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.
WaterWorks Gallery is San Juan Island’s première gallery for contemporary artwork, 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. Artists and their visions evolve and change, stimulated by the changing times we live in. Art jewelry is a new addition to the gallery. Monthly show schedule posted online. Seasonally adjusted hours. [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...]
Cranberry Cottage was built in 2009 to replicate a Queen Anne Victorian-style home from the 1800's. Each room is filled with many period antiques that Michael Jean has collected over the years, including a vintage wood burning stove, antique wall phone and gas light fixtures. The Smiths considered every detail when building their new home with Victorian detail: 10 ft. ceilings with transom doorways, beautiful antique woodwork and landscaping. [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...]
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...]
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...]
"Discovery Sea Kayaks, known by reputation, selected for adventure!" Kayak Tours and Bike Rentals. 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...]
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...]
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 have hourly and daily rates, and two locations Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor.
"You are off the ferry and on your way.” [more...]
We offer unique whale watching and wildlife tours with no more than six passengers on board. Small group size, your expert captain, and informed biologist/naturalist, assure the most authentic and personalized experience available. Our 30' vessels offer comfort, plenty of elbow room and unobstructed viewing from the front bow, back deck and cabin.
We have professional grade hydro-phones and binoculars on board, so you can listen to whales as well as see them. Tours depart from Snug Harbor Resort - the closest marina to where we most often see whales!
At San Juan Vineyard's beautiful 30-acre vineyard, winery, and historic tasting room, you can sip from a line-up of award-winning wines including estate-grown Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine. Enjoy the ambiance of the grounds at a barrel tasting or harvest festival.
Address: 3136 Roche Harbor Rd., Friday Harbor; (360) 378-9463
Hours: Daily, 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. [more...]
San Juan Community Theatre is a state-of-the-art facility far exceeding expectations of what might be found on a remote island. The theatre offers a broad variety of high-quality, locally-produced events, as well as performances by renowned touring music, theatre and dance companies, and is active year-round.
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...]
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. Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday through Monday. Summer hours will vary. Please see the website for current information. Admission is free! [more...]