There are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County! The three main visited islands that the ferry service goes to are San Juan Island (Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, and Lopez Island. These islands have the most lodging, restaurant options, and shops to visit. Shaw island you can get to by ferry, but it has very limited lodging and food. Shaw Island is the smallest island in the midst of the other three larger known islands.
On the main island, San Juan Island, you can visit the famous Pelindaba Lavender farm, a historic lighthouse lookout point called Lime Kiln, Friday Harbor, the main harbor with tons of cute cafes, coffee shops, and boutiques, and Roche Harbor, a quiet sailing harbor on the north end of the island. There is also an alpaca farm, a winery with tasting rooms, and lots of beautiful hiking and biking trails on the island in the forest. Last, but not least, there is an epic mausoleum in the woods near Roche Harbor that seriously looks like something out of Lord of the Rings.
Taking the ferry from Anacortes to San Juan Islands (Friday Harbor)
Turn west on highway 20 until you get to Anacortes. Anacortes is the gateway city to the San Juan Islands. Follow the signs for the San Juan Island Ferries which are clearly marked past the downtown and head to the ferry landing. You can ride the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor which is about a 1.5-hour ride. Make sure to make your ferry reservation at least a day in advance, especially in the summer. The cost of walking onto the ferry is much cheaper than taking a car. You pay the fare roundtrip in Anacortes and are not charged at Friday Harbor on the way back. Full list of cost and information here. Find the ferry schedule, costs and reservations here.
|Adult (age 19 – 64)||$13.75|
|Senior (age 65 & over) / Disability||$6.85|
|Youth (age 6 – 18)||$6.85|
|Multi-Ride Commuter Card 10 Ride||$90.25|
|Bicycle Surcharge Only|
|Vehicle Under 14′ (less than 168”) & Driver||$39.70|
|Vehicle Under 22′ (standard veh) & Driver||$49.80|
|Vehicle U14′ (less than 168″) & Sr/Disability Driver||$32.75|
|Vehicle U22′ (standard veh) & Sr/Disability Driver||$42.85|
|Multi-Ride Commuter Card – Vehicle U14′ & Driver 5 Ride||$149.20|
|Multi-Ride Commuter Card – Vehicle U22′ & Driver 5 Ride||$187.05|
|Motorcycle & Driver||$21.05|
1. Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor is the main entry port town on San Juan Island and the biggest town on the island. Friday Harbor is filled with coffee shops, cute cafes, cool boutique stores, and an amazing Saturday market with fresh, local produce and goods. There is a lot to do in this beautiful harbor town and plenty of delicious food to eat and drink There are several boutiques that made we want to go into credit card debt, so I had to control myself. If you take the ferry early, remember that most of the shops don’t open until 10 am so it may not be worth taking the earliest ferry ride, as we discovered. Friday harbor is a great place to grab a coffee, take a walk on the harbor, and shop in the cute boutiques downtown.
Things to Do in Friday Harbor
The Bean Cafe
The Bean Cafe is a beautiful coffee shop on the second floor of a building overlooking the harbor and ferry dock, with ferry cams for guests waiting while their cars are parked in line. This coffee shop has one of the best views of the harbor and great lighting. They have baked goods and Oregon Chai.
World’s Skinniest Latte Shop
You may have heard of a skinny latte, but have you hear of a skinny latte shop. If you are thinking this a is a diet coffee shop, you wrong. It’s actually just a skinny little hallway that sells coffee This is a quirky little spot you will find when walking on Spring Street, the main Avenue of Friday Harbor. The official name of this spot is the Coffee Bar Latte Shop. Unfortunately, it was closed when we walked by, but it is the tiniest hole in the wall coffee shop with only standing room for the customer and barista inside. This is a pretty unique spot on the island.
The hours are “island time,” and change day by day. The sign posted on the coffee spot describes her hours as such: Open most days about 9 or 10 am, occasionally as early as 7, but some days as late as 12 or 1. I leave about 5:30 or 6 pm and occasionally 4 or 5. So good luck finding it when it is open! I sure didn’t unfortunately.
King’s Market & outdoor store
This is a quality grocery store on the island with lots of fresh produce, organic goods, local goods, and a high-quality outdoor gear upstairs for sale. The shop is full of REI brand names like Patagonia, Chacos, Prana and many more. There are great deals and unique styles making it a little different from your typical outdoor store.
Open 7:30am-9pm daily
Sand Pebble Boutique
Sand Pebble Boutique is one of the two boutiques I fell in love with on the island. I wanted to buy everything inside the store because it was so beautiful. This is a modern trendy boutique with home decor, journals/planners, rugs, PNW outdoor branding and gear, books, nice clothes, and so much more. Definitely better than the boutiques I have found on Whidbey or Fidalgo islands. This boutique sits next to my other favorite boutique shop, Deer Hazel, which is awesome because I think these are of the best shops on the island.
Deer Hazel Boutique
Deer Hazel was my other favorite boutique store in Friday Harbor. It was right up the stretch from Sand Pebble. This store is more feminine-oriented out of the two. Sand Pebble has stuff for both men and women, but Deer Hazel is really just for women. It has quality clothes, shoes, jewelry, candles, and other home decor products as well.
Open 10:30 am-6pm daily Monday-Sunday
Pelindaba Lavender Shop
This is the in-town lavender shop for the lavender farm that is about an hour outside of town. The shop is a great place to visit especially during seasons when the lavender field is not in bloom. Just because you can’t be there when it blooms in the Summer, doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the quality skin products that they offer. This shop is right next door to the Bean Cafe in downtown and is a great place to get souvenirs from the island.
Pelindaba Lavendar Farm
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What do rubber bands and paperclips have to do with harvesting lavender? After the stems are harvested, we create uniform bundles and secure each with a rubber band – as lavender stalks dry, they shrink a bit. A simple rubber band keeps everything secure! And paperclips? We have found that unfolded paper clips are the most efficient way to hang our lavender bundles. We hang each lavender bundle by a paperclip from racks in our Drying barn, Distillery, Visitor Center, Production Center and any other nook or cranny we can find. It will take 4-6 weeks for the lavender to dry fully and be ready for use in our lavender-based products that we handcraft on the farm!⠀ ⠀ ***⠀ #harvesting #farmlife #lavender #pelindabalavender #lavenderfestival #visitsanjuan #sanjuanisland #farm #lavenderfarm
Pelindaba Lavender farm is on the southern half of San Juan Island, 4 miles south of Lime Kiln lighthouse, and 15 minutes west of Friday Harbor. The farm is a sprawling with 30,000 organic lavender plants in the spacious country outside the city, reaching full peak bloom in July every summer. You can come to harvest your own lavender in baskets, take lavender cooking classes, or buy some of their own essential oils made at their own distillery on site. They sell and make kitchen products, home and cleaning products, as well as personal skin care and essential oil products. Entrance to the farm is FREE! Read more about the farm and their products here.
9:30am-5:30pm daily open
Lime Kiln Lighthouse
Lime Kiln ligthhouse is a state park on the west coast of San Juan Island. This light house park has hiking trails all along the bluff with great views of the ocean. This is known as one of the best whale watching spots on the island. The pods, include humpback and minke whales, pass through every May-September. This is a 1919 vintage lighthouse with beautiful views and lots of picnic tables along the path to stop and take in the beauty for the afternoon. The park is 41 acres of nature to explore, hiking trails and great for biking. You must have a Discover Pass to gain park entrance and park. The Interpretive center hours: Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily between May 28 and September 11. Free map here!
Roche Harbor is a sheltered harbor on the northwest side of San Juan Island. Roche Harbor is a quaint peaceful harbor and resort town. There is one resort that makes up most of the income and business of the couple stores and shops in Roche Harbor. The small town is filled with lots of beautiful harbor home rentals that are on the hill as you walk down into the main downtown area with the Resort sitting right on the harbor.
The harbor boasts a beautiful historic white chapel on the hill overlooking the water, as well as an old school dock, and mom and pop shop selling snacks and souvenirs. There is one public restaurant in Roche Harbor, a small diner serving comfort food on the pier. It has great windows, light, and views of the boats outside. There is a boutique to shop with homeware and decor right next to the free bocce ball court and historic Lime Kilns made by the British soldiers. Roche Harbor is a fun place to have lunch and walk on the harbor. There is also a mausoleum in the woods you can hike out to from Roche Harbor. It’s a nice, short hike to see the mythical stone memorial in the forest.
How to get there
From downtown Friday Harbor you get onto Roche Harbor Road and it takes you all the way north to the tip of the island. It is a 10 mile drive that takes about 20 minutes to drive across the whole island from south in Friday Harbor to north, Roche Harbor.
Things to do in Roche Harbor
This park is bigger than it looks and includes trails into the woods and around nearby ponds. It is a place filled with easy nature walks in the country. There is unique local art on display as well as local totem pole representing Native American art from the Northwest. There are some interactive art and sculpture pieces as well. This is a great space for kids to play and create art. There are 150 sculptures on the trail, and they are rotated every 2 years.
Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel
This is a historic chapel sitting on the hill overlooking the harbor and still holds mass every summer. The chapel is open to the public and is a beautiful peaceful spot on Roche Harbor with great views. This chapel is on your way to the mausoleum in the woods. Also, there is a public pier and swimming area down from the chapel.
The Mausoleum is a memorial by a local historical figure, John S. McMillin. The Mausoleum is also referred to as the Afterglow Vista, named after the road that leads up to this point on the island. This short hike is right outside of Roche Harbor Resort area. There is free parking for the hike right by the small airfield. After parking, take the open dirt trailhead across from the parking area that gently ascends up into the trees. You will come across a graveyard, keep walking and stay right on the main trail. The trail will open up and widen through the trees until you reach the mausoleum. This is a beautiful hiking trail and an epic memorial in the woods.
Roche Harbor Resort
The harbor and pier are a part of the resort that makes up the whole Roche Harbor community downtown. The resort grounds are open to the public, and there is one old school diner out on the pier to eat, as well as a mom and pop general store with Roche Harbor souvenirs. The grounds are filled with flowers and a beautiful vine trellis with flowers leading to the harbor. The area is super cute to walk around and during Spring and Summer, there are lots of stands set up with vendors selling ice cream, home goods, clothes, and jewelry. Eating lunch on the harbor after walking around looking at the boats and the chapel makes for a great afternoon. Afterwards, you can visit the mausoleum and see the sculpture park on your way back to Friday Harbor.