The cluster of beautiful pacific northwest islands tucked in the corner of Washington are chalk full of things to do and offer opportunities of both relaxation and exploration. Each island itself has a unique vibe but the one we are going to focus on here is one of the largest and most popular; San Juan Island. Here are the top 5 things to do while visiting this incredible island.
1. Frolic around Friday Harbor
As soon as you get off the boat you are immersed in an adorable cove town with plenty of cafes, restaurants, shops, and stores. Take some time to walk around the town, taking it all in. One of the first things we sought was a good cup of coffee and were delighted to try Riptide Cafe. Their coffee met our snobby Seattle needs and sipping our coffees right on the waterfront was just the type of way we wanted to start off our days.
For the next lunch excursion we wandered over to the patio of the Hungry Clam. We wanted to steer clear of some of the packed restaurants and eat on a quiet patio overlooking the harbor. The food was simple and just what we needed, well priced with a genuine diner vibe.
Later on early evening we started to hunt for the best spot to grab a few good brews. The little fish and chips shack right outside the ferry terminal was busy but refreshingly casual. With bright yellow sun umbrellas and picnic tables overlooking the water we were hooked. Pier One Fish and Brew served us a handful of some of our local craft beers all while laughing and catching up in the sunshine.
Later on we hunted for the best brunch spot the day before heading back home and without a doubt found it. Though there were long lines the wait was worth it and the tables turned fairly quickly since it was such a tiny establishment. Rocky Bay Cafe served up some seriously delicious brunch after we spent time wandering around the local farmers market.
2. Whale watch at Lime Kiln Point State Park
Lime Kiln Point State Park was by far one of THE biggest highlights of the entire trip! It is a must! We came here late afternoon for some whale watching and late day exploration. We found a little spot right on the rocks with a insane view and picnic table, as two girls were leaving that spot they had said they had seen orcas about 45 mins earlier so our hopes were high for some sightings. As we all relaxed by the sea we unfortunately didnt get to see any orcas but were lucky enough to get to watch a vivid sunset wash over the skies.
3. Relax in Roche Harbor
Roche Harbor in my opinion was this hidden gem that most people don’t venture to because its on the opposite side of the island as Friday Harbor. Our group was camping out closer to Roche Harbor and decided thats where we wanted to kayak for the day. When we got to the tiny town we realized it was much more calm and relaxing than Friday. We wandered around on the docks, learned about a handful of historical landmarks in the area, and stumbled upon a local art fair.
4. Kayak around the Islands
While in Roche we kayaked for hours around the bay but may have chose the wrong time of day. It was early evening as we started out around the island inlets but the winds were quickly ramping up. As much of the time we spent out there it was absolutely an extreme arm workout but all in all we got to get out in the water surrounded by all the big fancy boats and fresh salt water smell. Next time I would choose to venture out early or late morning for the best wind conditions.
5. Peruse the local Farmers Markets
By far one of the most pleasant surprises in both towns we visited was the local farmers markets. We happened to stumble onto both of them and the right time of the day but most start on Saturday mornings at 10am. Since these islands are known for their rich farming, foraging, and seafood we were incredibly delighted to see so many local vendors out sharing these artisan goods. From pottery, to honey, to cheese, to foraged mushrooms, the offerings were endless. It was very apparent all the goods at these markets were very very high quality and the prices very fair. Loved browsing all the local craft goods and talking to some of the artists as well.
This long weekend trip away was the epitome of indulging in simple pleasures, and relaxation. Coming back from the trip I felt refreshed, happy, and an overall sense of appreciation for our pacific northwest environment.
If there are any places you love in the San Juans tell us below! Would love to hear many more ideas for the next trip out there!