San Juan Island Travel Planner

  • 01 of 08

    Local Attractions on San Juan Island

    Spring Street and the Ferry dock in Friday Harbor
    ••• Spring Street and the Ferry dock in Friday Harbor. Credit: P. L. Morningstar, courtesy of OrcaCam.com

    There are over 450 islands in the San Juan archipelago, occupying the waters of the Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Georgia. Of the 172 that are part of the state of Washington, San Juan Island has the only incorporated city, Friday Harbor. Accessible by water or air, San Juan Island provides its visitors a tempting mix of majestic scenery, rural charm, resort amenities, and thrilling outdoor adventure.

    In addition to wildlife viewing, outdoor recreation, and Friday Harbor shopping and dining, San Juan Island visitors can choose from a number of interesting attractions.

    Whale Museum
    Spend an afternoon at the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor and learn about the social and matriarchal orcas, as well as other whales and marine mammals of the region. Exhibits tell the story of the three orcas "pods" who live in the area, including their genealogy and identifying traits. You can also learn how to "adopt" a whale, listen to whale song, and take in a video...MORE presentation. Find a San Juan Island souvenir at The Whale Museum Store, which offers apparel, books, art, CDs, videos, and educational items.

    San Juan Historical Museum
    Located on a 100-year-old homestead in Friday Harbor, the San Juan Historic Museum features exhibits and information related to the pioneer and military history of the island. Museum buildings include the original farmhouse, the first county jail, a log cabin, barn, milk house, and a carriage house.

    Pelindaba Lavender Farm
    This 20-acre San Juan Island lavender farm bursts into bloom from late July to late September. Their retail outlet, located in an old house on the property, offers such lavender products as honey, soap, eye pillows, potpourri, and dry lavender bouquets. They also conduct docent tours so that visitors can see the inner workings of a lavender farm.

    More San Juan Island visitor information:

    • Whale Watching Tours and Boat Cruises
    • Sea Kayaking Whale and Wildlife Tours
    • Biking & Hiking
    • Boating, Sailing, and Diving
    • San Juan Island National Historical Park
    • Hotels and Lodging on San Juan Island
    • How to Get to San Juan Island
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  • 02 of 08

    Whale Watching Cruises and Boat Tours on San Juan Island

    Orca Pod, San Juan Islands
    ••• Orca Pod, San Juan Islands. J. Poth/Washington State Tourism

    Whale and wildlife viewing top the list of fun things to do on San Juan Island. Experience these natural wonders on a sightseeing charter, a kayaking trip, or while meandering around the island on foot or bicycle. Creatures that you might see along the way include orca whales, Dall's porpoises, eagles, seals, otters, deer, and sea birds.

    A number of scheduled and private boat tours operate from Friday Harbor, Snug Harbor, and Roche Harbor. Most provide their services during the peak whale watching season, typically from May through September. These sightseeing excursions range from one hour to a half day.

    Note: The Pacific Whale Watch Association provides guidelines for responsible whale watching. Whichever guide or charter you choose, take care that they are a member of this organization and that they follow practices that don't harm or harass the animals. If...MORE you are boating on your own, please take the time to educate yourself about safe and responsible whale watching.

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  • 03 of 08

    Sea Kayaking Whale and Wildlife Tours on San Juan Island

    Sea kayaking at Roche Harbor in the San Juan Islands
    ••• Sea kayaking at Roche Harbor in the San Juan Islands. John Marshall/Washington State Tourism

    Guided kayaking trips are another way to get an up-close and personal peek at San Juan Island birds and animals. These companies can outfit you with the proper equipment; an experienced guide will lead you along the island shoreline. In many cases the guide is an experience naturalist. Sea kayak tours can be anywhere from one hour to all day. A few companies offer multi-day expedition packages.

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  • 04 of 08

    Biking & Hiking on San Juan Island

    American Camp Bike Rack
    ••• American Camp Bike Rack, San Juan Island (Islands Region). LEVYsheckler/Washington State Tourism

    San Juan Island provides a wide range of outdoor fun, both on land and in the water. Whether you prefer leisurely meandering or a physical challenge, you will not leave disappointed.

    Bicycling
    Bring your own bicycle or rent one on the island - you will find San Juan Island offers a pleasing blend of flat and hilly bike routes along both the seashore and the rural inland. The island roads are narrow and have little or no shoulder, so be sure to ride single file.

    Walking and Hiking
    You will find a wealth of scenic strolls and hikes on San Juan Island. The San Juan Island National Historic Park has a number of interesting trails, providing the opportunity to view historic locations along with the majestic scenery.

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  • 05 of 08

    Boating, Sailing, and Diving on San Juan Island

    Marina at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island
    ••• Marina at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. J. Poth/Washington State Tourism

    Boating and Sailing
    Visitors who arrive on San Juan Island in their own boat will find plenty of moorage and services available. For those interested in renting or chartering a boat on the island, there are a number of companies that rent out sail or power boats, with or without crews:

    Diving
    Scuba diving is a popular Northwest activity. Reviews of Washington dive sites can be found at the Northwest Dive News web site.

    Fishing
    Freshwater fishermen will find bass and trout fishing on the island's three lakes, Egg Lake, Sportsman Lake, and private Lakedale Resort.

    Recreational shellfishing is available on some beaches.

    Saltwater charters are available for those who prefer fishing for king, coho, sockeye, and chum salmon, ling cod, snapper, or sea bass:

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  • 06 of 08

    San Juan Island National Historical Park

    Formal garden at the English Camp
    ••• Formal garden at the English Camp. NPS

    San Juan Island National Historical Park
    The British and the Americans argued over the possession of San Juan Island from 1818 until 1872. Although the Oregon Treaty of 1846 gave the United States possession of everything below the 49th parallel, the wording left San Juan Island in dispute. The situation came to a head in 1859, when an American settler shot a British-owned pig. The subsequent hostilities became known as the "Pig War", leading to military occupation of the island by both British and American forces. Finally, the dispute was settled via third-party arbitration in 1872.

    The sites of the two military camps were designated a National Historic Site by an act of Congress in 1966. Its purpose is to commemorate the peaceful resolution of the boundary dispute. The preserved area covers over 1,750 acres and lies in two different areas - the English Camp on the northwest part of the island, and the American Camp on the southern end. You can visit both the American Camp and...MORE the English Camp areas, and take in a laser disc slide program, and archaeology and historical exhibits at the two visitor centers. You can also enjoy hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing in the parks many beaches and coves.

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  • 07 of 08

    Hotels and Lodging on San Juan Island

    Hotel de Haro and Gardens
    ••• Hotel de Haro and Gardens at Roche Harbor Resort on San Juan Island. Washington State Tourism

    Here is a small sample of the hotels and lodging options available on San Juan Island:

    Snug Harbor Marina Resort
    The waterfront cabins at Snug Harbor come fully-equipped for your family or group getaway. Snug Harbor also offers a campground with waterfront RV spaces and forest tent sites. Either way, the San Juan Island resort offers convenient access to water sports such as kayaking and diving, power boat rentals, and whale watching tours.

    Hotel de Haro and Gardens
    This charming historic hotel at Roche Harbor is surrounded by gorgeous gardens, making it an elegant and romantic San Juan Island lodging option.

    Friday Harbor House
    The Friday Harbor House hotel offers upscale guest rooms and elegant meeting facilities. Seasonal ingredients and fine wines are featured in their dining room, where guests can enjoy gourmet continental breakfast each morning.

    Lakedale Resort
    Marvel at the view of this trout-stocked lake on San Juan Island from a tent, RV or log cabin. Lakedale Resort features half-...MORE and full-day rowing and kayaking "Family Camp" programs and rents out fishing and camping equipment, rowboats, canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats.

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  • 08 of 08

    How to Get to San Juan Island

    Ferry Route to San Juan Island
    ••• Ferry Route to San Juan Island. Tiger Maps
    By Car and Ferry:
    From Interstate 5 take the Anacortes-San Juan Ferry exit, #230. Proceed west on State Highway 20 for approximately 20 miles. Follow the signs, which will take you to the Anacortes Ferry Dock. The Washington State Ferry ride to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is approximately 1.5 hours. Allow time for long waiting lines to board the ferry.

    San Juan Island may also be reached by private passenger ferry:

    By Air:

    There are a number of local airlines that offer either scheduled or charter flights to San Juan Island.

    By Boat:
    Visitors who arrive on San Juan Island in their own boat will find plenty of moorage and services available.