San Juan Island, Washington

Top Things to Do in San Juan Island – Travel Washington

We went for on drive to explore nature on San Juan Island. It was a perfectly cool and quiet day, sunny with lots of clouds in the sky. We spotted a bald eagle, a fox, and plenty of sights of wildflowers.

Understanding that traveling was still limited, we took precautions and wore masks when needed. We also purchased a Discovery Pass to visit the State Park located on San Juan Island, but note that for now, it’s for day use only.

If things are opened back up and operating normally, I’d plan an overnight stay, go kayaking, go on a hike, and definitely plan an orca whale watching tour with the locals. For now, please enjoy my quick guide and some photos we captured during our short 5-hour long trip exploring the beautiful San Juan Island.

The San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago aka an island group/cluster/chain in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) between Washington and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County, however, the most popular islands are San Juan Island (Friday Harbor if the gateway), Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw Island.

Plan Your Trip Ahead, and Read These Tips:

Based on our Governer’s 4-phased reopening guidelines, the tourism industry will reopen mid-June, but it can change. Please read San Juan Islands Travel Advisory, HERE.

What to Do in San Juan Island for a Day:

Primary attractions are sea kayaking and orca whale watching by boat or air tours. It is home to the alpacas (believe it or not!) & harbor seals, and plenty of dining experiences, museums & antique shops.

1. Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor is the gateway to San Juan Island. Ferry dock, restaurants, lodging, boat, kayak, bike, and car rentals. The Whale Museum, San Juan Historical Museum, and San Juan Community Theatre are here.

KNOW THIS: The Scenic Byway is divided into 3 segments which include marine highway and 2 beautiful islands:

SAN JUAN ISLANDS SCENIC BYWAY – Quick guide, HERE. You can travel the Scenic Byway with or without a car: bring your bikes, take the shuttle bus, rent a car or hitchhike since it’s legal here. Read HERE.

Jacksons Beach – Day use. One mile away from Friday Harbor. A popular picnicking, wading, and dog-walking/swimming spot.

American Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park – Day use. Historic visitor center, nature and wildlife viewing, hiking. 1859-1872 Pig War ”Crisis”: when Great Britain and the United States settled ownership of the islands through peaceful arbitration—the national park marks the sites of the U.S. and British encampments. 

South Beach – Day use. Longest beach in the San Juan Islands.

Pelindaba Lavender Farm & Gatehouse Store – tour lavender fields in bloom July-September.

South Beach
poppies on the sides of the freeway, only about 20 minutes away from Friday Harbor

The San Juan Islands host the greatest concentration of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the contiguous United States

invasive rabbits, red fox

2. Cattle Point

Cattle Point Lighthouse – Day use. Easy hike.

Cattle Point – a small cove with beach access.

Cattle Point Lighthouse
can you spot the fox?
that fox again!

Foxes were introduced to the San Juan Island to help control European rabbits, another introduced invasive species. They are commonly seen in the prairies, South side of the island, San Juan Island National Historical Park, but the best place is from Pickett’s Lane, the road to South Beach. Read more HERE.

Cattle Point with access to a small beach
water is so clear here.
spotted more poppies!

3. Lime Kiln Point State Park

Lime Kiln Point State Park aka Whale Watch Park is a prime whale-watching site located in San Juan Island. It is known as the best place in the world to spot orca whales.

Interpretative center was closed at the time I was there. Normally, it offers information on orcas and history of the lime kilns and the nearby lighthouse. It’s an easy hike from the parking lot to the lighthouse.

Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse
lol me trying to record some clips of the water for my IG-stories

Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm – colorful alpacas and shop in Country Store.

English Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park – Day use. Seasonal exhibits. Hike Bell Point bayside trail and Mt. Young.

Sculpture Park at Westcott Bay – Outdoor sculpture park. Small and kid-friendly, located Near the entrance to Roche Harbor.

4. Roche Harbor

Roche Harbor is a historic resort and village located at the north end of the island. There are waterside eateries, a marina full of beautiful yachts, rentals, fuel, and local artisans’ booths in summer.

Hotel de Haro is the resort centerpiece, built since 1886. It was originally built as a bunkhouse for the men who worked in the lime kilns (remnants of the giant lime kilns are still there), but the hotel is now a resort for guests to stay in and many weddings take place during the summer in a church built close to the building. 

Westcott Bay Shellfish Company – home of the world-famous oysters. Visit Westcott Bay Cider and San Juan Island Distillery when it’s open again.

San Juan Vineyards – Seasonal, tasting room in a historic schoolhouse.

gorgeous garden with blooming flowers, so fragrant!
Roche Harbor marina
The most perfect way to watch the sunset and end our day!

I would go back to San Juan Island in a heartbeat, and perhaps stay the night and explore other nearby islands. It was quiet and so peaceful, and I enjoyed every second of it. I hope you’ve discovered something new after reading this post.

CITY GUIDES: HERE – HIKE WASHINGTON: HERE. More PNW Travels:

Cape Flattery – Relaxing Birthday Weekend Trip 2020

What to Do in Portland in 2 Days – Travel Oregon

Dungeness Spit, Olympic Peninsula – Travel Washington

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An Trieu

Currently based in Seattle, Style & Senses is my digital life and style journal of all things that inspire my senses and beyond. Hope you stay inspired, as always! - An Trieu.

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