Interested in San Juan Islands?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for San Juan Islands each week.
San Juan Island is a mostly rural island, about 10 miles by 15 miles in size. Friday Harbor is the only town of much size, with the ferry terminal, 2 'supermarkets', movie theatre, bowling alley, airport, etc., plus numerous restaurants and bars. No McDonalds, no stoplights, easily walkable. Almost all services are available here, but on a smaller scale. If you need gas for your car, you have to come here. But if you haven't gassed up before arriving, you're in for a shock, add 50 cents a gallon. Roche Harbor has a small store, but no gas.
Whale watching is a major tourist activity. For good reason. They are spectacular. There are a number of ways to see the orca whales. Most people go on a whale watch tour boat. All the operators 'guarantee' you'll see whales. Most of them will give you a free pass for another trip if you get skunked, which is not so good if you're leaving tomorrow. Keep this in mind when booking. One good way to see the orcas is from a kayak, and several kayak tours operate on the island, out of Friday Harbor. If you like the idea of 'free', and you're here with a car, go to Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side, also called whale watch park,and watch them (and other sea life) from the land. Bring a picnic, you may have a long wait. Bring binoculars. It's a beautiful park, with hiking trails, and a lighthouse. Visit www.sanjuanislandtrails.org for more info.
Bicycling is another big tourist activity. If you're not up for pedaling, mopeds, gas and electric 2-person scooters are also available for rent. It can be a wonderful way to experience the island much more closely than zipping along in a car. However, be aware that there are no dedicated bicycle trails on the islands--all biking is on the country roads, many of which have no shoulders. This, plus the rolling countryside, make bicycling fine for experienced riders, but sometimes challenging (or downright scary) for novices. And while the tour books tell you that Lopez Island is the "flattest" and easiest for biking, that doesn't mean "flat"--there are many low lying hills throughout the islands.
Remember, this is rural. Poppies, lupines, all manner of wildflowers line the roads. Run over to Roche Harbor for lunch, and check out the yachts. Roche Harbor is about 10 miles NW from Friday Harbor, no major hills. Stop at San Juan Vineyards on the way. Say "hi" to Mona the camel across the road. If you've got the legs or are motor aided, ride down the west side. South of Roche Harbor is English Camp, a nice historical site in a beautiful setting. Half a mile further is the alpaca ranch and store, a fun stop. As you continue south, take Mitchell Bay Road, maybe a stop at Snug Harbor, or just keep going south to San Juan County Park with a lovely bay and bluff overlooking the straits, and a bit further, Lime Kiln Point State Park. Next, visit Pelindaba Lavender Farm, just up Wold Road (and see their store in Friday Harbor). www.pelindabalavender.com. Further south will take you eventually to American Camp National Historic Park. See the Visitor Center and, while there, overhead, is a huge Eagle nest. Further on, South Beach by a right or west turn on Pickett's Lane. Keep your eyes peeled here especially for for eagles, hawk, rabbits and red foxes. At road end is Cattle Point with rocky shores, a beach and, via a short trail, the lighhouse, well worth doing for the views and sea birds, both on and off shore. Keep in mind that most locals are courteous to bicycles and scooters, but take nothing for granted. Road shoulders are non-existant on the south end of the island, although traffic is pretty light.
Yes, there are numerous trails on the island. See above website for specifics. A unique short walk is to the Afterglow Mausoleum. http://www.experiencewa.com Park just north of the Roche Harbor arch in the marked parking lot. See the cemetary, note the dates and ages on the old headstones, very interesting. Then a short walk through the woods to the mausoleum. An amazing testament to a rich guy's vision. Read about it first, take printouts if you can, there are no interpretive centers or informational signs. Just south (100 yards) of the arch is the Westcott Bay Sculpture Park http://www.westcottbay.org/, 19 acres of trails dotted with NW artist's works. Some beautiful, some silly, some that will have you wondering "what were they thinking!?". This is a large area, leave yourself plenty of time.
San Juan Island is blessed with some of the finest restaurants to be found anywhere. The Duck Soup Inn, (halfway between Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor) is an incredible culinary treat. McMillins at Roche Harbor is great. In Friday Harbor the choices abound: Vinnie's, Peppermill, Maloulas, Downriggers, Backdoor Kitchen (quite good).http://www.backdoorkitchen.com/ On the budget side, Vic's and Herb's serve good quality fare for under $10, and Cousin Vinnie's (not to be confused with Vinnie's Restaurant) has got authentic New York style pizza, by the slice or whole pie.
Do your research for your taste.
Have a wonderful visit!