Exploring San Juan Island
You’ll discover something new around every bend in the road on San Juan Island—an alpaca ranch, a sweeping valley dotted with cows or sheep, the terraces of a lavender farm, vineyards with a tasting room in a historic schoolhouse, deep forest giving way to shining sea, a pod of orca whales, and two iconic lighthouses. Variety, beauty, serenity . . . day after amazing day.
Caution: many of the 8,000 year-round residents of San Juan Island fell in love with it during their first visit, and the town of Friday Harbor was where it all began. (Often it was love at first sight, before they even got off the ferry.) In this historic, compact, and very walkable town, the hub of the island, you can easily fill a delightful day. Stroll through art galleries, bookstores, and antique shops, sample a bouquet of boutiques, stop for a cafe lunch or enjoy a world-class dinner overlooking the harbor, visit The Whale Museum and the San Juan Historical Museum, or meander through the marina. Take a walking tour of Friday Harbor, which includes many of the towns important sites.
In this visitor, family, and dog-friendly town, you’ll find many of the San Juans’ whale and kayaking tour headquarters, the Chamber of Commerce Visitors’ Center, historic Palace Theater (first-run movies on two screens!), a community theater (weekend plays and musical events), and a plethora of B&Bs and other lodgings.
No need for a car to see Friday Harbor. Everything is within walking distance of the ferry landing, including San Juan Transit shuttle buses to take you around the island, as well as bike, three-wheeled Scootcoupe, and moped rentals.
At historic Roche Harbor Resort on the north end of the island you’ll find several waterside eateries, a marina full of beautiful yachts, and local artisans’ booths in summer—showing off jewelry, wool, paintings, pottery, and more. Take a cycling or driving tour of the north side of the island.
The resort’s centerpiece, the Hotel de Haro, has stood since 1886, when what was a sleepy Hudson Bay Company camp became a full-fledged lime works and company town—remnants of the giant lime kilns are still there. Near the entrance to Roche Harbor you’ll find the San Juan Islands Museum of Art Sculpture Park—more than 100 sculptures placed in an open, 19-acre, natural setting. You can ramble among the sculptures or follow the nearby nature trail that takes you into a native forest and close to Westcott Bay, home of the world-famous oysters.
Exploring the Island
When you travel San Juan Island beyond Friday Harbor, you’ll journey through miles of farmland and stretches of forest on your way to American Camp or English Camp, both part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park, or to the two waterfront state and county parks. You’re bound to hear about the 1859-1872 Pig War ”Crisis,” when Great Britain and the United States settled ownership of the islands through peaceful arbitration—the national park marks the sites of the U.S. and British encampments. Take a cycling or driving tour of the south and west areas of San Juan Island.
American Camp includes the island’s longest stretch of beach, South Beach, and a network of forested and open trails along the coast, Jakle’s Lagoon and Mt. Finlayson. Orcas occasionally swim past this beach, and sharp-eyed youngsters may spot agates among the beach’s colorful stones. Close to Friday Harbor lies Jackson Beach, a popular picnicking, wading, and dog-walking/swimming spot.
Lime Kiln Point State Park on the island’s west side is also known as Whale Watch Park for good reason—the three local orca pods are frequent summer visitors. This is the only park in the world dedicated to shore-based orca whale watching. A seasonal interpretative center offers information on orcas and a history of the lime kilns and the nearby lighthouse, and you have a choice of forest and shoreline hiking trails.
Other popular stops: Pelindaba Lavender Farm in the middle of the island, one of the largest in the country, for a taste of all things lavender in the aromatic store, housed in a historic island home—and host to the July lavender festival. Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, also mid-island, where more than 50 endearing alpacas roam the gentle pasture slopes. Stroll around the farm and browse the store for alpaca everything—socks, scarves, toys, and sweaters.
Housed in an 1892 Odd Fellows Hall overlooking Friday Harbor, The Whale Museum is the local center for Salish Sea stewardship and research. See a young orca skeleton, watch free videos, and find treasures in the gift shop. Upstairs, visit the Gallery of Whales and learn about how you can Adopt an Orca to support the 80-plus Southern Resident whales that call Northwest waters home. [more...]
Located in the Port of Friday Harbor, San Juan Canvas is a full service marine canvas shop. We offer sail repair as well as the occasional custom sail. San Juan Canvas sells a line of unique canvas and sailcloth bags designed and made here in our shop. Stop by for visit. [more...]
Whether you are looking for a premier whale watch tour, quality family adventure, or a fun-filled fishing excursion, Legacy Charters is here to make it happen. Offering whale watching and fishing charters for groups of six or less assures the most authentic and personalized charters available. [more...]
At Be Chic Boutique you'll find fresh and feminine clothing with a Northwest flair. We carry hand picked clothing, shoes, lingerie, jewelry and accessories to keep you current on all the new fashions. Styles are individual and eclectic, mixing cutting edge fashion with classic and comfortable clothing. Be Chic carries clothing by Charlotte Tarantola, Jag Jeans, Anne Ferriday, For Love & Liberty, Worn Jeans, Johnny Was Collection/JWLA, Rock Revival, Leatherock, Royal Plush, Tribal, Hanky Panky, Nougat, One Girl Who, David Kahn Jeanswear and many more designers. [more...]
Island Studios is an art gallery representing exclusively island artists and craftspersons. This unique gallery offers a large collection of paintings, photographs, prints, jewelry, glasswork, sculptures, textiles, pottery, books and music. [more...]
Friday Harbor Marine is in Spring Street Landing, on the waterfront in Friday Harbor. Friday Harbor Marine offers a variety of activities to get visitors out onto the water. Rent family-safe Hobie pedal kayaks, Duffy electric party boats, Boston Whalers with outboards, or Stabi Craft runabouts. Explore the marina, Brown Island, and the protected harbor from the water, or take a short ride to Turn Island State Park for a hike and a picnic, or go fishing or crabbing. Friday Harbor Marine also provides yacht brokerage and marine repair services at our slips on the Fuel Pier. [more...]
Friday Harbor welcomes a new Friday evening experience, the Friday Harbor Art Market, just steps from the ferry landing, on Fridays from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m., June 21 - September 20 at the Brickworks Plaza on Sunshine Alley. Approximately 20 local artists will feature a variety of creations for sale -- pottery, jewelry, photographs, clothing, sculpture, textiles, paintings, soaps, woodwork, and more -- plus local musicians will present live music throughout the evening. [more...]
Join owner Captain Hobbes aboard "Natsilane" for an intimate whale & wildlife tour of a lifetime. Limited to only 6 passengers, come discover the unique ecosystems of the Salish Sea in a comfortable and stable boat with a heated cabin, indoor & outdoor seating, and a restroom. Tours depart one or two times daily depending on the season. [more...]
Renowned for professional quality productions and unmatchable island ambiance, Island Stage Left's goal is to provide the best theatre for everyone, regardless of their financial circumstance. Join us under the stars every summer for Shakespeare and indoors from September to May for contemporary and classical plays. Admission is free/donations are appreciated. [more...]
Whale watching and wildlife tours. Sea kayaking tours and custom adventure tours from Roche Harbor and Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Tours depart from the best locations in the San Juan Islands. See killer whales, seals, eagles and porpoise. Join our expert staff for a unique adventure. [more...]
We offer riding lessons, scenic forrest trail and pony rides, full care horse boarding, hay and grain sales as well as an outdoor riding arena. Give us a call and head out to Horseshu Ranch for some fun! [more...]
We gladly welcome visitors to shop at the San Juan Island Food Co-op where we vote with our forks in order to support local food production & consumption, reduce trucking & warehousing, and promote healthful nutrition by sourcing responsibly, sustainable & organically produced foods.
50% of our grocery offerings are local & regional, including pastured meats & poultry, wild-harvested fish, farm fresh produce, eggs, cheese, & milk products, and much more than we can list here! [more...]
Located steps from the Friday Harbor ferry terminal, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching & Wildlife Tours has an excellent reputation for respectful wildlife viewing. On the water since 1995, this company is known for providing high-quality, small-group size whale watching & wildlife tours. [more...]
Escape with TerraTrek on a two- to six-day bicycle and multi-sport vacation through the San Juan Islands. Only a short drive from Seattle or Vancouver B.C., the San Juan Archipelago is an ideal getaway because of our long days of sunshine and plenty of activities. Enjoy cycling along quiet two lane country roads lined with wildflowers that wind down to spectacular vistas of neighboring islands and snowcapped mountain ranges, hiking around lakes that lead down to waterfalls, and kayaking past pebble stone coves and rocky islets in orca whale territory! [more...]