San Juan Island Elopement Planning Guide for Friday Harbor + Orcas Island

A couple walks together on the way to their elopement ceremony on Sucia Island.

How to plan the perfect San Juan Island Elopement

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Why Elope on the San Juan Islands?

The San Juan Islands are a channel of Islands just off of the Northern Coast of Washington. Just a short distance from Seattle depending if you are arriving via Sea Plane, boat or Ferry. The islands consist of these different Islands:

  • San Juan Island (the biggest one, which is home to Friday Harbor)
  • Orcas Island
  • Shaw Island
  • Sucia Island
  • Lopez Island and many other smaller islands!

The islands are all a little different from each other, but there is no shortage of things to do + romantic get aways to have, making it a perfect place to elope. Especially if you are looking for the vibe of your wedding to be low-key, relaxed, adventurous and quiet.

The top two Islands we recommend for your elopement day are San Juan Island and Orcas Island. In this blog we will tell you everything you need to know about eloping here or planning a small wedding.

Before we dive into these two places separately….

When is the best time to visit the San Juan Islands of Washington?

The prime time to visit the islands is April to October. As you may imagine, July + August are super busy because they are the warmest and sunniest. This also means this is the more expensive time to visit and more difficult in planning your ferry travel. While more ferries are running to accommodate the summer traffic, the ferries also fill up faster, making traveling without a reservation more difficult. If you for sure want to see the whales on your trip, we recommend mid June to early September specifically. While the Winters are not the most ideal, they are also not too bad. The islands get less rain than the Seattle area, but winter is for sure the “wet season.” However, the temperatures almost never drop below 30 degrees.

How to get to the San Juan Islands?

You need to catch the Ferry from Anacortes, WA to get to any of the islands. Anacortes is about one and half hours North of Seattle and about 45 minutes South of Bellingham, the two cities where your two closest major airports are. We highly recommend booking your ferry reservation ahead of time at either the two month out date from your travel date or two week time period as that is when tickets are released. We recommend that you arrive at the ferry terminal at least one hour before the ferry is set to depart. The ferry has a strict cut off period where you must check in and be through the booth thirty minutes prior to boarding. If you were to arrive twenty-nine minutes prior to departure, you lose your reservation and have to head into the stand-by lane, which arriving that late in the summer means you’d be very unlikely to make that ferry. There are spots available onto the ferry without a reservation, but you may be waiting in line all day until the last ferry of the day. We also recommend booking a round trip ticket so you are not stuck on the island. The ferry cost about $75 dollars for a round trip ticket in a car, depending what type of car. You can also walk onto the ferry for a cheaper ticket, but we don’t recommend doing this unless you have a way to get around once on the islands. For ferry information and tickets please visit the states website.

The other way to get to the island is by a Sea Plane from Seattle or elsewhere. You can book a private company for this. Again, if you book a seaplane to get to the islands be sure you have a way to get where needed, as things are not close together. For Seaplane rides we highly recommend booking with Kenmore Air. Outside of ferry + planes you can get to the islands by boat! There are many harbors around the islands so you can take a private charter or your own boat in.

Your Guide to Getting Married on Orcas Island

Orcas Island is a true gem with lots of camping, several long and short hiking trails, all around ocean access, lakes, the small quaint town of Eastsound and waterfalls. It is a magical place to go get some rest, quiet, peace and adventure. It is a great access point for whale watching or to some of the other smaller islands. From the island on a clear day you can see Mount Baker from the North East side and Mt Rainier from the other side. Most of the island is dog friendly as well!

Where to Elope on Ocras Island:

There are two state parks on Orcas Island, perfect for your elopement ceremony. They are Moran State Park where you can camp, kayak or hike. Then there is also Obstruction Pass State Park with great ocean views for sunset.

If you want to get married at a venue and adventure elsewhere these are our top recommendations:

What is great about doing your ceremony at a venue if you plan to have guests and then going out for your adventure on your elopement day is that you have less restrictions and rules to deal with surrounding permits if the ceremony is on private property. It is also important to note that on Orcas Island, restaurants close very early so having a location for your ceremony also may make it easier to accommodate for food on your big day.

Where to Stay on Orcas Island for your Wedding?

The three wedding venues we mentioned above are great places to consider staying while visiting the island for your wedding day. Outside of those here are a few more recommendations:

Tips for booking the best place to stay for your elopement or small wedding.

  • If you are booking a place on Airbnb or VRBO and plan to have a photographer come in or have dinner, there you need permission from the home owner. Have a polite conversation where we suggest avoiding the word wedding and being clear your ceremony wouldn’t be happening there.
  • Book a place that has good light and is spacious if taking any photos at the location for the best outcome for beautiful images. Good light, means lots of window!
  • Book a place that checks all the boxes. If you are bringing your dog, make sure it’s dog friendly. If you need to be near a certain side of the island, make sure that works. If you are hosting dinner there, make sure it can seat everyone at the table. Etc.

What to do on your elopement day on Orcas Island

  • Write your vows on the ferry ride over or play games
  • Go Kayaking in the lake or in the ocean
  • Go on a whale watching tour
  • Book a sea plane ride into the North Cascades, Alaska, Seattle or an ariel tour of the islands
  • Hike
  • Camp
  • Read a book on the beach
  • Go on a sail boat tour
  • Go on a bike ride
  • Have a picnic
  • Take your pup out on an adventure
  • Go to the winery for a tasting
  • Go eat! Our top recommendations on the island are The Kitchen, Madrona Bar and Grill and Mijitas.
A bride and groom share a kiss in the sunset light along the shore with washed up logs near by.

Your Guide to Eloping on San Juan Island

The San Juan Islands is a super romantic place to elope with stunning sunsets, beautiful ocean views, and lots to do! If you are thinking of eloping here, the best time of year is between April and October, but just like Orcas Island, you can expect lots of visitors on here in July and August. While the San Juan Islands are made up of Orcas Island, Shaw Island, Lopez Island, and San Juan Island, here I will tell you everything you need to know about eloping on the main one, San Juan Island! The town of Friday Harbor is super cute, and as soon as you get off the ferry, you feel right at home in this cozy town! As you travel around the island, look for views of Mt Baker and Mt Rainier, on a clear day you can see their beauty from the island. This island is perfect for a small, intimate wedding or an elopement with just you two!

Best Locations for your San Juan Island Elopement:

  • any of the beaches! A couple of examples would be South Beach or Grandma’s Cove.
  • any of the trails! There are many trails on the island!
  • the Lime Kiln Park near the light house
  • on a sail boat

For private property locations for elopements with guests we recommend these options:

  • Salt Water Farms – perfect for a laid back vibe, beautiful views and a cozy set up
  • Lakedale – this is at a camp site with several lakes and cabins, great for a group stay for the weekend and wedding!
  • Roche Harbor – Roche is on the North side of the island and you guessed right, it is a harbor on a beautiful bay with a dog park, kayak rentals, restaurants, shopping, and more!

Where to stay on San Juan Island for your Wedding?

  • There are several Airbnbs and VRBOs options on the San Juan Island ranging from glamping, rustic, beautiful, waterfront etc. Here are one of our favorite rentals on the island: Beach Front Cabin
  • Lakedale Resort – Glamping options on the lake and at a resort if you do not want to camp
  • A hotel or resort! There are many options here on the island from right in the heart of Friday Harbor to a more secluded area of the island. The Earth Box Inn is near town, with free bikes to explore the town and fresh rooms. If you would like to reserve a room there click here.
  • Roche Harbor

What to do for a full day elopement on the San Juan Island?

  • Elope! The obvious and most important part is to get married, lol. Share your vows and have connected moments together seaside or on the trails.
  • Bike around the island via coast line or through the center exploring the beautiful farm lands. You can bring your own bike or rent a bike from many local locations.
  • Take a whale watching tour with a company like Western Prince. You can also see whales via a sail boat tour.
  • Take a Sea Plane to see the other islands from up above.
  • Explore the town of Friday Harbor and enjoy local foods, drinks, museums and shopping. Be prepared to have cash for some of the cash only spots like the popular ice cream shop near the ferry.
  • Visit local farms like the Alpaca Farm or Lavender Farm or visit a winery.
  • Go Kayaking
  • Hike
  • Explore the other nearby islands
  • Rent the red mopeds in town for an island tour.
  • Go zip lining!
  • Have a coastal picnic or enjoy a dinner in town.
  • Roast your own oysters
  • Go eat! Some of our favorite places to eat are San Juan Brewery, Friday Harbor House, Downriggers, Duck Soup and McMillians

The best vendors for a San Juan Island Elopement, WA

How to get legally married on the San Juan Islands, WA

The San Juan Islands are apart of Washington State so you need a marriage license from Washington to get married here. There are local clerk office’s on both islands, you would need to call to make an appointment. Keep in mind Washington has a three day holding period once you do get your marriage paperwork, so you need to plan your travel around that or get it online before hand from Whatcom County. Furthermore, in Washington you need one officiant and two witnesses to your marriage. If you are eloping with us as your team, we are both ordained and can assist with that and/or sign as witnesses.

San Juan + Orcas Island Elopement Packages

We are a husband + wife team offering elopement packages on the San Juan Islands. Our Packages include:

  • Photographer
  • Officiating and/or being witnesses as needed
  • Putting together a timeline for your day
  • Family Timeline
  • Recommendations for the area
  • Assistance in Planning
  • High Res downloads with printing rights
  • Same day sneak peaks

We are very familiar with the Islands and love capturing couples special days there. We are available to capture your small wedding or elopement on the islands from April to October and in December + January. Our packages start at $4000 and go up to multi-day options. We also offer video coverage as an add on our our packages. We do focus on adventure driven weddings. In the past we have had couples visit different islands and camp and we have had couples take sea planes around the islands. We are here to help you plan the most you day at whatever level of adventure that may be!

Two people on kayaks in the bay at sunrise with a mountain view behind them.

San Juan Island Elopement Photographer

Hi! We are Traci + Bill and heck yes we will kayak with you at sunrise as you write your vows to capture the serenity of these islands with mountain views. We are local Washington Elopement photographers and we live right next to the mountain you see here in this behind the scenes photo.

We love spending time on Orcas + the San Juans and are located not too far from the Anacortes ferry dock. We have been visiting these areas for years now and truly believe in how special they can be for your wedding day. We would love to work with you in capture your authentic selves on your most epic adventure yet, your wedding day! We believe your wedding day should be a true reflection of your relationship and how you want your marriage to start off + we are here to help you make that happen in every way that we can!

“AMAZING! Traci and Bill from Adventure&Vow were absolutely wonderful. They made sure to personalize our wedding/elopement experience to exactly what we envisioned. They tailored the experience based on questionnaires to get to know us and what was important for our wedding day. Not only were they accommodating regarding the wedding, but Traci gave us so many great recommendations for lodging, food, and locations to visit while in the area. The day of our wedding we had some unexpected road closures due to weather and we were quickly able to change up the plans last minute (which turned out to be a better experience than what we had originally planned!). We were constantly being kept up to date with all the plans and we could not have asked for a better wedding day.. and the photos/video were incredible! If you’re looking for a fun and adventurous wedding tailored to what’s most important to you and your partner we would highly recommend Adventure + Vow!”

– Kristin M
A groom kisses his bride on a sunny day on the water as they sit together in a boat the built.

23 Responses

  1. Loved the outline of the blog so simple and so much great information for eloping couples! Photos are amazing too!

    1. I had not heard of it either until this year, but it is a popular spot to escape the seattle clouds!! Thank you very much!

    1. Thank you girl!!! Just here to spread the love and make it easier for those couples trying to find the perfect nook. <3

  2. So so helpful! I can’t imagine planning a destination elopement, especially to islands. This guide has all the information a couple needs to elope in the San Juan Islands!

    1. Thank you, I hope to help couples who are going to a new location feel completely comfortable in their planning!! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. So so helpful! I can’t imagine planning a destination elopement, especially to islands. This guide has all the information a couple needs to elope in the San Juan Islands!

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