Island Experience

10 Fun Things to do this Summer in the San Juans

Long, sunny days let you love your endless summer in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, and on Lopez and Orcas Islands

Hiking Mt. Constitution, Orcas Island, San Juan Islands, Washington, Robert Harrison
San Juan Island Bicycling, Photography by Mark Gardner

 

Hike the Hills

The San Juan Islands are a hiking paradise, with thousands of acres of public lands available to enjoy. The San Juan Islands Historical Parks at American Camp and English Camp, Moran State Park on Orcas Island, County Parks on all three islands, historic lighthouses, and San Juan Preservation Trust, San Juan County Land Bank and San Juan Islands National Monument lands.

Two-wheeled Fun

Each island has its own terrain and feeling for bicyclists. Lopez Island is known for its easy, rolling hills and beautiful farmland. Orcas Island is challenging in certain areas, and San Juan Island has a little of both. Find out more about San Juan Islands bicycling.

Kayaking, San Juan Island, San Juan Outfitters
Zip San Juan, San Juan Island, Washington

 

Kayaker's Paradise

The San Juan Islands is a world-class destination for kayaking, with isolated bays, dozens of uninhabited islands, rocky bluffs and vivid sunset paddles on gentle waves. You can drop a kayak in at a San Juan County Park, a serene lake in Moran State Park, or many other public access beaches. If you are a  first-time kayaker, you might consider taking a guided kayaking tour, where a helpful guide will teach you how to kayak safely, and take you to their favorite kayaking spots.

Ziplining Adventures

If you are looking for a more adventurous experience, change your perspective with a zip-lining trip through the evergreen forests of San Juan Island. Zip San Juan offers 8 zip-line stations through Western Red Cedar and Douglas fir trees, for an exhilarating rush in a beautiful setting. Kids under 18 can zip-line with an accompanying adult, as long as the child weighs at least 60 pounds.

 

Shakespeare Under the Stars, Lopez Island
Pelindaba Lavender Farm, San Juan Island, Washington

 

Outdoor Movies, Plays & Concerts

After a long day of hiking or kayaking, a drive-in movie is a classic way to spend a summer night. In Friday Harbor, Movies in Sunken Park offers fun summer movies such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Finding Nemo. At the Drive-in Movies at the Fairgrounds, you can enjoy a series of classic blockbusters such as Jaws and Top Gun from your car or a picnic blanket.

All three islands have performances of Shakespeare Under the Stars by Island Stage Left, with a troupe of performers traveling to Orcas, Lopez and San Juan Island - a romantic way to spend a summer night, with a picnic blanket and a bottle of wine.  Before you attend the outdoor theatre at Roche Harbor, stop by the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park, a beautiful 20-acre site with more than 125 sculptures made of stone, metal, and more.

The Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival draws world-class artists to commune with traditional chamber music each August.

Fields of Lavender and Art

Each July, the Pelindaba Lavender farm hosts the San Juan Islands Lavender and Summer Arts Fair. Wander the purple fields of lavender in full bloom, and watch demonstrations about the history, growing and production of distilled essential oils and other lavender products. Artists show and sell their work, and you can watch some artists paint or make jewelry right on the farm.

San Juan Island Farmers Market
San Juan County Fair, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, Washington

 

Meet Me at the Fair

Every summer, people come from near and far to attend the popular San Juan County Fair, just a few blocks from the ferry landing in Friday Harbor. You can see beautiful and unique cows, horses, pigs, ducks and  interesting displays about farming. The food court offers the classic elephant ears, but also a variety of delicacies, from Greek to excellent Mexican food. And evenings are when the crowds come out to see excellent musical acts from around the region.

Food & Farms

No summer vacation is complete without great food. There are many places to find fresh fish, crab, clams and oysters harvested from local waters, and its a fun way to spend a day finding your favorite foods at local farms. There are oyster farms on each island: Sweetwater Oyster Farm on Lopez Island, Buck Bay Shellfish Farm on Orcas Island, and Westcott Bay Shellfish Company on San Juan Island. On Saturdays, visit the Farmers Markets on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan Island

Orca whale, San Juan Islands, Photography by Hobbes Buchanan
North Beach, Orcas Island, Photography by Robert Harrison

 

Whale and Wildlife Watching

There’s nothing like a day on the water in the summertime. Orca whales follow their favorite food, chinook salmon, all throughout the Salish Sea. You can start your whale watching tour from Friday Harbor or Roche Harbor on San Juan Island, or from Orcas or Lopez Islands. On a boat tour, you will have a chance to see eagles and other birds, sea lions and seals, and the beautiful shorelines of the islands. You may also be lucky enough to catch sight of passing orcas from the shores of Lime Kiln State Park (a.k.a. Whale Watch Park), and you can also tour the lighthouse and hear the sounds of orcas communicating with each other on the live hydrophone at the lighthouse.

Chill Out at the Beach

Island beaches range from tiny, sandy coves hidden among rocky bluffs, such as Obstruction Pass State Park, to long wide pebbled beaches covered in old-growth driftwood, like South Beach in American Camp at the San Juan Islands National Historical Park. When you hike, bike, picnic or camp, make sure to leave the landscape as you found it, by following the San Juan Islands' 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.