Lawrence Cheek

San Juan forays usually begin at the Washington State Ferryterminal in Anacortes. The boats deliver cars and foot traffic toSan Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw Islands. The ferry system isoverstressed in summer; weekend waits of four to six hours for carsare common. One strategy is to not take a car ― book anisland bike or moped rental or arrange pickup by your hotel orB&B. The other is to avoid weekend travel.

Peak tourist season is June through September. The localsecret is that October is the best month, offering moderateweather, few crowds, and (sometimes) off-peak rates. In winter,some businesses and accommodations close, and activities such askayaking and whale-watching are dormant.

Lodging is relatively expensive in the San Juans; in thehigh season, it's hard to find anything for less than $100 a night.Reservations are essential. Here, too, a September or October visitbrings more choices.

Orca-watching in the islands should be good through summer.Numerous companies run whale-watching trips out of San Juan andOrcas Islands. Costs generally average about $50 for a three- tofour-hour tour.

Ferry schedules: (206) 464-6400 or www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/.

Washington State Parks: (360) 902-8844 or www.parks.wa.gov.

San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce: (360) 378-5240 or www.sanjuanisland.org.

Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce: (360) 376-2273 or www.orcasisland.org.

Lopez Island Chamber of Commerce: www.lopezisland.com.

San Juan Islands Visitor Information Service: (360)468-3663.

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