The Best Things to Do on San Juan Island for a Weekend

san juan island sunset
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San Juan Island is a popular stopping place for those who go whale-watching for the day, but there are many more things to do on San Juan Island than just strolling Friday Harbor for a few hours. The island is 55 square miles, so it’s the perfect place to bring your car to have a mini road trip as you explore your weekend on San Juan Island.

I love going here for a relaxing Seattle weekend getaway at any time of the year. The island has a fun vibe to it, and local business owners always love taking time to make recommendations for what to do on San Juan Island.

This itinerary for 3 days on San Juan Island will help you plan your vacation there and show you how to get to San Juan Island, where to stay, and what San Juan Island activities to participate in.

How to Get to San Juan Island

You will take the ferry from the town of Anacortes, which is about an hour and a half northeast of Seattle, to Friday Harbor, the main harbor on San Juan Island. Advances in technology have changed the days of going up to wait hours in advance, hoping to get on a ferry.

You can now reserve online, which has been such a timesaver when it comes to visiting the San Juan Islands. It’s still advised to get there about 45-60 minutes early, but at least you’ll know you have a spot. Grab a breakfast sandwich and coffee at the terminal while you wait.

Make sure to book your return trip home at the same time so you won’t be stranded when you’re trying to leave.

Another option is to take the ferry from Seattle to San Juan Island through the Victoria Clipper. This passenger-only ferry leaves early in the morning from downtown Seattle. You can either do a quick day trip from Seattle with them and leave mid-afternoon or stay a few days on the island.

A third option is to fly by seaplane through companies like Kenmore Air or Friday Harbor Seaplanes. This is the most expensive option but by far the fastest. This is worth it if you want a romantic weekend getaway from Seattle and to experience one of the most unique things to do on San Juan Island.

Where to Stay on San Juan Island

san juan island indoor cabin

Here are a few options to stay at during your weekend to San Juan Island.

Discovery Inn – This San Juan Island hotel is a mile away from Friday Harbor so you’re still close to restaurants while having a bit more peace and quiet. The hotel also comes with an outdoor hot tub. (rates start at $169 per night; book your room on Booking.com or read reviews on TripAdvisor)

Friday Harbor House – For an amazing view of Friday Harbor and the incoming boats, stay at this San Juan Island hotel. You’ll be right in town and have easy access to dozens of stores and restaurants. They also have a delicious brunch, at which I treated myself to a Bloody Mary. (rates start at $399 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)

Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes – One of my favorite places to stay on San Juan Island is Lakedale Resort. You can choose from staying in a log cabin, the hotel, a yurt, or glamping. I recommend booking in advance, as it does fill up. (rates start at $189 per night; book your room on Booking.com or read reviews on TripAdvisor)

Best Things to Do on San Juan Island

There’s so much to add to your San Juan Island itinerary, which is where having a car is useful. If you’re really adventurous, you can even bike around the island during your 3 days on San Juan Island. Here are some suggestions for what to do on San Juan Island.

Learn About History at English Camp

I’ve traveled to San Juan Island several times before, but somehow never heard of this place until my most recent visit. Both British and American troops were stationed on the island in the late 1800s, and this area shows how both troops were able to resolve their differences without turning to violence.

There were tents set up with re-enactors who were full of information about the camp, who were fun to talk to. This camp is fun for families and an educational San Juan Island activity.

Smell the Lavender at Pelindaba Lavender Farm

One of the most famous things to do on San Juan Island is the Pelindaba Lavender Farm. I’ve never seen so much lavender in my life! Walking through the fields will have you in a daze as you smell the relaxing scent.

Make sure to stop in the store, where you can buy lavender anything. You can also go outside to taste lavender honey and lavender ice cream.

Enjoy Roche Harbor

This is the other harbor on the island and it’s just as impressive. There are fewer restaurants and shops here, but also more places to stay with a view of the water. Roche Harbor also tends to be less crowded than Friday Harbor if you’re looking for a quieter area during your 3 days on San Juan Island.

Taste Local Seafood

the bait shop san juan

One of the best things to do on San Juan Island is to try local seafood, as I guarantee it’ll be fresh. The Bait Shop is great for good old fish and chips that are fresh from the fryer. It’s also a quick meal if you’re on the go but need something for lunch.

Another alternative is Fish + Brew. This fish shop is a simple but delicious place right on the harbor. What more could you want than fried fish and a beer?

Admire Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Nothing says the Pacific Northwest like a lighthouse. When looking for what to do on San Juan Island, add this to your list if beautiful pictures are one of your goals. This is one of the best San Juan Island activities at sunset.

This beautiful state park looks over the water, and you can even see parts of Canada. Make sure to bring your Discover Pass, as it will be required (or you can purchase one there for $10).

Search for Wildlife During Whale Watching

San Juan Island and nearby Orcas Island are some of the best places to see whales. If you’ve never been whale watching before, make sure to sign up for a tour when you’re here.

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a pod of orcas swimming in the ocean. You’ll also see a variety of different sea life while you’re out there.

Visit an Alpaca Farm

Make sure to bring your camera to Krystal Acres because I guarantee you’ll see nothing cuter during your weekend on San Juan Island than these alpacas. Once you can peel yourself away from staring at them grazing in the field, head into the store to see what’s made out of their fur, including sweaters and slippers.

Eat Fresh Crab

friday harbor crab house

Friday’s Crabhouse has a very casual feel to it, as half of the restaurant is open air. This is also one of the tastiest things to do on San Juan Island. There are several vendors, so you can place your order in one place and grab a drink at the other while you wait for your food.

This is a popular restaurant people put on their San Juan Island itinerary, so head here early on the weekends.

Taste Local Wine at San Juan Vineyards

What would be a trip to a beautiful island without visiting a winery? Set in the middle of the island, San Juan Winery has some amazing local wine.

I did a tasting of both the whites and reds offered and found it hard to pick just one as my favorite but did get a bottle of the Madeline Angevine to bring home. Wine tasting at this vineyard is one of the most relaxing San Juan Island activities, as you can also sit outside if you want to enjoy the sun.

Explore Friday Harbor

While Friday Harbor is the most popular area, there’s a good reason for this. There are plenty of things to do in Friday Harbor, from chocolate shops to bowling alleys. Here are just a few of the places I recommend stopping by.

Check Out a Movie

Whether it’s a rainy day or you’re looking to entertain your kids, San Juan Island has its own movie theater. Palace Theatre is a cute place where you can smell the popcorn from the street.

Enjoy Happy Hour With a View

For a happy hour with a view, head down to the water to Downriggers. I enjoyed a delicious glass of rose with ceviche while I was there. You’ll be able to watch the ferry come in and out as you eat. This is one of the tastiest things to do in Friday Harbor.

Check Out a Local Pub

This bar may not be for everyone, but I get a kick out of visiting this bar. There’s usually a lively crowd and it’s the perfect place to have a beer while watching a sports game. I spent a few hours here watching the Sounders game while I was waiting for my ferry.

Shop for Local Goods

visiting san juan island shopping

There is plenty of things to do in Friday Harbor, such as shopping. The Pacific Northwest theme is heavy in many items sold, which I loved. It’s a great place to get items for yourself and souvenirs for others.

Delight Your Tastebuds With Ice Cream

It’s always a good day for ice cream when you’re on San Juan Island, so make sure to get one of the 72 flavors that are offered at Friday Harbor Ice Cream Company. You can always go back later if you can’t decide on just one flavor, and this is one of the tastiest San Juan Island activities.

Dream of Owning a Sailboat

There are some gorgeous boats in Friday Harbor. I loved walking around pretending to pick out which one would be mine someday (a girl can dream, right?). If you’re lucky one of the friendly owners may be out and willing to tell you about their boat.

3 Day San Juan Island Itinerary

Here’s how to spend a weekend on San Juan Island.

Day 1 – Take a Ferry Ride and Relax

You’ll start by taking the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor to get to San Juan Island. I highly recommend booking your ferry in advance, especially if you’re going during a popular time of year like the summer.

They reserve a few spots for drive-ups, but it’s easy enough to reserve in advance so there’s no need to risk it.

Get there at least 60 minutes in advance, and then you can grab a breakfast sandwich and coffee in the cafe on the dock while you wait for your boat to come. The crossing typically takes about an hour and a half, but there is also food on the ferry.

When you get to San Juan Island, I recommend seeing if you can check in to your hotel early. It’s always nice to put your bags down and quickly change your clothes if you need to.

Once you’ve checked in, head back to Friday Harbor for the afternoon. Coho Restaurant is a great choice for dinner to try the local food, such as seafood.

After that, head to San Juan Island Brewing for a pint or two. I especially liked their Vienna Lager and Golden Ale (you can get a sampler to try five of them). I always recommend adding this brewery to your San Juan Island itinerary when planning your trip.

Day 2 – Taste Local Food and Venture Outside

In the morning, relax by your fireplace with a cup of coffee. When you’re ready for brunch head over to Roche Harbor.

Visit the Sculpture Park and see dozens of different local artwork. Exhibits change every month, so you’ll probably see something new each time you visit.

If you’re bringing your dogs on this trip like I did, make sure to check out the dog park by Roche Harbor.

They have both a small dog and big dog section, with the latter being huge. My dogs loved running around for a bit and I loved that they got some energy out.

For lunch, eat at the Lime Kiln Cafe. They’re famous for their donuts, but you can get breakfast until 11 AM or lunch after that time.

Make sure to walk around the harbor to check out some of the boutique shops and the yachts you can dream about having.

From there, follow the signs for distillery and cider tasting. You’ll walk about a mile up the road (you can also drive) until you get to San Juan Island Distillery/Westcott Bay Cider.

They’re only open on Saturdays from 1 to 4 PM, so make sure to plan accordingly. It’s a cute outdoor tasting room where you can try different types of cider, gin, and brandy that have plenty of Pacific Northwest influences (such as lavender and salal berry).

Once you’ve had your fill of tastings, it’s time to explore the island more. You’ll head towards the Scenic Bypass on the west side of the island, but make sure to stop at Krystal Acres to get a few pictures of the adorable llamas. After that, continue to Lime Kiln Point State Park.

The Lime Kiln Lighthouse is one of the most scenic places on San Juan Island in my opinion. Any time of the day is beautiful, but come here at sunrise or sunset for the best pictures.

If the lighthouse is open, I recommend going inside and up to the top for a better view.

san juan island lighthouse

For dinner, head over to Friday Harbor for dinner at Cask and Schooner. It’s an English-style pub with a relaxed atmosphere, and you can get anything from mussels to shepherd’s pie.

If you’re up for another drink, walk over to Mike’s Cafe and Wine Bar. This is a great place to have a nightcap before going back to your hotel.

If you’re staying at a San Juan Island accommodation that has a fire pit, make sure to take advantage of it.

Even though I was there in colder weather, I had a blast lighting a fire and toasting marshmallows to make s’mores. It felt like I was camping in the winter!

Day 3 – Visit Friday Harbor

In the morning, enjoy your last day on the island before you check out. One of the things I can’t stress enough is to plan a relaxing San Juan Island itinerary and enjoy “island time.”

Most stores in Friday Harbor open around 11 AM, so take your time getting down there. Visit Griffin Bay Bookstore to grab a latte and browse the book selection. I got lost in the travel books for quite a while!

While there are many unique stores in Friday Harbor, one of my favorites is the House of Jerky.

I first saw them at a holiday fest in Seattle and was excited to see their store on San Juan Island. They have every kind of jerky from vegan jerky to alligator to kangaroo.

If your ferry is later in the day, drive over to San Juan Winery. They have a variety of red and white wines to taste, local artwork for sale, and are on a beautiful property.

If you don’t have a car but still want to explore the island, I found this transit chart that stops at many of the places I mentioned here.

You’ll have to time it right so you get picked up and dropped off at the right times, but it’s just an option so you don’t think you can’t come to San Juan Island without a car!

For your last meal before you catch the ferry, eat at Blue Water Bar and Grill. It overlooks the ferry dock so you can see when the ferry is coming in and head to your car.

Enjoy your view of all the San Juan Islands on your journey home and start planning your next trip here! There are so many things to do on San Juan Island that it’s easy to justify another weekend on San Juan Island in the future.

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47 thoughts on “The Best Things to Do on San Juan Island for a Weekend

  1. Debbie says:

    That log cabin looks so relaxing and amazing for the stay in the island. The sculpture park is also so pretty! So many amazing things to do in such a short period of time.

  2. Patricia @ Grab a Plate says:

    I looove San Juan Island! I’ve spent a lot of time on Orcas Island, and the area is so beautiful! You’ve listed a lot of new places to explore!

  3. Suzi says:

    The San Juans are my favorite summertime destination! Haven’t made it out to Lakedale yet, but I keep hearing (and seeing!) good things. Lovely photos.

  4. Rahul Khurana says:

    This is so beautiful and amazing place to visit. I love everything here, the wooden lodge, the cafe, the streets and those cute llamas. I wonder what is inside a lighthouse. Want to see one in real for sure.

  5. Wendy says:

    My family and I had the best vegan lunch at Mike’s Cafe and Wine Bar over the summer – we talked about it for weeks. Thank you for the other tips. It’s time to go back!

  6. valerie says:

    Looks like a fun stay…It’s crazy I have lived here all these years and have never been to the San Jauns! Love that cabin!

  7. Suzette Valle says:

    Your photos are magical! They make me want to go visit San Juan Island stat! Thank you for the beautiful post.

  8. Audrey Tutsi says:

    Wow, this looks like the perfect getaway location. Everything from the light house, distillery and cabin are calling my name.

  9. The Haunted Housewife says:

    Oh my gosh, no cell service, a cabin in the woods?! Sounds like an absolute dream. That lighthouse is also adorable!

  10. Victoria J. Yore says:

    Oh wow I thought this would have been by Puerto Rico! I have actually been here but my mind slipped a major blank! That cabin is so dreamy!

  11. Kavita says:

    I wasn’t familiar with San Juan island before but looks like a lovely place to spend a weekend. The log cabin looks really comfortable and pretty, and lots of great food and drink options. Also love the look of the sculpture park and pootling around the Friday Harbor stores.

  12. Travelling Dany says:

    I never knew of this island and I was so close to it for a while, now I definitely have to get back to visit it! Good choice the Lakedale Resort, I would love to be in a log cabin myself, especially if it has a fireplace and a full kitchen!

  13. Elaine J Masters says:

    Some great suggestions here. I had no idea there was that much to see and do in the San Juan’s. Would love to wander the area with the sunshine you had too.

  14. Kerri McConnel says:

    Looks incredible. Log cabins in the woods always seems like such a quintessential Us thing to do and I would love to do it. Sitting inside with a fire, drinking that craft beer you’ve shown is right up our alley. The distillery would also be somewhere we would want to visit. A perfect weekender for sure.

  15. Meagan Moore says:

    The only time I’ve been to San Juan Island was on a whale watching trip from Seattle. We only got to spend a few hours wandering and perusing, so we missed SO MUCH of what you go to do! The winery and lighthouse look like fab stops, and I love the idea of staying in a log cabin. What a great weekend!!

  16. Carol Perehudoff says:

    Honestly, once I got into the log cabin I would never want to leave. Although I’ve been hearing so much about the San Juan Islands lately, and would be impelled to get out and explore. I want to go whale watching especially, and then make the rounds around town for cider and wine!

  17. Izzy Pulido says:

    Completely agreed! I am trying to appreciate more of the United States in 2018 and Washington State is up there on the list for me! I’m so intrigued by San Juan Island. I would also be one of those squatters in the travel section of Griffin Bay Bookstore!

  18. megan_claire says:

    We wanted to visit San Juan Island as part of a US East Coast Road trip but didn’t end up having the time. I was so disappointed because I really wanted to see Orca whales! I do hope to get back at some stage though, and Lakedale Resort looks like such a beautiful property for when I do. LOVE the cabin in the woods atmosphere.

    Sunset at the Lime Kiln Lighthouse looks stunning – will definitely add that to our trip!

  19. Jenna says:

    I would love to spend an entire weekend on San Juan island sometime! We visited on a day trip for a kayak tour and thought it was a super cute spot. That resort looks really great—love the log cabin feel. The llamas at Krystal Acres are so adorable! I definitely need to stop there when we make it back to the area!

  20. Gabby says:

    Love the San Juans! Roche Harbor is a wonderful resort with some pretty sights on the grounds. John Wayne used to be a frequent guest!

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