I’ve lived on the East Coast for over 2 decades, but I’m originally from California. No matter how long I live here, the West Coast will always have a special place in my heart. Rich in character, history, and varying landscapes, there’s so much to love. As a kid, we traveled a great deal and I treasure those memories. While many of my friends are currently planning summer vacations involving islands off the East Coast, I can’t help but think about the West Coast destinations that are so often overlooked. Here are four west coast islands that you should visit, offering tons of activities and fun for everyone in the family.
San Juan Islands, Washington
The San Juan Islands used to be one of those secret destinations, but in recent years the travel bureau of Washington and the San Juan Islands have done a great job of broadcasting the locale. Don’t let the surge in popularity deter you though, this is still an easy to access and beautiful destination. Whether you are into sailing, discovering small farms and their wares, kayaking, fishing, or hiking, there is something on one of the islands for you to do. Whale watching off the coasts of the islands has grown in popularity over the last couple of years, and you can do this from land or water. The best part is that the ease of hopping between islands means that you can go from one adventure to the next in a single weekend. And whatever you do, don’t miss the lighthouses!
Whidbey Island, Washington
Whidbey Island is known for its proximity to Seattle, but also for its abundance of recreational activities that are all possible from the shores of Whidbey. Whether you are looking for a great beach destination, incredible hiking, access to recreational water sports, culture and shopping, you’ll be sure to find it on Whidbey. Over the years the island has become an interesting mix of both vacationers and homeowners, with more and more folks deciding to put their roots down on this island destination that they’ve fallen in love with.
Santa Catalina Island, California
This is an absolute favorite from my childhood! Anyone that makes the time to head out to this island knows what a gem it is and does everything they can to return to the island as often as possible. The island is an odd mix of history and nature, with part of the island still displaying the old time structures and whimsical structures that were put up by the Chicago Cubs original owner, Mr. Wrigley. The vast majority of the island though consists of nature trails and camping spots where overnight guests can explore the island for the weekend. The best way to reach the island is by private or rented boat, and there are plenty of rental options available to help you make the day sail. Otherwise, you can board the ferry that gets you on the island.
Channel Islands, California
While Catalina is one of the Channel Islands, it is often the only one that folks explore when they look at the island options available to them. The Channel Islands are actually a national park, and together they are some of the most pristine landscape islands you could ever hope to travel to. The five additional islands that make up the Channel Islands, and open to exploration, include, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, Anacapa, and San Miguel. These islands are slightly harder to get to, but there are private airplane and boat options, as well as outfitters that will tote you and your gear out for an adventure. With the distance to the islands, it is best to think of these destinations as weekend getaways. Hike, watch for migrating whales, bike out to some of the best views on the coast, and just enjoy catching rare glimpses of nature every second of the day.
What’s your favorite West Coast island destination?