Planning a trip to San Juan Island, Washington? Here are our picks for the best things to do, where to eat and where to stay!
San Juan Island, the second largest of Washington’s San Juan Islands, is known for its temperate climate, easy-going island vibe, and multitude of outdoor recreation options. A place where there’s seemingly an adventure around every corner, there is an activity here suited for almost every interest. Read below for our travel guide to San Juan Island, Washington.
Best Things To Do On San Juan Island, Washington
Things to See and Do on San Juan Island
Joining a kayaking tour with Discovery Sea Kayaks is one of San Juan Island’s most popular activities, and for good reason. Offering half day, full day, sunset, and overnight trips, the experience guarantees awesome wildlife viewing (including potential whale encounters), quality equipment, and highly-skilled guides.
I had a blast on my two-day tour with them. Spending two days in nature, with nothing but the sound of our paddles hitting the water is an experience I’ll never forget!
Lime Kiln State Park
Lime Kiln State Park, also known as Whale Watch Park, rests on the west side of San Juan Island and is known for its gorgeous sunsets, diving opportunities, and excellent bird-watching. Not to mention the abundance of Orcas who hang out in the waters of Haro Strait.
Speaking of whale watching, if you’re looking for an excellent experience, then a tour with Western Prince is the way to go. Their boats are comfortable, the tour sizes are kept small, their captains and naturalists are very knowledgeable, and they even have private charters available.
Known as “the gateway” to San Juan Island, Friday Harbor is a quaint town home to mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, museums, and tour headquarters. The beauty of Friday Harbor (besides visually of course) is that all the attractions in the town are within walking distance of the ferry landing.
Read more: Packing Light: How To Pack For Carry-On Only
Originating out of Friday Harbour, going ziplining with San Juan Zip Tour is one of the most memorable ways to see the island. The route is made up of eight zip lines and one suspension bridge, which will take you through the forest canopy crossing over wetlands and pristine lakes.
Booking a seaplane tour to take you over San Juan Island will not only offer you an unbeatable bird’s eye view, it will also provide you a fun narration from very knowledgeable guides so that you can fully grasp what you’re looking at from your perch high in the sky.
Easily reached from Friday Harbor, a visit to the Pelindaba Organic Lavender Farm is an experience sure to delight all of your senses. Visitors can partake in a tour in which they’ll learn the history of the farm, how lavender is cultivated, and how lavender is culturally relevant. Not to mention the awesome photo opportunities that come with visiting such a purple paradise!
Located on the south of the island in the National Historic Park, South Beach is a pebble beach perfect for relaxing, lighting up a fire pit, or having a picnic. The beach is a quick seven miles from Friday Harbor and, in the summertime, often hosts live music. Don’t forget to keep your eye out for the adorable wild foxes if you head this way!
Cattle Point Lighthouse
Resting on the southeastern tip of San Juan Island is Cattle Point Lighthouse, a 34-foot white tower that provides a pretty contrast to the surrounding natural scenery. While the lighthouse was built by the US Navy in 1935, there has been a navigation lantern in this spot from as early as 1888.
San Juan Vineyards
Do you have a love for great wine, or just love strolling around pretty grounds while taking in lush scenery? Then a visit to the award winning San Juan Vineyards is for you. In operation since 1996, the vineyards feature wine tastings, tours, and even different events throughout the year.
The Whale Museum
Located in Friday Harbor, the Whale Museum first opened to the public in 1979 and since has been “promoting stewardship of whales and the Salish Sea ecosystem through education and research.” A visit to the museum will teach you all about the whales of the Pacific Northwest, and they even have an adopt-a-whale program.
Read more: The Ultimate Packing Checklist for Campers
Must-Try Restaurants on San Juan Island
Located four and a half miles from Friday Harbor, Duck Soup is a sophisticated restaurant that is out to give visitors a “sense of place” by procuring ingredients from local farms, fisheries and craft-makers. The space is beautifully styled in country décor making the atmosphere cozy and inviting.
San Juan Island Brewing
San Juan Island Brewing Co., located in Friday Harbor, is an independent craft brewery that serves locally-brewed ales and lagers. In addition to their excellent beers, they also offer traditional pub fare such as burgers and pizza.
Mike’s Cafe & Wine Bar
Located in downtown Friday Harbor, Mike’s Café & Wine Bar is a relaxing place to go for a locally sourced wine, beer, and healthy eats. The restaurant’s mission is to, and to help others, live sustainable, healthy lives with compassion for the planet, and so all their menu options are vegan.
Friday Harbor House
The restaurant located in the Friday Harbor House Hotel is a favorite for local islanders and visitors alike. Their menu options are created with fresh, local ingredients, and their daily brunch can’t be missed.
Where to Stay On San Juan Island
Bird Rock Hotel
Located right downtown in Friday Harbor, Bird Rock Hotel is a 15-room boutique location that features all kinds of rooms and amenities, including homemade scones in the morning, and access to their off-site indoor pool and fitness studio. The hotel even provides complimentary beach cruiser bikes!
Read more: 12 Best U.S. Cities for Weekend Getaways
Located at Three Lakes rests Lakedale Resort, a destination that provides accommodations ranging from hotel rooms, log cabins, camping sites, to canvas-style “glamping” sites. Situated over 82 acres, Lakedale Resort is a haven for outdoorsy types, providing activities such as boat rentals, stand-up paddle boards, fishing opportunities, and so much more.
San Juan Island Packing Essentials
Whale Watching Gear: While San Juan Island doesn’t get the amount of rain that Seattle gets, if you plan on going whale watching, you’re going to want to take a waterproof windbreaker and backpack cover. And don’t forget your binoculars!
Swim Gear: With so many water sports available, don’t forget to pack your favorite swimsuit and quick drying towel.