Although I've lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1994, it took me until this September to finally get out to Sucia Island Marine State Park. Sucia is a premier destination for kayaking and boating, has some popular SCUBA diving spots, and is also becoming a trail running destination.
This particular trip got planned and rescheduled several times during the course of the summer, and we barely got it done the weekend of September 25. This was the final weekend of the year that the water spigots were turned on.
Like any trip involving water travel in the Sound, getting there is a bit of a project. We took the Anacortes Ferry to Orcas, then had to hang out most of the day waiting for a 3PM water taxi to Sucia. I understand that experienced kayakers cut out the middleman and just paddle across from Orcas' north side beaches. While it's not a long distance, the channel between the two islands is relatively busy and personally I think it wouldn't be very enjoyable as I'd feel pressure to sprint across the gap to avoid boat traffic.
We arrived on the island at Fossil Bay around 4PM. We left the kayaks and hiked to a campsite at the south end of Shallow Bay. We trekked over on a single-track trail on the west side of the Island which was a fun little hike, but was much longer than the standard route which is a dirt road. Pro tip: the fastest routes around the island are the roads.
We set up camp then hiked back to Fossil Bay to move the kayaks out of sight under one of the shelters. In reality, the possibility of kayak theft is very low. Although there were numerous boaters, we were the only kayakers and the only folks camping on the island that weekend.
Saturday morning started with a light drizzle that became a full-on firehose by 9AM. Instead of kayaking we spent the morning exploring the island's trails, and eventually decided to move camp to the covered group site at Fossil Bay.
On Saturday morning I was awakened by an odd banging sound followed by a strange thumping noise. It turned out to be a seagull dropping a bivalve on a rock, then it rolling off the rock. The seagull was trying to crack it open. While I've seen Corvids using tools, this was the first time I ever noticed a seagull doing something like this.
Other notable wildlife sightings included a bevy of river otters on the northeast side of Little Sucia Island, sea lions lounging on a rock outcropping southeast of Ewing Island, and eagles frequently soaring overhead.
Saturday's rain let up during the late afternoon, and we got in the boats and explored Fox Cove.
Sunday's weather started cloudy, but eventually cleared up to bluebird skies and warm temperatures.
Our route for the day was to paddle north from Fox Cove to Shallow Bay, portage across the isthmus to Echo Bay, then explore the east side of the island group. We ate a lunchtime snack on the beach at the northwest side of Ewing Cove. To finish the paddle we made our way into Mud Bay, which lived up to its name, and was an interesting mudflat ecosystem.
Camping is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The park has 60 standard campsites, four reservable group camps, four picnic shelters, potable drinking water at Fossil Bay early April through September, Echo Bay and Shallow Bay May through September, and plenty of composting toilets around the Island.
Our gear consisted of standard backpacking kits, plus a blue tarp as an extra rain layer for the tent. My kayaking gear included a Platypus hydration pack, and long-fingered cycling gloves to reduce blistering; When in doubt, use the gear you have.
We rented single kayaks from the ferry outfit, Outer Island Excursions.
Although we stayed a weekend, it would be perfectly feasible to casually explore the whole group of islands in a long summer day.
If you are new to sea kayaking, it's highly recommended that you do a couple guided tours to learn some paddling basics. There are sea kayak outfitters on Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan Islands.
To venture on your own, you should become familiar with how to read a tide chart, and the ways in which the tidal flows move through the narrow channels between islands. For a real treat, visit Deception Pass when the tide is coming or going--it moves as fast as a flood-stage river!