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.
Why Choose Captain Carli's Whale Watching Tours? Captain Carli has lived on San Juan Island for over 30 years and first started driving whale watching boats professionally in 1995. Small boats are personal and offer direct access to Captain Carli, (have a question…just ask him). Walk off the Washington State ferry in Friday Harbor and two minutes later you are on-board "Soulmate,” Captain Carli"s boat. He belongs to an orca whale spotting network located on Vancouver Island. If the whales are in the area he will know about them. [more...]
The San Juan Island Farmers' Market is your source for beautiful and bountiful island produce, fine crafts, and delicious prepared foods. You can find the market at the historic Brickworks building, just two blocks from the ferry landing.
Located at Brickworks, 120 Nichols St., Friday Harbor
Hours: 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., Saturdays, April.–October; twice a month in November & December; first Saturdays, January – March; 10:00 a.m.–1:30 p.m., July 4 to Labor Day. [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...]
The Toy Box is a wonderful toy store, whether you are looking for ducks that walk on tightropes, the world's farthest flying Frisbee, or educational toys that make learning fun. The store is full of unique, fun merchandise for every age. You can find a wide variety of puzzles, games, plush toys, art supplies, educational toys, dolls and much more.
Drop by and see Nancy on your next visit. [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...]
Kings Market has all of your grocery needs and our upstairs Kings Marine is where you will find a full selection of clothing, shoes, marine and fishing gear. Fresh produce, meat and seafood, full-service deli, and expansive wine department make Kings Market a one-stop shop. [more...]
Specializing in high quality, low guide to guest ratio, sea kayak tours: 5-hour whale tours by kayak, 3- hour nature tour by kayak, multi-sport kayak tours, overnight kayak camping tours and family kayak tours.
Watch local marine life up close at the Spring St. Landing Aquarium, a 400-gallon saltwater tank displaying a variety of creatures such as sea cucumbers, tube worms, singing scallops, nudibranchs, sea stars, sea urchins and anemones. This is a great free attraction for kids. [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...]
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...]
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...]
Housed in an 1892 Odd Fellows Hall overlooking Friday Harbor, The Whale Museum is the local center for Salish Sea stewardship and research since 1979. Many early notable events took place at the Hall, including the year-long murder trial of Richard Straub, the only person ever executed in San Juan County. The courthouse also hosted the fiery orator, Billy Sunday, a proponent of prohibition; the day after his speech, the county council approved prohibition for San Juan County, previous to national passage of the 21st Amendment. Now you can see a young orca skeleton, watch free videos, and find treasures in the museum gift shop. Upstairs, visit the Gallery of Whales and learn about how you can Adopt an Orca to support the 80 Southern Resident orca whales that call Northwest waters home. [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...]