Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island Photo: Yusia/

Island Exploration

In and around Puget Sound, Pacific Northwest islands make for fun-filled getaways packed with outdoor adventure. Best of all, they’re only a day trip from Seattle.

Bainbridge Island

The 35-minute trip to this island via Washington State Ferries (801 Alaskan Way, Pier 52 has long been a must for glorious skyline views. After docking at the ferry terminal, dive right into nature at the renowned Bloedel Reserve (7571 NE Dolphin Dr), which includes 150 acres and a Japanese garden. Tackle more serious hikes at Grand Forest (9752 Miller Rd NE), featuring eight miles of flat trails winding among firs and cedars. Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve is another favorite with 444.6 acres of forests and untouched wetland. Stroll a route that swings by Close Beach, where the shore can unfurl postcard-perfect glimpses of the Olympic Mountains. For info about how to explore Bainbridge without a car, see page 75.

Whidbey Island

About 25 miles north of Seattle, catch a ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island. Hikers and cyclists congregate at Ebey’s Landing, a national historic reserve where coastal bluffs rise into forests and pioneer-settled prairies. Meanwhile divers submerge 3.5 miles south at Fort Casey Underwater Park (1280 Engle Rd, Coupeville), near Crockett Lake, a popular kayaking and bird-watching stop. For even more dramatic views and adrenaline-spiked aquatic adventures, head to Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey’s northern tip.

Camano Island

A 90-minute drive north of Seattle, climb into Camano’s towering trees with a Canopy Tours Northwest (332 NE Camano Dr) zipline. Or pedal the 50-mile Classic Camano Island Loop, which traces the shore’s perimeter—it intersects with the Stanwood Amtrak (27111 Florence Way, Stanwood) station for car-free travelers.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island Photo: Yusia/

San Juan Islands

This 172-island archipelago, which was named a national monument in 2013, is located 105 miles northwest of Seattle. Catch a ferry from Anacortes, or pick a transportation and tour option departing from Seattle, such as Kenmore Air, Clipper Vacations, and Evergreen Escapes. Once you arrive, don’t miss the laid-back small towns and stunning state parks, including Lime Kiln Point State Park, one of the world’s best places to see orcas from land.


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