Spending a Weekend on San Juan Island

San Juan Island sits in the northwest corner of Washington state, just across the water from Canada. Located three hours north of Seattle by car and ferry, San Juan Island hosts visitors from around the world. It is one of four islands in the San Juan Island archipelago served by the Washington State Ferry system. 

Things To Do

Start your day on the island with donuts and coffee at the Lime Kiln Cafe. If the weather is nice, snag an outdoor table. Lime Kiln Cafe’s waterfront location makes it the perfect place to watch boats come and go at Roche Harbor. 

Lime Kiln Cafe building and mural in San Juan Island, Washington

There are ample activities at Roche Harbor, so after breakfast spend some time strolling around the historic property, and visit the Roche Harbor Sculpture Park. This quiet greenspace is dotted with over 120 sculptures by Northwest artists. $5 donations for adult visitors are appreciated (children and dogs are free). 

If you’re visiting San Juan Island on a first or third Saturday during March, or any Saturday from April through October, head to the town of Friday Harbor mid-morning to explore the local farmer’s market. Here you’ll find local produce, baked goods and artwork from local makers. Stock up on some island treats to take home.  

For lunch, pick up to-go sandwiches from Spring Street Deli on Friday Harbor’s main street, and drive to Lime Kiln Point State Park for a picnic. Here you’ll find yourself at the heart of the whale trail — keep an eye out for orca whales and other wildlife. The San Juan Islands are a premier destination for whale watching. Even if you aren’t lucky with a whale sighting, the scenery at Lime Kiln is breathtaking so be sure to spend some time hiking around. Lime Kiln has 1.6 miles of well-marked hiking trails that hug the coastline, ending at a picturesque lighthouse. A Washington State Park Discover Pass or parking fee is required.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse in San Juan Island, Washington

If you need an afternoon pick-me-up, head back into Friday Harbor and stop at the Crow’s Nest Coffee Shoppe on Spring Street. In town you’ll find plenty of shops to browse. Pop into Griffin Bay Bookstore and Sandpebble, both also located on Spring Street. 

San Juan Island Brewing Company is a great place for a casual, fun dinner. Heated tents and ample outdoor seating make this a perfect spot to enjoy a spring evening. I recommend a pizza or the CBJ burger. 

Start your Sunday with coffee and a breakfast sandwich to-go at Salty Fox Coffee, right across from the ferry dock. The walk-up window makes ordering easy. Find a table outside or a bench near the ferry dock to enjoy your breakfast and the quiet morning hours in town.   

San Juan Island National Historic Park sign

Next, drive to San Juan Island National Historic Park for a long walk along South Beach. While some of the park facilities are currently closed due to the global pandemic, the beach and cliff hiking trails are open.  

After hiking and exploring the park a visit to the Whale Museum. is a great way to learn more about San Juan Island’s most famous residents and the Salish Sea ecosystem.  

Whale Museum in San Juan Island, Washington

To wrap up your visit to San Juan Island, splurge on dinner at Duck Soup. Duck Soup is a charming spot tucked in the woods in the middle of the island. You won’t be disappointed with the food and cozy atmosphere. (Reservations recommended.)

Where To Stay

San Juan Island has a variety of boutique hotels and vacation rentals. For a glamping experience, consider staying in a cozy yurt or cabin at Lakedale Resort. To experience island history and a bit of luxury, book a historic hotel room at Roche Harbor Resort.

Welcome to San Juan Island sign in Washington

How To Get To San Juan Island 

San Juan Island can only be accessed by boat or plane. The island is serviced by Washington State Ferries. To arrive by ferry, make a reservation in advance for the Anacortes to Friday Harbor route. For a scenic adventure, fly to the San Juan Islands from Seattle with Kenmore Air.

Avatar photo

Elizabeth Blanton

Elizabeth Blanton is a communications professional based on San Juan Island, WA. She loves exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dog, and any excuse to pull out her passport. Elizabeth has written about Pacific Northwest destinations (and beyond) for a variety of travel publications. Find her on instagram @elizabeth_blanton. 


  1. Avatar photo Tim Condon on March 26, 2021 at 5:01 am

    The San Juan Islands have been on my bucket list for years, but I need some help in deciding the best way to experience them. What is recommended for my first visit? Should I charter a boat and spend a week going from island to island? Or would flying to San Juan Island from the mainland and sharing a week between a hotels in Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor be a better way to go? What do you recommend?

    • Avatar photo Chris Scott on March 29, 2021 at 7:15 pm

      If you have a week I recommend taking the ferry out of Anacortes. Then you have the ultimate flexibility to go wherever you want. I would go mid week to mid week to avoid long ferry lines.

  2. […] The Whale Trail is a series of locations that give a front-row seat to whales, dolphins and other marine mammals from the land. It runs from Canada to southern California and includes over 100 different sites. Many of these locales provide educational facilities, interpretive signs and information regarding what species you may see there. To land a spot on this list, these sites must meet the criteria of being in a publicly accessible location and provide a good chance of seeing marine life – in other words, you’re already ahead of the game. Washington’s portion of the Whale Trail begins right across the Oregon border at Cape Disappointment State Park, runs north hugging the Olympic Peninsula, rounds the bend into Puget Sound and dots the islands of the San Juans.  […]

  3. […] of the Evergreen State features an impressive archipelago of more than 400 islands — known as the San Juan Islands — visited by tourists in search of sea kayaking or whale watching, as well as thousands of […]

  4. […] and forested trails, Lopez Island is the place for you. Lopez Island, the third largest of the San Juan Islands is about an hour and a half drive and short ferry ride from Seattle. You won’t find a […]

  5. […] you can see almost the entire pristine blue lake, northern views of the Olympic Mountains, the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island. My husband and I first tackled Mount Storm King several years ago, and since […]

  6. […] Washington State Parks that are available all over the Puget Sound, including the world-renowned San Juan Islands. (Hint: Buy a yearly park pass. They pay for themselves after seven nights!) We found that visiting […]

  7. […] in the Pacific Northwest on Fidalgo Island. Locals from Washington State may have been to the San Juan Islands (accessible via ferry boat on Fidalgo), but few have actually explored or gotten out in Anacortes […]

  8. […] of the Hotel de Haro can enjoy spa treatments, boat tours and local artisan markets. As an island community, Roche Harbor also offers whale watching, guided fishing trips and trails with abundant water […]

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.