Chief Mate Donna

Journey to the Islands

When I see people get on the ferry, they let their troubles melt away.

Getting to the San Juan Islands is an adventure all its own. Donna is a chief mate for the Washington State Ferries and guides visitors and locals alike through the 172 islands.

“I love being able to take people to the San Juan Islands. The scenery is amazing.”

Voices of the Islands - Chief Mate Donna

During her 14 years working for the ferry system, Donna has seen a variety of wildlife from the deck. Deer swim between islands and graze on passing cliffs, whales, porpoises and harbor seals duck in and out of the waves, and eagles circle the sky, looking for their next meal. Passengers can catch a glimpse of this wildlife before reaching one of the three main stops. 

Harbor Seal in Water

Lopez Island is the first stop. It’s home to farmers, nature lovers, artisans and musicians.”

Bikes at Spencer Spit, Lopez Island, Photography by R. Harrison

Lopez is a biker’s paradise. Although not flat, Lopez offers some of the islands’ easier cycling terrain, and leads visitors to the charming Lopez Village, where delicious food, local art and music are abundant. Drivers wave in passing and rolling farmland meets mountain-view shores on this quiet, “friendly island.”

Orcas Island is another stop. The vistas from Mt. Constitution are spectacular.”

Aerial photo of Mt. Constitution, Orcas Island, Photography by Kevin D'Haeze

Orcas, loved for its winding hikes and bustling villages, is considered the “gem of the San Juans.” Moran State Park offers 5,252 acres to explore by foot, kayak, bike or horseback and boasts stunning views of the islands from atop the 2,398 ft. tall Mt. Constitution.

“The final stop is San Juan Island. When you dock at Friday Harbor you can walk right into town.”

Ferry Coming in to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Courtesy of SJIVB

The “gateway to the San Juans,” Friday Harbor welcomes ferry passengers to explore the history, wildlife and culture of the most populated island in the archipelago. With farmland and forests, local beverages and bites, recreational sports and spas, San Juan Island is an escape from the ordinary.

Beach, Lopez Island, Photography by Kevin D'Haeze

“Every island is unique and each one kind of has its own culture. I feel very lucky to share my home with people.”

Orcas, San Juan Islands, Photography by Jim Maya

About the islands

Discover what makes each island unique and make a plan for your next visit!