and connect with program staff and your fellow participants.

Dinner: Served in the hotel conference room. Coffee, tea, and water are provided. You may bring other beverages of your own with you to dinner.

Evening: After a full day, the evening is yours to enjoy. Visit with fellow group members, explore the quaint town of Friday Harbor, or simply relax and enjoy the hotel amenities.

DAY
6
Lopez Island, Preservation, Sustainable Farming & Living
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
B,L,D
Earthbox Inn & Spa

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day; some paved walkways, some dirt paths with uneven surfaces and exposed tree roots; some stairs (less than 30 steps total for all stairways); periods of standing up to 1 hour outside at farm. Driving approx. 20 miles; 3 ride segments of less than 1/2 hour each. Getting on/off ferry; approx. 20 miles total; about 2.5 hours round trip.

Breakfast: Early breakfast served in the hotel conference room.

Morning: Hopping aboard the Washington State Ferry again, this time we will sail to Lopez Island. The morning begins with a visit a local land preserve to learn about its important ecological and cultural impact in the community. After, we’ll transfer to a local waterfront location to hear first-hand from a Lopez Community Land Trust representative about an acclaimed local organization dedicated to building a diverse, sustainable Lopez Island community through award-winning environmentally designed affordable housing, sustainable agriculture, and other dynamic and successful rural development programs.

Lunch: Lunch will be at a local restaurant & grill, where you can enjoy the scenic island water and marina views.

Afternoon: After some free time to explore Lopez Village, we'll visit a beautifully restored historic farm, home to a goat dairy, gardens, and a fruit orchard. Upon arrival, a local resident farmer will lead us around while teaching us about the history of the farm, the process it underwent in order to convert to a USDA-approved goat dairy, and how sustainable farming has enhanced the community. Afterwards, we'll return to the ferry and make our way back to San Juan.

Dinner: At the hotel conference room, we’ll have a tasty farewell dinner. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: As our program winds to a close, we’ll celebrate the final evening with a brief review of our week and go over the morning departure details. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
7
Program Concludes
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 6:15 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 1:00 p.m., respectively. Scheduling outbound flights after 2:30 p.m. is advised.

Breakfast: Early breakfast served in the hotel conference room.

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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