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9 Underrated Washington Islands

Add These Breathtaking Destinations to Your Must-Visit List

Surrounded by the salty waters of the Salish Sea and Puget Sound, the islands of Washington state shimmer brightly with wild beauty. Accessible by ferry, personal boat or bridge, traveling to the islands of the Evergreen State is a rite of passage and a quintessential Pacific Northwest experience.

Dotted with lighthouses, small towns, hiking trails and rolling roads, the forested islands of Washington inspire road trips and outdoor adventures no matter the season. Although many know Whidbey, Bainbridge, Orcas and San Juan quite well, more islands worthy of a road trip abound in western Washington.

Beach at Camano Island
Camano Island. Photo by iStock.

Camano Island (Reachable by Bridge)

Past the bridge west of Stanwood, Camano Island has a little something for everyone. Shops and art galleries are spread throughout the downtown core, while lodging options are spaced around the 95-square-mile island. If you are looking to connect with nature, Camano has myriad options to explore, from hiking and biking local parks, to walking the beach or ziplining through the forests. From the shoreline, with mountains rising in the distance, you may see orcas and humpback whales, seals and many other local wildlife species that frequent the region.

Military fort on the Marrowstone Island
Military fort at Fort Flagler State Park. Photo by iStock

Marrowstone Island (Reachable by Bridge)

Jutting into the Salish Sea from the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula, Marrowstone is a hideaway for an adventure. Offering minimal amenities — just an old store and some parks on a 6-square-mile island — Marrowstone offers one can’t-miss experience in Fort Flagler State Park. Fort Flagler is a now defunct fort built in 1897 that has the remnants of heavy-duty gun batteries and bunkers designed to protect commercial and military interests on Puget Sound. Beach access allows for walking and beach combing around the nearby lighthouse, making Fort Flagler a great spot to spend a day and enjoy the sunset.

Village at Lopez Island
Lopez Island. Photo by San Juan Visitors Bureau

Lopez Island (Reachable by Ferry)

Fifteen miles long and offering 63 miles of shoreline, Lopez Island is the perfect place to get into the spirit and soul of the San Juans. Reached via ferry from Anacortes, you can explore the island by car or bike. Rental bikes and kayaks are available on the island, providing a great way to take in the sweeping views of Mount Baker, the rolling farmlands and the rugged beaches. Lopez Village has numerous shops, restaurants, museums, art galleries and so much more. Campgrounds and lodging also are available on the island, helping to make Lopez a great weekend getaway.

underrated islands vashon island lighthouse adobe stock
Point Robinson Lighthouse, Vashon Island. Photo is from Adobe Stock.

Vashon Island (Reachable by Ferry)

Vashon is one of the largest and most populous islands in Washington, but it tends to get overlooked as a destination. Accessible by ferry from Fauntleroy terminal south of West Seattle or Point Defiance in Tacoma, Vashon has parks, beaches, quirky shops, trails and biking opportunities. A favorite stop for many includes grabbing a bite to eat and a drink at The Hardware Store Restaurant and Cafe Luna. Nature-wise, a handful of parks dot the island, capped off by stunning views found at the nearby Point Robinson Lighthouse, where whales can be spotted. Those hoping for more solitude can find it along Maury Island Park’s three miles of trails.

Shaw Island County Park
Shaw Island County Park. Photo by San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

Shaw Island (Reachable by Ferry)

Shaw is the smallest of the four San Juan Islands and is reachable by ferry. Largely skipped by the overwhelming majority of visitors to the island chain, this is an ideal place to get away from it all. Amenities on Shaw Island are minimal other than a general store located by the ferry dock. Many who visit will stay at the campground on the 64-acre Shaw Island County Park, largely because it is one of the few publicly accessible spots on the island. Located above a sandy beach, the small campground is primitive, with no potable water in the winter months. The island is great to bike around and enjoy the silence and solitude of this quaint community.

Beach at Guemes Island
Guemes Island. Photo by Visit Skagit Valley

Guemes Island (Reachable by Ferry)

While the masses head west from Anacortes to the San Juans, Guemes Island is a lesser-known destination. Just a five-minute ferry ride from Anacortes, the island offers miles of hiking paths, some public beach access and two parks to explore with views of Mount Baker to enjoy. The entire island can be explored by bike, but also is home to the Guemes Island Resort, which is family-oriented, dog-friendly and has numerous lodging options along the water. While on the island, be sure to pick up baked goods at the Guemes Island General Store.

boats at Lummi Island
Lummi Island. Photo by iStock.

Lummi Island (Reachable by Ferry)

Reached by ferry from the Lummi Reservation just west of Bellingham, Lummi Island is an overlooked spot on the Salish Sea. Although the island has minimal amenities, you will find beautiful Pacific Northwest beaches and hiking trails, highlighted by the trails at the Baker Preserve. This steep, 1.6-mile trail shows off views of the San Juans and Rosario Strait after weaving through a picturesque forest. Those looking for somewhere a little less active to relax should check out the Tree Frog Farm, which has local flower essences and aromatherapy products.

Hope Island
Hope Island. Photo by Alamy

Hope Island (Reachable by Personal Watercraft)

One of two Hope Island State Parks in Washington state, Hope Island in Mason County is the lesser known, making it an ideal getaway all year long. At just 132 acres in size, this small park is reachable only by private watercraft, providing solitude and seclusion in the South Puget Sound. Explore stands of Douglas fir, cedar, hemlock, alder and maple trees along two miles of trails. The island also has miles of shoreline where you can watch for whales and other local wildlife.

Sucia Island
Photo by James Mead Maya for San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

Sucia Island (Reachable by Personal Watercraft)

Reachable only by private boat, Sucia is one of the northernmost islands in the San Juans and is a gem of the Washington State Park system. You can wander 77,700 feet of shoreline along this horseshoe-shaped island in the Salish Sea. The island also offers plenty of camping and mooring spots, as well as 10 miles of hiking trails to explore. Sucia is the place to go for remote trails and emerald waters where you’ll watch migratory birds, whales and breathtaking sunsets.

–Written by Douglas Scott and last updated in October 2022. 
Top Photo: Lummi Island by iStock

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