As you step off the ferry into Friday Harbor, San Juan Island Washington, the quintessential charm of the place hits you square on. It is all at once a seaside port town and a throwback to 1940’s resort glamour. Not to say that everything isn’t up-to-date – San Juan Island has modern hotels and contemporary, chef-run restaurants. It’s just that the overall feel of the place, to me, is reminiscent of a laid-back, simplistic life dictated by the charm of island waters.
Friday Harbor is the most popular destination in the San Juan Islands. But look beyond the savory seafood restaurants, family-run bookstores, trendy art galleries and lavender shops – there is a myriad of other things to do, all over the island.
Now, I like my islands sparsely populated, and I can’t say that San Juan Island is exactly that – it has its fair share of residents and tourists. But it’s my favorite island in Puget Sound just because of the wide variety of attractions. From great shopping to Pacific Northwest seafood caught just a few nautical miles offshore, to moped riding, to seaside hiking, to alpaca and whale watching, to lavender harvesting….
This island has it all.
While in Friday Harbor, these are some of the best places to stuff your face.
Friday’s Crabhouse for casual eating with a harbor view. Bring your pooch!
Cask and Schooner, delightful seafood fare.
The Hungry Clam is a budget lovers dream. While I don’t recommend the greasy deep fried seafood, their breakfasts are pretty great.
Bakery San Juan, the best freshness on the island.
LIGHTHOUSE SAN JUAN at Cattle Point. This was a bit of a challenge to find, as there were no signs. Probably because, after finally finding the small parking lot, and hiking the 1/2 mile trail to the lighthouse, we found it was being renovated. Couldn’t get anywhere near it. Still, we enjoyed the trail, which included a few exciting yards where the trail got DANGEROUSLY close to the seaside cliff.
LIME KILN LIGHTHOUSE at Lime Kiln Point State Park. This was my favorite spot on the island and THE BEST place to whale watch in the entire Puget Sound area. Although we were there in early May, just when whale watching season starts, so the whales were being fashionably late (i.e. no sightings during our visit).
LAVENDER FARM Lush and gorgeous sprigs of lavender begin their bloom in May, and by July, the entire farm is bursting with awe-inspiring purple perfection. They have an entire shop in Friday Harbor with gifts ranging from lavender-infused honey to room spritzers to body lotion. http://www.pelindabalavender.com/
KRYSTAL ACRES ALPACA FARM These guys are soooo cute. But they’re kind of stuck up (i.e. they’re snobby). Try and strike up a conversation with one of them. Just try it. They will walk away from you. The working farm has a large gift shop. Get your wool sweaters here!
BEACH COMBING San Juan Island has plenty of secluded beaches, and in the off-season, you can easily have a beach all to yourself. Just heed the signs for private beaches, as crossing the sign is considered trespassing on private property.
ENGLISH CAMP A historical site that was founded by the early settlers who were…you guessed it…British dudes. Back then it was an honest to gosh fort, with a fortified building at the edge of the water where soldiers could stick their guns out of tiny windows to defend the land.
Other Things To Do
SAN JUAN GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB www.sanjuangolfandcountryclub.com
SUSIE’S MOPEDS Rent either a moped or tiny car (weight restrictions apply) by the hour or the day. This is a fantastic way to explore the island. http://www.susiesmopeds.com/
This is a delightful little resort on the west side of the island, opposite from Friday Harbor to the east. That 1940’s vibe I talked about in the beginning? Yeah – it’s here! There is much history to this place; in the early days, it was strictly a lime excavation area, with original buildings that housed the workers and their families. There is a church, a hotel, and even a yellow brick road!
Across the entrance from Roche Harbor Resort is a pretty good sized sculpture park. Donations accepted! Bring your picnic lunch!
Friday Harbor House – for those with a little more cash to spend. They offer a complimentary deluxe continental breakfast, which you can enjoy on their grounds overlooking the ferry docks.
Discovery Inn – for the budget traveler. Updated and comfortable rooms, with a hot tub (no pool).
I’ve stayed at both places and recommend both highly!