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. Take a walking tour of Friday Harbor, which includes many of the towns 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!), a community theater (weekend 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.
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 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 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.
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 Friday Harbor Drug Company on the corner of Spring and 2nd Streets is an an amalgamation 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, was the town's only example of Spanish Eclectic architecture popular in the West at that time, and has operated as the town's main pharmacy ever since. [more...]
We offer guided or unguided kayak trips, starting at 2 hours, from downtown Friday Harbor to the inner harbor, Brown Island, or to beautiful Turn Island State Park, where you can hike the trails, enjoy a beach picnic, and explore the tide pools. Our fleet of Hobie kayaks includes singles, tandems and trimarans, and can be paddled, pedaled, sailed or even driven by an electric motor. The unique and versatile Hobie kayaks are extremely stable, and suitable for pros or beginners of any age. [more...]
Why Choose Captain Carli's Whale Watching Tours? Captain Carli has lived on San Juan Island for the last twenty-seven years and first started driving whale watching boats professionally in 1995. Small boats are more 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 onboard "Soulmate,” Captain Carli"s boat. Captain Carli belongs to an orca whale spotting network located on Vancouver Island. If the whales are in the area he will know about them. [more...]
Explore San Juan Island at your leisure with a moped, scoot-car, or car from Susie's Mopeds, an island tradition since 1986. Let our professional and friendly staff help plan your island adventure and get you on your way. Pack your lunches and enjoy spectacular scenery of a full-day tour or head off to a specific location like the Whale Watch Park. We offer hourly and daily rates.
"You are off the ferry and on your way!” [more...]
The San Juan Islands Museum of Art provides quarterly exhibits that reflect the best of the visual arts from the northwestern U.S. and southwestern Canada. The IMA's mission is to connect people with art that inspires, challenges, and enlightens. [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. Enjoy a self-guided stroll around the grounds or shop the Country Store for fine alpaca clothing and gifts. Guided tours available if you call a week ahead. [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...]
We gladly welcome visitors to shop at the San Juan Island Food Co-op where we vote with our forks in order to support local food production & consumption, reduce trucking & warehousing, and promote healthful nutrition by sourcing responsibly, sustainable & organically produced foods.
50% of our grocery offerings are local & regional, including pastured meats & poultry, wild-harvested fish, farm fresh produce, eggs, cheese, & milk products, and much more than we can list here! [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...]
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. [more...]
A professional packing, shipping and receiving store offering services for FedEx, UPS and USPS. Private mail boxes available.
Ship your luggage through us and avoid the hassle of carrying excess luggage through the airports. [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...]
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...]