The best way to see Washington’s San Juan Islands is by boat. Choose from several cruises–and you’ll see beautiful scenery, in addition to stunning wildlife. The San Juan Islands are clustered in a unique archipelago between the U.S. and Canada. Combine it with a visit to Victoria, B.C. It’s a great adventure!
The San Juan Islands are the place to be in the summer. Enjoy the outdoors and get out on the water with San Juan Excursions. Temperatures often hit the mid-80’s, but whale watching on the Odyssey will keep you cool. You’ll see orca’s splash and dive in search of salmon, lingcod, halibut, and greenling. There’s no better way to see San Juan Island then from the water!
San Juan Excursions launches from the pier at Friday Harbor at 1:00 pm each day and the skipper always guides you to the best whale viewing hot spots. Guests are never disappointed. Don’t forget your camera! After you return, stop by The Whale Museum on First Street to learn even more about these local summer guests.
At 55 square miles, the island of San Juan is the largest in the three primary islands that include Lopez and Orcas islands. Tour the island on your own–rent a bike for 24 hours from Island Bicycleson Argyle Street or visit Susie’s Mopeds on Nichols Street and ride in style with a one or two person scooter. The full island tour is about a 48-mile trip but you’ll want to stop and take a look at the spectacular scenery.
On the East side of the island, stop at Lime Kiln Whale Watch Park and take a short walk down the trail to the whale watching lookout. This is one of the few places you are likely to see whales from shore. Up the road, stop at British Camp, the companion to American Camp on the south side of the island. There are historic buildings, old barracks and an exhibit demonstrating the conflict over the island between the Brits and Americans in the 1860’s.
To see more of San Juan from the water, go on a 3-hour guided kayak trek with San Juan Safaris. Observe bald eagles, seals, porpoise, otter, great blue heron, seabirds, sea stars, kelp forests, wild mink, etc. and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the Pacific Northwest.
Stop for lunch at Roche Harbor on the North end. Visit the historic Hotel de Haroand have lunch at the Madrona Grill—the halibut sandwich is delicious. While dining, you can watch the kayakers from San Juan Safaris carve their way toward open water through the multi-million dollar yachts parked in the harbor.
While you’re in the area, check out San Juan Vineyards for a testing of some award-winning wine with Colleen—tasting room manager and hostess. Just across the road from the vineyard you are likely to see a curious camel named Mona watching you leave the winery—it is not an indigenous species. Back in Friday Harbor you’ll want to visit Stan–local wine guru– at Brazenly Lucid Wines for some of the best selection and deals on Washington wines and more.
Traveling to Friday Harbor
The quickest way to get to Friday Harbor from Seattle is to board a Kenmore Air Seaplane from Lake Union or Cessna Caravan from Boeing Field. Both are scenic thirty-minute trips.
The Victoria Clipper can take you by water from the Pier 69 off Alaskan Way & the Washington State Ferry has regular scheduled trips from Anacortes.
Once you’re there, lodging choices are plentiful. The newly remodeled Elements Hotel & Spa offers comfortable accommodations on Spring Street. Next door is Lavendera Day Spa where countless treatments are available to take you far away from the stress of the city and soothe your sore muscles after a long excursion around the island.
Friday Harbor Suites offers a little more room for great rates. On the water, with a view of the harbor, the place to stay is Friday Harbor House.
Eating in Friday Harbor
For eclectic dining in an upscale setting try Steps Wine Bar & Cafe on First Street. One of the appetizers is Roasted Unagi—which is roasted fresh water eel w/ locally grown kohlrabi, cucumber & grapefruit ponzu glaze–a true delight. Small and large plates include salmon with carrot risotto, halibut with artichoke potato puree and house smoked pork country rib. For more informal dining try the Friday’s Crabhouse with open deck seating overlooking the harbor–fresh seafood with a view!
The best espresso in town is at an unusually named place called The Doctor’s Office, near the Washington Ferry Terminal. They also have a variety of breakfast treats.
For more information about the San Juan Islands go to: San Juan Islands Visitor Bureau