One big thing (six tons big) that draws folks to the Pacific Northwest, Bellingham Bay & the San Juan Islands in particular, are our local Orca pods (J, K & L to be exact, although we do occasionally have transients meander through as well). Hands down, the best way to spot these magnificent marine mammals is with the eager assistance of the folks at San Juan Cruises, a team that have made tracking these, as well as Minke, Gray & Humpback whales, Bald eagles, Harbor seals, Dall’s Porpoises, Stellar & California sea lions, otters, and countless coastal birds, their mission.
A few weeks back, I was lucky enough to be invited onboard the Salish Sea, the smaller of 2 boats commissioned by San Juan Cruises, for a day of adventure on the high seas (or around Puget Sound). I arrived early, because it’s what I do, and was able to spend a bit of time enjoying a home cooked breakfast at Harris Ave Café, in downtown Fairhaven, before heading over to the Alaska Ferry Terminal. Known for its beautiful windows to the bay, the terminal is a popular place for weddings, family reunions, & fashion forward high school proms (SQHS/BHS class of ’00 – whoop whoop), the terminal is also the starting point for the many amazing day trips offered by San Juan Cruises.
Locally owned and operated since 1987, not only do they meander around the sound, with stops in Friday Harbor, La Conner, & Sucia Island, on the lookout for our gigantic, finned friends, but San Juan Cruises also offers a Chuckanut Bay Sunset Crab Cruise, Sucia Island Picnic Cruise, Bellingham Bay Brewers Cruise (yes this one involves beer), and (my personal favorite) the Un”Wine”d On The Bay Cruise. The latter features a different regions’ vino every week, with eleven cruises to pick from throughout the season. They also offer a unique Bird Watchers Cruise, catering to those that prefer winged over finned creatures.
Boarding just after 10am, and departing Fairhaven, I picked up a cold beer at the on-board snack bar and staked claim to one of the early morning sun warmed benches atop the Salish Sea. I gazed as Lummi, Cypress, an Guemes Islands moved passed. We made our way under the Deception Pass Bridge, through a current that’s so much stronger than it appears from above, and enjoyed a delicious meal of homemade lasagna, Caesar salad, garlic bread & double chocolate brownies.
Situated just far enough above the water to feel the lightest spray of the waves, we motored along under the steady hand of Captain Dale, who peppered the cruise with interesting tidbits of local history (Did you know the Deception Pass Bridge, which is actually 2 bridges, connects both Fidalgo & Whidbey Islands to the mainland, & stretches an astounding 1,487 feet? Oh, and its’ price tag, back in 1935 of course, only $482k!), wildlife fun facts (Black Oyster Eaters were christened with a misnomer; yes, they’re black, but they don’t actually eat oysters – they prefer mussels), & folk lore (Explorer John Conner wanted to name a local area after his wife, Louisa Anne, but also had a love for all things French, thus we’re left with La Conner).
Whether you’re looking to mark a special occasion- a birthday, anniversary, or family reunion – or for those like myself that are just looking for an excuse to spend a gorgeous day on the water, exploring the amazing hidden treasures that Washington has to offer, the crew of San Juan Cruises have the experience perfected.
Check out San Juan Cruises online at www.whales.com, & tell them Megs sent you! Oh, and be sure to snag your tickets sooner than later – this seasons’ cruises are sure to sell out fast!