San Juan Islands History
From tales of early Coast Salish settlements and Captain Vancouver’s explorations, to a near international war started over the death of a pig, there is plenty of history to discover in the San Juan Islands. Visit the century-old Roche Harbor Resort that played a major role in the industrial development of the West Coast, or the historic Moran Mansion at Rosario Resort. Wander Friday Harbor, one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations. Visit farms following traditions of the past, yet with modern crops and technology. Sail aboard a historic schooner. Relax and imagine yourself in a simpler time.
With three island historical museums, the San Juan Island National Historical Park and 18 National Historic Registry sites, there are dozens of additional attractions for the history buff or the merely curious to explore. The month of May is a great time to plan a visit, during National Historic Preservation Month’s "History Lives Here: Heritage Month in the San Juan Islands."
Tucked between two peninsulas on Orcas Island's west side, Deer Harbor is a scenic 20-minute drive from the ferry landing where you’ll find one of the few sandy beaches in the Islands. At its heart lies the Deer Harbor Marina.
In this small gem of a village, choose from a small but quality selection of lodging, from cozy B&B's to individual cabins overlooking the marina. Get picnic food, grilled burgers, sandwiches and snacks at the Dock Store or enjoy the casual elegance of dinner at Deer Harbor Inn Restaurant. [more...]
Friday Harbor's historic structures are unique remnants of Washington's early history. Spared by the fires that, by 1900, had swept through most cities and towns in the state, Friday Harbor still has many of the original wood-frame buildings typical of the territorial era. Self-guided walking tour brochures are available at local bookstores. Free guided tours every Saturday in May and October. [more...]
The San Juan Island National Historical Park, including American Camp and English Camp, was created in 1966 based upon an idea: that individuals and nations can solve their problems peacefully without resorting to violence. For it was here in 1859 that the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over a pig shot by an American farmer. Actually, it was a bit more complicated than that.. [more...]
Eastsound, at the head of the large fjord of East Sound, is Orcas Island's largest village, and the hub of business and activity on this, the largest of the San Juan Islands. Grab a cup of coffee and wander the streets of this little burg any time of year, and you'll see galleries featuring local artists, farm-to-table restaurants, and yoga studios, as well as stylish boutiques, excellent bakeries and a well-stocked bookstore. [more...]
In the tiny hamlet of Olga on Orcas Island, there is a small post office, a small dock and beach, which act as a Marine State Park for Moran State Park, which is just a mile or so up the road. Cafe Olga and Artworks artist co-op are currently conducting business in Eastsound because of a fire in the building, originally a strawberry packing plant that shipped fruit to the mainland until the early 1900s. You can visit Olga Pottery and watch for the Olga Daze celebration or pot luck dinners at the Olga Energetics Club. [more...]
Like many of Orcas Island's many small villages, West Sound has been settled for centuries, first by Coast Salish tribes, then homesteaders, fishermen and boaters. The Orcas Island Yacht Club is situated on what was once some of the best orchard land on Orcas Island, and looks out over a charming marina towards the privately owned Picnic Island. There are several bed and breakfast inns in the area, as well as the Kingfish Inn and West Sound Cafe and Red Rabbit Farm, which serves farm-to-table dinners throughout the summer. [more...]
The Lopez Island Historical Society Museum is located in the heart of Lopez Village, and maintains a huge photo and document archive, where you can search for long-lost relatives or vintage images of your island home. Along with permanent First Islanders and Natural History displays, you may see exhibits on farming, fishing, place name origins or island communities. [more...]
On the grounds of the former 445-acre James King farm, the SJIHM consists of eight buildings, four from the original farm: the 1894 farmhouse, carriage house, root cellar and milk house. The original San Juan County Jail, a barn, a log cabin and resource center round out the remaining structures. Stroll the grounds, enjoy a picnic and step back in time. [more...]
The Orcas Island Historical Museum is the only object-based, interpretive heritage facility for Orcas Island, with a permanent collection comprised of approximately 6000 objects, paper documents and photographs. In the 1950s and 1960s, various island families donated six original homestead cabins built during the 1870s and the 1890s to the Society. Volunteers disassembled the structures at their original sites, then moved, reconstructed and linked the structures together to create the main museum facility. The 100-year-old cabins serve as a space for interpreting island history as told through the life stories and material culture of the Native American and early European-American settlers of this area. [more...]