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.
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...]
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 new San Juan Islands Museum of Art offers quarterly exhibits that reflect the best of the visual arts from the Pacific Northwest and southwestern Canada. The IMA's mission is to connect people with art that inspires, challenges, and enlightens. Location: 540 Spring St., Friday Harbor; (360) 370-5050 Hours: Call for seasonal hours [more...]
All Aboard Sailing offers a unique adventure sailing a traditional wood boat through the San Juan islands. The 1956 42' pilot house sloop of yellow cedar on steam bent oak sails spring, summer, fall and winter with USCG licensed Captain David Howitt. [more...]
Bicycle Adventures, Inc is one of North America's premier bicycling and adventure vacation companies, offering fully supported cycling and multi-sport tours in the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Tours feature deluxe lodging and dining, equipment, luggage service, full van support and expert World Outfitters and Guides Association certified tour leaders. [more...]
Come and experience for yourself the only Zip Line Tour in the San Juan Islands. Our family friendly zip tour features eight zip lines that will take you through a beautiful forest, across a pristine lake and over protected wetlands. This tour is an amazing way to experience the natural landscape of San Juan Island while zipping from platform to platform through the forest canopy. [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...]
The Pacific Northwest Golf Association rates our golf course as the second best nine-hole course in the state. The Seattle Times calls it "the best golf in the San Juans." The layout has two sets of tees for the front and back nines allowing for an 18-hole golfing experience. The facility also offers a driving range, practice greens, and hand and power carts. For those who prefer tennis, the club has two quality courts available for play seven days a week. [more...]
The Friday Harbor Drug Company, on the corner of Spring and Second Streets, is an amalgam of two historic structures. The 2-story building at 220 Spring St. was built by Dr. George Wright in the 1890s to house the town's original pharmacy. This building went on to become Friday Harbor's first public library; on its inaugural day, the library's entire 28-volume collection was checked out. The corner building, built between 1908 and 1912, operated as a clothing and gift store, the U.S. Customs office and as headquarters for The Islander newspaper. The two buildings were joined in 1929, and was the town's only example of Spanish Eclectic architecture popular in the West at that time,operating as the town's main pharmacy ever since. [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...]
WaterWorks Gallery was 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...]
Join owner Captain Hobbes aboard "Natsilane" for an intimate whale & wildlife tour of a lifetime. Limited to only 6 passengers, come discover the unique ecosystems of the Salish Sea in a comfortable and stable boat with a heated cabin, indoor & outdoor seating, and a restroom. Tours depart one or two times daily depending on the season. [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...]
Men & women's new and gently used clothing including designer labels. We carry formal and casual wear, business suites, jewelry, belts, purses, shoes, boots and so much more! We are open 7 days a week Monday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m and Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. [more...]