Shh... Heard of the Puget Sound? Get away from the mainland and it's "island paradise" for homebuyers.
If you like boating, campfires by the shore, salt water fishing for amazing catches like halibut and Coho salmon, you will love life in the Puget Sound region. If you like walks along the shoreline, especially as the sun is going down and that can include a bottle of wine and a dinner on the beach, you will love the Puget Sound.
What about the weather? Expect mild winters and beautiful summers
If you're from the southwest states, then your summer is possibly 5 - 6 months of desert hot weather, often too hot to enjoy outdoors for very long without air conditioning. Not so in the Puget Sound. Even during the hottest time of the year, summer temperatures are rarely in the 90s. That's a lot of 70 + degree days and temperatures that makes outdoor activities so popular around the Pacific Northwest in the spring, summer, and fall months. Activities like biking, hiking, golf, rollerblading, camping, boating, water sports and the list goes on.
Hate heat and humidity? You won't find it here
Got children or grandchildren? Imagine being able to go to their athletic events and not roasting and soaked in sweat from the heat of the California sun or the heavy humidity common at times in places along the Gulf coast and Florida. Why spend so much time indoors when there's so much more outdoors to do and enjoy?
Romantic getaways as a lifestyle -- what dreams are made of
Who doesn't dream of a home by the sea in the midst of an amazing chain of islands and yet so close to the mainland? And who wouldn't do everything possible to live in a place with a scenic view that gets you up early and keeps you up late to see sunrises and sunsets that make for memories that last forever?
Everything is so far away ... yet so close at the same time. Welcome to the North Puget Sound of western Washington State.
Multiple wealthy residents call it home for a reason
The residence islands of the Puget Sound offer lifestyle opportunities that make dreams into a daily reality. That is why so many wealthy people have purchased homes and estates in the North Puget Sound over the years including Hollywood movie star Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Passengers, etc) who is quickly becoming the next Harrison Ford of action movies and then some. Pratt, born and raised in Lake Stevens, Washington, is bringing a lot of attention to the Pacific Northwest.
Not only for the multi-million dollar property he purchased in the San Juan Islands, but also to places like Granite Falls, WA where his Twitter posts brought instant fame to Omega Pizza and Pasta Greek restaurant where he had washed dishes in his early high school acting days. In fact Chris Pratt's artwork still adorns a wall and draws fans every week to the restaurant for great food and stories.
Does it rain in the islands? Not like Seattle -- the North Puget Sound is in a "rain shadow" and has a lot more sunshine
The Olympic Mountains to the south and west of the North Puget Sound create a unique weather anomaly called the Olympic Rain Shadow. This blocks cloud carrying rain and diverts it elsewhere; thus one reason why the North Puget Sound sees less rain and a lot more sunshine than the rest of western Washington state (more on this in a moment).
Have you flown over the islands? Spectacular estates await
If you've ever flown over the islands (over 170 islands), you'll see occasional towns and bedroom communities as well as estate after estate that includes luxury yachts and private air strips for luxury personal jets. It should be obvious. The North Puget Sound is the place to live. With Vancouver, Canada just a short drive or boat ride away, many locals cross the border for ski vacations at Whistler-Blackcomb, one of North America's most popular ski resorts and for a reason.
Looking for waterfront property? It's everywhere
Specifically in the San Juan Islands, just about every home is "waterfront property" here. Even those who work in busy cities like Seattle can enjoy a relaxing ferry ride to business and then eagerly return to a place that many only see on vacations.
The islands of the northern Puget Sound (called the San Juan Islands, with approximately 170 islands in total, where "San Juan Island" get it's namesake) enjoy a particular environment of sunny days and mild winter temperatures due to the Olympic Rain Shadow which blocks the moisture from the Pacific and shields these delightful islands from the rainy season which is standard for the western side of the Pacific Northwest States. The San Juan Islands enjoy 257 sunny days annually while Seattle, only a short ferry ride away sees only 152.
San Juan Island
Historic San Juan Island says welcome home! These beautiful islands are desirable home destinations for the discerning homebuyer. San Juan has an interesting history that dates back to the early settlement of the West and even to a young George Pickett of Civil War fame. San Juan sees only a small amount of rainfall per year historically and fortunate residents enjoy plenty of sunny days. A National Park is situated on the island and everyone takes pride in the location's historic significance. Homes here can list from as low as $200,000 for an atmospheric sea captain's cottage to over a million for an architectural statement with home style comforts.
As Sperling's Best Places to Live puts it ... "Step onto horseshoe-shaped Orcas Island, drop your suitcase or backpack, and drink in the green paradise the locals call 'the gem of the San Juans' - a happy combination of stunning shoreline, the highest mountain in the islands, and a handful of charming hamlets, including Eastsound, the main village on 'the Emerald Isle.'"
If Orcas Island sounds like your kind of island, here's a list of Orcas Island homes for sale and a contact phone number for a realtor with Sound Listings and Skyline Properties.
Also in the the words of Sperling's Best Places to Live ... "is 'the Friendly Isle' -15 miles long with 63 miles of shoreline and 2,500 year-round residents. The Lopez landscape blends forests with rolling farmlands, quiet bays and driftwood-strewn beaches with distant views of mountain ranges and snow-tipped Mount Baker."
If the views and spectacular boating and salt water fishing appeal to you, here's a list of Lopez Island homes for sale. You may find your dream home at an economical price, compared to other costly markets on the West Coast.
Fidalgo Island (Anacortes)
Fidalgo Island, which is known more officially as Anacortes, is connected to the mainland by bridge. It is headquarters for the State ferry system that serves the San Juan Islands. The Island shares the same unique weather as the other Islands due to the rain shadow, though it may or may not get as many sunny days as typical for the San Juan chain. There are plenty of home lots available for building as well as a ready inventory of homes for every taste and pocketbook as well.
Anacortes is the largest of Fidalgo Island's cities and offers many places to work, shop, stay healthy and spend indoor leisure time, but first and foremost are the almost unlimited outdoor adventures this wonderful place has to offer to fortunate visitors and even more fortunate residents. The bucket list of things to enjoy includes nature tours, kayaking, boating, fishing, and just about anything that you can think of in a setting with lots of mild temperatures and on sunny days in summer, sunshine that isn't scorching heat like many other regions of the U.S.
For those who seek a retreat that can only be reached by boat, two parks -- Hope Island State Park and Skagit Island -- offer prepared camp sites and a genuine nature experience.
Camano Island is a gateway to the islands of the Puget Sound and has a year round population of over 15,000. The quiet and relaxed nature of the place attracts a selective group of tourists who seek a scenic and quiet environment without the "tourist trap" seasonal hype. They become "locals" for their stay here. Fishing is a top draw here. Camano Island is the only place in Washington where you can fish for sturgeon year round.
Generally homes range from $200k to $600k and many are available in numerous styles for an unmatched quality of life. For those who seek quiet leisure and an escape from city stress, this is the place for you.
Whidbey Island has a year round population of over 58,000. Island communities are unique; the emphasis is on community and a shared passion for the place where everyone lives. This heart for home is shared with tourists, day-trippers and vacationers -- everyone feels welcome here. Home prices are affordable with a median list price of $397k. In 2017, a recent year, 297 homes were sold (and that was before December 1). There is a home for every taste and budget and "stay-cations" are a perk as well.
Bainbridge Island is a 35 minute ferry ride from Seattle. Traveling from energetic and busy Seattle to rural and quiet Bainbridge is a journey to an earthly paradise of natural beauty, historic parks, nature trails, quiet restaurants and places to just "take it all in." 2016 population numbers of 24,404 fortunate residents were reported. The median closing price for homes here is $750k. There are homes for rent and a healthy apartment inventory as well.
A place for every budget seems to be an everyday opportunity.
Found at the "Heart of the Sound" and much closer to Seattle than the San Juan Islands to the north, this quiet and friendly place of over 11,000 year round residents offers a quieter and genuinely artistic and creative lifestyle. The pace is slower and the attitude is relaxed. Vashon Island presents a lifestyle that attracts those who seek quiet appreciation of nature and a place to write, paint, create or enjoy the work of those who do so. Homes are closing at $575k.
Some of these friendly islands are a commuter paradise, especially for those where a daily ferry ride and perhaps a short walk to work in downtown Seattle is all it takes to get back and forth from home to work. As mentioned, transportation to and from the mainland is mostly by ferries. Longer commutes result when islanders have a 20 - 40 minute drive after getting off the ferry. While not ideal, some choose it anyway just for the luxury of living full time on any number of islands across the Puget Sound.
These island home retreats are the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In a region that admittedly gets more precipitation than others, the shelter of the Olympic Mountains to the west keeps winter temperatures in the mid-30's and summer highs in the '70's. Across the San Juan Islands, sunny days outnumber rainy ones. Living here enables those who have mainland jobs to live in a place where relaxation, scenic views and a chance to own waterfront property are a fulfillment of the American Dream.
Don't forget the Olympic Peninsula
Though not an island, the Olympic Peninsula is hundreds of miles of coastline along the Puget Sound and the Straight of Juan De Fuca, where the Pacific Ocean separates Washington State from Vancouver Island, Canada. With amazing northwest views of the Pacific Ocean and spectacular sunsets, many retirees are drawn to Sequim, WA, which is blessed with the abundance of that Olympic Rain Shadow mentioned earlier and a lot more sunshine annually than the Pacific Northwest typically sees.
So even if you can't find the right home for you in the islands of the North Puget Sound, don't forget about the Olympic Peninsula.