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The Best Things to Do on San Juan Island [1, 2, and 3 Day Itineraries]

A trip to San Juan Island is the perfect way to leave your everyday stress behind, get out into nature and enjoy a few days of hiking, picnicking, visiting some great museums, and eating fantastic food. We’re sure our itineraries will help you plan the best trip to Friday Harbor and San Juan Island.


On our recent trip to San Juan Island, Washington, we enjoyed a fantastic, soul-restoring three day adventure. The islands are known for their spectacular outdoor experiences like whale watching, especially for orca whales. We did take a whale-watching tour and also did some exploring at Friday Harbor along with discovering the rest of the island. There is so much to do, that we’re already planning our next trip.

In this article:
Where is San Juan Island?
Seattle to San Juan Island
Best Time to Go to San Juan Island
Map of San Juan Island
Friday Harbor
Things to do on San Juan Island
Hotels
Restaurants on San Juan Island
Shopping
Itineraries for One, Two, or Three Days

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Boating and whale watching go hand in hand. This is a gray whale's back and spout swimming near a gorgeous sailboat.
Watching whales is one of the prime activities in the San Juan Islands.

San Juan Islands Washington

“Within Washington State’s Puget Sound lies an archipelago of over 450 islands, rocks, and pinnacles known as the San Juan Islands. These islands form an unmatched landscape of contrasts, where forests seem to spring from gray rock and distant, snow-capped peaks provide the backdrop for sandy beaches. Numerous wildlife species can be found here, thriving in the diverse habitats supported by the islands. The presence of archeological sites, historic lighthouses, and a few tight-knit communities testifies that humans have navigated this rugged landscape for thousands of years. These lands are a refuge of scientific and historic treasures and a classroom for generations of Americans.”

[President Obama signed this proclamation on March 25, 2013]

The San Juan Islands are located in western Washington, in the Salish Sea. Never heard of the Salish Sea before? It’s a relatively new name adopted in 2009 to encompass the islands of Washington and Canada and designated them as the unique ecosystem that they are (source).

The county campground is a popular site for launching kayaks.
The county campground is a popular site for launching kayaks.

Where is San Juan Island?

San Juan Island is the second largest island in the island group called San Juan Islands in the Salish Sea. It is 14.5 miles long and 6.5 miles wide. There are no bridges on the island, so the only way to get there is to take a ferry or fly. It only takes about 20-25 minutes to drive the entire length of the island, so you can explore easily, even with very little time.

Friday Harbor, where the seat of the county government is located, is the largest community on the island. It has a small year round population of about 6,000. There is a smaller, more privately-run community on the northern part of the island, called Roche Harbor. However, Friday Harbor is where you will disembark whether you come by boat or air.

A small town with a big smile, Friday Harbor residents are happy to welcome tourists as they are one of the best sources of income. There are plenty of shops and restaurants, and cafés to keep you sated and busy.

Taking a day trip to the San Juan Islands, you'll want to catch the early ferry from Anacortes.
Getting up at o’dark thirty for the early ferry to Friday Harbor.

Seattle to the San Juan Islands

Driving from Seattle to Anacortes: Take I-5 North, then take Exit 230. Follow the WA-20 into the town and follow the signs to the ferry terminal. From Anacortes, you can take one of the many ferries departing for Friday Harbor. The ride is roughly one to two hours long, and takes you straight to Friday Harbor.

You can take a car, bike, or walk on the ferry. If you take a car, you will want to make reservations as far in advance as you can in order to obtain the best ferry times. If you are taking a bike or walking on, reservations are not necessary.

How much does the ferry cost? Price for a walk-on one way is around $14.50, seniors and children are half price. Of course, if you are taking a car, tow vehicle and trailer, bike, kayak, etc. the higher the cost will be. We took our car, Jim was included in the car price as the driver, and of course me. Our total cost was $85.00 round trip. We thought this was more convenient, and probably cheaper than paying for parking at the ferry terminal then renting a car on the island, and we certainly liked the flexibility of having our own wheels.

From Friday Harbor, you can also take ferries to three other San Juan Islands: Orcas Island, Lopez Island, and Shaw Island. Depending on your itinerary and how much stuff you have with you, you can stop over on Lopez on your way to or from Friday Harbor for the day, and you can also just use Friday Harbor as your main staging point, taking day trips to the other islands from there.

Driving or biking on San Juan Island, you'll find all kinds of whimsical things like these small ceramic houses on a moss-covered rock.
Driving or biking on San Juan Island, gives you more of a chance to find such whimsical things like these small ceramic houses on a moss-covered rock.

Getting Around San Juan Island

There’s no question, the best way to see the island is to either bring your own car over on the ferry or rent a car or scooter while you are there. Even though the island is small enough to drive top to bottom in about 15 minutes, it will take considerably longer if you decide to ride bikes.

Additionally, there is a shuttle bus that makes stops at most of the important sites on the island. Even if you have your bike, the schedule allows you to go to the farthest point and ride back. It’s rather reasonable at $5.00 per ride or $10.00 round trip, or the best bet is $15.00 for the day for a multi-stop itinerary.

Whale watching in San Juan Islands gives you spectacular views, like this gray whale's tail as it dives for food.
A gray whale dives for food, and you can see its stunning tail.

Best Time to Go to San Juan Island

The climate on San Juan Island is pretty mild. In summer, most days are a little cool and in winter it can get cold, but there’s not much snow so you can still do quite a bit. However, one of the main attractions is to see whales. For orca whales, especially, June through September is optimal. There are other whales like humpbacks and minkes, which you can often see between the middle of May until October.

Average temperatures on San Juan Island.
(source)
Precipitation on San Juan Island Washington.

For outdoor activities the summer months provide reasonable temperatures and the least amount of rain, but please note that it can get cold quick in the wind and rain, so make sure to bring layers and a good sun hat.

Map of What to Do on San Juan Island

Map of Weekend on San Juan Island Washington
Click on image to go to Google Map.

Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor is a really fun town to explore either on a day trip or for a longer stay. It’s boasts a colorful downtown with some art galleries, a theater, lots of places to eat like bakeries, cafes, restaurants, pubs or quaint shops to buy that perfect gift. The number one thing to do is take a whale-watching tour, and those leave out of the port multiple times per day. There are also a number of businesses where you can rent bicycles, kayaks or larger boats. One way to see the island is to rent a scooter or take a scooter tour.

The Origin of Killer Whales Legend sign. It is prominently displayed in the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor.
The Origin of Killer Whales Legend sign. It is prominently displayed in the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor.

For sight-seeing, take in one of the three museums:

Whale Museum

The Whale Museum, right in downtown, is a must-see if you are going on a whale-watching tour, because it tells you all about what you might see. There are plenty of mammals to see while out on the water, but the big draw are the whales, especially orcas. The museum tells all about the ecosystem from a scientific approach, from a Native American approach, and even an art approach as it has beautiful stained glass windows throughout the facility.

We thoroughly enjoyed this museum, and some of the exhibits that caught our eye were the variety of skeletons of whales, porpoises, and even an exhibit comparing the sizes to a human skeleton.

The museum hosts a profound volunteer program that is designed to protect the whales in the Salish Sea. Soundwatch is a program where volunteers take a boat out to the whale sighting and ensure that the private and commercial boats are complying with the rules and regulations about approaching marine wildlife.

Soundwatch protects the gray whale near the shore.
Soundwatch, run by the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, makes sure that all private and commercial boats maintain a safe distance from the whales in the Salish Sea.

San Juan Historical Museum

Made up of eight buildings, the San Juan Historical Museum is a great place to learn about San Juan Island. From its humble beginnings as a salmon processor to the Pig War and onward. You will be surprised at what the island has endured. Call the museum to find out how to gain access before you arrive in the islands.

San Juan Islands Museum of Art

The SJIMoA, as it is lovingly referred to, is dedicated to championing the arts and artists of the Pacific Northwest. They have revolving exhibits and, if you are interested, you will want to make sure to put it on your itinerary. We had seen a similar exhibit as the current one, so we decided to pass this time around. Check the website for hours and prices before you go.

The sculpture park in Roche Harbor is a fantastic place to enjoy some local art, like this metal whale fin.
The San Juan Sculpture Park, with over 150 works of art created by local artists is a must-do on the island.

Roche Harbor

A small community, made up mostly of local homeowners and one huge holiday resort, it has a great little square near the old lime kilns that hosts a variety of shops and even a spa. There are two other sights here that are really worth seeing, the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park and the Mausoleum.

San Juan Islands Sculpture Park

The sculpture park is easy to get to, right off the road, and affordable ($5 donation). As you meander the 20 acres and five trails, you will come across some amazing art pieces. Some are interactive, some are just to look at. We love the “starfish project” where kids can play in the sand and make their own art to leave, as well as some of the standing sculptures like the Grizzly bear family, the frog, and the spoon. It’s easy to spend at least an hour walking and enjoying the over 150 pieces that change often.

McMillin Memorial Mausoleum

One of the most bizarre sights on the island, the John S. McMillan Memorial Mausoleum is a short walk from the sculpture park. In the dark woods, this beacon of bronze and limestone stands tall memorializing the McMillan family. Eerily, the remains of key family members are secreted in the seats of the chairs and the backs tell who is buried there. We went on a misty, drizzly day which probably added to the mystique of the tomb. Seemingly straight out of a “Game of Thrones” scene, the mausoleum was built in the 1930s. It’s an interesting stop, and one that’s great for some moody photos.

Roche Harbor is home to this "Game of Thrones" type of Mausoleum.
One of the places to go on San Juan is Roche Harbor where you can walk to this unique mausoleum. It looks and feels like it is straight out of the Game of Thrones movie. Great place for your instagram photos.

Things to Do on San Juan Island

The San Juan Islands in Washington are all about enjoying the outdoors. The three activities you’ll see others doing most are whale watches, kayaking, and hiking. Along with these, though, you can bike, picnic, enjoy the history of the island, look for all kinds of wildlife, eat some fantastic food, or just relax on a beach with a good book.

English Camp placard that briefly tells the history of the Pig War between the US and Britain.
English Camp placard that briefly tells the history of the Pig War between the US and Britain.

Take in Some Quirky History – The Pig War

The most important historical sites on the island are a memento of an unusual border dispute in the 1800s between Britain and the US. Due partly to a language break down as well as just an affront to the US’ “manifest destiny,” this incident almost ignited a war.

For years, the subject of who owned the island was confusing with both England and US claiming it, but one day it all came to a head when an American killed one of the pigs owned by the British.This spiked a buildup of armies from both nations. After an investigation, arbitration took place and the two countries decided to both peacefully occupy the island until a decision was made by their governments. This took an additional 12 years, but there were no further incidents. Both armies had garrisons that housed soldiers on two sides of the island, fittingly named American Camp and English Camp. They are part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park.

There’s some old barracks and other buildings to see on the sites, but also you can do some great hikes from the area and visit the beaches.

Lime Kiln State Park

Lime Kiln State Park is only about nine miles from Friday Harbor on the western coast of the island. It sports a nice little beach area, which also has a lighthouse. People like to go there to watch the sunset and it’s reported to be one of the very best spots on the island to see whales from shore. Lime Kiln State Park, part of the Washington State Park system, has a $10 per day fee or if you plan on going to a few state parks a $30 annual fee (Discover Pass).

Cattle Point Lighthouse

Cattle Point Lighthouse is a tiny little lighthouse, but it’s got a nice little parking area. There is also a small interpretive center, but to be honest, there isn’t much to it. The most interesting thing about the old lighthouse generator house were the swallows nest inside, as the swallows kept swooping us trying to get us to leave.

The beach, however, is one of the most scenic on the island. There are some large rocks to climb and sit on to look out to sea. We know the whales go by here, because we took photos of a gray whale feeding there. On one side, there is a staircase with a rope railing to get you down on the beach itself. It’s a great place for a picnic and wander.

Things to do on San Juan Island include visiting the small but pretty Cattle Point Lighthouse.
Cattle Point Lighthouse.

Beaches on San Juan Island

There are plenty of beaches to visit on the island. All of them are great for hiking and picnicking. Many have tidepools and of course there are lots of rocks, shells, and driftwood to pick through. You can’t come to the San Juans and not do a little beach time.

Check out some of these beaches while you are here:

  • Jackson Beach- part of English Camp
  • 4th of July Beach – part of American Camp
  • South Beach – The longest beach, with grills and picnic tables at one end.
  • Jakle’s Lagoon – Great for bird-watching
  • Grandma’s Cove – serene and peaceful
  • Eagle Cove – a true sandy beach and part of American Camp
  • Deadman Bay – has some great tide-pooling
Kayaking on San Juan gives you the opportunity to see lighthouse views from the water.
Kayaking past Cattle Point Lighthouse.

Whale Watching San Juan Island

One of the highlights of our trip was going on a whale watching tour. The tour we took holds 150 people, but it only had 72 passengers, so it felt pretty open. I didn’t have to jostle to get photographs. On our tour there were three naturalists and they talked about what we were seeing and how the animals and birds fit into the larger ecosystem of the Salish Sea.

We were lucky enough to follow a feeding gray whale for quite some time not far from Friday Harbor where we embarked. Apparently what this type of baleen whale does, is scrapes the bottom of the seabed for all the good nutritional food laying there. This involves a few breaths at the surface, then a dive to the shallow ocean floor for the feeding. Then back to the surface and repeat. repeat, repeat.

In this area, it’s a very common way of feeding, and the whales do that until they’re fat and ripe to go down and have some calves. We watched this gray whale for I would say a good hour, and she had a set pattern of activity, so it was easy to predict when she would surface. First, she would surface exhuming a huge spout from her blowhole, then she would stay on the surface for a minute or so with good views of her back, then she would dive again and this would allow us to see her tail flukes. She completed this pattern the entire time we watched her, so it was easy to get some pretty good images.

We also were treated to a view of a minke whale, also feeding. However, it just stayed closer to the surface the entire time, and all we could really see was the fin and back.

Whales are far from the only things to see on these tours. We also saw eagles, harbor seals, sea lions, lots of sea birds and even some jelly fish. We stayed right off the coast of Cattle Point for a few minutes while we watched a group of sea lions frolicking in the water.

There are many choices when you are choosing a whale tour, so pick the one that is best for you and your party.

One of the best things to do in San Juan is kayak. These kayakers are treated to an up close sighting of a spouting gray whale.
A gray whale surfaces and spouts in the midst of these kayakers.

San Juan Island Kayaking

Kayaking is huge on San Juan Island. With so much shoreline and lots of marine wildlife, it’s a great way to enjoy the water. You can put in kayaks just about anywhere, but one of the most popular spots is the San Juan County Park and Lime Kiln State Park.

If you’ve never been sea kayaking before, there are a number of outfitters that will take you out, instruct you, feed you, provide you with all the safety gear and take care of you. It’s worth a try, because after the first few minutes getting used to the balance of the craft, it’s a lot of fun!

Hiking Trails on San Juan Island

It goes without saying that San Juan Island is a hiker’s paradise. With its undulating hills, tall grasses, mossy green forests, and of course lots of birds and wildlife, you can’t ask for a better place to take a walk. Check out this map of the hiking trails on the island.

Trails and trail map

Camping on San Juan Island in tents at the country campground.
There are two choices for camping on San Juan Island, one is for tents and small vans and RVs with no hookups at the country campground. Eight RVs can camp on the fairgrounds right outside of Friday Harbor.

San Juan Island Camping

Accommodations on San Juan can be a bit pricey, but one way to save some money and really enjoy the outdoor surroundings is to camp. There are only two places to do this, one for tents and one for RVs.

San Juan Island County Campground – mostly tents or RVs that are small (no hookups)

Fairground RV Campground

Hotels and Accommodations on San Juan Island

There are plenty of places to stay on San Juan to make your weekend retreat as relaxing as can be. From full on luxury resorts to Bed and Breakfasts or AirBnB cottages, as long as you book pretty far in advance you will have lots of choice of where to stay.

Luxury

Snug Harbor – A resort right on Mitchell Bay with gorgeous cottages, gas fireplaces, and spectacular views.
Friday Harbor House – Conveniently in town, with fantastic suites and a great restaurant.
The Web Suites – Clean and close to town with a balcony and roof deck.

Mid-Range

Discovery Inn – Comfy, clean rooms, a pool, and extremely friendly and helpful staff.

Budget

San Juan Hostel – Comfortable beds, great seating areas, well-stocked kitchen, and, best of all, right in downtown.
The Orca Inn – Very small rooms, but with everything you need.

What to do on San Juan Island, WA.? Look for wildlife. One animal thats prevalent is the red fox, like the one here sitting on a rock.
A beautiful red fox (although gray in color) sits on a moss-covered rock.

San Juan Island Restaurants

As San Juan is the most populated island in the group, it stands to reason that there are some great places to eat that include local products and the freshest of seafood. We did our best to try as many as we could over the course of our three day weekend, but there’s plenty more to try next time.

For breakfast, there aren’t many options. With only a few full breakfast restaurant options, at least there are also lots of bakeries and coffee shops that will get your day started. One of the earliest ferries gets in about 7:30, so be prepared for the morning eateries to get busy soon after.

For lunch and dinner we found some really delicious options, but again some of them are open bakeries, so you can go anytime and eat. I suggest finding a great place that offers sandwiches and get them made to take out and eat along your way. Picnics are so romantic and memorable, and there are plenty of great places to take in the sunset across the island.

The Bean Café

The Bean Café is basically a coffee shop that also sells slices of quiche and breakfast sandwiches. Between the four of us, we tried the two quiches on offer, one meat and one vegetarian as well as the sandwiches. The coffee was great and we were sorry we’d driven away, because we could’ve eaten more.

Rocky Bay Café

The Rocky Bay Café opens at seven, and they have a full breakfast menu, so we went directly there two days in a row. It has the typical greasy spoon type of American breakfast that I always crave and we were not disappointed. I would highly recommend the Huevos Chorizo or the Eggs Benedict.

San Juan Bakery

It’s a good thing I don’t live on the island, because I would probably eat at the calorie heaven that is the San Juan Bakery every day. It’s only open Monday through Fridays, so we were happy to be able to partake. There’s no place to eat inside, but we really enjoyed buying the pizza by the slice and eating it on the go.

There were many pizzas to choose from, but we opted for the three cheese pizza and a mushroom pizza; both were tasty and delicious. They also have, of course, a plethora of baked goods and cakes. We tried their Lemon Tea Cake and loved it. Our only tip is to go early so you have lots of options.

The best San Juan Island restaurants include Duck Soup, where this amazing foie gras dish was consumed.
Foie Gras appetizer from Duck Soup restaurant.

Duck Soup Restaurant

Tucked into a secluded slice of the island, on a small pond, Duck Soup really is the place to go for a great meal. With four of us ordering, we sampled a great bit of the menu and we found everything to be delectable, well-plated, and more than satisfying.

The appetizers of baked oysters or foie gras really started the meal off in the right direction. Then we all tried the duck breast, filet, and rack of lamb. Yum! We only tried two desserts, but they were so good, I could go back and just have them again. Don’t forget to try the Earl Grey Crème Brulée or the Tres Leches Cake.

Cask and Schooner

The Cask and Schooner is a British pub located right downtown of Friday Harbor. After an afternoon out on the water, we were ready for a beer and some hardy fare. It sports all your pub favorites like Fish n’ Chips, Bangers n’ Mash, and even a Shepherd’s Pie, but they also tapped into the abundance of local seafood. We loved the poutine for sharing and the beers. We absolutely recommend you try the Nitro Peanut Butter Stout; it was pretty amazing.

Westcott Bay Shellfish Co.

The very last thing that we did before heading to the ferry terminal to start our trip home, was stop at the Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. for some fresh oysters. The restaurant sits on the picturesque Wescott Bay. It’s an attractive wooden building with picnic tables all around it, and you’re sitting outside the whole time. Each table has a view below, where you can see the oyster beds.

The host quickly explained how the oysters are farmed using the turning bags. After the first year of growth, they put the oysters in these net bags that sit in the ebb and flow from the tides, which tumbles and turns the oysters, giving them their shape and taste.

One of the best restaurants is the Westport Shellfish Co, where you can eat the fresh-farmed oysters.
Shuck your own, or have them shucked for you, these oysters are fresh and succulent. Your server will give you a shucking lesson, so you can eat double the oysters.

As you can imagine, Westcott Bay serves their oysters on the half shell, already shucked for you or you can also learn to shuck them yourselves. The latter makes the oysters a bit more affordable, so you can eat more. That’s what we did, and even though it was difficult, we enjoyed it.

This is an extremely popular place. The day we were there, it was packed by 11:15 AM, and one table was full of chefs from Seattle, so it’s the go-to restaurant. That means that you should make reservations or plan to be there when it opens and take the chance that a table will be available. We did not make reservations and got in, but it wasn’t a guarantee.

Another artisanal product are the liqueurs and gin of the San Juan Island Distillery.
Another artisanal product are the liqueurs and gin of the San Juan Island Distillery. Tastings are offered during summer weekends from 1-4 PM.

Shopping on San Juan Island

Shopping on San Juan Island is really worthwhile if you enjoy local artisanal products. As is true of many idyllic communities, San Juan is home to a number of artists, farmers, vintners, and much, much more. You can walk around Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor and check out the many small shops with local goods, and you can also stop in at some of these other shops as you are driving around the island.

  • San Juan Island Distillery – If you love liqueurs and gin, make this one of your stops. They are award winners for their apple brandy, and use that to infuse local plants to make it a true local experience.
  • Paula West Pottery – A local potter, Paula will show you around her studio. She has plenty of useful and beautiful ceramics on offer.
  • Krystal Acres – Alpaca Farm – Cuteness overload is what you’ll get at Krystal Acres, so stop by their shop and find all things alpaca.
  • San Juan Vineyard – A beautiful spot to enjoy some tastings, don’t pass by.
The Alpaca Farm is one of the many artisanal shopping opportunities on San Juan Island.
Shaven alpacas greet you at the Alpaca Farm. There is a store on site where you can purchase alpaca wool and all things alpaca.

San Juan Island Itineraries – One, Two, or Three Days

How much time do you need to visit San Juan? To really get the most out of your trip, and not planning on returning, plan to spend three days. There are three main activities that you will want to try while you are there, hiking, biking, and kayaking. Add exploring the island and a whale-watching cruise and your time will be up before you know it. Here is what we suggest doing for one, two, or three days on San Juan.

A Day Trip to San Juan Island

Believe it or not, many people take the ferry or even fly over to San Juan Island just for the day. I don’t necessarily recommend it, because I think there is so much you’ll miss out on. If you are taking the ferry, take a car, even if it’s your rental car. It will save you some time. However, if that’s the time you have, then at least you will have gotten a small taste of the Pacific Northwest islands.

If you only have one day, here’s what we think you should do:

Morning

Get up super early and make sure to make an early ferry, like the 6:30. You might be sleepy, but it will be worth it.

As soon as you get off the ferry, grab a coffee and sandwich or pastry to go so you don’t waste any time. If you don’t like to eat in the car, it won’t be long until you reach your first stop where you can enjoy the views and eat your breakfast snack al fresco. Then take a ride around the island, stopping at these places.

  • Roche Harbor to wander around sculpture park
  • English Camp
  • Krystal Acres – If you have time, make a quick stop to pet the alpacas
  • Lime Kiln State Park – Don’t miss the lighthouse.

Lunch

Grab lunch to go so you can check into your whale watch tour. Great sandwiches can be found at Spring Street Deli or the San Juan Bakery (weekdays only).

Next, you will want to check in for your whale watch tour and for the next few hours enjoy everything that the Salish Sea will offer you.

Dinner

Finally you can sit down for dinner and try some of the freshest seafood around. We enjoyed the beer at the Cask and Schooner, but there are plenty of restaurants all around Friday Harbor.

Grab the latest ferry that you can manage to get back to the mainland!

Harbor seals and sea lions bask in the sun and frolic in the Salish Sea.
With a sailboat in the distance, a small island is host to these playful sea lions and some harbor seals.

A Two-Day Itinerary for San Juan Island

A two day itinerary will give you a bit of flexibility to do some fun activities and see most of the island. Again, to get the most out of your trip you’ll want your own wheels. However, we’re still packing it in pretty tight, and depending on your two big activities of whale watching and kayaking, you might have to either go pretty fast to get it all in, or unfortunately cut something out.

Day One

  • Try and take one of the early ferries to Friday Harbor (6:30 is best)
  • Breakfast – Again, we suggest a grab and go.
  • Take off for the southern side of the island
  • Visit American Camp
  • Cattle Point Lighthouse
  • South Beach
  • Head back to Friday Harbor for lunch to eat while you wait for your whale watching cruise.
  • Whale watch cruise
  • Dinner and drinks in Friday Harbor

Day Two

  • Breakfast – take your time and have a real hearty breakfast to set you up for the day ahead. Rocky Bay Café has you covered, but get there early unless you want to wait in line.
  • Today’s drive will take you to the top of the island.
  • Explore Roche Harbor’s Sculpture Park and the McMillan Mausoleum
  • Visit English Camp
  • Stop by at Krystal Acres and pet the alpacas
  • Stop off at Lime Kiln State Park
  • Back to Friday Harbor for lunch
  • Take a sea kayaking excursion
  • After your workout, have a nice dinner and grab your ferry back to the mainland.
Whale watching cruises leave frequently out of Friday Harbor. This is one of the bigger boats, but there are options for everyone's needs and wants.
This is a large vessel whale watching cruise out of Friday Harbor. There are many choices, though, so if you’d like a private charter or smaller boat you can easily find those as well.

Three Day Itinerary for San Juan Island

As you’ve probably concluded, this is the itinerary that will let you see and do the most on the island without having to pick and choose what to do and not to do. You can even get in some shopping as you meander around Friday Harbor a little longer.

You can, of course, do these days in any order you like.

Day One

  • After disembarking your ferry, take a chance to eat breakfast and maybe take in the Whale Museum or if you’ve made arrangements, the Historical Museum. This will give you some insight to what you are looking at and experiencing as you spend the next few days on the island. Depending on how much time you spend at the museums, wander around town and check out the cute shops.
  • For lunch, you might want to fuel up for your kayaking excursion
  • Take a sea kayaking lesson/tour
  • Before dinner, check into your hotel and get cleaned up for a night out. If you’re into it, check out dinner at Duck Soup (make reservations ahead of time).

Day Two

  • Breakfast – Today you’ve got a lot going on, so you might want to grab and go.
  • Take off for the southern side of the island
  • Visit American Camp
  • Cattle Point Lighthouse
  • South Beach
  • Head back to Friday Harbor for lunch to eat while you wait for your whale watching cruise.
  • Whale watch cruise
  • Dinner and drinks in Friday Harbor

Day Three

This is your day to make up for all the things you didn’t get to before. You can spend as much or as little time doing them as you please. If you want, renting a bike for at least a few hours will get your blood pumping as you take in the views.

  • Breakfast – take your time and have a real hearty breakfast to set you up for the day ahead. Rocky Bay Café, just get there early.
  • Today’s drive will take you to the top of the island.
  • Explore Roche Harbor’s Lime Kilns and cute shops, the Sculpture Park, and the McMillan Mausoleum.
  • Visit English Camp.
  • Do a little spirits shopping at the SJI Distillery and/or stop by at Krystal Acres and pet the alpacas.
  • Lime Kiln State Park – picnicking here will give you a chance to enjoy the lighthouse and look for whales.
  • Visit the Paula West Pottery, the Palindaba Lavender Farm, or even do some tastings at the San Juan Winery.
  • Pick a beach with a good hike and maybe share a glass of Washington wine or a beer while watching the sunset.
  • Head back into town and have a great seafood dinner.
  • Grab the ferry and head back to Anacortes.
Driving or biking on San Juan Island, you'll find all kinds of whimsical things like these small ceramic houses on a moss-covered rock.
Driving or biking on San Juan Island, gives you more of a chance to find such whimsical things like these small ceramic houses on a moss-covered rock.

Conclusion

Some of the things there are to do on San Juan Island involve going outdoors and hiking, kayaking, camping, and of course whale watching. So that’s what we did. We did a little bit of hiking, driving, tasting local spirits and food, shopping, museum-ing, and enjoyed an afternoon of superb whale watching.

For More Information about San Juan Island, check out these websites:
Visit San Juans
Bureau of Land Management

Author Bio – Corinne is an avid camper and traveler. She’s been to all 50 of the US states and has four more Canadian provinces to visit. However, she’s not stopping yet. There’s always more to see of this great continent! Corinne loves local foods, getting outdoors, landscape photography, and road trips.

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How to plan and execute the most wonderful weekend in Washington state.