Stuart Island is in San Juan Islands region of Washington State. Located north of San Juan Island and west of Waldron Island. The 7.462-square-kilometer (2.881 sq mi) island is home to two communities of full and part-time residents, a state park, a one-room schoolhouse,
Stuart Island is a somewhat isolated northern island in the San Juan Islands. Since it is not served by ferry and there are almost no commercial services you will need to plan accordingly when visiting. The island was named by Charles Wilkes during the Wilkes Expedition of 1838-1842, to honor Frederick D. Stuart, the captain's clerk of the expedition.
Stuart Island is only accessible by boat, however it offers many public buoys and docks for visitors. Prevost Harbor offers 7 offshore buoys and 256 feet of dock space and Reid Harbor offers 15 offshore buoys and 572 feet of docks on 3 different docks, two of which are offshore. Both offer excellent sheltered moorage and easy access to the island. Potable water and composting or pit toilets are available as well as an offshore barge, manual pumpout.
There is an unimproved dirt road that runs the length of the island. It is used by residents whose tax dollars pay for its maintenance. Visitors to Stuart should politely step to the side when vehicles approach. The only place to go is the light house at turn point, there is no other public land to explore. Locals are not friendly when it comes to trespassers.
- The local one room schoolhouse closed in fall of 2007 due to lack of students, but reopened in 2008 with two students. Located nearby is the un-staffed and always open 'Teacherage Museum' which is a tiny unheated room with displays about the history of the school house and the island.
- The Turn Point Lighthouse and nearby cliffs known as "Lover's Leap" are popular hiking destinations accessible by an unimproved county road from the harbor which is essentially a large trail since there are very few cars on the island. Part of two sites, both part of Stuart Island State Park, are on public lands. One is located near the center of the island, and another in on the western coast, the site of the Turn Point Light Station,
- Satellite Island, which lies in Prevost Harbor on the northeast side of the island, is used by YMCA Camp Orkila as a basecamp for teen expeditions and for field trips by campers. Prevost Harbor is named for James Charles Prevost, captain of the HMS Satellite. Nearby Prevost Island in British Columbia is also named after Prevost, while Satellite Island is named after his ship
What Puget Sound beaches lack in white sand and warm water is more than made up for in the amazing scenery as the clear waters play against wild coastlines and snow peaked mountains scatter on the horizons. Stuart Islands State Park is an excellent place to start a beach combing adventure offering 1000's of feet of public beaches from the rugged to the sandy smooth. Small crabs, moon snails, sea stars and sand dollars are common sites and tide pools can offer hours of exploration.
Be warned that sea shells and driftwood are considered part of the natural environment and should not be removed, however the often rocky and wild shores are havens for creating and revealing beach glass and anything artificial found is fair game for removal. Be respectful of private property and gentle with sea creatures. Keep a wide distance away from nesting birds, seals and other shore animals and always put back anything removed from the shoreline.
The San Juan Islands are in the Pacific coast flyaway which extends from Alaska to South America and almost 300 species of birds have been observed on the islands. The islands offer an extensive variety of environments from rocky sea shores to lush wetlands offering a large number of habitats for birds in a relatively compact area. The San Juan Audubon Society holds regular meetings, bird counts and postings of bird activity on their website. Bald Eagles, Great Blue Heron, Kingfishers and Cormorants are all common sites on the islands but rare birds are sometimes seen migrating through the area.
Sport crab fishing is popular in the area with most fishermen looking for the elusive and meaty Dungeness Crab, but other less popular crabs are plentiful in the area. Crab season starts with a two-day opener July 1st and 2nd and follows up with crabbing every Thursday through Monday through Labor Day weekend. A wide array of crab traps are available from a variety of area sporting goods stores and the red and white buoys marking the traps are a common site on the water during the short crabbing season. Fishing permits are required and can be purchased from a variety of local stores, more information is available from the Washington Dept of Fishing and wildlife
Sea kayaking can be a rewarding way to explore the San Juan Islands miles of coastline allowing the paddler a closer and slower look at their surroundings and making the San Juan Islands one of the most popular areas to kayak in Puget Sound. Thick forests of majestic pine and deciduous trees and hundreds of creeks and estuaries dot the coastline. Or just explore the San Juan Islands many harbor towns that cater to kayakers with shops and restaurants accessible from the water. Harbor Seals, Otters, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles and Blue Herons are common sites while the occasional viewing of an Orca or Grey Whale is not out of the question.
Organized trails offer overnight camping options and maps of appropriate lengths and scenic travel destinations including several campsites on Stuart Island that are reserved for non motorized boaters.
- Cascadia Marine Trail. This inland sea trail is a National Recreation Trail and designated one of only 16 National Millennium Trails by the White House. Suitable for day or multi-day trips, the Cascadia Marine Trail has over 50 campsites to visit including many in the San Juan Islands. People can boat to the campsites from many public and private launch sites or shoreline trailheads.
Shellfish are prized resources of the Puget Sound, the cool, clean waters provide some of the finest shellfish habitat in the world. Washington State is the nation’s leading producer of farmed bivalve shellfish (clams, geoduck, mussels and oysters) and with the San Juan Islands dozens of Public Clam and Oyster Beaches and miles of coastline it is a popular place for individuals to find these elusive and sought after shellfish. Maps of public shellfishing areas and health warnings and updates can be found online at the States Fish and Wildlife website, as with all fishing in Puget Sound permits are required and can be purchased online or in some sporting goods stores.
Public shellfishing area
- DNR-359 (STUART ISLAND). There are several public shellfishing beaches on Stuart Island open year round for clams and oysters, check the states website for more info.
There are no stores or other public commercial establishments on the island, aside from a wooden box, stocked by a local family with printed T-shirts and other souvenir items; each souvenir comes with an envelope through which visitors return payment by mail, based on an honor system.
Bring your clam shovel and crab traps and hope for the best, but make sure and bring your own food with you since there are no stores on the island.
It is a long haul to the nearest store so make sure you bring your own alcohol. However, potable water is available in the campgrounds.
The park has 18 primitive campsites. Most sites are located on Prevost Harbor or on the ridge that separates Prevost and Reid harbors.
Campsites 15-18 at the head of Reid Harbor are designated Cascadia Marine Trail sites and are for the exclusive use of those arriving by human- or wind-powered watercraft. There are an additional 14 campsites available to all boaters.
There is no garbage service on the island. Visitors must pack out what they pack in. Potable water is available May through September.
Composting toilets are near the dock at Reid Harbor and to the right of the Prevost Harbor dock. Pit toilets are available at the head of Reid Harbor.
Length of stay: You may stay up to ten consecutive days in any one park from April 1 through Sept. 30; the stay limit is extended to 20 days between Oct. 1 and March 31.
No public wifi is available on the island, if you are hoping to stay in touch via cell phone be warned that services is spotty at best and may require a long hike before you can get a signal.