Washington National Parks + the San Juan Islands [Part 1]

Sunset on Mt. Constitution.

Back at the end of May into June, my boyfriend and I headed up to the Pacific Northwest to visit friends and hang out in nature. (Spoiler alert: I fell in love with Washington.)

The trip was amazing, and I’m already thinking about how to go back as soon as possible. I’m hoping to return for a deeper dive into all the area has to offer, but we hit several of the outdoor highlights that are well worth the visit.

If you’re planning a trip to this part of the country, here’s an outline of our itinerary to offer some suggestions (and hopefully some travel inspiration – just do it. #Nike.)


Day 1:

Flight to Seattle – we reserved an entire Saturday for this, so we could get in, relax for the rest of the night, and hopefully adjust to Pacific time.

Day 2:

The morning after we arrived, we headed for the Boeing Factory in Everett, WA to take the tour.

Know before you go:no cameras or cell phones are allowed on the tour, but there are free lockers available on-site. I’d advocate for using the bathroom before you get on the bus, and be prepared for a fair amount of walking.

The factory tour is awesome. My boyfriend is super into planes, so it was obviously great for him. Even with my limited knowledge of the industry, it was really cool to see how something goes from nothing to, you know, a big-ass plane.

Apparently, on certain nights Boeing employees bring the planes across an overpass between facilities. This means that you could be driving down the highway and glance up in time to see a giant 747 casually rolling across the road above your head.

Later in the day, we spent time with a friend from college on the gorgeous horse farm where she lives with her horse. A walk through the woods in the state park just across the street left us sweaty, feet covered in dirt, and smiling.

Finally, we ended the day by meeting up with other people we knew from school for dinner in the city.

Side note: the weather was unusually sunny throughout our entire trip, so my view of Seattle is skewed in a stupidly optimistic direction.

The San Juan Islands

We dedicated the largest chunk of our trip┬áto visiting the San Juan Islands, which, according to the New York Times, is a good “less-trafficked” alternative summer vacation spot to Vail. Take that, Vail.

Day 3:

Friday Harbor

Today, we took the ferry to Friday Harbor, a gorgeous town on San Juan Island, WA.

We’d rented a car, so we drove right onto the ferry. (I’d recommend arriving with plenty of time to get in the car line!)

Whale watching is a pretty big expense, but when I travel to places like this I want to get the most out of it. So, our first order of business in Friday Harbor was the whale watching tour we’d booked. (It soon became one of my favorite vacation activities ever.)

The investment is super worth it – seeing the whales was absolutely incredible.

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We booked with Western Prince Whale and Wildlife Tours and had a great experience. Case in point: our captain paused on our way back to the harbor because there were reports of a humpback whale, even though we were getting close to the time we were allotted for the tour.

Sure enough, we were treated to this beauty swimming right up and spraying the boat:

Humpback Whale

Know before you go: Bring layers! We weren’t on the more “adventurous” boats that go super fast and get even closer to the whales, but the wind still whipped us around when we were riding to and from the whale-spotting area.

After whale watching came ice cream at Friday Harbor Ice Cream Co., which was pretty decent if not life-changing.

Later, we drove around San Juan Island, marveling at beautiful cliffs and pausing to explore a driftwood beach.

Driftwood Beach on San Juan Island

We also stopped by an alpaca farm. A herd of fuzzy alpaca faces looked up at us for a brief moment before returning to their respite from the rainy mist in the trees.

Finally, the day ended with sunset at our peaceful campsite.

Sunset on San Juan Island

Day 4:

This morning we drove to Roche Harbor, a town on the other side of San Juan Island that had the nicest public restrooms I’ve ever frequented.

We stopped off at Lime Kiln Cafe for brunch, ignored the politics playing on the TVs, then popped off to shop for future homes. (Just kidding. But it was a beautiful area.)

After brunch, we drove back to Friday Harbor. Rain was in the afternoon forecast (finally, to be honest), but we rented bikes from Meat Machine Cycles anyways.

Biking a loop around the peninsula east of Friday Harbor was absolutely beautiful. Spoiler alert: once we reached the beach halfway through our route, it started to pour.

Luckily, we only had to hide out for a bit beneath the overhang of a sketchy public restroom on the beach. Overall, a win.

Again, we were so lucky with the weather – a little rain, but plenty of warmth and sunshine, too!

After grabbing dinner to-go, we drove onto the ferry to Orcas Island. Our campsite for the night in Moran State Park was one of the most picturesque I’ve ever seen. (Just look at that water.)

Our campsite on Orcas Island

It was rather cloudy, but we were still able to drive up Mt. Consitution’s windy road to catch the sunset. (Driving is cheating, I know, but we hiked it the next day.)

Day 5:

Orcas Island

Halfway through our trip, we woke up early (but not too early…it was foggy) to hike Mt. Constitution, for which the trail was right near our campsite.

Hiking Mt. Constitution

Despite the fog nixing our thoughts of a sunrise hike, the trip was quiet and dreamy. By the time we got to the top, construction workers were already up and at ’em working on the stone observation tower that, according to the internet, the Civilian Conservation Corps built in 1936.

3 full days to go, and I was having a great time forgetting that emails and responsibilities exist. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Washington tour!


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