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.
Visit Paula's studio 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...]
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.
Location: 315 Argyle St., Friday Harbor; (360) 378-3060
Hours: call for seasonal hours [more...]
At San Juan Vineyard's beautiful 30-acre vineyard, winery, and historic tasting room, you can sip from a line-up of award-winning wines including estate-grown Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine. Enjoy the ambiance of the grounds at a barrel tasting or harvest festival.
Address: 3136 Roche Harbor Rd., Friday Harbor; (360) 378-9463
Hours: Daily, 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. [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...]
Built in 1892, this charming house, complete with white picket fence and gingerbread touches, was first a home for one of the owners of San Juan Trading Company. Renovated in 1903 by the Presbyterian Ladies Guild, it served as an event space, and then housed many Friday Harbor families and businesses over the last century. Now, this well-organized shop carries more than 40,000 used books on every subject imaginable. Serendipity is open seven days a week and is a great spot to spend an afternoon browsing for books about the islands, sailing, cooking, travel and many other subjects. [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...]
The design by architect Richard Hobbs features interior Main and North Galleries within the walls of the existing building and a proposed outdoor South Terrace Gallery, the combination of which invites all to participate and be involved in the world of the IMA visual arts experience. The new San Juan Islands Museum of Art will provide quarterly exhibits that reflect the best of the visual arts from the northwestern U.S. and southwestern Canada.
Location: 540 Spring St., Friday Harbor; (360) 370-5050
Hours: call for seasonal hours [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...]
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...]
Air-conditioned Paradise Lanes and Games Arcade has eight lanes of bowling, three pool tables, air hockey and arcade video games. We also are the only games arcade for the "under-21" set in the islands. [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...]
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...]
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...]
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 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 our personal studio spaces, often including artistic gardens, to the public for an entire weekend at the end of spring each year.