17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

The San Juan Islands are a beautiful archipelago in the northern part of Washington State in the United States, just off the coast of Canada. Here, you’ll find a wide range of activities and sights to enjoy, from hiking, biking, and kayaking to whale watching, snorkeling, and scuba diving.

These beautiful islands are amazing to visit and fun to explore. Ready to learn more about the islands? Here are 17+ of the best things to do in San Juan Islands, Washington.

COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN SAN JUAN ISLANDS

Featured. We absolutely love staying at Lakedale on Friday Harbor when we visit. Offering glamping, yurts, log cabins, camping, and a lodge, it has something for everyone. See our write-up on our experience at Lakedale below.

Best Budget Option. The Orca Inn is in Friday Harbor and offers simply-furnished rooms – but the price is right. The Washington State Ferry terminal is less than a mile away from this spot, and of course you’re right near all of the things that Friday Harbor has to offer.

Chic Apartment Option. Island Artist Studio is the place to be to get a little farther away from it all. It’s a small studio, but has floor to ceiling windows with fantastic views. You’re still only 7 miles from Friday Harbor and the ferry.

GETTING TO THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS

18 SENSATIONAL THINGS TO DO IN SAN JUAN ISLANDS

Getting to the San Juan Islands can be as easy as hopping on a Washington State Ferry in Anacortes, WA. With year-round service and daily ferries running between four islands and Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, getting there is easy. You can also take a private boat tour or charter your vessel.

The four islands of the San Juan Islands that are served by Washington State Ferries are Lopez, Shaw, Orcas, and San Juan. All of the ferry-served islands feature San Juan County parks along the shore and/or campgrounds.

Tip: Make sure to arrive or make your reservations early — ferry seats go fast during summer weekends.

Chartering a craft will cost quite a bit more, but gives you lots of options, like staying over on one island or picking up another passenger along the way.

WHALE WATCHING

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

The San Juan Islands are home to many kinds of marine life, including orca whales, sea lions, and harbor seals! However, the most famous are the orcas. These fascinating creatures are among the most intelligent of all animals and can travel up to 100 miles per day searching for food.

The San Juan Islands provide a perfect habitat for them as it is a prime location for salmon runs. Take a whale watching tour to see these beautiful animals up close.

LIME KILN LIGHTHOUSE

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

The Lime Kiln Lighthouse at Lime Kiln Point State Park is a historic landmark that has been in operation for more than a century. It was built in 1919, and is located on the west side of San Juan Island.

The lighthouse itself is an attraction, but the surrounding area makes for a great picnic spot and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding islands.

Another great lighthouse to see is Cattle Point Light. Located on the southern edge of San Juan Island, the modern tower here was built in 1935.

SAN JUAN ISLAND NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (AMERICAN CAMP AND ENGLISH CAMP BATTLEFIELDS)

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

One of my favorite things to do in San Juan is to visit the famous San Juan Island National Park.

The San Juan Island National Historical Park is located on the southern tip of San Juan Island. In the mid-1800s, Great Britain and America almost fought for ownership of the islands — a battle was nearly started over the death of a pig, in fact. But, they were able to come together and ownership was settled through peaceful arbitration. Thus, San Juan Island National Historical Park commemorates the fact that two nations can solve their differences without bloodshed.

At the park, you can learn about the “Pig War” with self-guided walking tours. They have both an English Camp History Walk and an American Camp History Walk, as well as a Jakle’s Lagoon Nature Walk.

In addition to learning about the history of the area, you can also enjoy the amazing wildlife and views here. Take a Land Based Whale Watching Tour and watch the orca whales in their natural habitat. Go tide pooling (Grandma’s Cove is the best spot), go kayaking, hike through the quiet woodlands, and more.

FRIDAY HARBOR

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

Friday Harbor is the main town on San Juan Island and can be found on the island’s east side. It has a great selection of shops and restaurants, including a lot of wonderful seafood restaurants.

Downtown Friday Harbor is a great place to experience the local charm. Stroll down Front Street, and you’ll find unique boutiques, art galleries, eclectic stores and cafes.

YOUNG HILL

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

A hike to the top of Young Hill is a must-do activity when visiting San Juan Island. The trailhead can be found near the edge of the English Camp parking lot at San Juan Island National Historical Park.

This moderate hike takes you up about a mile to amazing views of the Salish Sea and surrounding islands. It’s also relatively short, making it a quick morning or afternoon activity.

Tip: The trail has limited parking, so arrive early.

PELINDABA LAVENDER FARM

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State
Courtesy Pelindaba Lavendar Farm

Beautiful lavender fields are just one of many things to do in The San Juans. Visitors can stop by Pelindaba Lavender Farm and pick their lavender, creating a memorable experience that’s sure to last long after your visit.

Located on beautiful Lopez Island, Pelindaba is a charming farm with acres of fragrant fields in which you can walk among small trees and flowers while enjoying views of rolling hills. It’s hard not to be transported to another world when surrounded by such sights.

If you enjoy flower picking and other nature-centered activities, then visiting the Pelindaba Lavender Farm might be for you.

In addition, the farm offers tours where you can learn more about how lavender is grown and harvested. You can even bring home some lavender products if you’d like.

THE WHALE MUSEUM

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State
Courtesy of The Whale Museum

The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor is one of my favorite museums because it offers so much more than just whale exhibits! This educational museum offers interactive exhibits, a 4-D theater, and a marine exploration center.

It is the perfect place to go if you want to learn more about the sea life that surrounds the San Juan Islands. The Whale Museum has countless information on whale species, including bones and skulls.

They also have several hands-on exhibits for kids to enjoy. There’s so much to see here that one trip won’t be enough. Don’t forget to ask about their killer whale skeleton. It looks impressive from above, but it must take some serious effort to install/move around at times.

ROCHE HARBOR

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

Roche Harbor is located on the northwestern part of San Juan Island. Although it’s a resort now, it started as a company town for Roche Harbor Lime & Cement Company.

The harbor itself is home to many different types of marine life, including seals and sea lions and an abundance of sea birds.

You will probably want to taste the Pig War Martini at Fireside Bar in McMillin’s Restaurant. There are also multiple shops and restaurants located along the harbor worth checking out!

SAN JUAN VINEYARDS

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State
Courtesy of San Juan Vineyards

San Juan Vineyards offers wine tastings and vineyard tours daily. The winery is open year-round, and is located close to Friday Harbor.

Their wines are produced using grapes grown on-site and include reds and whites. Do not forget to ask how they make wines and preserve them. This is a great chance to know why certain wines are several decades old.

Make sure you bring some wine home with you!

SAN JUAN ISLANDS SCULPTURE PARK

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State
Courtesy of San Juan Islands Sculpture Park

Located in Roche Harbor, the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park is a great place to view and purchase local art.

The park is open year-round and features many different forms of artwork, including jewelry, pottery, paintings, and more. There are even woodwork items for sale on-site.

There’s no fee for entering or viewing any of these items, making it a great stop to add to your list of things to do in the San Juan Islands.

DRIVE THE SCENIC BYWAY

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

The Scenic Byway is a must-do in my opinion! This winding road takes you along the coast of San Juan Island, and provides some great views of the surrounding islands. However, you should know about this drive because it can be very curvy, so be sure to slow down and watch for wildlife.

The Scenic Byway is one of Washington’s most beautiful, taking you through some of the state’s most magnificent scenery. Although it’s just a bit over an hour from Seattle, it feels like another world entirely.

The trip along Highway 20 weaves past cliffs and jagged shorelines, before heading into forested mountains with waterfront vistas around every bend. Along with the Scenic Byway are stops famous for whale watching in spring and summer; it also has a working lighthouse that’s open for tours year-round.

WESTCOTT BAY SHELLFISH COMPANY

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

Located on San Juan Island, not far from Roche Harbor, you’ll find the Westcott Bay Shellfish Company — a great place to stop and pick up some fresh oysters!

For a quintessential island experience, make a reservation for a picnic with fresh oysters. This is a fantastic place to taste oysters raised in Puget Sound waters. The farm operates on several acres of land, is open year-round, and features a small shop where you can purchase your oysters.

If you are looking for something more than just oysters, the farm has plenty of other fresh produce, including local apples and cherries.

MOPED RENTALS

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State
Courtesy of Susie’s Moped Rentals

Moped rentals are a great way to explore San Juan Island. You can rent mopeds to travel around the island, or even just ride around and see some sites.

Moped rentals are currently only available on San Juan Island.

SAN JUAN ISLANDS DISTILLERY

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State
Courtesy of San Juan Island Distillery

San Juan Island Distillery makes fruit brandy, gin, and vodka, along with a few liqueurs. They offer a tasting room where you can enjoy their spirits and stunning views of San Juan Island from nearly every angle.

It’s not very touristy — just an island hangout spot with killer booze. You must have at least one sip!

Looking for more? Orcas Island Distillery makes fruit brandy, gin and whiskey. They offer 1-hour tour and tasting events for just $15/per person.

STAY AT LAKEDALE

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

One of our favorite ways to spend a weekend in San Juan is visiting Lakedale, located on Friday Harbor.

With unbeatable views of wildlife all around, a tranquil setting with luxurious amenities, including hot tubs, showers, kitchens, and more, this is one amazing place. You will also love the top-notch service for every need.

We highly recommend staying here if you want to relax and enjoy some time away from city life. It is no wonder everyone who has been at Lakedale wants to back. We guarantee you won’t regret it!

The canvas tents are fantastic! They have a hot tub on site. My husband and I stayed there last summer with our best friends. When we first walked into our tent, there was a welcome note, a bottle of wine, and local chocolates waiting for us.

DAY TRIP TO ORCAS ISLAND

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

Spend a day on Orcas Island and enjoy activities such as hiking, horseback riding, or simply soaking in nature. Hiking is one of the best things to do in Orcas Island, which can be accessed via private boats, water taxis, and ferries available for transportation.

Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park features views of the Olympics, Cascades, Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.

If you like music, there are numerous places on Orcas Island to enjoy musical performances by live bands or local artists. In addition, many unique art galleries showcase original artwork from both world-famous artists and up-and-coming local artists.

DAY TRIP TO LOPEZ ISLAND

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

Lopez Island is a sleepy island just 20 minutes from Friday Harbor by ferry. It’s a perfect day trip for those looking to explore beyond the more touristy San Juan Island (the most popular destination in Washington’s islands).

After docking, rent a bike and tour Lopez Village and surrounding farms. Make sure to stop by Holly B’s Bakery Friday-Sunday from 8am-1pm to pick up some delicious treats!

EXPLORE THE SALISH SEA

17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State

The Salish Sea is teeming with wildlife, mainly marine life. In addition, the area is home to abundant native species such as orcas, harbor seals, bald eagles, and countless others.

If you want to see it all, you can’t go wrong booking a whale-watching tour or a kayaking tour from one of many operators in Puget Sound.

Vancouver Island’s Gulf Islands waters are some of North America’s most diverse marine habitats and a haven for divers.

Learn about native flora and fauna on two wheels. Hop on an electric bike and tour Victoria’s Finlayson Arm Marine Park, one of Canada’s largest urban waterfront parks.

SAN JUAN ISLANDS FAQ

Are the San Juan Islands worth a visit?

Yes, the San Juan Islands are definitely worth a visit. The natural beauty found here cannot be matched, and there are so many great things to do, especially if you love the outdoors.

What are the San Juan Islands known for?

The San Juan Islands are known for their pod of Orca whales that call the waters around here home. There are resident pods and also transient pods of whales that swim in the waters.

What is the best month to visit the San Juan Islands?

Between April and October are the best months to visit the San Juan Islands. Be warned that the summer months are especially popular, so you may see more crowds and higher prices then.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR TRIP TO WASHINGTON STATE

WHERE TO STAY IN SAN JUAN ISLANDS

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17+ Sensational Things To Do in San Juan Islands in Washington State