There is no coastline quite like the Pacific Northwest. Breathtaking mountains, stunning ocean views and one of the most unique capital cities anywhere make this region unforgettable to visit by boat. With so much to see, there are lifelong residents of Washington state who still haven’t explored every inlet and harbor.
Keep in mind though that Washington’s shoreline and weather patterns can make for some tricky circumventing, even for the most skilled boater. You’re going to want to plan ahead and make sure you’ve got the right safety precautions and plans. In fact, it’s required in Washington state that almost everyone go through training and carry a boater education card. For instance, you'll need a Boater Education Card if operating a vessel with a 15+ horsepower motor, were born after Jan. 1, 1955, or are 12 years of age or older. (Out-of-staters, you are exempt from this requirement as long as you are boating in Washington for less than 60 days.)
Washington state is famous for its rainy winters, and of course, this means you’ll experience tougher boating between October and March, but the weather is also quite varied by region. Weather patterns in the northern portions of the coast line can differ markedly from the southern parts. We recommend zeroing in on the region and checking average precipitation and temperatures by month.
Just don't make the mistake of thinking that summer is the only time to visit Washington by boat. Ask sea-faring Washingtonians and while they certainly will mention June and July, they will also emphatically tell you not to miss September. September in Washington state can be less crowded, dry, and absolutely beautiful. Additionally, those who sail will especially be interested in September onwards as the wind can be ideal. So before you pull the boat, cruise up or down the coast of Washington State in the early fall.
There are more than 170 islands to discover in the San Juan Islands region. The best boating destinations and most equipped islands are Orcas Island, Lopez Island, San Juan Island, and Shaw Island, and they’re all memorable. To get your bearings in the San Juan Islands though, it helps to have a starting place. From our perspective, there is no better starting point than Roche Harbor. Roche Harbor is synonymous with both luxury and history. The historic Hotel de Haro on the property dates back to the 1800s. The quarries that pepper the property still show evidence of the lime works operation that built the small village out in the late 1800s. In 1956, the destination shifted from company town to resort town. Today Roche Harbor has more than 370 slips at its marina, a sculpture garden, and meticulously preserved resort properties, not to mention the unforgettable views. It’s a must-see.
Aside from flying, boating is the only all-domestic way to access one of the few exclaves in the United States: Point Roberts. An exclave is a portion of a state or territory that is geographically separated from the main part by a surrounding foreign territory. In Port Roberts you’ll see dual-unit speed limit signs, gas pumps in liters, and some beautiful beaches and quaint small town vibes.
Point Roberts is essentially a calculation error that stuck. When the United States and Great Britain were figuring out how to distribute territory in the Pacific Northwest, they settled on the 49th Parallel along the mainland. The problem is, parts of the Tsawwassen Peninsula fall south of that line, making Point Roberts a sleepy little US town rather than a suburb of Vancouver as it probably should have been. Rumor has it this is or was a popular place for US Witness Protection Program resettlements, because of its separation from the rest of the lower 48 states, but you didn’t hear it from us.
Yes, the Space Needle and Pike Place Market are must-sees in Seattle, but after you’ve done the essentials in this incredible city, we’re gonna advise you to carve off some time to submerge yourself in a Hot Tub Boat. Yes. You read that right.
Leaving out of Lake Union in Seattle, The Hot Tub Boat company claims to offer the world’s first Hot Tub Boat. You can soak up some views of the Seattle skyline while soaking in some warmth in this boat that uses a joystick to steer. Prefer something a step closer to your usual boat? Lake Union is also home to The Electric Boat Company. Try out this more eco-friendly approach to boating and perhaps you’ll discover it’s your next boat purchase.
This is a bit of a departure from the boat, but as one of the only rainforests in North America, Hoh Rainforest is well worth the voyage. To get to the Hoh Rainforest, you can store your boat in Port Angeles for the day and rent a car to make the 2 hour trip inland. You can hike the rainforest yourself or pick up a guided tour. While you could do this in a day trip, the length of the drive and the expanse of all there is to see may lead you to want to make this an overnighter. The Hoh Rainforest has a campground that is open year round along the Hoh river. Stay there and you’ll be among a relatively small collection of people in the world who can say they’ve woken up in a rainforest. Reservations are typically booked six months in advance so make sure you plan ahead.