How to Visit Sucia Island in the outer San Juans

Sucia Island is an absolutely stunning place in the outer San Juan Islands of Washington State. This is a wonderful destination to really get away from it all and experience some of the best camping in the Pacific Northwest. It takes a bit of work and planning to get there though and that’s what this post is all about! Everything you need to know to plan your own trip to Sucia Island.

Sucia Island does not have any lodging other than camping and does not have Washington State ferry service, you’ll need to take a water taxi or your own boat and you’ll need to be ready for camping. There are no services on Sucia Island so you need to bring everything you need with you.

Sucia Island is in the Salish Sea (Puget Sound) and is the traditional homeland of many Indigenous people, including the Lummi, S’Klallam, Samish, W̱SÁNEĆ and Stz’uminus People.

Where is Sucia Island?

Sucia Island is part of a collection of islands ringing the outer north side of the San Juan Islands, in northwest Washington State. It is between Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada and Bellingham in Washington. It is just under three miles from the north shore of Orcas Island to Sucia Island.

Sucia Island seen from the summit of Mt Constitution on Orcas Island. There are other islands visible in the water and a forest in the foreground and distant mountains in the hazy background
Sucia Island on the left, seen from Mt Constitution on Orcas Island

How do you get to Sucia Island?

There is no Washington State ferry service to Sucia Island. Getting there requires taking a water taxi or your own boat.

Water Taxi

A metal charter boat is beached with it's ramp down to let hikers disembark. It's a gravel beach in the San Juan Islands with forested hillsides and a high mountain in the distance
Island Express dropping off hikers in the San Juan Islands

A water taxi is a smaller charter boat that has scheduled and charter service to smaller islands not served by the ferry. You can take a water taxi from Anacortes or from Orcas Island. If you are only going to Sucia on your trip, the Anacortes option might be more convenient, but it’s is less expensive to go from Orcas (because of the shorter distance) so if you are already going to be on Orcas Island that option probably makes the most sense. Try Island Express from Anacortes or Outer Island Excursions if you’re going from Orcas Island. Outer Island Excursions also offers kayak rentals and day tours from Orcas to Sucia if you want to do a day trip.

You can bring a kayak on board with you for an additional fee.

With your own boat

If you have your own boat, you can get to Sucia Island on your own. Note that moorage at the island can be very challenging to find as the available spots fill quickly in the summer! If you’re kayaking or are otherwise able to beach your boat, you don’t have to worry about that.

One word of caution about kayaking to Sucia Island. Many people kayak to Sucia from all around the Salish Sea. It is critical to know how to read the nautical charts and the tide current charts as well as have accurate and up to date weather reports. Tide rips and sudden gusty winds can come up quickly and surprise you, even in the short crossing between Orcas Island and Sucia Island. It is very important to know how to judge these conditions and be experienced and ready for an open water crossing. If you’re a less experienced kayaker, a better option is to bring the kayak with you on a larger boat or water taxi and explore the more protected bays of Sucia once you arrive.

Echo Bay on Sucia Island with many pleasure boats tied to mooring buoys. There are rocky bits around and in the bay and it is surrounded by forest. In the distance is Mt Baker, a high snowcapped mountain
Echo Bay is the busiest part of Sucia Island, with all the mooring buoys taken every night in mid summer. Mt Baker is viewable in the distance

When is the best time to go to Sucia Island?

The best time for a fun camping experience is in the summer! Generally speaking the days are warm and the nights aren’t too cold for camping and there are 16 hours of daylight.

Even though it’s in a remote location, July and August see the mooring buoys and places to anchor full. May and June often still have good weather (check the forecast) and are a bit less crowded. If you’re taking a water taxi this is less of a concern.

The island is open all year, though the water sources are shut off in winter.

Camping on Sucia Island

a campfire on the beach on Sucia Island. In the distance the sun is setting below the water and between two forested islands.
Sunset campfire in the campsite in between Fox Cove and Fossil Bay

The only way to stay overnight on Sucia Island is to camp and it’s a fantastic place for camping! Lots of people bring their boat to Sucia and sleep on it at night, so at night there are far less people on the island than during the day. The entire island is Sucia Island Marine State Park.

There are four reservable group sites, the rest are first come first served, but I have never had a problem finding a campsite here, even in the middle of summer. There isn’t anywhere to buy anything on the island so make sure you bring everything (including firewood) with you. Most of the campsites are located in the area between Fossil Bay and Echo Bay in the center of the island. If you want to have a quieter pace and a bit more solitude, I recommend the campsites between Fossil Bay and Fox Cove. Not only are there fewer people around, there is an amazing sunset here! The head of Snoring Bay also has a couple of campsites.

There is water available on the island during the summer, though I suggest double checking on their website before you go, since water in the islands is a challenge in general. Toilets located in different parts of the island are pit toilets (no running water).

Related: Complete Guide to Camping in the San Juan Islands

Things to do on Sucia Island

Sucia Island is a wonderful place to relax and read a book, draw or do just sit and look at the water. It’s a peaceful and beautiful place and just begs you to slow down and be in the moment. There are also plenty of things to do to keep you occupied during your visit.

Hiking

Washington State Parks maintains 10 miles of hiking trails on the island. If you’re a hiker, I highly recommend walking them all during your trip! You’ll get away from people and get to see the unique landscapes of the island and explore the different coves and beaches. Hiking out to Ewing Cove will give you a completely different perspective on the island as well as give you some views of the tiny islands that are part of Sucia.

A view from below looking up at Pacific Madrona trees on a sunny day. The trees have red bark and bring green leaves
Pacific Madrona trees dominate the hiking trails on Sucia Island

If you’re not sleeping by Fossil Bay, this is also a wonderful place to explore on foot!

Sucia is one of the least hilly of the San Juan Islands, so even though you will go up and down a bit, there isn’t any difficult climbing.

Kayaking

You’ll need to bring a kayak with you (either bring on the water taxi or rent from Outer Islands) as there isn’t anywhere to rent a kayak on the islands.

It’s really fun to kayak around the many bays and shorelines of Sucia Island. My favorite place to explore in my kayak is around Fossil Bay, but all of the bays are great places to explore! In addition to the beautiful madrona trees and grassy parts of the island, there are lots of interesting rock formations. I’ve seen plenty of seals here and even a Minke whale once!

The front of a red kayak in Fossil Bay on Sucia Island. It's a sunny day and the forested island also has rocky outcroppings in the water
Kayaking in Fossil Bay

Beachcombing

There are plenty of rocky beaches around Sucia Island for exploring. My favorite beach areas on the island are the beach at the head of Snoring Bay and Fox Cove. There are plenty of beaches to check out and pick your own favorite!

A gravel beach on Sucia Island. The water is shallow and blue green color. The sky is washed out and there are rocky outcroppings around the bay with some trees. There is a long piece of driftwood on the beach
The beach at the head of Snoring Bay

Fishing and shellfishing

Lots of people do fishing and shellfishing on Sucia Island and in the bays around it. Washington State’s fishing regulations can be a little complicated. Make sure you have a fishing license (get it before you go) and are up to date on the most current restrictions and opportunities around Sucia Island, which is Marine Area 7 for fishing regulations.

driftwood and grass at the head of a small bay surrounded by forests. Text reads complete guide to visiting sucia island in washington state
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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!