What is a Scenic Byway?
A Scenic Byway is a road (or in our case, sometimes a waterway) that is distinctive and recognized for its scenic, recreational, natural, historic, cultural, and archeological qualities. Within it are backroads that beckon travelers to discover Washington’s hidden gems. A byway may lead to spectacular destinations, or it may be very scenic and pleasant local routes. A Scenic Byway is typically a corridor that has unique character and evokes a sense of place. Both the road and surrounding landscape are recognized as a community resource. A byway may be designated at the state or the federal level, or both.
San Juan Islands Scenic Byway
The San Juan Islands Scenic Byway is Washington’s first marine route. The proposed byway consists of a 30-mile marine route and an 85-mile land route. It begins at the ferry dock in Anacortes and travels through the San Juan Islands to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and Orcas Village on Orcas Island.
The land route on Friday Harbor travels on country roads to scenic, historic, recreational, and cultural points of interest, with most of the route hugging the shoreline and forming a loop. The Orcas Island route, country roads, presents similar points of interest as it travels between the small hamlets of Orcas Village, West Sound, Deer harbor, Eastsound, Rosario, Olga, and Doe Bay.
Alaska is the only other state in the nation to have a national Scenic Byway that is a marine route.
Intended Goals of the Local Byway Program
- Education: To educate the public regarding islanders’ stewardship ethics in protecting and preserving the unique environment, natural resources, watchable wildlife, scenic vistas, and quality of life through interpretive signage.
- Monetary Resources: To bring federal funding resources to San Juan County in order to support and enhance natural, cultural, and historic educational programs, signage, and facilities along the Scenic Byway.
- Economic Development: To increase ridership on Washington State Ferries, and to increase visitor interest in the San Juan Islands as a destination of natural scenic beauty, cultural significance, and recreational opportunities.