Table of Contents:
- Where are the San Juan Islands?
- Best Time of Year to Elope in the San Juan Islands
- San Juan Islands Elopement Permits
- Where to Elope in the San Juan Islands
- Getting Your Washington State Marriage License
- Best Places to Stay for Your San Juan Islands Elopement
- 10 Fun Ideas for Your San Juan Islands Elopement
- San Juan Islands Elopement Photographer
- More Washington State Elopement Planning Resources
If you’ve never been to the San Juans you are missing OUT. They’re one of the most amazing parts of Washington, most known for their incredible landscapes and huge amount of fun things to do for visitors. And they make for a GREAT elopement location for couples who love adventuring, being by the water, and having plenty of amazing dining, shopping, & activity options! This guide has got everything you need to know to elope in the San Juan Islands; specifically Orcas, San Juan, Lopez, & Shaw Islands.
Where are the San Juan Islands?
Where even are the San Juan Islands?
The San Juan Islands are a group of 172 islands (or an “archipelago,” if you wanna get fancy with it) between Washington state & Vancouver Island, four of which are accessible by Washington State Ferries: Orcas Island, San Juan Island, Lopez Island, & Shaw Island. I’m going to focus on the first three in this guide, since those are the islands that most people visit + that have the most opportunities for a variety of adventures!
Getting to the San Juan Islands
There are a few ways to get to the San Juan Islands from Washington. You can take a ferry from Anacortes to any of the islands for $9-$15 for passengers only, or you can bring your car on the ferry for $24-$54. Passenger ferry service is also available from Port Townsend to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island) between April & October, and from Bellingham between May & September. If you want to go super bougie for your elopement, you can even book a small private plane or seaplane to take you to the islands from cities like Seattle, Bellingham, and Everett!
Traveling around the San Juan Islands
Once you’re on the islands, you can travel by foot, by car, or even by electric bike! I recommend bringing your car if you want to stay for multiple days and be able to explore whenever you want, wherever you want, but certain areas of the islands are super walkable. There are also shuttles you can pay for like the Orcas Island Shuttle, which transports you around Orcas Island, or San Juan Transit, which is a shuttle that takes you from the ferry terminal to all the island’s major attractions.
Best Time of Year to Elope in the San Juan Islands
In general, the best time of year to elope in the San Juan Islands is summer, between June-August. But it really depends on what you’re envisioning for your elopement and what is most important to you!! The weather is best on the islands in the summer, with high temperatures averaging between 64-68°F, so if you want to spend a lot of time outdoors, summer will be best for you. However, keep in mind that summer IS peak tourist season so it’ll be harder to avoid crowds. Most of the hiking trails are also really beautiful in the spring, when everything comes back to life after winter!
If you’re okay with a bit cooler weather, the fall foliage around the islands is sooo beautiful, and travel costs typically dip down a bit in the fall too. But ferry services begin to slow down in the fall – the ferry from Port Townsend stops service in October, and the ferry from Bellingham in September.
Now if you want to elope in the San Juan Islands because of the amazing whale watching opportunities, the best time to elope is between mid-June and early September! This is peak season to see the orcas, humpbacks, and grey whales on whale watching tours, which I highly recommend you take if you really want the best chance at seeing them.
San Juan Islands Elopement Permits
If you elope in a Washington State Park (such as Moran State Park or Obstruction Pass State Park), you might need a Special Activity Permit. I recommend reaching out to the park office to confirm whether you’ll need a permit or not, before you start the application process! To apply for this permit, if you do end up needing one, fill out this application, pay the $45 application fee, and submit your application to your park contact at least 60 days in advance of your desired date. They’ll help ya with the rest! And your photographer may need a Photography Permit, as well.
For more info about Washington State elopement permits, click here!
Where to Elope in the San Juan Islands
Now let’s talk LOCATIONS! Here are the top best places to elope in the San Juan Islands, by island.
Best Orcas Island Elopement Locations
Mount Constitution is a GORGEOUS mountain in Moran State Park, you can either drive or hike to the summit. I highly recommend this hike for adventurous couples who are looking for an epic way to spend their elopement day and want a bit of a trek to their ceremony spot! The Mount Constitution via Mountain Lake trail is 6.7 miles round trip with 1,500 feet of elevation gain, and is moderately difficult. The climb is sooo worth it for the incredible views you get at the top of the Twin Lakes and the dense forest. Make sure you have a Discover Pass for this one!
Want an easier hike with JUST as epic of views? Try the Ship Peak Loop at Turtleback Mountain Preserve!! This 3-mile round trip trail takes you through some of the best views on Orcas Island, starting at the south end of the preserve and looping back around, with the option to take a lil side trip to the summit. If you want an even easier option, take the 15-minute walk from the north trailhead to the North Valley Overlook – this is a good choice for anybody eloping with kids or guests who don’t want to hike, but still want to see the amazingggg scenery!
Obstruction Pass State Park is an awesome elopement location on Orcas Island, especially if you want to stay at a primitive campsite near the water or go picnicking, fishing, hiking, or simply strolling along the beach. Take this easy 1.9-mile round trip route, which loops the central trail with the Highlands trail to take you along the northeast border of the park. The Douglas firs everywhere and interpretive panels along the route make it a really beautiful and educational way to explore the park!
Check out Kayla & Joe’s Orcas Island Elopement for some real-life inspo!!
Best San Juan Island Elopement Locations
Lime Kiln Point State Park is a super popular spot on San Juan Island, most recognized for its little lighthouse & its prime Friday Harbor location. You could easily spend hours in the park walking around the trails, exploring the beach, taking a guided kayaking trip, or head out on a boat. And fun fact, it’s one of the BEST places in the world for whale-watching – you can often see 3 pods of resident orcas close to shore from May to September!
Speaking of Friday Harbor, it’s probably one of the most well-known areas of the San Juan Islands thanks to its panoramic views and super walkable seaport. Whether you want to explore the waterfront, check out the Whale Museum, eat at one of the many delicious restaurants, or peek inside the local shops, you won’t run out of things to do in Friday Harbor! It’s such a nice, cozy place to stay for your elopement, especially if you have guests coming who you want to spend time with.
I lovedddd these Friday Harbor elopement photos sooo much!
The Mount Finlayson loop will give you the most gorgeous views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and is popular because of how easy it is to opt for shorter or longer routes depending on what level of adventure you’re lookin’ for! The main loop is 3.6 miles round trip with just over 400 feet of elevation gain, making it an easy to moderately-challenging hike. You’ll walk through grassy meadows, explore dense forests, and get beautiful views of the water everywhere!
Best Lopez Island Elopement Locations
Besides the cool name, Shark Reef Sanctuary is an amazing place to elope or at least visit during your time on Lopez Island for manyyyy reasons. The easy walk through the forest to an incredible viewpoint, seal (and sometimes even sea lion!) sightings, and beautiful bluffs for photos with the water behind you? Yesss please.
Spencer Spit State Park covers over 100 acres of the eastern shore of Lopez Island, overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca & offering amazing opportunities for camping and water activities. Go saltwater fishing, swimming, diving, or hiking around the 2 miles of trails for an easygoing & beautiful day by the water! You can even bring your bike or kayak along. This is probably one of your best options on the island if you’re looking to go camping (whether you want a larger campsite or a smaller, more primitive one)!
Iceberg Point is a super beautiful and fun loop hike that’s suitable for people of all ages (and dogs!). Just 3 miles round trip with 50 elevation gain, this is a great area to explore if you want to just check out the beach and get some great views from the cliffs out to the Olympic Mountains!
Getting Your Washington State Marriage License
So in addition to getting the proper permits for your San Juan Islands elopement, you’ll also need to get your Washington State marriage license in order to legally tie the knot on the islands. Here are the basic Washington State marriage laws you should be familiar with right off the bat:
- You do not need to be a WA resident in order to get married here
- You need 2 witnesses over the age of 12
- You have to be at least 18 years old to get married in WA
- The cost for a WA marriage license varies by county – in San Juan County, the application fee is $62
- There’s a 3-day mandatory waiting period, which means you’ve gotta wait 3 days after getting your license before you can have your ceremony
- Your license is valid for 60 days from the day that your 3-day waiting period end
- You can get your license from any county in the state, it doesn’t have to be the same county you’re getting married in!
To get your marriage license in San Juan County, you need to fill out this online application. Once you’ve completed the application, go into the San Juan County Auditor’s Office to show your ID and pay the $62 application fee (plus an extra $3 fee if you want an additional certified copy of your license). Once your ceremony is over, don’t forget to return the license to the office so it can be recorded and made official!
And you knowww I’ve got even MORE in-depth info for you over in my Simple Guide to Getting Your Washington State Marriage License.
Best Places to Stay for Your San Juan Islands Elopement
The San Juan Islands have sooo many cozy Airbnbs, cabins, lodges, and even glamping sites for you to choose from. Here’s a list of some of the top-rated places to stay on each island, and keep in mind that you can also camp at many public spots around the islands too!
Where to Stay on Orcas Island
- Glamping Cabin
- Stunning Home in Eastsound
- Stylish Cabin in Eastsound
- The Garden House
- Outlook Inn
- Orcas Island Getaway @ Rosario
Where to Stay on San Juan Island
- Whimsical Earthen Glamping in Friday Harbor
- Glamping Home
- Earthbox Inn & Spa
- Snug Harbor Resort
- The Island Inn
- Friday Harbor House
Where to Stay on Lopez Island
- Sunrise Waterfront Retreat
- Garden Cottages
- Luxury Seaside Cottage
- Chalet in Lopez Island
- The Edenwild Boutique Inn
- Lopez Farm Cottages
10 Fun Ideas for Your San Juan Islands Elopement
There’s seriously NO shortage of things to do in the San Juan Islands, so you won’t have to worry at all about finding things to do. Whether you want to fill your time with outdoor adventures or take it easy & chill by the water, there are activities for everyone. Here are 10 fun ideas for your San Juan Islands elopement that would be awesome to incorporate into your time there!
1. Go whale watching at Lime Kiln State Park
2. Explore the islands via kayak
3. Take a tour of the Orcas Island Scenic Byway
4. Bike through the hills of Lopez Island
5. Visit the Pelindaba Lavender Farm
6. See the summer wildflowers at Mount Finlayson
7. Go wine tasting at San Juan Vineyard
8. Summit Mount Constitution
9. Walk around Friday Harbor
10. Learn something new at the Whale Museum
That’s me!! I would LOVE to explore these epic islands with you and show you all of the best spots that you won’t want to miss. Eloping in the San Juan Islands is truly a magical experience and will leave you + your guests with the absolute best memories. Especially if you hire a pro San Juan Islands elopement photographer like me 😉 Let’s start planning your big adventure together!!
More Washington State Elopement Planning Resources
Want some more guides to help you plan your dream Washington elopement?! I’ve got a ton over on the blog or you can check out a few of my recent faves below!!