San Juan County is currently the fastest growing county in the state, per capita. There are approximately 12,400 people who reside full time in the islands and most of the population lives on the four larger islands served by the Washington State Ferry system, out of the 172 islands in total
Blakely Island, the Gem of the San Juan Islands, is unique among Washington State's San Juan Islands. This 4700 acre island is the largest of the non-ferry served islands in San Juan County and offers a wealth of quality amenities not found on other islands in this marvelous archipelago. The owners have access to miles of back roads and two pristine 70 acre freshwater lakes. Both spring fed lakes are protected by 3000+/- acres of forest land providing exceptional fishing, swimming and boating. Conservation easements severely limit future development, insuring that Blakely will retain its natural beauty for years to come. The private 2400' runway is surfaced and lighted. There is also a first class protected marina, a post office, general store, tennis courts, firehouse and recycling center. Power is supplied by the mainland and fiber-optic telephone equipment is available. Several islands around Blakely are part of the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge. About 1/4th of Blakely was donated to Seattle Pacific University to be used in its natural state for biological and environmental research and education. Blakely Island is very unique to the San Juan Islands and is truly an island paradise.
Brown Island, commonly known as Friday Island, forms the main protection for Friday Harbor. All the marine traffic going to Friday Harbor must come around this island. Therefore, in the summer it is the most active spot in the entire archipelago. Brown Island has community docks on the island and in Friday Harbor. There is also a water taxi available for Brown Island residents. This was the first development in the San Juan Islands to have extensive self-imposed environmental restrictions, thanks to Sam Buck, Sr. and his partners in the development. There are only waterfront properties on the island. Golf carts are the mode of transportation; cars are not allowed. No public access.
Center Island is a 178-acre private island a short distance from Anacortes, nestled between Decatur and Lopez Islands. The island is served with electricity and telephone but accessible only by private boat or airplane. Most property owners boat from Anacortes and those without their own boat can arrange a water taxi from Skyline Marina in Anacortes or charter a flight. Most of the island is platted so all of the owners share in the common elements including the airfield, docks and boat ramp, boat/trailer storage lot, water system, clubhouse, caretakers quarters, beach lot, vehicles and other equipment useful in construction. There is a restriction of privately owned internal-combustion vehicles, so golf carts are the typical mode of transportation. The roads generally accommodate barged-in commercial vehicles for the delivering of construction materials. All residential building requires septic installation. Not all lots have access to the water system and those that are eligible are subject to evidence of the building and septic permits. Center Island is private so non-owners must be guests of owners or be escorted by an authorized person. There are mostly summer vacation homes there; however a small number of residents do live on Center year-round, including full time caretakers. Facilities include a clubhouse, community picnic areas, a community dock and a place to pull small boats out of the water and put them on land. There is daily mail service and a private 1600' airstrip.
Crane Island, with 222 acres, is the largest and most developed of the Wasp Islands group, lying between Orcas and Shaw Islands. It is one of the more easily accessible islands being very near to Orcas Island within relatively protected waters. It has community docks on both Crane and Orcas and a private airstrip.
Decatur Island is about 3 miles by 2 miles in size. It is considered a "private" island, having no public facilities other than a County launching boat ramp in Davis Bay. Power and phone are available, as is an excellent privately owned water system serving some parts of the island, otherwise drilled wells are required. There are about 59 full-time residents and about 627 potential weekend residents that show up during the summer months. Most of the locals commute by boat to Anacortes for groceries, about a 20 minute trip on a nice day. A few use the Hunter Bay dock on Lopez Island and keep a car there to shop and get the kids to high school. A flight to Anacortes takes 10 minutes on West Isle Air's daily scheduled service. They also deliver the daily mail. All cars and large goods are brought to the island by barge. Private passenger only ferry service is available via the Paraclete out of Anacortes Skyline Marina. There is a one room schoolhouse, teaching children from first through eighth grades. The high school students attend school on Lopez via boat. The island has a small store (with B&B above), post office, grade school, boat launch, airport and small shipyard. There are miles of scenic county roads open to the public, however the lands are all private and beaches are not easily accessed. There are various good spots for anchorage around the island.
Frost Island lies beside Spencer Spit State Park on the east side of Lopez Island. Accessible only by boat, Frost is extremely private and quiet. This island is divided into 15 lots, all of which are waterfront, and has a 12+/- acre common area. Frost is used mostly for vacation homes and amenities include community dock and water system.
Henry Island is named after its pioneer settler, Henry Perkins. It is shaped like an H and located just west of Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, protecting several bays in that general area. There is good fishing and whale watching off its south and west shores. Its land parcels are privately owned, other than approximately 80 acres on the southwest side that are for a lighthouse reservation. However the shoreline at the lighthouse is steep and rocky, making landings hazardous.
Johns Island, with 132 acres, is immediately east of Stuart Island. It is a little more than a mile long and has a mixture of rocky bluffs and pristine beaches. No public access.
Obstruction Island is located between Orcas and Blakely Islands and is 217 acres. It is a privately held island with a mixture of rocky shores and pebble beaches. There are a small number of residences but no public access.
Pearl Island is located just off the shores of San Juan Island at the outskirts of Roche Harbor Resort & Marina. It helps protect Roche Harbor from northerly winds. One side faces south overseeing the activity of Roche Harbor, the other faces north with broad views of the outer islands. It is small and flat with all waterfront parcels and no public access.
Stuart Island has a population of about 40 people residing there year-round and many more during the summer months. It rests up along the Canadian border, near the Gulf Islands, 3.5 miles north of San Juan Island. It encompasses 1,786 acres and has shorelines that range from steep rock faces to protected coves with beach. It also has a private airport. Stuart has perhaps the most interesting school in the State, including a classic one-room school house built in 1902 that is now used as the library for the more recently constructed one room school house adjacent to it. It is one of the last American schools without electricity or flush toilets. Stuart Island Marine State Park is located off the southeast side, encompassing 88 acres including over 4,000 feet of waterfront within Reid and Prevost Harbors.
Waldron Island is an island with a mixture of beautiful long beaches, high cliffs and rocky medium banked shoreline, depending on which side of the island you're on. There is also a mixture of personalities from those who want complete privacy to those who welcome visitors. It is a very self-sufficient island and has no community water, electricity or land line phone, as is true with most outer islands. The fact is, most outer islanders prefer it this way and once you have experienced it, you can understand why.
Waldron is near the west side of Orcas Island and there are close to 100 year-round residents. This island has no stores or facilities other than a county dock with a few abandoned buildings nearby. There are county roads, but most of the land is private. It has a small post office, grade school, cemetery and landing strip. Public access is very limited. A 478-acre nature preserve with 4,000 feet of shoreline is located on Waldron. It was fostered by Waldron residents who wanted to preserve it in its natural state and it is now managed by the Nature Conservancy and the San Juan Preservation Trust.
Photos courtesy of Washington State Dept. of Ecology