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Lopez Island Boating Vacation

Updated on November 14, 2014

Our Lopez Island Boating Vacation with a Tail Wagging Dog

Lopez Island is located in the U.S. San Juan Islands, have you ever visited?

If you have then I'm sure you will agree they are exquisite. A beautiful location to relax, enjoy nature and just take life a little bit slower.

If not, then you must add scenic Lopez Island to your Bucket List of Must-See Places

By the way, that's our Tail-wagger on the left, isn't he just gorgeous. We adopted him into our family October 2010 he was then 7 years old. We are very lucky to have found him as he is absolutely wonderful, well-trained, and friendly to all, albeit a bit territorial. I could talk about him for hours but I guess that's a story for a future lens.

Say hello to Boomer and let's get going on that vacation.

Our Boat after a Day on the Water

Our Boat is no yacht but it works great for us, it's a 24' Campion Explorer 682 Sport Cabin.

Equipped with plentiful storage, two bucket seats, multiple passenger seats, galley with a two-burner stove, icebox, sink, and removable table; a sleeping cabin, great stereo system, live wells for freshly caught fish or crab, and best of all a marine head (i.e. built-in toilet).

It is a welcome combination of fisherman necessities and creature comforts.

We're Underway

It is a beautiful sunny morning when we depart from the Everett Marina roughly 2-3 hours south of Lopez Island there is a lingering low lying fog common for mornings on the Pacific Northwest waters. So that calls for layering; a t-shirt, sweatshirt and jacket are in order and for me gloves as the morning breeze is a tad nippy.

The water is remarkably calm and flat as lake water. Let me explain where we are; this body of saltwater is called the Puget Sound, part of the Salish Sea located in Washington State. The Sound is a 100 mile marine waterway accommodating International Container Ship traffic bound to and from major seaports, Commercial Fishing Fleets and Sport Boaters alike.

The Puget Sound flows from Olympia, WA, north past Seattle, through a narrow passage named Deception Pass until it connects with the Strait of Juan de Fucaand then the Pacific Ocean. It is the deepest inland body of water measuring 930 feet at its deepest. This massive flow of currents and tides is noted for creating some speak able water conditions so the flatness of the water is what made this day remarkable.

What a Gorgeous Day

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Passing Camano Island north of Seattle about 30 minutes outWhidbey Island would be on the port sideRunning smoothMt Baker in the distancePossession Sound portion of Puget Sound
Passing Camano Island north of Seattle about 30 minutes out
Passing Camano Island north of Seattle about 30 minutes out
Whidbey Island would be on the port side
Whidbey Island would be on the port side
Running smooth
Running smooth
Mt Baker in the distance
Mt Baker in the distance
Possession Sound portion of Puget Sound
Possession Sound portion of Puget Sound

Tail-wagging Vacations

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Deception Pass Bridge

This is a photo of the Deception Pass Bridge rapid water traveling through the pass can often create nail-biting whirlpools; it is wise to consult the area tide tables to ensure travel at slack tide, preferably high slack. Our passage was uneventful and going as planned until a wall of fog greets us as we reach the open water where Puget Sound meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Now if you have never experienced dense fog while in a boat on the water it can be unnerving as visibility stops, you no longer see large areas of land that were only moments ago a short distance away. So it is decision time do we sit and wait out the fog not knowing when it might lift? Or do we boldly go forth?

We decide to venture onwards as we have our course mapped out on our laptop and the boat is equipped with sonar, no radar at this point but sonar.

For the non-boaters reading Sonar is a system using acoustic waves to track your position while on water, a must-have device for Puget Sound waters.

Turns out the extent of the fog bank does not last long but as we emerge from its curtain a sea-bound freighter is directly in our path or maybe the other way around, I'm not sure. Either way I calmly shriek . . . . . .

!#*%!#*% turn, turn, turn!


With my heart resuming normal rhythm we venture on and are treated to a spectacular surprise and as chance would have it the camera is secured away.

Listen - starboard, port, off the bow. Whoosh!

A resident pod of Orca Whale is passing around us, gloriously swimming through the water unconcerned with our presence. To our astonishment a 30 foot Orca fully breached and spun 360 degrees in the air, it leaves you speechless. We watched the amazing performance of 10 or 12 Orca whales for a truly awesome 20 or 25 minutes; having visited the islands before we have observed Orca but never witnessed a memorable show like this.

There are three resident Puget Sound Orca pods meaning this is the area they call home, they are though listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. There are three resident Puget Sound Orca pods meaning this is the area they call home, they are though listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Learn more about our resident Orca Whale through the video and links below.

Endangered Orca

Our Destination

Lopez Island

Our Vacation Homeport

The Islander Resort and Marina remodeled in 2011 is a great destination and an easy place to get to.

Travel by the Washington State Ferry departing from Anacortes and choose to go with or without your car. Boarding the ferry as passengers only without your car will save on expenses but be sure you have means to get around the island once there. If choosing to go without your car arrange for their shuttle to pick you up at the Lopez Island terminal.

Travel by Kenmore Air Seaplane based out of Seattle is easy breezy as they land right at the Islander Resort

Travel by personal Boat as we did and grab a slip in the 60-slip Marina, secure your lines and settle back

The resort features rooms with decks overlooking Fisherman's Bay, charcoal BBQs, washer and dryers, swimming pool, exercise facility, badminton, and horseshoes pits.

There are five cabins that accommodate dogs. Boomer's not too fond of sleeping on the boat so we spent nights in one of the cabins; gives him a chance to romp around on land and feel a bit more like at home. Besides it also gave us the opportunity to use a standard shower.

The Islander's waterfront restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner is nice and the cocktail lounge hosts live music on weekends. We prepared most our meals on the boat since naturally the Boomer boy was not allowed in the restaurant and we don't like to leave him in the boat cabin alone for too long.

Boating Lopez Island and Surrounds

Lopez by Water

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kenmore Air arriving at the Islander MarinaOld Shipwreck in Fisherman's BayResidence as you head out to the StraitsLopez shotsLopez Homes on Fisherman's BayLopez shotsRosario ResortOrcas IslandOrcas IslandBlakely Island
Kenmore Air arriving at the Islander Marina
Kenmore Air arriving at the Islander Marina
Old Shipwreck in Fisherman's Bay
Old Shipwreck in Fisherman's Bay
Residence as you head out to the Straits
Residence as you head out to the Straits
Lopez shots
Lopez shots
Lopez Homes on Fisherman's Bay
Lopez Homes on Fisherman's Bay
Lopez shots
Lopez shots
Rosario Resort
Rosario Resort
Orcas Island
Orcas Island
Orcas Island
Orcas Island
Blakely Island
Blakely Island

Salmon Fishing the Strait

We spent 5 days on and around Lopez Island boating about the closer Islands of San Juan, Shaw, Orcas (home to the very popular Rosario Resort), Blakely and Decatur. We caught a healthy limit of Puget Sound Silver Salmon, saw the Orca pod again 3 out of the 5 days, witnessed evening visits to the marina from Gray Heron, numerous Bald Eagles, and a variety of shorebirds.

The entire San Juan Islands consist of a varied number of islands located in both U.S. and Canadian waters. Lopez Island is the third largest of the U.S. San Juan Islands measuring 29 square miles in land area, 8 miles wide, 15 miles long, and 63 miles of shoreline.

Lopez Island, traditionally touted as the friendliest of the islands the 2000 population census recorded 2,177 permanent residents. The one-finger wave (index finger) is an island trademark.

Planning your Visit to Lopez Island

The Lopez Island Lowdown

Packing essentials

  • Be sure to pack your camera and binoculars as you will surely spot ample wildlife. Bald eagle, hawks, shore birds, crane, pelican, black-tailed deer, rabbits, seals, and orca are just a sampling of what you may see.
  • Take along a good book as there is no better place to just kick back with Mother Nature and a great novel.

How to get to there

  • If not travelling via personal watercraft the Washington State Ferry system runs car-carrying trips through the major San Juan Islands and Lopez is the first stop from the mainland.
  • You can fly in from Sea-Tac International airport a short distance south of Seattle or via seaplane from Kenmore Air located on Lake Union in downtown Seattle.

Where to stay

  • Lopez Island has one resort - The Islander Resort is highly recommended and well established. They are comfortable, moderately priced and have a waterfront restaurant and lounge on the premises. It is a favorite of locals and a fun vacation locale for the entire family and with the marina situated in a protected bay it makes for a relaxing stay.
  • The Island has three Bed and Breakfast Inns - The Edenwild Inn came recommended by a couple we chatted with one evening, they raved about the place and loved that it was located so near Lopez Village.
  • Lopez also has numerous Private Homes to rent, and three Camp Areas.

What to do there

  • Lopez Island offers beautiful water scenery, views of Mt Baker and the distant Olympic mountain range; sandy yet somewhat rocky beaches, hills of evergreen trees, farmlands and a feeling that you are many, many miles from the bustling city life. It is comfortably walkable and a popular destination of cyclists. The rural setting is home to numerous wooded trails and State and County Parks.
  • So rent a bike or bring your own and explore the treasured landscape or rent a kayak and paddle around protected Fisherman's Bay or one of the National Wildlife Refuge Islands breathing in the salt air. Chances are pretty good that you will see a Bald Eagle or two.
  • Visit the Lopez Center for the Community and the Arts located in the Village it boasts an outdoor performance pavilion garden, skateboard park, and Family Center.
  • Grab a tasting at one of the family run Wineries of which there are at least three.
  • Put on your hiking boots or best walking shoes and explore sea life, tide pools, forests, flower gardens and parks.

Most important - you must visit Lopez Village

Lopez Village

The heart of Lopez Island is Lopez Village located on Fisherman's Bay and home to splendid cafes, coffee shops, bakery, restaurants, the Blossom Grocery (aka supermarket), an organic market, a variety of small shops, a Historical Museum, and a Farmer's Market.

We walked from the Islander marina to the supermarket in Lopez Village about 4:30 or 5:00 each afternoon to pick up a bottle of wine and few daily items. It's about a 3 mile round-trip walk and a great way to stretch the legs after a day on the water.

Boomer loved it! At home he gets two walks a day and here he had so many new smells to check out. He was a happy Boomer Boy

Tail-wagger Boating Tips

Keep your Dog Safe and Happy

Be sure they enjoy the boat -

Let them investigate every little inch of your boat while you are still on land, if they are like Boomer they will want to sniff it out. We built a carpeted plank to lay across the steps going into the cabin. This allows him to walk from the outer part of the boat to the bed in the cabin much easier.

Start the motor with them on or near the boat, the loud motor may be a bit unnerving to your dog. Boomer is very apprehensive around loud noises the 4th of July is not a happy time for him. Fortunately the outboard motor does not disturb him.

Take your dog on a few short boating trips before you plan a week long boating vacation. Help them get comfortable with their surroundings, the wind blowing in their face and the movements of the boat on water. We take one of Boomer's beds with us and he likes to sit on it between us.

Keep in mind a dog can get seasick just like us. The boats rocking action while moored or the movement on water can adversely affect a dog as much as they do some people. Watch their behavior for any signs of discomfort or uneasiness.

Remember potty breaks. Boomer treats the boat just like the car and does not use it as a bathroom so we try to take potty breaks about every 4 hours or so. Depending on where you're boating this may not be easy to do as there usually are not an abundance of docks at the ready so plan your outing accordingly.

Be mindful of the weather. The deck of your boat can get very warm in the sun and the pads of their feet absorb that heat. We use a damp cloth to pat down his paws on the hot, sunny days and keep bottled water on ice for his water dish. If you can provide them shade and if they go in the cabin area remember it can get as warm as the interior of a car.

Have plenty of fresh Drinking water available and bring along their favorite snacks. We pour a small amount of water in Boomer's water dish at a time for two reasons, we don't what it splashing out as the boat is moving and his water stays cooler this way. We always take a couple of his snacks along and give them to him just as we would at home.

Keep their routine close to what they are used to at home. Plan meal times, play times, and bed times around the same schedule as they are on at home. They will be happier and thank you for it.

Most importantly, buy a Life Jacket. Yes, dogs need to have a PDF while boating. Even good swimmers may not do well in the open water. If they end up overboard they can become exhausted or suffer hypothermia before you can rescue them.

And a Pleasant Goodnight

Thanks for coming along on our Tail-wagger Vacation - Where do you go with your pet?

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    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Looks so peaceful.

    • SheilaMilne profile image


      6 years ago from Kent, UK

      Our cat comes with us as we alternate between our home in England and holiday place in France. He's not fond of strange places so we rarely take him anywhere else, just on occasion to family.

    • HenkWillemse profile image


      6 years ago

      If I could I would even take my dog to work with me.

    • psiloveyou1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Gorgeous photos!! It looks like a beautiful place to visit, especially by boat.

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 

      6 years ago

      Beautiful photos and a lovely story. Thanks for sharing your life with us!


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