Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands

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I’m slowly but surely catching up on last year’s US trip! It’s hard to believe that it’s already been over a year since my five week road trip around the States, but this is the penultimate US trip reflection before I can start catching up on all of my China, Thailand, and Cambodia adventures.

The Road to Seattle

The final leg of our US road trip was to be Seattle, and after our visit to charming Tillamook, we had a relaxing road trip from Porltand to Seattle with our friends Cody and Desiree.

The obligatory stop off at Multnomah Falls was an early pit-stop. While I’d been there before during my previous visit to Portland, I wanted to show Nomadic American the truly beautiful little corner of Oregon.

The view of the Colombia RIver Gorge from the Old HIghway
The view of the Colombia RIver Gorge from the Old HIghway
The always stunning Multnomah Falls.
The always stunning Multnomah Falls.

From there it was smooth sailing in the four hour drive to Seattle, where we decided it would be a good idea to check out the famous Pike’s Place Market before we went our separate ways. While Cody & Dez did a little shopping, Heather and I found a barber to give me a shave and spent a while looking through used bookstores and kitsch shops to while away the time.

A flower display at Pike's Place Market. Thrilling.
A flower display at Pike’s Place Market. Thrilling.
The ferris wheel and the (very industrial) skyline around Pike's Place Market.
The ferris wheel and the (very industrial) skyline around Pike’s Place Market.

I’m an unabashed lover of a good market experience, but my tastes run more towards used books and the festive atmosphere than they do towards produce, so I found Pike’s Place to be a little light on entertainment.

That said, there were some impressive buskers and the antics of the World Famous Fish Market for us to take in, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

This guy? Mad skills.
This guy? Mad skills.

Oh, and the discussion with my very old fashioned/sexist barber while Nomadic American leafed through his collection of vintage Playboy magazines. Definitely a blast from the past!

Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands

Our decision to visit Seattle was one of three reasons:

  • For me to catch up with old friends from Korea.
  • For Heather to catch up with one of her best friends.
  • To try and check off a bucket list item and see a killer whale in the wild.

With that last goal in mind, we teamed up with Heather’s friends Amber & Teddy to go whale watching in the San Juan Islands. We shopped around for quite a while to find the best looking service, and eventually opted to head out with San Juan Cruises out of Bellingham.

I’ll be up front and say that they were kind enough to offer me a complimentary ticket and to discount the tickets of my friends, and I’ll do my best to be impartial in spite of their generosity.

We arrived bright and early on a cool but clear spring morning, and while we’d been forewarned that there was no guarantee we’d be able to see killer whales in the wild, we were quietly hopeful that we’d get to experience that magic moment.

Getting ready to board for our day of adventure at sea.
Getting ready to board for our day of adventure at sea.

Picturesque

If you had to find a word to describe the San Juan Islands, ‘picturesque’ would be a pretty apt selection. As our boat chugged through the dark waters of the Salish Sea, Teddy and I were both on hand to snap the obligatory pictures of our respective significant others while also trying to capture as much of the natural beauty on display as possible.

America! F**k yeah!
America! F**k yeah!
See? Picturesque!
See? Picturesque!
An adorable lighthouse out on the islands.
An adorable church out on the islands.
Could there be a more quaint church?
Could there be a more quaint church?

As the day went on, our captain was happy to chirp in with some useful or interesting facts about the islands we passed, but the whales were conspicuous in their absence. We saw some exotic bird life and some unexpected mammal life as we passed an island that had once been a hunting retreat, but the real selling point of the day didn’t make itself known.

Foodgasms & Friday Harbour

While the whales weren’t present, one perk to whale watching in the San Juan islands with San Juan Cruises was a surprisingly decadent on board lunch of BBQ chicken, fresh seafood, and plenty of trimmings. It perhaps wasn’t enough to make me forget that I’d yet to see a killer whale, but it certainly put me in the mood for a wee bit of a nap.

A delicious lunch care of San Juan Cruises.
A delicious lunch care of San Juan Cruises.

But nap time was not in the offing as our boat slid into its berth at Friday Harbour for our two hour shore leave. Much like Flagstaff in Arizona and Queenstown in New Zealand, I immediately felt a kind of love for this quaint little island town. As we walked around alternating between antique shops and gift shops, I found myself imagining what life on the island must beĀ  like.

Friday Harbour felt like coming home. What a lovely spot.
Friday Harbour felt like coming home. What a lovely spot.

As the girls bored us silly looking at whatever it is girls look at, Teddy and I ducked off to a wine bar to indulge in a secret wine tasting. All four of us met back up at the harbour proper for ice cream before it was time to board the boat and head back towards the mainland.

With a lengthy journey back to Bellingham ahead of us, both of the men took the opportunity for naps while the girls gossiped or talked about shoes or whatever.

We hadn’t seen any whales, but I couldn’t be unhappy with my day ‘whale watching’ in the San Juan Islands. I’d had a good meal, I’d spent it with good people, and I’d found another corner of the earth that just felt ‘right’ to me.

Who knows? Someday I might even choose one and call it home.

Your Say

Have you ever been whale watching? Did you get lucky or did you strike out like I did?

And on the subject of places that just feel like coming home, have you found one of those magical spots for yourself yet?

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3 comments

  1. wow, cool, I have never been whale watching, I bet is a life time experience…i have just put it to my bucket list

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