Say farewell to worry and stress and say hello to the mellow island vibe, a temperate year-round climate, and long, lazy hours of doing just what you want. Count on temperatures around 70° in the summer and 40° in the winter. A happy confluence of weather systems also accounts for the high level of air quality you’ll appreciate across the San Juans. So relax—you’re on “island time” now!

There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County. Three ferry served Islands, San Juan Island (with the county seat Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, and Lopez Island are the most populous and host the vast majority of lodging and dining options and tourism activities. Shaw Island is also accessible by ferry but has limited camping and visitor amenities.

1. What is your destination most known for?
The San Juan Islands of Washington State are renowned as a watchable wildlife destination. Rocky shorelines, old-growth forest, and the serene Salish Sea create a habitat for an eclectic mix of wildlife species. It’s a marine mammal-lovers paradise from striking acrobatic black and white orca whales to giant humpback whales or shy minke whales. Raucous sea lions, playful seals, otters, and dolphins round out the motley crew of marine mammals. On land, watch for red fox hunting rabbits, nesting bald eagles, and black-tailed deer in our many waterfront parks. Discover a miniature universe in shoreline tide pools or clinging to marina docks. Here colorful sea stars, crabs, and anemones feast in nutrient-rich waters.

The Islands were nick-named the “Gourmet Archipelago” by Lonely Planet magazine for good reason. With fresh fish at their fingertips and Island farms producing everything from kiwi fruit to goat cheese, Kobe beef, and Mangalitsa pork, it’s no wonder our chefs are world-renowned. Dine alfresco at three shellfish farms and sample the Islands’ award-winning liquid arts scene at three breweries, two distilleries, three vineyards, and two cideries. The eat-local ethic extends to restaurants that rely on onsite farms or partner with local farms to source the freshest ingredients. 

2. During this season, what are some must-see attractions?
Ideal for anyone who loves spending time outside, the temperate climate may require only an extra waterproof layer stuffed in a backpack while hiking or biking through towering evergreens or paddling or sailing across the calm waters of the Salish Sea. Spring is wildflower season in the Islands – vivid orange poppies will be beginning to bloom along the roadsides, delicate camas flowers create purple starbursts through grassy meadows, and chocolate lilies sprinkle across the bluffs. You won’t find fast food, stoplights, or Jet Skis, you will find hidden forest paths, sweeping shorelines, and a mosaic of wildlife. A bald eagle surveying his dominion from the top of a snag, a sea lion basking on the rocks, and the orca draping a strand of kelp around her fluke. Spring is also prime time for humpback whales returning to the Salish Sea. Twice the size of orcas, these leviathans are often no less frisky, and the sightings around the San Juans have continued to increase over recent years as mothers bring their calves for a visit.

3. What hidden gem should not be missed when visiting your destination?
Many pocket beaches at the American Camp unit of the San Juan Islands National Historical Park offer seclusion and fabulous views of Haro Strait with the snow-capped Olympic mountains in the background. Watch for whales and other marine mammals in Haro Strait.

4. What’s one feature that can’t be missed when visiting your website?
Please check out our media page at for story ideas and access to our extensive photo archive.

5. How did you hear about NATJA, and why did you join?
The San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau was a member of NATJA when I took my job and I’ve continued our active participation for the last eight years. Membership has nurtured connections and friendships that go far beyond mere business associations.

6. What criteria does the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau require when it comes to selecting the travel journalists chosen to work with?
First and foremost, I look for requests that demonstrate the writer has already done some research into the destination and has at least a tentative plan of what kind of story they’re interested in and where they plan/hope to publish. After that, I’m looking at what the writer’s niche(s) is, the writing style, and where they’ve been published before.

7. What are some of the resources you provide for travel media?
Our online media hub has story ideas, press releases, and image galleries to help get a writer started. I’ll connect a writer with locals who are a good fit for their story – whether it’s an in-person visit or an e-introduction. I am always happy to fact-check before anything’s published in case there’s been any business changes.

8. What sort of thinking process does the team go through when developing a marketing campaign for your destination?
Our primary mission is to drive tourism in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Any new marketing campaigns are usually centered around a particular niche that might not be as well-known. For example, our local food movement has put us on the map with Good Food Awards and James Beard nominations, and our annual fall campaign Savor the San Juans celebrates that. Currently in development is a campaign focused on the arts – the San Juans are an Arts Hot Spot in Washington for the number of artists we have per capita.

9. What is the thinking process that goes into the development of a press trip? Are they tailored differently for travel journalists and social media influencers?
I tend to handle press trips for journalists and influencers similarly – do my best to personalize based on the writer’s or influencer’s interests – book lodgings and activities they’ll enjoy, recommend places of interest, and set up meets with islanders that would be a good fit for the story. Unless there are scheduled meets or activities, the itineraries for journalists are open so it’s up to the writer’s inclination where to go when. If we’re partnering with an influencer, there’s usually more of an end goal with the content so the itinerary can be a bit tighter.

10. What are some of the ways that the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau works with fellow destinations?
We partner closely with other organizations like State of Washington Tourism, Visit Seattle, and the Port of Seattle. They sometimes arrange multi-destination press trips for writers and we’ll arrange a night or two on one of the Islands. We also work with other DMOs like Whidbey/Camano, Bellingham, and the Olympic Peninsula to create road trip itineraries for influencers.

11. Is there anything else you feel travel media should know about your destination?
We love working with journalists interested in soft outdoor adventure. We particularly value those who are committed to sharing stewardship messages such as the “Leave No Trace,” ( principles with readers. We prefer to craft individual press trips for adventurous journalists, giving them the freedom to explore and meet island characters independently, rather than one-size-fits-all group press trips.

We are a safe destination. Families and single women can relax knowing crime is not an issue in the Islands. And, all visitors, regardless of ethnicity or gender identity, are welcome.

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