Shaw Island is the least developed of the four San Juan Islands served by regular ferries. The island is home to a few hundred tranquillity-loving residents who like the solitude of the island and want to keep it undeveloped. If you enjoy leisurely drives (or bike rides) in the country, Shaw Island makes a good day trip from any of the other three islands. However, there are no hotels, B&Bs, or restaurants, only a general store at the ferry landing and one small county park down at the south end of the island. The park, Shaw Island County Park (tel. 360/378-1842 or 360/378-8420; www.co.san-juan.wa.us/parks/shaw.html), does, however, have a small campground (that takes summer reservations) and is popular with sea kayakers.
The Other San Juan Islands: Sea-Kayak Trips & Charter Boat Cruises
If you want to explore some of the other San Juan Islands that are not served by the ferries, you'll need a boat. Sailboats, powerboats, and sea kayaks are all popular vessels for exploring these other islands, and during the summer months, the waters are full of vessels of all shapes and sizes. Although many of the islands are private property, a few are, or have on them, state parks with campsites. If you want to find out about these marine parks, contact the Washington State Parks Information Center (tel. 360/902-8844; www.parks.wa.gov). Those without their own boat can still visit some of these islands either on a multi-day kayak tour, on a boat excursion, or on a charter boat cruise.
Charter boats, both motorboats and sailboats, can also be hired for multi-day cruises around the San Juan Islands. This is the easiest (not the cheapest) way to see some of these outer islands. Anchoring in secluded coves, exploring marine parks, scanning the skies for bald eagles, spying on orcas, porpoises, and sea lions -- these are the activities that make a charter cruise through the San Juans such a memorable experience.
Fantasy Cruises (tel. 800/234-3861 or 206/328-4145; www.sanjuanislandcruises.com) offers 7-day, 6-night cruises through the San Juan Islands. These cruises, aboard a 130-foot cruise ship that carries fewer than 30 passengers, stop not only in the San Juans, but at other picturesque area ports including Coupeville and Nanaimo, British Columbia. Boats can also be chartered through Anacortes Yacht Charters (tel. 800/233-3004; www.ayc.com), which has both powerboats and sailboats in its fleet.