Island Experience

10 Fun Things to do this Summer in the San Juans

Long, sunny days let you love your endless summer in the San Juan Islands

hike the hills

1. Take a hike

The San Juan Islands are a hiking paradise, with thousands of acres of public lands available to enjoy. Along rocky bluffs and driftwood covered beaches, you'll find historic lighthouses, stunning vistas and unmatched Salish Sea beauty.  Choose your level of difficulty, from easy walks to challenging climbs, across many different landscapes on countless nature preserves and public lands.

The San Juan Islands Historical Parks at American Camp and English Camp offer great trails, and Moran State Park on Orcas Island provides steep summits. Check out the County Parks on all three islands, the San Juan Preservation Trust, and San Juan County Land Bank trails, too!

Ride the country roads

2. Two-wheeled Fun

Each of the San Juan Islands—Lopez, Orcas and San Juan—have very different terrain, landscapes, and vistas, so it's best to get a sense of how each island matches your level of expertise and interests.

Lopez Island is known for its easy, rolling hills and beautiful farmland. A long-time biking destination, choose Lopez for its beautiful scenery, charming village, and safe and easy routes. Orcas Island has multiple challenging climbs with its main village far from the ferry terminal.  San Juan Island has both easier routes and steep climbs along cliffs and through island farmland. Learn more about a guided tour or renting bikes from local island shops here!

Lopez Biking, Monica Bennett

Kayak through the islands

3. Paddle around

Experience Washington's coastal wildlife and scenery from a spectacular sea-level perspective. 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. Find out more about how to kayak safely around marine wildlife through the Kayak Education & Leadership Program (K.E.L.P).

Monica Bennett photo

beachcombing

4. Find beach treasures

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.

Have fun exploring with your furry friends, too! They'll love running along the beaches as much as you do - just be sure to keep them on leash and to pick up after their mess. Wherever you go, make sure to leave the landscape as you found it, following the San Juan Islands' 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.

Playing on South Beach by Dana Halferty (7)

Explore local farms

5. Fun on the farm

No summer vacation is complete without great food and cute animals! There are many places to find fresh seafood and produce - right here in the islands!

Meet heritage breeds of goats and sheep, walk in an Edible Food Forest, and taste locally grown heritage wheat baked into delicious pastries. Explore Orcas Island's OrcaSong Farm and stroll through fields of fresh lavender, an enchanting garden, and learn how to bring a little bit of the islands home with you. Enjoy crab, clams and oysters from local waters at farms like Buck Bay Shellfish Farm on Orcas Island and Westcott Bay Shellfish Company on San Juan Island. Or spend a day touring different farms (special farm tours available in the fall!) or perusing the Saturday Farmers Markets on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan Island.  Tour activities change every year, so stay tuned and check out our Savor the San Juans page.

Savor the San Juans Orcas Farm Tour by Lisette Wolter McKinley (22)

Witness incredible wildlife

6. Nature watching 

There’s nothing like being near the Salish Sea on a summer day.  You can start a wildlife 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 a variety of whales and porpoises, seabirds, sea lions and seals, and the beautiful shorelines of the outer islands. You might pass by notable landmarks like Lime Kiln State Park (a.k.a. Whale Watch Park), Turn Point Lighthouse, Patos Lighthouse, and more!

Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island by Dana Halferty (3)

Zip-lining

7. Zip through the forest

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.

San Juan Zip Tour offers 8 zip-line stations through Western Red Cedar and Douglas fir trees, across a pristine lake, and over protected wetlands. A great way to experience the natural landscape of San Juan Island, take the family for an adrenaline rush! Kids under 18 can zip-line with an accompanying adult, as long as the child weighs at least 60 pounds.

This tour is perfect for anyone who has never gone zip lining before. Everyone starts on practice zip lines before moving to the 600 foot long lines, 60 feet in the air. You're sure to leave exhilarated - no matter what level you're at.

Zipping on San Juan

Attend the county fair

8. meet me at the fair

Every August, 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. Enjoy live entertainment from regional groups, interact and learn from island locals, and experience small-town fun for the whole family!

Play games and win prizes, pet and feed farm animals, and snack on classic fair food favorites! The food court offers classic elephant ears along with a variety of delicacies from Greek to Mexican food. Catch a craft demonstration, a "trashion" show, or simply wander the aisles and discover the joys of island life!  

San Juan County Fair 2016 by Barbara Marrett (9)

Lavender festival and art show

9. Love lavender?

Spend a weekend frolicking in fields of lavender! Each July, the Pelindaba Lavender farm hosts the San Juan Islands Lavender and Summer Arts Fair - a weekend of art, music, and of course, beautiful and delicious lavender! Wander through the purple fields and learn about the history, growing and production of distilled essential oils and other lavender products.

Local artists show and sell their work, and you might even catch them in action! The flower fields often spark creativity, so you might see artists painting or making jewelry right on the farm. Pack a  lunch or nibble on lavender snacks as you enjoy this island treasure. Later in the summer, check out the San Juan Summer Arts Festival!

Pelindaba Lavender Farm, Monica Bennett (7)

concerts, movies & plays

10. Outdoor entertainment

Nothing says summer quite like a drive-in movie or outdoor concert. In Friday Harbor, enjoy favorite movies and popcorn at the fairground or local parks. See Island Rec's website for info about movie times and locations or the Port of Friday Harbor for an outdoor concert schedule.

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.

You can also find live music throughout the summer, including the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival and the San Juan Summer Arts Festival which draw world-class artists to the islands each August.

Port of Friday Harbor Summer Sunday Concerts 2
Find Lodging

Find Lodging

Looking for the perfect place to spend your summer night? Check out these island options!