San Juan Island Elopement
In this blog, we go over all the ins and outs of a San Juan Island elopement. Whenever we’re not in Colorado, we explore areas like the PNW in our free time. We had the chance to visit Washington last summer and hang out with some super rad couples for their big days! We absolutely fell in love with Washington and can’t wait to go back – especially to the San Juan Islands. Below is a gallery of M + J’s San Juan Island elopement that shows off the beauty these islands hold. But before we showcase their elopement, we want to talk about the logistics of a San Juan Island elopement. Like anything in life that is unfamiliar territory, navigating the San Juan Islands can feel overwhelming. Planning ahead for our trip was not something to be lax about. There are ferries and harbors, and at certain times of the day the ferries stop and if you don’t plan ahead you could get stuck on the island! Maybe not everyone would see this as a bad thing, but the idea of getting stuck on the island raises my heartbeat just a tad. 😅 So if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to plan ahead and make sure you’re prepared and know what to expect when planning for your San Juan Island elopement.
Before we get into all the planning logistics, let’s talk basics. What are the San Juans Islands?
A Quick Lesson of the San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are a cluster of 172 islands off the coast of Washing state. There are 4 islands that are accessible by ferry: San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Shaw Island, and Lopez Island. Make your ferry reservations here, and keep reading about how to get to the islands.
What are the San Juan Islands known for?
Whenever I’m visiting a new place, I like to look up the history, and what the location is known for. Some locations are known for specific things, whether it’s the history, attractions, infrastructure, wildlife, or just the beauty of the landscape. There are two things the San Juan Islands are mostly known for. These two things are kayaking, and whale watching. Click here for more fun facts about the San Juans.
The San Juan Islands are known for their world-class kayaking. With hundreds of islands to choose from, you’re almost guaranteed privacy when you kayak out to an island to explore or camp.
The San Juans Islands are considered the best place in the world to observe Orcas (Killer) Whales in the wild.
How to get to the San Juan Islands
Getting to the San Juan Islands can be done a few ways. There is one thing to keep in mind though, which is the shorter your stay, the more important it is to plan ahead.
Coming from Out of State
If you’re going to the San Juans Islands from out of state you’ll want to fly into either SEA (Seattle-Tacoma), or BLI (Bellingham International Airport) in Washington. From either airport, you’ll then want to drive to Anacortes, WA. Anacortes is ~2-hour drive from SEA and ~1-hour drive from BLI. You’ll board a Washington State Ferry in Anacortes, WA which will take you to the islands. If you’re wanting to cut down on drive time in the Spring through Fall, and you’ll be flying into Sea-Tac, there is the option to take the Clipper from Seattle to Friday Harbor (terminal on San Juan Island), but just know that you can not take your vehicle on the Clipper.
The Clipper ferry is a foot-traffic-only ferry that takes passengers from Seattle to Friday Harbor from spring through fall. Learn more about the Clipper here.
The Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry system in the U.S. If you’re planning on taking your car over to the islands, plan ahead and make a reservation on their website. You can always calculate your trip cost beforehand also. If you’re planning on boarding the ferry by foot or by bicycle, it’s important to note that you won’t be able to make a reservation, the reservation system is for vehicles only.
What to expect when going to the ferry?
Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled loading time. In peak seasons we would recommend arriving 90 minutes early and being prepared to wait in a long line. There will be workers all around and near the line who orchestrate the process of getting onto the ferry. It’s nothing to nervous about! There are bathrooms, vending machines, plenty of places to sit and relax, and amazing views during the ride.
Puget Sound Express
The Puget Sound Express is another foot-traffic-only ferry that travels from Port Townsend to Friday Harbor. Learn more about the Puget Sound Express here.
If you have even the slightest bit of an adventurous side, I bet flying in a seaplane is on your bucket list. Consider taking a private flight over to the islands in a seaplane! And if you’re considering this for your elopement, REACH OUT TO US! It’s on our bucket list to photograph a couple on their elopement day experiencing a seaplane flight.
What to do during your San Juan Island Elopement?
Deciding what to do on your elopement day is a super personal decision. Everyone’s ideas on what a good day looks like are completely different from one person to the next. Take some time to sit down with your partner and really think this over. Try to plan activities that the two of you are sure to enjoy, together. Below are some ideas for what to do during your San Juan Island elopement.
The San Juan Islands are known for their world-class kayaking! The Salish Sea is just waiting for you to paddle around. If you’re not experienced with kayaking, we’re not saying you shouldn’t kayak on your day if it’s something you really want, but just keep in mind that the currents of the Salish Sea can be swift and treacherous in places. Consider going with an outfitter if you’re not experienced.
One of our favorite activities for any elopement is to do a bit of hiking. If you’re willing to put in a little extra leg work (literally) you’re sure to have a bit more privacy.
Sight Seeing and Taking in the Views
It’s no secret that San Juan Island has amazing views. If you are or aren’t down for a hike, there are plenty of places to go to soak up the views and to get an incredible backdrop for your ceremony. One of our favorite spots at the top of Young Hill. You can hike to the Top of Young Hill for a great view of all the other islands.
Sometime during your elopement, you’ll probably get hungry. A lot of couples opt for a picnic! It’s super romantic and different. I know for us, the idea of a picnic sounds super fun and romantic, but we never actually have a picnic. So why not have one on your elopement day? It’s the perfect day to splurge on your favorite foods and sweet treats. Consider hiring a private chef, or stop by the San Juan Island Farmers Market to pick up your own ingredients for your picnic.
If you’re looking for an activity to do together that’s more mellow, consider a wine tasting. San Juan Island has a few options to choose from!
It’s true, the San Juans Islands are considered the best place in the world to observe Orcas (Killer) Whales in the wild. Sit back, enjoy the view, and point out when you see one! It probably won’t be the only one you see!
Explore Friday Harbor
If you’re looking for more of an urban vibe for your big day, consider exploring Friday Harbor. There are tons to see, do, and explore. Exploring this little town was one of my favorite parts of vising the island.
Bike Ride with Stunning Views
Just driving along the two scenic byways is an activity in itself, but imagine cruising with the wind in your hair while taking in the views. The Scenic Byway North & Scenic Byway South & West are must-do’s when going to San Juan Island.
Places to Eat for your San Juan Island Elopement
Dine Out at one of these San Juan Islands restaurants.
Bonfire at South Beach
A bonfire on the beach is an excellent way to end your San Juan Island elopement. Bring a blanket and snuggle up to your honey while enjoying the sounds of the waves crashing against the sunset.
Take a scenic flight
Take a scenic flight and soak in the views while being hundreds of feet high in the sky above the San Juan Islands.
Stargaze at the Lavender Farms
The lavender farms are free of charge and open to the public after dark making it the best spot for a romantic evening for your elopement.
Explore a Lighthouse During Sunset
There are two lighthouses on San Juan Island. Exploring a lighthouse for your elopement could be super fun for any couple, especially while catching the sunset.
Meet Your Elopement Photographers
We are Alex & Kelly. We help couples like you create an incredible elopement experience, and photograph it. We are with you through every step of the planning process, and we have a process in place to ensure we ask the right questions to bring your dream elopement to life. Review our Pricing Page, and reach out to get the exclusive Pricing Guide only for our inquiries couples. We can’t wait to get started! Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch super soon 😃