Scenic Byway Tour of San Juan Island
On San Juan Island, you'll disembark the ferry at the Town of Friday Harbor, a walkable, historic seaport, and the only incorporated town in the San Juan Islands. Friday Harbor is filled with water-view restaurants, boutiques, bookstores, galleries and museums.
Enjoy the waterfront walk down to the Port of Friday Harbor, appreciating the Coast Salish "Portals of Welcome" house posts and the many visiting yachts and boats from around the world. Whale watch excursions and sea kayak tours depart from the port seasonally; island shuttle bus tours depart from next to the ferry lanes seasonally. Friday Harbor was chosen as one of the 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and celebrated its Centennial in 2009. (Gas stations are mostly located in town, so be sure to fill up before you continue around the island. There is another gas station at Roche Harbor.)
Stroll or drive up historic Spring Street and take a right on First Street to reach The Whale Museum (62 First St. N.) which has promoted stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea ecosystem for almost 30 years through research and education. Children and adults will enjoy the museum's interactive educational displays and gift shop. This is a great stop before taking a seasonal whale watch excursion.
Return to Spring Street, turn right, and drive or walk about half a mile, then take a right on Price Street to reach the San Juan Historical Museum (405 Price St.). The museum complex is located on the James King homestead which is over 100 years old, and consists of the original farmhouse, the first county jail, a turn-of-the-century log cabin, barn, milk house and a carriage house.
Retrace your route on Spring Street to the middle of town and take a left on Second Street (which becomes Guard St.) and follow the signs to Roche Harbor, taking a right on Tucker Road (which becomes Roche Harbor Rd.), and drive about 20 minutes. You'll pass the San Juan Community Theatre. A few miles later you'll also eventually pass San Juan Vineyards on the right, which houses its tasting room in an historic school house.
Nearing Roche Harbor you'll see the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park on your left, which boasts over 100 sculptures placed in an open, 19-acre, natural setting. Ramble through the sculptures or enjoy the nature trail developed by island Girl Scouts that takes you into a native forest and close to Westcott Bay, home of the world-famous oysters.
Take a left out of the park and continue toward Roche Harbor Resort. On the National Register of Historic Places, Roche Harbor's centerpiece, the Hotel de Haro, was built in 1886. Several types of lodging, restaurants, shops, seasonal artisan booths, gardens, and one of the largest marinas along the byway make historic Roche Harbor a great stop for a meal and exploration.
Leave Roche Harbor, retrace your route, take a right onto West Valley Road and follow the signs to English Camp/San Juan Island National Historical Park. This park celebrates how individuals and nations can resolve disputes without resorting to violence. For it was here in the mid 1800s that Great Britain and the United States settled ownership of the island through peaceful arbitration of the "Pig War" crisis. Park your vehicle in the lot and stroll down to the shore of Garrison Bay where the British Royal Marines remained for 12 years until Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany decided the sovereignty of the dispute and awarded the islands to the U.S. in 1872. (American Camp, on the other side of the island, is the other park site of the National Historical Park.)
Returning to West Valley Road, take a right, passing Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm. Take another right onto Mitchell Bay Road which leads to a "smooth" left turn onto West Side Road and down the west side of the island to San Juan County Park. This is a perfect place to picnic, camp, watch wildlife and/or the sun set, or launch kayaks. The park also has a rich, colorful history and was used as a site for the film "Practical Magic" starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock.
Return to West Side Road, take a right and drive another few minutes, turning right into Lime Kiln Point State Park, a.k.a. Whale Watch Park. This is the only park in the world dedicated to shore-based orca whale watching. Hiking trails, a seasonal interpretive center and restrooms make this a great stop for kids and adults. Be sure to use the accessible trail down to the interpretive displays at the water's edge and follow the trail along the shore to the picturesque, working lighthouse, which offers seasonal tours and is used as a research facility by The Whale Museum.
Continue out of the park to the right and south along West Side Road, which becomes Bailer Hill Road (at Wold Road), passing rocky overlooks, shaded bays and scenic farmlands. Note the sign to Paula West Pottery on the right, and a sign to Pelindaba Lavender Farm on the left at Wold Road. Visit Paula's studio to find colorful, functional pottery including cups, bowls, pitchers and platters. The unique Pelindaba Lavender Farm, one of the largest in the country, produces what is arguably the widest and largest range of lavender products anywhere Its on-site Gatehouse gift store, in an historic island house, also serves lavender baked goods and beverages, etc., and the fields are further adorned by the sculptures of local San Juan artist Micajah Bienvenu.
Continue traveling until a right hand turn on Little Road brings you to Cattle Point Road. Take a right and travel about five minutes to American Camp/San Juan Island National Historical Park. This site is the location where American troops were stationed during the peaceful "Pig War" crisis. Check out the visitor center and/or walk to the Redoubt which is surrounded by grazing land that once was a Hudson's Bay Company cattle and sheep ranch. Watch for rabbits and foxes and raptors that fly close by, as well as marine life in the distance.
Return to Cattle Point Road, take a right, (perhaps explore beautiful South Beach and/or Jakle's Lagoon/Mt. Finlayson hiking trails), then drive southeast to the Department of Natural Resource's Cattle Point Interpretive Area, just past the Cattle Point Lighthouse. Watch for deer, eagles and marine mammals such as seals and sea lions from the shelter, picnic area and beach below.
Return to Friday Harbor retracing your route along Cattle Point Road, being sure to look for views of Mt. Baker. Take a right onto Spring Street and follow it into town. Stay a night or more, and/or take the inter-island Washington State Ferry to Orcas Island by getting in the ferry lanes after taking a right on First Street. The inter-island ferry to Orcas Island departs several times each day; the schedule changes seasonally.
Want to rent a car or catch a shuttle?