Lopez Island

Lopez Island in the San Juans, easy to get to from Anacortes, which is about 90 minutes north of Seattle. The ferry for a vehicle with kayaks on top (over 7’6″ is about $40, and free to return) is reasonable, and almost free if you walk on carrying your kayak.

The San Juan Islands, an easy ferry ride from Anacortes.

You could spend a lot more than a week touring the island and fishing. We did five days–two touring and three fishing. Our tours included Spencer Spit, Watmough Bay, and the NWR islands west of Mackaye Harbor. We fished out of Mackaye Harbor and Fisherman Bay. You can buy tackle and fishing licenses at Fisherman Bay, as well as rent kayaks and bicycles (Lopez is a hot bed of cycling on the weekends).

Paddling routes, 5 to 8 miles long.

We were lucky with the current, never getting into anything greater than 2 knts. We did experience a few white caps and even some rumbling from the San Juan Channel, which is west of Lopez, and we avoided the straights toward the south end of the channel, so we can’t comment on what might be experienced there. The following BSB charts detail the areas paddled.

Mackaye Harbor: Lots of harbor seals and birds on the NWR islands to the west.


Watmough Bay: Attractive paddling in, exceedingly attractive when you sit on the beach and look out at Fidalgo Island and Mt. Baker in the distance.


This is a fun paddle, from Port Stanley to the park, then around Frost Island. There is an occasional harbor seal on the rocks around Flower Island.


The fishing is reputed to be good outside the mouth of this bay and to the south along the coast. If the gill net boats are out, you need to be upstream of them or you will catch nothing.


The typical paddle is open water with possible rip tides, so look at your maps and current tables before setting out. The shore is typically rocky, with the occasional cove with a small pebble beach. It’s hard to tell which beaches are private, so you really need to study small scale (detailed) maps to find them. There is more public shoreline than is depicted in the county and state parks.

Kayaking along the rocky shore and slicing through the bull kelp.

Watmough Bay: Fidalgo Island and Mt Baker make the scene directly across the water. There is access to island roads about 1,000′ feet through the woods to the west.

Fishing from the double Osprey–the contraption on the forward deck is a design out of Coast and Kayak magazine (spring, page 36), the best free kayaking mag ever.