Fall Dog-Friendly Fun in the San Juan Islands

I went decades living in the greater Pacific Northwest not ever visiting the San Juan Islands, but after my first visit, now I can't get enough! This time, we are taking our two favorite furry family members to enjoy this beautiful island in the fall. I will inevitably get some confusion about the San Juan's. Many people will assume that we are headed to Puerto Rico. The San Juan Islands are actually nestled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest and offer an incredibly picturesque destination for travelers wanting to experience the natural beauty of the islands. The islands are often hopping with visitors in the summer, but the fall season offers the chance to experience a quieter, more intimate charm that is perfect for travelers with four-legged companions! Come explore San Juan Island with me {and Milo and Frankie!}. 

fall fun in the san juan islands

Fall Dog-Friendly Fun in the San Juan Islands

fall fun san juan islands

The San Juan Islands

A Little Background About the San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago between Washington and Vancouver Island, BC. Sometimes my phone will think I'm in Canada when I'm on the islands that's how close you are. There was a little bit of a border dispute back in the day, which resulted in the Pig War in 1859, and while there were a lot of questions as to who actually had claim to the series of Islands, it was ultimately decided to be part of the United States based on an invisible line drawn between Canada and the US. 

The body of water that surrounds the area is known as the Salish Sea and it includes the Puget Sound and the straights of Georgia and Juan de Fuca.

There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan county, but there are only three ferry-served islands that give you access to lodging and tourist activities with the easiest accessibility. We chose to spend time on San Juan Island, but you can also explore Lopez Island, and Orcas Island. 

Don't miss this video {and caption} to see what we did on our day trip to Orcas Island.

Getting to the San Juan Islands

Before embarking on your pet-friendly adventure, it's essential to know how you are going to get to the San Juan Islands. There are only a few options since the San Juans are a true island. The primary mode of transportation to the islands is by ferry. The Washington State Ferry is dog-friendly! 

You can catch a ferry from Anacortes, Washington, which is approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Seattle. Ferries operate year-round and provide a beautiful journey through the Salish Sea. You will need to make reservations prior to sailing so there is room on the ferry to accommodate your vehicle. 

washington state ferry dog friendly

Pro Tip: The ferry schedule changes seasonally, so keep an eye on the various sailings available.

There are also several airline charter flights that make their way to the islands. From Seattle, it's 90 miles to the San Juan Islands and is one of the most beautiful routes! If you are headed to Friday Harbor, it's an easy 50-minute flight. My favorite pilot is my son, who took us up to the San Juan Islands several times this past summer. Kenmore Air is the other local favorite.

Pro Tip: The inside of a smaller aircraft can be quite noisy for sensitive dog ears. You can invest in dog ear muffs to help quiet the noise. While dogs are allowed on board {Kenmore Air allows one pet per flight}, this may not be the best option for comfort especially if you have a bigger dog {more than 25 pounds} that's never flown before. 

Check out this post to see more about your options for travel to the islands. 

Traveling with Dogs to the San Juan Islands


Traveling with dogs to the San Juan Islands is a breeze, but there are a few important considerations to keep in mind:

Leash Regulations: While the San Juan Islands are generally dog-friendly, there are leash regulations in place to protect wildlife and ensure the safety of your dog. Please keep your dog on a leash.

Pick Up After Your Pet: Always clean up after your dog. Most public areas provide waste disposal stations. Please be a responsible pet owner.

Pet-Friendly Accomodations: There are several pet-friendly accommodation options available on the islands. We love Lakedale Resort and the diverse lodging options. Pets are allowed in campsite and RV sites with no extra fee. They are also allowed in the Log Cabins or in the Lake House for a $50 per pup, per stay fee.

Outdoor Activities: The San Juan Islands are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking, kayaking and beachcombing are just some of the activities you can enjoy with your furry friend. You can also explore dog-friendly Pelindaba Lavender Farm or take your pet on a Scoot Coupe ride around the island from Susie's Mopeds! You can also explore Lime Kiln State Park, which is also called "whale watch park" since it's one of the top parks to view orcas from the shore!


Pet-Friendly Accommodation: Lakedale Resort

We can't get enough of Lakedale Resort. We stayed in the lodge on our last visit and wandered the grounds. Lakedale Resort has a fun summer camp vibe! It sits on 82 acres of wilderness and has a wide range of accommodations from cabins to glamping tents, campsites to the lodge. You will find a place that will make everyone comfortable!

Pet-Friendly Amenities: Lakedale Resort goes the extra mile to make your pet feel at home with designated pet-friendly accomodations. Starting in the fall season {October 1}, the whole property is off-leash for well behaved dogs. 

Dog-friendly accomodations can be found in the Lodge {adults over 16 years of age only!} and in the log cabins. We found that the log cabins offered us plenty of outdoor space to roam, easy access to outdoor trash cans for clean up, and a field nearby called The Meadow for ball throwing! 

In the fall and winter season, the yurts are also available to rent. Each comes with a personal hot tub and outdoor area. The yurts however, are not dog-friendly. 

Outdoor Adventures: Explore the resorts hiking trails, paddle on one of the three freshwater lakes, or enjoy the tranquility of nature with your furry friend. There are 82 acres to explore! You can even pick up a bike to borrow from the rack to help you get around. Or get cozy by one of the outdoor {or indoor} fireplaces!

Indoor Adventures: There is an extensive list of board games you can borrow from the lodge. You know how much our family loves board games. These are more than just Chutes and Ladders, a lot of them are games from our 20 Best Family Board Games for Teens list. You can also borrow a long list of DVD's {I found a handful of movies that my husband and I saw at the movie theater back when we were dating more than 25 years ago!}. They are nostalgic and fun. Or hunker down, get cozy by the fire, grab a blanket and get lost in a book. 

Exploring Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor, is the bustling hub of the San Juan Islands. This charming seaside town is known for its vibrant art scene, boutique shops, and delicious food options. If you arrive by ferry, you'll be dropped off in Friday Harbor.

Dog-Friendly Dining: Many restaurants and cafes in Friday Harbor have outdoor seating areas where dogs are welcome. Enjoy a cup of coffee, grab some fresh seafood or savor some local fare while your dog relaxes at your feet nearby. 

Shops and Boutiques: Stroll along the streets of Friday Harbor, popping into the dog-friendly shops and boutiques that line the streets. Some even offer treats and water bowls for your four-legged friend.


Exploring Roche Harbor

Roche Harbor is located on the northwest side of San Juan Island. It's offers a much different vibe compared to Friday Harbor. It's a historic seaside village known for its stunning sunsets, rich history and pet-friendly charm.

Marina Life: We love walking Roche Harbor Marina. Any boating enthusiast will get a kick out of seeing all the different boats in the harbor. Dog will need to stay on leash in the marina area, while you enjoy incredible views and fresh sea air. It's the perfect place for a stroll.

Historic Gardens: Explore the beautifully manicured gardens of Roche Harbor. The changing seasons will still have you in awe of the beauty. Be a responsible dog owner and make sure you pick up after your pet.

Dine with a view: We love the Madrona Bar & Grill and stop here every time we visit. It offers outdoor dog-friendly seating until late October.


My Favorite Things to Do on San Juan Island in the Fall

Beyond exploring the towns of Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor, the entire San Juan Island is a treasure trove of natural beauty just waiting to be explored. And your four-legged friend can come with you!

Hiking Trails in the San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands boasts a network of dog-friendly hiking trails, including the Mount Young Trail and American Camp Trail. These paths lead you through forests and offer breathtaking views. You'll also love walking the beach trails at Cattle Point. 

Beach Adventures in the San Juan Islands

Dog love the beaches of San Juan Islands. Explore South Beach, Jackson Beach or any of the island's pristine coastal spots. There are lots of areas to pull off the road and explore!

Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands

The islands are actually known for their three resident pods of Orcas as well as Humpback and Gray whales. Whale Watching charters are a huge draw if you are visiting the island, but they aren't necessarily dog-friendly. But you can get lucky viewing them from shore!

The best time to view Orcas is from March thru October, so if you are visiting in the fall, keep your eyes peeled! There is also plenty of other wildlife to spot from shore like harbor seals, Steller sea lions, otters and harbor porpoises!

Lime Kiln State Park is one of the best places in the world to view whales from a land-based facility. 
You will need a Discovery Pass {$10/day} to park. There's an automated pay station nearby. There were several pods spotted from the park while we were there on both days. 


Pro tip: Follow the group "whale sightings in the San Juan Islands" Facebook group to get updates.

Visiting the San Juan Islands in the fall with your dogs promises to be a unique and memorable vacation experience filled with natural beauty, historic charm, and above all pet-friendly experiences. Whether you explore the streets of Friday Harbor, soak in the ambiance of Roche Harbor or stay cozy in your cabin and never leave Lakedale Resort, your four-legged companions will create cherished memories and you'll be glad they came along! Lakedale Resort is the perfect pet-friendly home away from home and the San Juan Islands provide the most welcoming dog-friendly community. Pack your bags, leash up your dogs, and head on over for an unforgettable adventure in this Pacific Northwest paradise.

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