By Andrea Brown Herald Writer
Kick back in a kayak on a sea of blue.
Drift by portly seals lounging on rocks. Drown your stress.
From the ferry ride to get to Friday Harbor to the intimate brushes with nature, water is the gateway elixir to the San Juan Islands.
Come as you are for a good paddling.
No need to bring a boat or any experience. There are plenty of kayak tour options to fix you up.
“We provide all the gear, all the meals. We specialize in small groups,” said Angie Krieger of Crystal Seas Kayaking. “Anybody can do it as long as they’re in average physical shape.”
This is the 20th season Crystal Seas has provided tours for visitors to this harbor town on San Juan Island.
“My husband started it when he was 19,” she said. “He didn’t want to have an ordinary job. What turned into a one-man show kept growing. We love what we do. We both grew up on the island together.”
Friday Harbor has many small locally operated businesses offering recreation from boating and hiking to fishing and napping. The town’s web page shows a photo of two people laying on benches under the title: “Hectic day in Friday Harbor.”
No car is needed. Shops, diners and hotels are walking distance from the ferry dock. Shuttles take kayakers to launching docks on the island’s west side for trips in areas where orcas are likely to be seen. Tours last from several hours in gentle bays to overnight camping excursions spanning several islands.
It’s not all about kayaking.
Crystal Seas started a yoga retreat kayak trip this year utilizing the talents of two instructors who live on the island.
Savor Seattle Food Tours and San Juan Island Outfitters combine a three-day kayaking trip with gourmet cuisine and Washington wine.
Discovery Sea Kayak has a bioluminescence tour, a nighttime light show where the organisms in the water give off green sparkles.
The kayak season typically runs March though October. Summer is peak time, so reservations are suggested before making the journey.
After all, you’re not alone wanting to dip into the stunning beauty of the San Juans.
“It’s a world-class destination,” said Richard Swanson, owner of Discovery Sea Kayak. “People come from all over. Amsterdam. Lots of Germans. New Zealanders.”
He calls it “orca-centric.”
“Everyone wants to see an orca. There’s lot of other things to see as well. Lots of seals, little herons, minke whales.”
Swanson, an Everett native, said a midlife crisis led him to settle down in Friday Harbor. “I took a 20-year hobby and turned it into a profession,” he said.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Crystal Seas Kayaking, 877-732-7877: www.crystalseas.com
San Juan Outfitters, 360-378-1962: www.sanjuanislandoutfitters.com
Discovery Sea Kayak, 360-378-2559: www.discoveryseakayak.com
San Juan Island Kayak Association: www.sjika.org
Browse the docks for your dream boat.
Observe sea creatures in a tide pool at False Bay.
Play tennis free. The outdoor courts are at the high school.
Scuba dive. Meet a buddy here or bring your own.
Try to recognize places in movies filmed on San Juan Island, like “Free Willy” and “Practical Magic.”
Ask the local ranchers about their many types of stock, everything from Shetland sheep and miniature horses to llamas and ostrich.
Find Deadman Bay and learn the history behind the name.
Bring remote control cars or trucks and stage your own races at South Beach.
Speak to a stranger and make a new friend.
If you see an islander doing some yard work, stop and offer to lend a hand. You might be richly rewarded with island information and stories, and make a new friend to visit on your next trip.
Take I-5 north to exit 230 at Burlington. Follow Highway 20 west to the ferry terminal in Anacortes. Allow 90 minutes to two hours for the drive. If you’re walking or biking onto the ferry, arrive in plenty of time to find parking.