Planning a San Juan Island Elopement
The San Juan Islands are a collection of islands in Washington. They are located between the mainland state and Vancouver Island in British Columbia!
The islands offer a true slice of paradise in the Pacific Northwest and are home to some incredible adventures and amazing natural beauty. For any couple who wants to tie the knot somewhere magical, a San Juan Island elopement is absolutely perfect!
But, planning your elopement means narrowing down which of the San Juan Islands is right for you. Also, a few other logistics that come with planning an adventurous wedding day. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to plan an elopement in the San Juan Islands. It will also give you some tips for the perfect day.
First things first, the San Juan Islands are made up of hundreds of islands. Some of them are the size of a kayak and disappear when the tide comes up. Others are small and privately owned. There are also some while that is ready for you to explore!
The four main islands are Lopez, Orcas, San Juan, and Shaw Islands. They are accessible by ferry. Off of these, there are many smaller islands that you can take a boat, kayak, or paddleboard to!
To narrow down which of the San Juan Islands you should elope on, here’s a list of the best ones. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include every island (that list would be long!). Part of my job as an elopement photographer is to help you find the perfect elopement location for you!
Lopez Island is perfect for travelers who want to get away from the hustle and bustle and disconnect, spending their elopement day in nature! This charming island is rural, with a small town and lots of rolling farmland, lush forests, quiet bays, and rugged beaches. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the island has attracted artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, farmers, and people who want to live amongst the gorgeous nature!
Orcas Island is referred to by locals as “the gem of the San Juans.” It’s covered in rural, hilly land, with lush forests, gorgeous lakes, and rocky beaches that offer amazing getaways in nature. Cyclists love this island’s curvy roads that wind through forests and fields. It’s a great place for a San Juan Island elopement if you want to hike in the parks, go on a kayaking trip, or rent a bike!
San Juan Island is home to Friday Harbor, a small, walkable hub with local shops, restaurants, and more. But, venture further onto the island and you’ll find stunning nature, a scenic drive along country roads, and Lime Kiln Point State Park. This is known as one of the best places in the world to spot orcas from the shoreline! It used to be that you could watch from the shoreline and be nearly guaranteed to spot the majestic creatures, but unfortunately, these days it’s becoming rarer due to changes in the ecosystem. Though you may still spot orcas from the shore, along with porpoises, sea lions, and other creatures, taking a whale-watching tour is the best way to see them!
Patos Island is a small, remote island in San Juans. It’s only accessible by boat and covered by Patos Island State Park. This is a stunning marine park that encompasses the gorgeous forest and the shoreline. The small island is an amazing elopement location for couples who want a remote spot with incredible scenery!
Posey Island is another remote, small island in San Juans, and it’s an incredible spot for kayak camping! The only way to get here is on the water, so you can rent a kayak or take a paddleboard out to the island, and camp in the park along the shoreline. On the island, you’ll find meadow grasses, tree groves, and wildflowers!
Shaw Island is the smallest of the four main islands that you can reach by ferry, and it’s a great little getaway with lots of culture and history, along with forest views and beaches to relax on. It’s also the most rural of the “big four” San Juan Islands, with only a small general store, post office, and country park at the ferry terminal, and the rest of the island is covered in natural beauty!
Getting to the San Juan Islands is part of the adventure! They’re separated from the mainland of Washington by the Rosario Strait, so you’ll need to plan ahead.
If you’re flying in for your elopement, you’ll start by taking a flight to either the SeaTac Airport in Seattle or the smaller Bellingham International Airport.
After you land, or if you’re driving distance away, you’ll need to take a ferry to get to the San Juan Islands for your elopement. You can walk or take a bike onto the ferry, or take your car – a car will be convenient for getting around the islands, but depending on your plans you may not need one.
If you’re driving, you will definitely need a reservation for the ferry – especially in the summer, it gets really busy, and without a reservation, you’ll be waiting for a long time to get on board! You can check the ferry schedule, along with prices, on the Washington State Ferries website. Reservations become available two months in advance, and I recommend making your reservation as soon as possible to ensure a spot!
There is a reservation fee that is only charged if you don’t show up, so once you actually get to the terminal you will pay the full cost of the ferry. Make sure to reserve your spot there as well as your spot back!
For some extra adventure, you can even take a float plane from Seattle to the San Juan Islands instead of the ferry!
Once you’re in the San Juan Islands, you can travel between the main four islands by ferry, or get to the smaller, remote islands by boat, kayak, or paddleboard.
The best time for a San Juan Island elopement is early fall. The islands are pretty busy from April through October, with July and August bringing the peak of tourist season. Summers are amazing, warm and sunny, and perfect for outdoor adventures. However, planning your elopement for early fall will be the best option for avoiding some of the crowds while still enjoying the great weather!
Though the San Juan Islands rarely get too cold, winter and spring are often rainy! Not quite as rainy as Seattle, but there’s still a good chance you’ll encounter gloomy days this time of year. However, it can be a great way to avoid crowds and enjoy some discounts on lodging!
If the natural beauty, remote locations, and amazing adventures of the San Juan Islands are calling your name… it’s time to start planning your elopement!
As your elopement photographer, I’ll be here for everything you need. From moral support as you navigate planning your elopement to personalized location recommendations, places to stay, things to do, and of course, documenting your one-of-a-kind, incredible connection.
Ready for your very own San Juan Island elopement?
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