Owl Sculpture by Georgia Gerber Photo Courtesy of San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
The Pacific Northwest is rich with art of all forms, and one of the best places to see some of the local talent is the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. Located just outside of Roche Harbor along the San Juan Transit route, the sculpture park features over 20 acres of outdoor art and houses 130 sculptures. Many of the sculptures were made by famous artists from the United States and Canada, but some budding new artists are also featured. The sculptures are viewable from 5 self-guided trails through the park. The total walking distance is about a mile. Pets are welcome. There is also an area called the Starfish Project where kids of all ages can try their hand at sculpting using found items provided by the park. The sculpture park is open every day from dawn to dusk. Admission is a $5 suggested donation, but kids are always free. There are restrooms and plenty of room for a picnic if you’d like to stay for the day.
Oyster on the half shell photo courtesy Visitsanjuans.com
While you’re in the area, don’t miss a stop at the Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. Westcott Bay is known for its pristine oyster habitat, and several species are harvested from the bay and available for sale at the Shellfish Co. Picnic tables are available for self-schucking, so you can enjoy a lunch of some of the best oysters in the region while admiring the view over the bay, or you can pick up some fresh seafood and take it back to your charter boat for a memorable evening barbecue.
Image Courtesy of Naturemappingfoundation.org
Did you know that San Juan Island is one of the best bird watching areas in all of Washington State? Due to the large volume of water flushing through the Strait of Georgia and Haro Strait with each tidal change, the Salish Sea is an incredibly rich environment and is home to over 200 species of both resident and migrating birds. During the summer, rhinoceros auklets, tufted puffins, and pigeon guillemots come down to the Strait of Juan de Fuca to feed. Near the end of the charter season, guests may be able to spot common murres, Cassin’s auklets, and forktailed storm petrels. San Juan Island is also located along the Pacific Flyway migration route, so throughout the year various visiting bird species can be seen as they pass through on their way to their various breeding and feeding grounds.
Forktailed Storm Petrel Image Courtesy of vancouverislandbirds.com
San Juan Island’s National Historic Parks are a wonderful place to stop for the day and do some bird watching during your charter. The park is divided into the English Camps, located on the Northwestern side of San Juan Island, and the American Camps, located on the Southern end of the island. A wide range of habitats are represented between these two parks. The English Camp is next to a large, protected bay and encompasses habitats such as mudlfats, grassy bald and rocky slopes, open woodland, oak savanna, and wet coniferous forest. American Camp includes prairie, shrubby thickets, mixed coniferous and hardwood forests, sandy and rocky shorelines, and brackish lagoons. Both parks are teeming with chestnut-backed chickadees, rufous hummingbirds, and American goldfinches. Lucky charter guests may even spot one of the 18 varieties of raptors found in the parks, such as great horned owls or peregrine falcons. Guests wishing to visit English Camp can anchor in Garrison Bay, which is a mud and sand bottom. Access to the bay is through Mosquito Pass, which can make for a challenging passage, but is not difficult as long as navigational aids are abided by. Visitors can anchor in Griffin Bay in order to visit American Camp, but the site is wind-exposed.
Photo Courtesy of visitsanjuans.com
Spencer Spit, located on Lopez Island, is a 138-acre marine and camping park, and is a popular stopping point for charter guests. It is named for the lagoon-enclosing sand spit that characterizes the park. Historically, the area was used by Native Americans as a productive spot for crabbing, clamming, and fishing. The spit was homesteaded in the 1800’s by the Troxell family, and was eventually sold to the Spencers, who lived on the property for 50 years. Tribes used the land for food gathering all the way up to 1946 when it became a state park, and since then it has become a big draw for visitors to Lopez Island because it is one of the few parks in the San Juans that is accessible by car. A replica of the original Spencer cabin is on site. There are ample camp sites available, as well as 12 mooring buoys for visiting boats. There are also day use picnic sites and covered kitchen shelters that feature barbecue grills and fire pits. The park has potable water. Spencer Spit is a fabulous place to set your crab trap for the day, do some exploring, then grill up a fresh crab dinner while enjoying a beach bonfire. In addition to the obvious beachcombing and bird- and animal- watching opportunities, Spencer Spit State Park also boasts two miles of hiking trails if you need to stretch your legs for a bit. Between July 5th and Labor Day there is a Junior Ranger interpretive program held at the park for those interested in learning about the natural history of the area. Kayak and bike rentals are also available.