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 is where it all began. Historic and just one square mile in size, Friday Harbor is the very walkable hub of San Juan Island, the most populated of the San Juans. Browse art galleries, bookstores and antique shops. Sample a bouquet of boutiques, stop for a cafe lunch or enjoy a fresh seafood 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 town’s 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), the San Juan Community Theatre for 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. From Friday Harbor you can also catch an inter-island ferry to Lopez, Orcas and Shaw Islands.
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 Sculpture Park—more than 125 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 Shellfish Company, home of the world-famous oysters. You can also visit the Westcott Bay Cider and San Juan Island Distillery, near Roche Harbor.
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.
WaterWorks Gallery is San Juan Island’s première gallery for contemporary artwork, established in 1985 with the concept of showcasing artists based in the San Juan Islands and the Pacific Northwest. The work of the gallery’s painters and sculptors reflect the unique Northwest experience. Artists and their visions evolve and change, stimulated by the changing times we live in. Art jewelry is a new addition to the gallery. Monthly show schedule posted online. Seasonally adjusted hours. [more...]
San Juan Community Theatre is a state-of-the-art facility far exceeding expectations of what might be found on a remote island. The theatre offers a broad variety of high-quality, locally-produced events, as well as performances by renowned touring music, theatre and dance companies, and is active year-round.
Experience the islands with a cruise on the “Bee”! A proper little yacht, the Bee is a Grand Banks 32 and is one of the most comfortable boats in the harbor. A sunny flying bridge or a heated cabin offer all weather comfort as we see wildlife in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Captain Greg’s stories of the colorful history of soldiers, smugglers, and the wildlife in this corner of the world will keep you entertained and informed. Try a sunset cruise or our “Round the Rock” day trip that circles the island with a lunch stop at Roche Harbor. [more...]
San Juan Island Distillery is a small artisan distillery producing award-winning ciders and spirits from local ingredients in a beautiful Adrian copper still from Germany. Westcott Bay Cider, an established and prize-winning cider works, is also housed in the distillery, and the cider is used to make gins and apple brandy.
Address: 12 Anderson Lane, Roche Harbor; (360) 378-2606
Hours: Fri. & Sat., Noon–4:00 p.m. [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...]
All Aboard Sailing offers a unique adventure sailing a traditional wood boat through the San Juan islands. The 1956 42' pilot house sloop of yellow cedar on steam bent oak sails spring, summer, fall and winter with USCG licensed Captain David Howitt. [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...]
From their studio overlooking Friday Harbor, designer goldsmiths Dan and Diane Levin enjoy an enthusiastic international following. The exquisitely detailed designs they create stand out among the classics of fine jewelry design the world over.
Levin original designs are copyrighted and each individual creation receives the Levin signature, hand-engraved by the artist. [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...]
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...]
Half & Full Day Sails, Whale Watching & Nature Sails, Sunset Sails, Private Charters and Schooner Adventures on the Salish Sea and beyond! Step aboard with San Juan Classic Day Sailing and take your opportunity to let go of the hustle and bustle of the daily grind and and connect with the the natural rhythm of the sea, traditional maritime heritage and our pristine marine environment. We offer a variety of sailing charter opportunities, giving you the chance to experience the joy of being on your own classic yachting adventure in the Islands! [more...]
Island Studios is a fine arts and crafts gallery opened in 1996 for the exclusive purpose of representing artists and craftspersons who live in the islands.
Location: 270 Spring St., Friday Harbor; (360) 378-6550
Hours: Call for seasonal hours [more...]
The San Juan Islands Artists' Studio tour is a free, self-guided tour of 13 working studios, including 39 participants all around the island. The artists are a group of mutually supportive San Juan Island artists who open up their personal studio spaces, often including artistic gardens, to the public for an entire weekend each spring.
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...]
Restored in 2013, the Brickworks is now a center for cultural life in Friday Harbor, with a large hall and outdoor plaza for concerts and community gatherings. Visit on a Saturday, and you’ll find fresh local produce at the San Juan Island Farmers’ Market. On Fridays in the summertime, local artists sell their creations at the Friday Harbor Art Market. [more...]