Epic landscapes, fresh seafood, and wildlife watching opportunities right in your backyard — cycling Washington state’s San Juan Islands is an experience that folks travel internationally for, but without the stress or expense of vacationing abroad.
On a recent familiarization trip with Intrepid Travel, I was able to discover the islands all via pedal power. And even though I’m an avid (casual) biker — having biked as a lifestyle in many countries — it was my first time actually exploring entire islands with my own two feet!
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Cycling is such a fantastic way to travel more sustainably while also getting a sense of a destination more intimately, don’t you think? Not only can you take in the views of the countryside and start and stop whenever you’d like, but you can do so while reducing your environmental footprint.
If you are thinking about going on a biking tour around the San Juan Islands, read on! In this post, I will detail my experience and show you how you can experience this invigorating responsible adventure as well.
Cycling San Juan Islands in Washington
🚴♀️ What to Expect – Cycling Trip Overview
Length: 6 Days
Start/End: Anacortes, Washington (Fidalgo Island)
Mileage: 15 to 40 miles per day
Islands: Fidalgo, Orcas, and San Juan Island
Activities: Lime Kiln Point, Whale Watching (not included), Orcas Island & Mt Constitution, Lavender Farm, Pottery Studio, and more.
Inclusions: Hotels, meals (mainly breakfast and snacks), expert guides, bicycle gear (not including helmet or water bottle), guides, ferry crossings, and cycling support vehicle.
Cycling Washington’s San Juan Islands with Intrepid Travel
If you don’t know about them already, Intrepid Travel is the world’s largest adventure travel company. They are a recertified B-Corp and offer sustainable, experience-rich travel opportunities to the world’s most sought-after and off-the-beaten-path destinations, in line with their mission to create positive change through the joy of travel.
Among the tours they offer are coveted multi-day cycling trips around the world designed to take adventure travelers into the heart of a destination — one of them being right here in the picturesque San Juan Islands in the Salish Sea off the northwest Washington coast.
We experienced the condensed version of the San Juan Islands cycling tour. Six days turned into four, and we did about half the mileage (10-12 miles per day) instead of the regular 15–40 miles.
Should you book this tour, you will experience it all in a much slower, casually-paced way than I did — leaving you ample time for rest and recovery, plus visiting the sites and attractions of Fidalgo Island, Orcas Island, and San Juan Island.
If you want to get a sneak peek into what the islands look like, scroll down! If you wish to DIY cycling the San Juan Islands on your own, you can do that too but note that you’ll need to plan all your ferry crossings, hotels, breaks, transport, and activities on your own.
Anacortes & Fidalgo Island
Anacortes on Fidalgo Island is the gateway to the San Juan Islands offering small-town PNW coastal charm. If you take a cycling tour, this is where you’ll start and stop your trip!
The closest international airport is the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. No airport transfers are provided, so you may consider taking the train up and grabbing a bus to reach Anacortes, or renting a car and possibly carpooling with fellow cyclists.
Once in Anacortes, you can stroll downtown, grab drinks on a rooftop bar, go stand-up paddling or sea kayaking, or go ahead and start your cycling trip with a loop of Fidalgo Island. If you are on Intrepid’s Cycling Tour, you will have a beautiful warm-up ride outside of Anacortes on Day 1 and complete a scenic and flat loop of Fidalgo Island on Day 6.
🏨 Where to stay in Anacortes: The Marina Inn
Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands, is considered the “gem of the islands” by locals. Watch whales from the coast or on a zodiac tour, hike old-growth trails, scout out cozy harbors and coves, and make the journey up to Mount Constitution — there are so many things to do on Orcas Island!
On this day, you’ll board the first ferry from Fidalgo Island to Orcas Island; keep an eye out for marine life! Once on land, you’ll start out the morning on a scenic ride to the charming village of Eastsound, passing coves, meadows, and beautiful farmland along the way.
The day will finish out with another ferry ride to San Juan Island, where you’ll stay for two nights at the quaint Orca Inn (known for having the smallest hotel rooms in the state of Washington!).
San Juan Island
On San Juan Island, you’ll be based out of the charming seaside town of Friday Harbor. This little town will invite you in and make you want to stay!
What you may see and do as you explore San Juan Island and Friday Harbor:
- Sites of the American and English Camps (San Juan Island National Historical Park)
- Pelindaba Lavender Farm — try the lavender-lemon sorbet! 🍋
- Paula West Pottery
- Whale watching tours (pre-book in advance!)
What to Pack to Cycle the San Juan Islands
- Helmet (mandatory)
- Bike-fitted water bottle (mandatory)
- Padded bike shorts – highly recommend!
- Cycling gloves – glad I brought these
- Day bag – convenient for packing camera, snacks, or layers
- Breathable shirts and sports bras
- Activewear or padded cycling leggings – I packed two leggings and two shorts for warmer/chillier days
- Quick-dry socks
- Rain jacket – this is Washington after all!
- Lightweight fleece jacket or wind jacket
- Sustainable sunnies and a hat
- Sunscreen – 30spf or 50spf recommended
- Sneakers or comfortable and light closed-toe shoes – my Allbirds were perfect for this trip!
- Cushioned bike seat and fitted pedals (optional)
Overall Thoughts & Takeaways
Cycling as a way of exploring a destination off-the-beaten path is an unforgettable experience! I have always thought a multi-day biking trip would be so much fun and now it’s confirmed. The next step is to cycle an entire country (or continent!).
If you are worried about the mileage of this trip, don’t be. I didn’t think I could do 10-12 miles per day easily but ended up knocking them out just fine and I think I could’ve done double mileage. Plus, there’s always the support vehicle there for you in case you want to skip out on one section of the ride.
If you have the chance to join the San Juan Islands cycling trip in the future, this is your sign to go for it! 🚴♀️ You won’t regret it. If you have any questions about logistics, the experience, etc, please drop your thoughts in the comments below.
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