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.
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...]
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...]
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. [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...]
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...]
Watch local marine life up close at the Spring St. Landing Aquarium, a 400-gallon saltwater tank displaying a variety of creatures such as sea cucumbers, tube worms, singing scallops, nudibranchs, sea stars, sea urchins and anemones. This is a great free attraction for kids. [more...]
Voted 'Best Tour Company on the West Coast' by Sea Kayaker Magazine for 2014, Crystal Seas offers premier kayaking adventures along the west-side of San Juan Island from late April to early October. Join us for our 20th season on a three-hour, sunset, full-day or multi-day kayak tour to experience the thrill of a lifetime! Crystal Seas specializes in small groups and custom/family tours. We offer free transportation from downtown Friday Harbor to our launch site and provide all of the gear you will need. Singles, couples, families and groups are welcome. [more...]
Pelindaba Lavender Farm, spread over 25 beautiful acres with lake and Olympic Mountain views, has become one of the San Juans' most popular destinations. More than 240 lavender-based, botanical, culinary, personal care, therapeutic, household and pet care products are handcrafted and sold on-site or in their Friday Harbor store year round. Address: 45 Hawthorne Lane off Wold Rd.; (360) 378-4248 Hours: Wed.–Sun., 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., Apr. & Oct.; daily May–Sept.; closed Nov.–Mar. [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...]
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...]
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...]
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...]
The new San Juan Islands Museum of Art offers quarterly exhibitions of fine visual art from around the world. The IMA mission is to connect people with art that inspires, challenges, and enlightens. Location: 540 Spring St., Friday Harbor; (360) 370-5050 Hours: 11 to 5 Friday through Monday. Summer hours will vary. Please see the website for current information. Admission is free! [more...]
Why Choose Captain Carli's Whale Watching Tours? Captain Carli has lived on San Juan Island for over 30 years and first started driving whale watching boats professionally in 1995. Small boats are personal and offer direct access to Captain Carli, (have a question…just ask him). Walk off the Washington State ferry in Friday Harbor and two minutes later you are on-board "Soulmate,” Captain Carli"s boat. He belongs to an orca whale spotting network located on Vancouver Island. If the whales are in the area he will know about them. [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...]