No Ferry Hassles!
We know that you want to spend less time traveling and more time kayaking. This trip accomplishes that goal and gets you out on the water faster than any other. No San Juan Island ferry hassles are necessary to begin your expedition. We depart directly from Anacortes, on lovely Fidalgo Island, and you can drive directly to us saving all sorts of time, worries and added expense.
The protected status of the Cypress Island Marine Reserve and it’s large neighbor to the west, Blakely Island, have created a healthy and diverse habitat that supports some of the densest wildlife populations in the Puget Sound region. This abundance of animals spills out into the surrounding waters and forests, creating many wildlife viewing opportunities. Seals and porpoises are found in good numbers here, and a large population of nesting Bald eagles are regularly seen. Other exciting marine mammals cruise through the waters of Rosario Strait, taking advantage of the nutrient-rich waters. Every day is different, and every day brings new discoveries!
This part of the San Juan Islands is sparsely populated and heavily forested. The islands are also taller here than they are further west. This combination makes for stunning natural views wherever you go. Watch the sunrise over Mount Baker and the Cascade Mountains, and enjoy toasting the sunset with a glass of wine, a gratifying way to finish a day of kayaking.
Our hope is to exceed your expectations when it comes to the food we serve. We understand that the one thing that you are sure to remember is whether the food was good. On our tours you won’t be hungry! As the owners of the company we personally see to the creation of each meal plan on our multi-day camping expeditions. We source much of our food from local organic farms here in the Skagit and Samish River valleys and use the freshest seasonal ingredients possible in all of our dishes. If you have any special dietary needs then just let us know, we can accommodate almost any request.
This is an authentic kayak expedition camping experience! Once you depart from Anacortes you will be entirely self-sufficient, carrying all that you need in your kayaks. Your campsites are all located near the sea and offer nice views right from your tent. Although running water is often absent at many of the camp areas, we bring all that we need and have locations where we can refill with fresh water as needed. Well-maintained toilets are managed by Washington State Parks.
No Experience Necessary!
Like all of our kayak tours, this one requires no previous paddling experience. On the 4-day trips your guide will plan a rough outline of possible itineraries and then they will talk with you about different options so that you can help to create your own meaningful experience. This trip is appropriate for most ages and abilities.
What is included (Fully Catered Package*)
- Professional guiding service.
- All of your kayaking equipment (boats, paddles, lifejackets, dry bags, etc).
- All meals (from lunch on Day One to Lunch on Day Three) plus snacks, hot drinks, and limited cold drink mixes. Please feel free to bring your own alcohol of choice.
- Cooking Equipment.
- Complimentary insulated travel mug to take home with you afterwards!
- All camping equipment including tents, insulated Thermarest sleeping pads.
- All land use permits/fees.
- The best customer service support in the industry.
Please check our packing list carefully to make sure that you have the appropriate gear. If you plan to bring any of your own equipment then please let us know prior to arrival so that we do not bring unnecessary duplicates.
*Self-Catered package includes everything above, except food, cooking equipment, travel mug, and camping equipment. This is a great option if you already have your own camping gear and want a budget-conscious choice.
What is not included:
- Flights, airport transfers, taxis, transportation to launch site.
- Travel/Medical insurance.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Sleeping bags.
- Rain Gear
- Personal Items (toiletries, clothing, headlamps, etc.)
Sleeping bags can be rented for $35/trip if you prefer to travel without one. Please reserve these in advance to ensure that we have one ready for you, can also be reserved at the time of booking.
About The Area
Rosario Strait is the principle waterway in this part of the San Juan Islands. It connects the much larger Strait of Juan de Fuca and Georgia Strait and it is a hotbed of activity for many kinds of wildlife. There are several National Wildlife Refuges here, and the remarkable Cypress Island Reserve with its unbroken forested slopes dominates the scene. The 10,781 foot snow-capped peak of Mount Baker looms over it all, making it a quintessential Pacific Northwest landscape. In recent years the numbers of Transient Orca whale sightings have exploded in numbers throughout the San Juan islands and we have seen a corresponding increase in encounters on all of our tours, much to the delight of our guests and our guides.
On this rewarding 4-Day Kayak Camping Expedition we will take you right into this untrammeled side of the San Juan Islands. Gliding silently through the scenery, your kayak can getup close and personal with everything that makes this part of the north Puget Sound so special.
For four days we will make our way off of the beaten path, utilizing Marine Parks as our homes for the night. Our exact itinerary is never set in stone, and we encourage collaboration between you and your guide to create a memorable experience. This is an expedition that we want you to be a part of. Our guests help us create unique adventures on every outing.
Most trips paddle out on a grand tour that may include the James Island Marine Park, Obstruction Pass State Park on Orcas Island, the Doe Island Marine Park, and the truly outstanding Cypress Island Reserve. Some trips may even go to the very popular Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island. Bald eagles, pods of porpoise, and the ubiquitous Harbor seals are just a few of the critters who will grace us with their presence while we explore the area. We’ve encountered Humpback whales, Transient Orca whales, and Resident Killer whales, as well as visits from an expanding population of the grizzly-bear sized Stellar sea lions. At camp on James Island, there are trails leading to great views of the Cascade Mountains, and on Cypress Island there is more hiking than you’d be able to accomplish in a week, including the jaw-dropping world-class vista on top of Eagle Cliff. Other relaxing camp activities on all of the islands include browsing through the intertidal zone, finding that perfect skipping stone, or the all-important task of inspecting cloud formations.
This trip gives you the chance to paddle through the best of the eastern San Juan Islands. With the chance to explore the seldom-visited shorelines of privately owned Blakely Island, Decatur Island, and Obstruction Island. Paddle near the Willow Island National Wildlife Refuge, or maybe photograph seals hauled out on Rim, Ram, and Rum Islands in Lopez Pass. With no ferry hassles to deal with you are out on your paddling adventure right away, and with so much to see you’ll want to get an early start!
Your 4-Day kayak expedition will depart from Anacortes in order to maximize your time and to avoid the San Juan Island ferry hassles. Because we make every effort to include you in how the trip will unfold the following itinerary is useful mainly as a hypothetical example. Some groups choose to cover a lot of territory while others are content with a more leisurely pace. Your guide will engage with you and the other participants to help you create the best possible experience.
Arriving at our shop in Skyline Marina you will be welcomed by our friendly staff who will check you in, issue you dry bags, and give you directions to the launch site. Take your time packing your personal items at our office before making your way to the beach where your guide and logistical staff will already be packing your kayaks.
After parking your vehicle and loading up the kayaks you will receive a pre-trip briefing with your guide. They will go over some safety considerations, explain the planned route for the day, and give you a short introduction on the basics of sea kayaking. After a last minute restroom break you’ll be off the beach and headed into the islands!
We have three different Anacortes launch sites that we use depending on the prevailing conditions and the needs of the group. Your guide will determine the best route to take on the first morning depending on these factors.
Launch from SeaFarers Memorial Park in Anacortes and make your way north to the Cypress Island Marine Reserve, pausing in the gorgeous Cone Islands group to look for the dense population of seals found here. Keep your eyes open for porpoise cavorting in the tidal currents.
When kayaking it is often easier to talk about time spent paddling than miles covered. Most trips will take four to six hours to get to one of the camp areas. There is ample opportunity to take breaks on the beach during the day, including a stop for lunch.
After arriving at the beach your guide will assist you in setting up your tent and setting up the rest of your camp. Now it is time to relax! While on the beach you are free to explore the trails on your own, or accompany your guide on a walk if you prefer. Some groups want to paddle later in the day, just let your guide know!
Later in the afternoon your guide will be busy preparing a delicious dinner for you to enjoy. This is another great opportunity to go for a walk or just relax on the beach with a glass of wine, watching the evening light coloring the sky. During dinner your guide will often discuss the next day’s possibilities and will share with you the latest weather forecasts and predicted tidal currents so that you can help plan how the trip will go.
After a preparing you a hearty breakfast your guide will talk with you again about the day’s paddling, so feel free to talk about what you are hoping to see and do. Our guides love to try and tailor every trip to meet their guests’ expectations. The exact time of your departure on this day is often determined by the timing of the tidal currents. The hope is to have the tides carry you along rather than having to paddle “uphill” too much. Lunch is almost always prepared in the field, usually on a small pocket beach that you can enjoy to yourselves.
After arriving at your next camp it is time for more relaxation! Go for another walk, skip stones, or simply sit at the water’s edge and contemplate the beauty around you, while your guide is busy preparing your next delicious dinner. (As you can tell, these guides work hard for their tips!)
By the third day you will likely be feeling transformed in some ways. An easygoing feeling spreads through your group as the ambiance of the San Juan Islands starts to work its way into your soul. You might find yourself rising earlier than usual, taking the extra time to bask in the quiet of the maritime dawn and enjoying another cup of hot tea.
Another delicious breakfast will refuel your body and you will find that repacking the boats has become a much simpler task than it felt on the first morning. Everything is falling into place now. The pace of your third day depends on where you and your guide have decided to kayak to, but the scenery is sure to be sublime. By midday it is time to seek out the perfect lunch beach in order to enjoy another meal and perhaps take a little nap if it suits your fancy!
Early in the afternoon you approach your final campsite, perhaps at James Island Marine Park, it’s been a fantastic day on the water and you are excited to explore another island. As your guide prepares the camp you are free to wander out on the trails on your own. If you are on James Island then you won’t want to miss the exceptional views on the South East part of the island. On a clear day you can see over 100 miles south to the magnificent Mount Rainier, towering over the Puget Sound. The trail loops around to the west side of James Island which is best experienced from the warm light of early evening until dark. The small dock on the west side of the island is a wonderful place to meet boaters using James Island as their “gunkhole” for the night. With a full belly from dinner it is time to find the perfect sunset spot. Open that last bottle of wine and make a toast to a future kayak trip in the San Juan Islands!
Greet your final morning in the San Juan Islands with a hot cup of coffee. It is recommended that you wake early to see the sunrise over Mount Baker and the Cascade Mountain Range.
After breakfast you and your guide will talk about the last channel crossings and the best time to depart before taking down your camp and packing the boats for the last time. Lunch will usually be another beach break somewhere along the route home.
Depending on the route you take, and the conditions of the day, you will likely return back to Anacortes sometime between 2:00pm and 4:00pm. The exact return time is difficult to predict because so many factors are involved with this sort of travel experience. We recommend that you do not schedule things too tightly just in case the weather or some other variable slows you down along the way.
One of our logistics people will be there to greet you and help you unpack the kayaks. If you left any luggage at our office during the trip then they will bring that with them as well. After saying farewell to your guide, you are off to the next adventure. Hopefully we will see you again!
**This is a sample itinerary which outlines the type of experience that most often happens. Due to the dynamic nature of outdoor adventures, things can sometimes change without notice. We work very hard to provide the best possible experience for each of our guests so if you have any special needs or concerns, or any particular expectation that you have, then please do call us so that we can talk to you more about it. Thank you!
What trip offers the best chances of a whale sighting?
This is probably the most popular question that we hear on the phone. The best answer is “it is impossible to predict”. Kayaks simply do not travel fast enough to manifest a whale encounter on purpose. Our guests have always appreciated that we set reasonable expectations about whale encounters. If seeing a whale is a primary goal for you then we suggest that you book an additional trip with a whale watch company. They have fast-moving boats which can seek out the whales’ locations on any given day. Kayak trips and whale watch outings are actually very complementary and will give you the best possible experience in the San Juan Islands.
I have never tried sea kayaking before, how do I know whether I can do this?
These kayak tours are designed for people with little or no previous experience who enjoy an active experience. We like to call this activity “soft adventure” because the tours are loaded with fun (without too much adrenaline)! The goal is to move quietly through the landscape, enjoying the views while rewarding the body with a little bit of easy exercise. All of our tours will move as slowly as necessary to ensure that you won’t get too worn out. Our guides are very competent paddlers, and well-trained trip leaders, they will worry about the details so that you can relax and enjoy yourself. If you have any specific concerns then please call us so that we can make sure that you get placed on the most enjoyable trip possible.
What is the difference between an All Inclusive Package and a Self-Catered Package?
The only difference between these two packages is that in the All Inclusive Package we provide your camping gear and your meals. Here in the outdoorsy Pacific Northwest a large number of our guests possess their own camping equipment and prefer to use it. We have responded to this reality by creating an option that saves them some money and allows them use the gear that they have already invested in. On all trips we will provide the kayaking equipment, and the same exceptional guide service that our guests have come to expect from Anacortes Kayak Tours.
What if it rains?
As the saying goes; “there is no such thing as bad weather, just unfortunate clothing choices.” Joking aside, we are very fortunate that we live in the “rainshadow” of the Olympic Mountains and consequently we receive much less precipitation than Seattle and the rest of Western Washington State. Don’t rely on Seattle weather reports to tell you what it will be like up here because we are in a very different climate zone. What little rain falls in the summer rarely lasts for too long and it usually creates some of the most beautiful kayak trips of the season as the muted colors of the Pacific Northwest come alive with the moisture. We won’t cheat you out of the experience because of a little rain, bring a rain-jacket or borrow one of ours and come to enjoy the show!
Can I paddle in a single kayak?
Yes! We have a limited number of single kayaks available to reserve. Check out our info on single kayaks for Multi-Day trips. We are currently the only outfitter in the San Juan Islands to be able to offer this option. The superior training and skill levels of our guides allow us to make this type of experience available to our guests.
What’s the weight limit for paddling in a kayak?
265 lbs for double kayaks and 225 lbs for single kayaks. We have found that these weights are generally the limits for your comfort and enjoyment of the activity.
What is your policy on tipping?
Your guides work very hard to keep your party safe while also supporting an atmosphere that is entertaining. Gratuities are always appreciated with the average tip being 10 percent of the total trip cost, with some guests tipping more and some less, depending on your experience.
What Our Clients Say
Thanks for the magical day at Sucia Island. We are still savoring the moments. What a place! The Wendell Berry quote fits… The world lives in the death of speech, and sings there Your guide Dave was such a pleasant pathfinder for us. And a big appreciation to the Anacortes Kayak Tours owners who provided us with this trip. We… Read more “Magical day at Sucia Island”
Sue and Tom
Thank you again for taking the 3 of us sea kayaking a couple of weeks ago. We really enjoyed our trip. I look forward to going kayaking with you in the future. By the way, my parents will be in Seattle in about two weeks. I gave them your brochure and recommended them to you.
I just wanted to say “Thanks” for a wonderful day of Kayaking yesterday around Cypress Island. For 4–5 years we have been doing a yearly outing of a guided kayak trip and found your group to be the most organized, friendly and well equipped so far. Your kayaks, life vests and spray skirts were by far the best, driest and… Read more “A first-class organization”
I just wanted to thank you for arranging an incredible kayak trip for my sister and I — it truly was a trip of a lifetime! Peter was an incredible guide who was so helpful and informative plus we were blessed with amazing wildlife to watch and perfect weather. It could not have been better.
I want to thank you both for providing us such a wonderful and memorable experience kayaking last week. Andrew, Matt, and I had a fabulous time. Megan — thank you in particular for the fine shopping and meal planning. The boys and I were joking that we ate better during the trip than we did at home the past 2… Read more “A wonderful and memorable experience kayaking”
Pete, Matt, and Andrew Noone
I just returned home from an amazing kayak vacation with you folks, and I’m dreading a return to real life tomorrow. My head is still full of the San Juans and I wish that I could have stayed out for another day, or ten. I did quite a bit of research before booking the trip and your company stood out… Read more “Next time — five-day trip!”
Fantastic trip! Pete and Alex were fantastic! They were both knowledgeable and professional. The trip was a tremendous value for the money; great food and top-notch equipment! Thank you so much! Please thank Pete and Alex again for me.
Just wanted to let you know how pleased we were with the tour to Cypress Island (Sept. 2008). Freddie and Peter were great guides. They were extremely friendly and cheerful, and very well qualified to lead us. What made it especially nice was that both Freddie and Peter related well to both us old fogies as well as the younger… Read more “They were intent on spoiling us”
Cynthia Dietz and Susan Larsen
Thanks so much for a memorable 2 days in the San Juans! We thoroughly enjoyed every moment, though our shoulders and backs indicated that we should’ve done a better job getting in paddling shape beforehand! You could not have tailor-made a menu more suitable for our family (down to the s’mores!) nor have given us a better guide/chef/friend for the… Read more “A memorable 2 days in the San Juans”
Melinda Y. Ching, Senior Attorney-Asia Pacific/Hawaii The Nature Conservancy
Thank you for everything. Our meeting went like Swiss clockwork from start to finish thanks to you and your amazing guides. I simply can’t say enough good things about those four to do justice to the subtle but stout job they did on our trip. We felt completely safe, the food was nothing short of spectacular (and always right on… Read more “What customer service can and should be”
I just got back from a wonderful trip to Sucia with my husband and another couple. We had a great time with Jeremiah, our guide. We were amazed by the scenery, wildlife, and the general beauty of the San Juan Islands. Jeremiah was professional but down-to-earth, and we always felt completely safe because of his degree of knowledge and experience.… Read more “Amazed by the scenery and wildlife”
Hello team at Anacortes — Wendy, Erik, Jeremiah, Gary and Megan and everyone else who helped to make our trip so special! Hey guys Roger and I are now in Juneau about to hit the mountains for a week of running and I just wanted to pause and say thank you so much for a wonderful visit to the… Read more “Thank you”
Kylie and Roger
We had a wonderful trip. Blake was a great guide. Very relaxed and nice pace. The side trip to the lighthouse was magical, and nice to get out and stretch. You do a good job of getting people out on the water safely and comfortably. The equipment was top notch. Well done!!! We will let friends know about the great… Read more “Very relaxed and nice pace”
Prepare for Your Multi-day Adventure
Meeting Place and Time
For our 4-Day Kayak Expeditions please meet at our store (2009 Skyline Way) at 8:00 a.m for all trips departing from Anacortes, unless instructed otherwise by our office staff. We are located just past the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, in Skyline Marina. We like to try and get you on the water as early as possible to maximize your day.
Gear You Will Need
Every person will be assigned 2–20L dry bags and 1–10L dry bag for their gear.
The San Juan Islands have a very mild climate during the summer months. Most trips will experience temperatures around 70° F during the day, and mid-50s at night. Rain is not common, but be aware of the weather and come prepared accordingly.
- Long underwear- polypropylene or something synthetic, top and bottom>
- Shorts (1 pair, preferably non-cotton)
- Pants (1 pair, preferably non-cotton)
- T-shirts (2-3 depending on the trip length)
- Sweatshirt (fleece or synthetic, cotton will not dry) or some other insulating shirt. (2)
- Underwear (enough to make you happy)
- Socks (enough to make you happy, 4 pairs should be plenty)
- Light rain jacket and rain pants>
- Water compatible shoes (Tevas, Chacos, water socks, old tennis shoes, etc)
- Shoes for camp (light running or hiking shoes are great)
- Baseball cap, or a brimmed hat.
- Wool or fleece hat for camp
- Sunglasses! (You will definitely want these!)
- Two water bottles, One liter each (please fill them at the store, or before you arrive)
- Bug spray
- Headlamp or flashlight, with extra batteries.
- Book, playing cards, journal.
- Any favorite snacks (we’ll provide a lot, but you may have special preferences.)
- Small camera (bring freezer grade Zip-Loc bags to protect it, if it isn’t waterproof.)
- Personal medications, as needed, including painkillers (we have First Aid kits, but prefer to keep our medications for emergencies.)
- Allergy medications—if you are allergic to bees, please bring an epi-pen!
- Sleeping Bag must be compressible to fit into one of the 20L dry bags. (we have bags to rent for a nominal $35 cleaning fee)
- Beer or wine, if you like (for insurance reasons we cannot provide alcohol)
- A small hand towel<
- Any personal items that you cannot live without during your trip.
Anacortes Kayak Tours will provide
- All kayaking gear (boat, paddles, spray decks, life jackets)
- A professionally trained and fun guide, with a comprehensive safety kit
- Dry bags for your personal gear, usually two 20L bags and one 10L dry bag
- All camping gear (tents, sleeping pads, pillows, kitchen items, etc)
- All meals, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and hot drinks
If you have younger kids (under 12) then please call before making a reservation.
Anacortes Kayak Tours prides itself on being the most family-friendly kayaking company in the San Juan Islands. We consider your kids to be an investment in the future and we want to get them out on the water and developing an active lifestyle and an appreciation of the natural world!
That being said, kids under 12 are best suited for private trips for better group dynamics and safety on the water.
For your safety and comfort, we have a weight limit of 265 pounds (per person) in tandems and 225 pounds (per person) in singles. Call if you have any questions.
Health / Physical Limits
Our #1 priority is to bring you home safely. In the unlikely event of a capsize we need to know that you are physically capable of keeping your face above the water, that you are able in some fashion to assist with the rescue, and that your heart can take the stress of the immersion and exertion of an unplanned accident. If you think that you may be at risk, or that your health conditions are of concern then please talk to your physician and then give us a call. We’d love to try and help you find a solution, and if possible to get you out on the water.
Deafness and blindness will not prevent you from enjoying our tours, but please let us know at the time of booking.
If you have health issues on the day of your trip, please pull your guide aside and let him or her know. This includes even small issues (like diarrhea) that can turn a great trip into a problem for you. Our guides can then plan the trip accordingly.
Multi-Day Expeditions require a 50% deposit at time of booking. 60 or more days before the trip date, full refund of all payments less a $100 per person cancellation and handling fee. 31-59 days before the trip date, guests will be charged 50% of the entire trip cost. 0-30 days before the trip date, guests will be charged 100% of the entire trip cost and no refunds will be made. All cancellations must be in writing and charged amount is determined upon the date of receipt. Please refer to our Cancellation Policy page for details.
We enjoy about 250 days of sunshine per year, mostly in the summer. Even when it does sprinkle on us it rarely lasts more than a few minutes. We won’t cancel for rain.
The only weather that will cancel a trip is windy weather that causes hazardous sea conditions. Your comfort and safety are our biggest concern.
A Few Rules–Please Read!
- No Smoking in the kayaks on these trips. This is a safety concern for us, many people get seasick after being exposed to cigarette/cigar smoke.
- Please do not litter. Pack out everything that you pack in.
- Sorry, no dogs. We like them, but they tend to tear the heck out of the boats, can disrupt the enjoyment of other guests, and can also create safety concerns.
- Your guide needs you to follow their instructions. Please respect this.
- Respect the wildlife who make the San Juan Islands their home. We give the whales plenty of space when they are around, we try not to frighten seals that are hauled out on the rocks, that sort of thing. Your guide will explain this more out on the water.
And at last, The Fine Print
We strive to make sure that we are being entirely open and honest with our marketing language and also when we speak to people about what our trips are like. We’ve been burned before on our travels and we never want to be remembered as a disingenuous company when you’re reminiscing with your friends later.
To assist us in placing you on the most appropriate trip please let us know if you have any special requests, concerns, or expectations when you call. That will allow us to either recommend the best trip for your needs or at least to give you a proper explanation about what we can realistically accomplish for you.