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 was where it all began. (Often it was love at first sight, before they even got off the ferry.) In this historic, compact, and very walkable town, the hub of the island, you can easily fill a delightful day. Stroll through art galleries, bookstores, and antique shops, sample a bouquet of boutiques, stop for a cafe lunch or enjoy a world-class dinner overlooking the harbor, visit The Whale Museum and the San Juan Historical Museum, or meander through the marina.
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!), a community theater (weekend plays and musical events), and a plethora of B&Bs and other lodgings.
No need for a car here. 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.
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.
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 Museum of Art Sculpture Park—more than 100 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, home of the world-famous oysters.
Exploring the Island
When you travel the 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.
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.
Unique small ship cruiser in the San Juan Islands, up the southern inside passage of British Columbia, and in SE Alaska aboard the 1932 historic wooden vessel, MV Catalyst. Hiking, kayaking, wildlife viewing. Available for special events in the fall. [more...]
Celebrating our 19th year, Crystal Seas offers premier kayaking adventures along the west-side of San Juan Island from late April to early October. Join us for 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...]
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...]
See the largest herd of alpacas in the San Juans on this 70-acre working farm. Alpacas grow one of the world's softest, most luxurious fibers, and are irresistibly cute. The whole family will enjoy a self-guided stroll around the beautiful grounds with cameras clicking at these photogenic animals. Guided educational tours may be scheduled by calling a week in advance. The Country Store offers a wide selection of fine alpaca clothing, accessories, and gifts, and is where visitors can feel the amazing softness of alpaca. [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...]
Whether you are looking for a premier whale watch tour, quality family adventure, or a fun-filled fishing excursion, Legacy Charters is here to make it happen. Offering whale watching and fishing charters for groups of six or less assures the most authentic and personalized charters available. [more...]
The Whale Museum promotes stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea ecosystem through education and research. Visit us in our historic building in downtown Friday Harbor, only three blocks from the ferry landing. See our fun and educational exhibits about whales, watch free videos, and shop in our store, which features marine mammal art and gifts. Guided and unguided tours are available. Events: Marine Naturalist Training in March, Orca Fest in May, Pod Nods in July and August, Sailing on The Adventuress in late summer. [more...]
IMA - San Juan Islands Museum of Art in downtown Friday Harbor, 235 "A" Street, above the ferry lanes, provides four visual art exhibitions yearly, featuring artists both regional & beyond. Visit our website for current shows & events. Open Thursday through Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
We operate out of Friday Harbor at the bottom of Spring Street and moor the boat at the Spring Street Landing. We offer a variety of boat tours starting with what we call “quick trips”. These trips are totally tailored by you. Here’s how it works. Say you have an hour or two to kill but you don’t want to just sit around. Call us and we will show you around this end of the island (history, wildlife, dramatic seascapes, and waterfront homes) all in the time you have available. [more...]
"Discovery Sea Kayaks, known by reputation, selected for adventure!" Discovery Sea Kayaks was awarded "Best Outfitter on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure Magazine 2008 and 2009. We offer truly unique, small-group, year-round sea kayaking adventures in the San Juan Islands. [more...]
Experience premiere whale watching with San Juan Excursions aboard the 64-foot, twin-engine, classic motor yacht the 'Odyssey'. The largest whale watching boat in the islands, the ‘Odyssey" (fueled by biodiesel when available) 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 over 95% of our tours and if you do not see an orca, then you are welcome to come out another day -- free of charge. [more...]
Since 1987, Adventure Associates has specialized in all-women and coed whale watching paddles and sea kayaking trips. Our expert naturalists share on- and off-water secrets of these magical island communities. Small tour groups (5-12) enjoy great cuisine, a relaxed pace and camaraderie around the campfire. Enjoy three-day whale watch paddles, six-day sea kayak expeditions and six-day multi-sport (hike, bike & sea kayak) adventures for women. Camping, kayak equipment and all meals included. No experience needed. [more...]
Located steps from the Friday Harbor ferry terminal, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching & Wildlife Tours has an excellent reputation for respectful wildlife viewing. Owner operated since 1995, this company is known for providing high-quality, small-group size whale watching & wildlife tours. [more...]
Pelindaba Lavender Farm, spread over 25 beautiful acres with lake and Olympic Mountain views, has become one of the San Juans' most popular visitor destinations. More than 250 lavender-based, botanical, culinary, personal care, therapeutic, household & pet care products are handcrafted and sold on-site, as well as at the Pelindaba Lavender Friday Harbor Product Gallery. [more...]