san juan island sunset
Featured Northwest Lifestyles Outdoor Activities Washington

Exploring the Island Life

A brilliant sunset at the San Juan Island in Friday Harbor. Photo by Jason Hummel.

The historic San Juan Island port towns of Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor in Washington are favorite destinations for boaters far and wide. Both locations offer a full range of activities, including the best whale watching in the state.

Friday Harbor is the county seat and the largest town in the San Juan Islands. Special attractions include art galleries, clothing and gift shops, antique and collectible stores, marine supply stores and fully stocked grocery stores.

Visitors can dine with water views while enjoying fresh seafood, quaint cafes, espresso shops or pubs. Locally produced ale, cider and spirits and samplings of wines from an island vineyard are also available.

Take the time to go whale watching, sailing or kayaking the harbor. Friday Harbor also offers a small airport, sightseeing tour companies and car, bike and moped rentals for those traveling without a car.

Travelers from around the world flock to Roche Harbor for its old world charm and seaside ambience.

You can take a stroll on cobblestone walkways, tour Victorian gardens, browse shops and take a hike through the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. The park has more than 125 sculptures.

Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island. Photo by Jason Hummel

San Juan Island boasts beaches and pastureland, historic harbors and parks, museums and marinas. Activities abound and range from hiking and kayaking to shopping and museum-going.

The San Juans are accessible to the public by water and air. The most common means of travel is by Washington State Ferry. San Juan Island is located approximately 90 miles north of Seattle and 80 miles south of Vancouver, British Columbia.

A Kayaker tours the San Juan Island National Historical Park. Photo by Jason Hummel

San Juan Island also boasts two National Historical Parks — English Camp and American Camp. English Camp is northwest of Friday Harbor and has an English garden and an old block house, located right on the water, and is a great spot for a picnic.

On the south side of the Island is American Camp, which has sweeping views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, beaches and miles of hiking trails. There are several state and county parks, as well as many private resorts which offer accommodations, dining and activities.