San Juan Island Info
About San Juan Island
The San Juan Islands are one of the most scenic areas in the entire country. Sometimes referred to as “the jewels” of Puget Sound, they are the most breathtaking of the region’s many islands.
There are four main islands that are serviced by the Washington State Ferries and over 150 “outer islands”. Many of these outer islands are inhabited while dozens of others are not, except for eagles, deer, fox, and other wildlife. The surrounding waters are home to three separate pods of Orcas as well as seals, porpoises, sea lions, otters and a wide variety of seabirds and fish.
The historic seaside town of Friday Harbor is located on San Juan Island. It is the only incorporated town in San Juan County and serves as the primary business and shopping district as well as the county seat.
Roche Harbor Village is located on the northwest end of San Juan Island. This charming boating and resort community is centered around the historic Hotel De Haro which overlooks lovely gardens and the Roche Harbor Marina. Originally built in 1886 as a lime works, Roche Harbor was once the largest lime quarry on the west coast.
San Juan Island is approximately 15 miles long and 8 miles wide, encompassing 55.4 square miles including 70 miles of waterfront, and is usually considered the second largest island after Orcas Island. There are those who say it would be the largest island if they were measured at low tide, because San Juan Island has much more beach. San Juan Island is the most populated island, with about 7000 year ’round residents.
The topography of San Juan Island ranges from mountainous on the north and west sides to farmland in the central valleys and rolling hills to the south. There are magnificent views of the Olympic Mountains, Vancouver Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the west and south. To the east there are views of Lopez Island and Mount Baker and to the north lie neighboring Shaw and Orcas Islands with Canada in the distance.
San Juan Island Activities:
There are numerous outdoor activities available on San Juan Island including hiking, biking, boating, whale watching, kayaking or just sightseeing by car.
Friday Harbor is an ideal town to explore on foot. Spring Street is the main street in town and is lined with shops, restaurants, hotels and the Palace Theatre. Adjacent streets feature additional boutiques, cafes, galleries and museums. During the summer fresh seafood is available in the Friday Harbor Marina and on Saturdays at the Brickworks there is an outdoor farmers’ market featuring organic produce from throughout the islands.
From Friday Harbor it’s a short drive to Roche Harbor Village and its marina. Enjoy lunch or dinner on the deck at the Madrona Grill or make dinner reservations upstairs at McMillan’s Dining Room. Both restaurants are at the water’s edge in the former residence of Roche Harbor’s original founder John McMillan. The Lime Kiln Café is a third restaurant serving breakfast and lunch just down from the Roche Harbor Store.
Visit American Camp and English Camp which together comprise the San Juan Island National Historic Park. In the mid-nineteenth century each camp housed the garrison for its respective country’s troops during “the Pig War”, America’s least known conflict with England (whose only casualty was a pig). It was a dispute over the exact location of the international border between Canada and the US and it lasted 15 years from 1859 to 1874 when a settlement was arbitrated by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.
Take a drive down West Side Rd and stop off at Lime Kiln State Park where a seaside trail offers breathtaking views of Haro Strait and Vancouver Island. If your timing is right you might see a pod of Orcas swimming by.
Other San Juan Island attractions to see include Westcott Bay Seafood Company, where you can buy their world famous oysters, mussels and clams alive and fresh out of salt water basins. Visit the beautiful Pelindaba Lavender Farm or stop off at San Juan Vineyards which is open daily for wine tastings.