We camped the first night on the islands at San Juan County Park on the west coast of San Juan Island (this was also our launching point the following morning). This was a great place to camp and look for Orca Whales while watching the sun set.
After lunch we continued north across the Salish Sea (and the ferry route so kept our eyes open!), to the west of Spieden Island and up through the channel between Stuart and Johns Islands.
Day 2 - Stuart Island to Point Doughty
The next morning, the tide was coming in, so we planned on staying on Stuart Island for the morning. We took a nice hike to Turn Point Lighthouse. The trail is actually a dirt road, but there are few cars on the island. We walked by the Stuart Island school. It was really interesting to see old class pictures of the small number of students that attended the school, and they had some artwork by the children for sale as well.
When we got to Orcas Island we took a short break on a beach before continuing up the west coast. I think the beach we stopped at was close to Lover's Cove, but I don't know for sure.
Day 3 - Point Doughty to Jones Island
The next morning we took off pretty early and it was raining and foggy. Because I'm a self-proclaimed sun worshiper, most people would think I could not enjoy a morning like this. But quite the contrary in a place like the San Juan Islands. These are their most special mornings. These mornings, the water is like glass and the seals and bald eagles and other creatures are all out enjoying the quiet morning.
This morning/afternoon was the only other sketchy moment on our trip. We had to cross another ferry route, which was a pretty wide channel, with some choppy waves, and several large eddies. I was pretty anxious for moments of the crossing, but it went fine. Again, we went around the west side of Turn Island because there were some people already camping on the north side. We had the west side of the island to ourselves all evening, and I'm now realizing why wouldn't you go with the west side? Best sunset views from there!
Day 5 - Turn Island to San Juan Island
We got up early on the fifth day because Allyson and I planned on catching a morning ferry to Victoria, Canada. This morning was one of my favorite memories of the trip. I have no pictures because it was raining pretty steadily and it was just too magical to take out the camera. The water was, again, perfect glass. We paddled around Turn Point, and along this stretch, I've never seen so many Harbor Seals and pups in my life. With the water so perfectly calm, we could see their little heads pop up really far away from us (and really close). They were everywhere!
I think we took our kayaks out at Jackson Beach Road, but I'm not positive. It was a boat launch (motorized), and the taxi came to pick us and our kayaks up there. The taxi then dropped us off in Friday Harbor and then took the kayaks back to Sea Quest Expeditions for us. (Don't quote me on this, but my notes say this shuttle service cost us $40 per kayak each way, so $160 total.)
We were soggy, smelly, and cold, but Allyson and I hopped the ferry to Victoria, where we had the most luxurious hotel room (sure felt like it after 5 days in the water). After a hot shower, we felt so satisfied with our kayaking adventure and were ready to enjoy the rest of our time in the Pacific Northwest on land!
Just a few of my other favorite pictures from our time in Victoria and on Orcas Island...
Other Self-Guided Kayaking Options in the San Juan Islands
I recommend contacting Outer Island Expeditions on Orcas Island. They will rent kayaks for multiple days and can help you plan out a good trip. From here (you can put the kayaks in here at the north short of Orcas Island), you could go to Point Doughty, Jones Island, Blind Island, and Obstruction Pass State Park. When I last spoke with them, they offered to pick us up at Obstruction Pass. This is a good beginner route. You could even fit Turn Island in there between Jones and Blind, if you were comfortable crossing the big channel.