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.
See the largest herd of alpacas in the San Juans on this 70-acre working farm. Alpacas grow one of the world's softest, most luxurious fibers, and are irresistibly cute. Enjoy a self-guided stroll around the grounds or shop the Country Store for fine alpaca clothing and gifts. Call ahead for guided tours.
Address: 3501 West Valley Rd.; (360) 378-6125
Hours: 10:00–5:00 daily, Apr.–Dec.; 11:00–4:00 daily, Jan.–Mar. [more...]
Established in 1980, San Juan Kayak Expeditions is the original sea kayaking company in the San Juan Islands! Your kayak adventure begins at our conveniently located Sea Kayak Center kiosk directly across from the ferry dock in Friday Harbor. We offer fun outings for all tastes and budgets such as our guided Whales Ho! Full Day tour and our Griffin Bay Full Day, Half Day or Sunset tours! [more...]
Explore San Juan Island at your leisure with a moped, scoot-car or car from Susie's Mopeds, an island tradition since 1986. Let our professional and friendly staff help plan your island adventure and get you on your way. Pack your lunches and enjoy spectacular scenery of a full-day tour or head off to a specific location like the Whale Watch Park. We have hourly and daily rates, and two locations Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor.
"You are off the ferry and on your way.” [more...]
Voted #1 Eco-Adventure in Western Washington 2010-2012-2013 by Evening Magazine and King5 News! Join us on a sea kayaking adventure to the most rewarding destinations in the San Juan Islands. We offer tours departing from San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Anacortes. We offer Half Day, Full Day, and Overnight sea kayaking expeditions. Anacortes Kayak Tours prides itself on being a family friendly kayak company, with dedicated family tours departing Deception Pass State Park. [more...]
Popeye the harbor seal has been a frequent visitor to Friday Harbor since 1995. In 2005, the Port of Friday Harbor named her the port's official seal, and commissioned a granite sculpture of her, which stands in Fairweather Park, near the main marina dock entrance. [more...]
Experience premiere whale watching with San Juan Excursions aboard the 65-foot, twin-engine, classic motor yacht "Odyssey". The largest whale watching boat in the islands, the "Odyssey" offers guests excellent, comfortable indoor and outdoor viewing with heated cabins, lounge-style seating, a snack bar, two restrooms, padded outdoor seating, and wrap around decks. We see orca whales on a high percentage of our tours and if you do not see an orca, then you are welcome to come out another day -- free of charge. [more...]
Funk & Junk Antiques is Friday Harbor's oldest antique shop, with complete estate services, licensed auctioneers and certified appraisals. Come in and browse one of the Northwest's best shops featuring unique, eclectic and one-of-a-kind treasures-since 1984. [more...]
Visit Paula's studio on the southwest side of San Juan Island, where she turns porcelain clay on the potters wheel into unique and functional vessels for your table. Established in 1993, the studio offers visitors the opportunity to see a working studio and the many aspects of pottery making. Browse the showroom and view works for sale as well as in progress. Location: 160 MacGinitie Rd., San Juan Island; (360) 378-2391 Hours: Call for seasonal hours [more...]
Conveniently located in the new Quarryman Hall building in Roche Harbor Resort, the Afterglow Spa is the perfect complement to your experience on San Juan Island. Begin your vacation with a relaxing massage, or indulge in one of our signature body treatments, hydrotherapy, steam room, facials, manicures and pedicures. [more...]
The San Juan Islands Sculpture Park is 20 acres of outdoor art in an idyllic setting featuring more than 100 unique sculptures in a variety of media, from wood and metal to glass and stone. Artists range from well known to unknown, and there are exciting new additions every year.
Location: Roche Harbor Road at Roche Harbor entrance; (360) 370-0035
Hours: Open year round, dawn to dusk [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...]
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...]
The SJC Fairground is a multi-use event center with indoor rental facilities, group camping, RV sites and year round activities. The annual Fair in August draws thousands of visitors and is a sweet, small town county fair with an arts festival feel and major fun for the whole family! The 14-acre fairground rental facilities include a 10,000-square-foot exhibit hall for large events; 1,800-square-foot building for receptions, parties, meetings, concerts, etc.; seven RV sites with full hookup and group camping areas. [more...]
Immerse yourself in more than 40 documentaries, with three days of award-winning films to entertain, inspire and enlighten us about the the people, cultures and environment of the Pacific Rim. [more...]
The San Juan Islands Artists' Studio tour is a free, self-guided tour of more than a dozen working studios, including many artists all around the island. The artists are a group of mutually supportive San Juan Island artists who open their personal studio spaces, often including artistic gardens, to the public for an entire weekend each spring. Location: Various studios on San Juan Island Visit www.sanjuanislandartists.com for dates and times [more...]