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San Juan Islands in mid Oct

We are planning a 5 1/2 day trip to the San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor for 3 and 2 1/2 on Orcas Island with a car.

Looking for whale watching, short biking, other outdoor activities, short hikes recommendations for a short trip? Too cold for kayaking in Oct?

Also I am vegan so if you can recommend any good vegan, great seafood, breakfast places, my husband is not vegan.

Thanks so much, I know everyone always has great suggestions on this forum

Posted by
11501 posts

First week of Oct will be very different than the last week of the month.

What may be pleasant to do will depend on when you are there.

Posted by
8638 posts

There is definitely an "off season", I'm just not sure when it starts. I went to the San Juans in April and many of the usual stores/restaurants were closed. You might want to contact any specific restaurants etc in advance and ask when they switch their hours.

Posted by
6788 posts

October is very much a transition month. The weather you get mid-month is hard to predict -- suggest you be ready for anything.

For whale watching, check out Maya's Legacy, out of Friday Harbor. Bring a camera with a zoom lens if you can.

Both islands are beautiful.

Posted by
16899 posts

Do you mean Friday Harbor (on San Juan Island) AND Orcas Island? You could end up spending quite a lot of time in line waiting for ferries. The main ferries take reservations, but the inter-island ferry does not. Most of the locals on the TripAdvisor forum advise sticking to either Orcas or San Juan Island for a short trip. Most of the whale-watching tours depart from Friday Harbor.

You will have to be careful with dates, as by mid-October some of the whale-watching tours and kayaking tours will have ceased. I saw a last date of October 17 for one whale-watching boat, but I did not check others. And for kayaking, I saw end dates of Oct. 7 and Oct. 13. One place on Orcas did not offer any guided kayaking in October at all. And the San Juan’s are not a place where you can just rent a kayak and go without a guide—-the tides, currents, and changing conditions make that unsafe, unless you are deep in protected harbor.

Early October can be really nice up here, but in my experience (from 30+ years of living here, and spending lots of time outdoors hiking, biking, and kayaking) the weather generally “turns” in sometime mid-October and becomes cold, cloudy, and/or rainy. So the earlier in October you can come, the better.

Posted by
134 posts

Thank you all for the great info. We plan on arriving in Friday Harbor San Juan Island mid day on the 13th and returning mid day on the 18th from Orcas.
We are at the will of our pet sitter and this is the only time we can get away and have always wanted to see the islands. So we will prepare for any weather, thanks

Posted by
6788 posts

As a long-time resident of nearby Seattle, I can provide some reassurance about the weather: early October is usually lovely, and a great time to visit (caveat: if there are very bad wildfires, it can be a miserable time to visit or live here...fires will burn until the rains start, which is always some unknown date in October).

Generally speaking, the rains don't start until later in October (often just as the local kids are putting on their fragile costumes on Halloween...). October 13-18 (square in the middle of the month) should be fine, and in fact is an ideal time to visit the San Juans, since that's right about the time when the peak summer tourist season will become a fading memory. Your pet sitter picked a good time for you to hit the sweet spot, between crowds/high prices and weather.

Yes, do bring rain gear and layers just in case, but I would bet you'll get nice weather.

Posted by
267 posts

We can't help you on accommodations as we stayed aboard our boat in the Islands. Try the Nanimo bars in Friday Hbr - usually good. We found the restaurants on both islands to be somewhat uneven from day to day but when good they are very good. If you are renting a car on the mainland, you MUST have ferry reservations. Even then, the line up is long and forms early. We have used a cab or bikes from Friday Hbr and bikes on Orcas. You used to be able to rent kayaks at Rosario and have them taken to British Camp. It is safe to kayak there - not overly exciting but safe. We have seen kayakers in Friday Hbr proper. Not so safe elsewhere except for the experienced with dry suits, etc; or with a tour group providing such equipment. Wind and tide can be wicked. Occasionally orcas are seen from Lime KiIn Point and the south shore of San Juan Is.

Posted by
134 posts

Thanks again for all the wonderful suggestions, we will hope for the best but prepare for all kinds of weather.

Posted by
134 posts

Just wanted to thank all of you for your wonderful suggestions and advice.
We just returned this week and what an amazing place. We spent 3 1/2 days on San Juan Island and 1 1/2 days on Orcas. We had amazing weather, low 70's everyday and mid 50's at night. What a beautiful place, stayed at Earthbox Inn, very nice, friendly staff comfortable, no view, but great location you can walk to everything in Friday Harbor. We did bring a rental car, really the best way to see the entire Island.
We found everyone was very friendly and loved that it's very dog friendly .Loved the food at Mikes Cafe and Wine Bar on 2nd street, unbelievable vegan food with a fabulous wine list. We also loved Wescott Bay Oysters near Roche Harbor, couldn't of been fresher right out of the bay.

Orcas Island stayed at Outlook Inn, amazing view right on the bay, lovely New Leaf Restaurant on site.
Such a beautiful place.

Posted by
6670 posts

Thanks for this follow-up posting, Monica. I know other posters appreciate the thanks and feedback. And glad you had good weather and a good time. Rain started Friday and it's cooler and wetter through the rest of the month, so your timing was perfect. Most of us are glad to see it as we hadn't had any appreciable rain since early June and things were drying out a little more than we're used to. Luckily we didn't have too many serious smoke days, at least not here in south Puget Sound.

Come again, we love visitors who pay our high sales tax so we don't have to pay income tax. ;-)