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.
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...]
Adventure awaits you! Join Western Prince Whale Watching on an intimate sized tour (limited to 32 passengers on the Western Prince II and 15 passengers on the Western Explorer) as we explore protected waters and discover the islands' abundant wildlife and spectacular beauty. [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. [more...]
Built in 1921 as Friday Harbor Brick and Tile Company, the restored Brickworks is a cultural center in Friday Harbor, with an outdoor plaza for events. Visit on a Saturday, and you’ll find fresh local goods and 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...]
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...]
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...]
Yvonne’s work space is a multi media island studio located four miles from the town of Friday Harbor on a beautiful lakeside setting. Come visit to watch and learn about her art glass panels, miniature sculptures (jewelry), and encaustic (beeswax) paintings. Artwork is available for sale and custom commissions always welcome. By appointment or call for studio hours. [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...]
EverGreen Escapes blends nature, adventure, wildlife and local epicurean indulgences into rich and meaningful travel experiences that showcase the best Cascadia has to offer to couples, families and wedding parties. Our naturalist-led small group half-, full- and multi-day escapes aboard luxurious Mercedes vans and SUVs promise to inspire, educate and satisfy explorers from around the planet. [more...]
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...]
From your first step over our threshold into our earthy, sensual environment, you will feel comfortable exactly as you are. Like our island home, our warm, accessible ambiance invites visitors to reconnect with the beauty and wisdom within. [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...]
New Day Garden is a small island flower farm growing dahlias, tulips, dutch iris, sunflowers and other specialty cut flowers. We sell fresh bouquets daily at our roadside stand and San Juan Island Farmers' Market throughout the season from April through October. Special orders are always welcome from single bouquets or bunches to weddings or special events. [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...]
Open daily year-round, the Pelindaba Lavender Friday Harbor Product Gallery provides a location close to the ferry landing for visitors who might not be able to visit the farm for one reason or another, but who still want a taste of our handcrafted lavender products (literally and figuratively). [more...]