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.
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...]
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...]
This historic sea farm is located in the renowned waters of Westcott Bay near Roche Harbor, and grows Pacific oysters utilizing a rack-and-bag system, Manila clams in netted clam beds, and Mediterranean mussels in lantern nets suspended off the extensive dock and floats. You can buy, shuck and enjoy shellfish onsite, although there is no public clam-digging or oyster picking.
Address: 904 Westcott Dr. off Roche Harbor Rd.; (360) 378-2489
Hours: 11:00–5:00 from early May until just after Labor Day [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...]
Whale sightings on over 90% of our tours! See orca whales in the wild. Sit comfortably on a 45 foot- long whale watch boat with a walk-around deck, inside cabin and bathroom.
Other whales around San Juan Island are Humpback Whales and Minke Whales. We also can see Dalls Porpoise and Harbor Porpoise. Whale Watching tours also see Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals and many exceptional sea birds.
San Juan Outfitters also offers private whale watch tours, private boat charters and water taxi service to the many San Juan Islands and Canada [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...]
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.
Enjoy the waterfront walk down to the Port of Friday Harbor, appreciating the Coast Salish house posts and the many visiting boats from around the world. The piece is titled "Interaction" and was created by Salish Coast artist Susan Point, a member of the Musqueum Tribe, as a symbol of welcome and an acknowledgement of the Native presence in the San Juan Islands. "Interaction" is also dedicated to welcoming all to work together in the stewardship of our precious marine ecosystem.
Location: Friday Harbor waterfront, in Jack Fairweather Park [more...]
Founded in 1964, the San Juan Island Yacht Club's membership has grown to over 300 active boaters. Our clubhouse is a full service facility with large meeting room, bar and kitchen facilities. The San Juan Island Yacht Club is a cruising club. Our members travel as far north as Glacier Bay and south to the Gulf of California. We sponsor 10 to 12 local cruises each year along with major racing events, including the Shaw Island Classic. Additionally, sailors are invited to participate in the One Design race series. [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...]
Come visit Friday Harbor's newest attraction for kids. Located in the heart of downtown; this happy and colorful indoor space is filled with creative and imaginative play areas, designed for ages 1 to 10. It is the perfect spot for kids to move, build, create, socialize and explore, while parents can relax, catch up with a friend and are always welcome to join in the fun. [more...]
Bike, Kayak & Hike in the San Juan Islands. For a true multisport experience in the San Juan Islands, you will want to tour with San Juan Outfitters! Sea kayaking with Killer Whales (Orca Whales) cycling the San Juan Islands Scenic Byways and hiking little known San Juan Islands trails. [more...]
A writer described the essence of sea kayaking perfectly when she said, "Kayaking is the closest you'll ever come to actually being a marine mammal."
With 175-forested islands surrounded by crystal-green waters and snow-capped mountains, the San Juan Islands in the NW corner of Washington State are an idyllic sea-kayaking destination.
The pristine waters of the San Juan Islands are home to over 85 resident orca whales. We launch most of our tours from the west side of San Juan Island, putting our guests in the heart of the “best orca whale habitat” on the West Coast. [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...]