loading spinner
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 local art gallery, discover museums and immerse yourself in history and tradition as you explore San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands.
Length
7 days
Rating (4.82)
Activity Level
Starts at
2,049

Your well-being is our #1 priority

To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

Enroll with Confidence

We want your Road Scholar learning adventure to be something to look forward to—not worry about. Learn more

Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
Plan ahead.
What kind of weather can you expect? Take a look!
itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 15 - Apr 21, 2023
Starting at
2,049
Itinerary Note

This program features a visit to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival on day 2. A long-standing tradition for over 35 years, the Skagit Valley Tulip festival features fields of color and splendor for all to enjoy!

May 6 - May 12, 2023
Starting at
2,049
Jun 3 - Jun 9, 2023
Starting at
2,199
Jun 24 - Jun 30, 2023
Starting at
2,299
Jul 15 - Jul 21, 2023
Starting at
2,349
Sep 9 - Sep 15, 2023
Starting at
2,199
Oct 7 - Oct 13, 2023
Starting at
2,099
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 15 - Apr 21, 2023
Starting at
2,469
Itinerary Note

This program features a visit to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival on day 2. A long-standing tradition for over 35 years, the Skagit Valley Tulip festival features fields of color and splendor for all to enjoy!

May 6 - May 12, 2023
Starting at
2,469
Jun 3 - Jun 9, 2023
Starting at
2,809
Jun 24 - Jun 30, 2023
Starting at
2,909
Jul 15 - Jul 21, 2023
Starting at
3,099
Sep 9 - Sep 15, 2023
Starting at
2,809
Oct 7 - Oct 13, 2023
Starting at
2,519

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 up to 5-10 blocks per day, with some paved paths, and some dirt or uneven paths. Standing up to one hour in museums and outdoor classroom locations. Elevators unavailable at most locations. Buses do not have lifts.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • 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 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 spent more than four decades in the Pacific Northwest. He has backpacked and camped in the Cascades and Olympics and has explored the wilds of the foothills of the Rockies in Washington and Idaho. He enjoys kayaking with either his single or double mahogany kayaks that he built from blueprints. An amateur naturalist, Keith has had a longtime interest in birding, wildlife tracking, habitat preservation, and wild plant identification and uses. Retired from teaching, he now gardens, landscapes, and makes natural furniture.
Profile Image of Kevin Culmback
Kevin Culmback View biography
Kevin Culmback's years of travel as well leading wildlife excursions in Western Washington, make him a perfect group leader for the San Juan Islands and Pacific Northwest. Growing up outside Seattle, Kevin has always enjoyed all things outdoors. Kevin has spent years traveling the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Hawaii and beyond, exploring the natural world and capturing those areas through his camera lens. After 20 years in the San Juan Islands, his heart is in the Northwest... until the travel bug bites again.
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.
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.
The Light on the Island
by Helene Glidden
Classic story of a young girl growing up on Patos Island in the San Juan Archipelago. Her parents raised thirteen children while her father served as the Patos Island lighthouse keeper from 1905-1913. Helene reminisces about the adventure and heartbreak experienced on a beautiful but remote island where smugglers, old timers, and "God" weave in and out of their lives.
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.
Wild Plants of the San Juan Islands (second edition)
by Scott Atkinson & Fred Sharpe
This wonderful field guide illustrates and describes more than 190 species of wildflowers, shrubs, trees and weeds that occur commonly throughout the San Juan Islands as well as the Gulf Islands of near Vancouver Island, Canada. The text also includes information on how the climate, topography and geology of the Islands affect plant life.
Print All
Map details are not available for this location.
View Map
Expand All
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 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 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: Breakfast will be served in the conference room.

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: In our motor coach, we'll travel to Anacortes, WA. At a local restaurant, we’ll have lunch with coffee, tea, water; other beverages 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: In the hotel conference room, the breakfast will feature an egg dish, fresh fruit, assorted hot/cold cereals and breakfast breads, plus juice, milk, coffee, tea, water.

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

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 hotel breakfast.

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, 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, Gallery 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: Hotel breakfast.

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. A docent / education curator will lead our exploration at the museum.

Lunch: Lunch at hotel.

Afternoon: Everyone will go on a walking field trip to the Whale Museum (the nation's first museum dedicated to whales living in the wild). Enjoy some afternoon free time to explore Friday Harbor or otherwise enjoy as you wish! We’ll meet up at the hotel late afternoon to walk to a local gallery and artist cooperative. Enjoy social time at a private hosted reception and learn about the many artists that call the islands home and see their creative works first-hand.

Dinner: Dinner will be served at the hotel.

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 hotel breakfast.

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, 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 hotel breakfast.

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!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.