Fall and early Winter on San Juan Island, nestled in the Olympic rain shadow, are simply stunning. The colors, the crisp air, the uncrowded beaches. Join us for the Friday Harbor Winterfest and Festival of Lights, from November 30 through December 31, and ring in the season with style. Now is the time to treat yourself to an uncomplicated island getaway, complete with massage, romantic dinner and Winter wildlife watching, when our friends at the Earthbox Inn & Spa are offering their irresistible lodging specials.
When the rains return to Seattle and the Summer toys get put away, when there is nothing left to do in the garden, then it’s time for a secret season getaway to San Juan Island. Only 65 miles north of Seattle, WA and south of Vancouver, BC, the isle is easily reached and yet a world away. Stunning natural beauty, phenomenal wildlife, breathtaking art, culture and outstanding food await. Check out these fun ideas on what to do in this comprehensive article 10 Reasons to visit San Juan Island in October.
Let’s face it…visiting an island is more expensive than staying on the mainland. For one, everything needs to be shipped or flown over. In addition, taxes, wages, property and utilities, especially drinking water, are a lot higher. So what’s a budget traveler seeking a San Juan Island getaway to do? Easy! Visit in beautiful Fall, take advantage of shoulder season specials and know about all the breathtaking places and fun things to do, which are free as the birds.
Here is your comprehensive insider guide to visiting San Juan Island on a budget!
How to Get Here
The Washington State Ferry runs year-round, several times per day, from Anacortes to Friday Harbor. Ferry fares are less expensive in Fall, Winter and Spring and are always round-trip. You can either walk on the ferry or drive your car. If you opt to travel without your car, you can park it in Anacortes and walk on for under $15 per person (without a reservation). If you bring a car (under $55 for car and driver), reservations are recommended, but not quite as necessary as during Summer travel times.
Insider Tip: Carpool with friends or another family to keep costs down
Where to Stay
Almost all hotels on San Juan Island run amazing specials in the shoulder season. The Earthbox Inn & Spa in Friday Harbor, conveniently located 3 ½ blocks from the ferry terminal, offers rooms as low as $129 in October. Earthbox has the added benefit of having the only heated, indoor pool on the island as well as a sauna, hot tub and exercise room. The hotel also features a full-service, on-site spa, free parking, free wifi and free coffee and tea in the lobby all day.
Insider Tip: Take advantage of the free Beach Cruiser Bikes and ride to San Juan Vineyards, three miles out of town, for a wine tasting.
Explore the two National Historical Parks and their numerous, breathtaking hikes. Look for whales and wildlife at Lime Kiln State Park, also known as the Whale Watch Park, one of the best places to see whales from land in the world. Go beach combing and observe over 200 seabirds calling the island their home.
Insider Tip: Have a bonfire and watch the sunset at South Beach, San Juan Island’s longest, wildest beach.
Check out the funny and adorable looking Alpacas at Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm and stop by San Juan Vineyards for a weekend wine tasting. Visit the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Friday Harbor to listen to free live music, browse farm, arts and craft stands and for a quick bite to eat.
Insider Tip: On a clear evening, visit the Pelindaba Lavender Farm’s gorgeous grounds dotted with sculptures. Bring a blanket and gaze at stars.
Stroll the seven galleries within walking distance of the ferry terminal in Friday Harbor. Don’t miss a visit to the San Juan Sculpture Park on the north end on the isle, displaying over 150 national and international sculptures on 20 spectacular acres.
Insider Tip: If you have artistically inclined kids, take advantage of the free Family Art Days at San Juan Islands Museum of Art every Saturday through December.
Eat like Lords
Share a hearty breakfast at Rocky Bay Café or the Hungry Clam, both known for their generous servings. Buy the makings of an uncomplicated picnic lunch - a loaf of fresh bread and a bottle of wine from San Juan Bakery, cheeses and charcuterie from San Juan Bistro and some smoked salmon and smoked scallops from Friday Harbor Seafood at the port – and feast al fresco at your favorite beach overlooking the Salish Sea.
Insider Tip: Don’t miss the Bite of San Juan on October 27, at Brickworks, showcasing San Juan Island’s fabulous chef’s and the island grown food for their unique concoctions. Bites start at $3.
Savor the San Juans, from September 21 to November 9, is San Juan’s Fall festival for all senses. From Farm tours and wine tastings, restaurant and lodging specials to our very own Film Festival and exciting new art exhibitions, the island exhales after a long, beautiful Summer and shows off its harvest bounty.
In Friday Harbor you’ll find three Museums and seven art galleries in walking distance to the ferry dock, each one worth a weekend visit alone. Among them the fantastic Waterworks Gallery on 315 Argyle Avenue, showcasing contemporary art and jewelry, inspired by the Pacific Northwest.
Above picture is of a watercolor by the talented Daniel Finn. His work can be found at Waterworks Gallery and Café Demeter.
It’s no secret, the waters around San Juan Island are one of the best to see Orca Whales in the wild. Our community deeply cares about their well-being, habitat and environmental challenges. The native Lummi tribe even considers them their relatives. No wonder San Juan Island has so much more to offer than just whale watching. There are abundant resources to learn about the black fish and to get involved. To experience everything Whale on San Juan Island, please enjoy this lovely article on how to have a Whale of a Weekend on San Juan Island.
After a day of beach combing, kayaking, whale watching, climbing mountains, seeing a seal and an eagle up close and visiting the Sculpture Park, the troops are hungry! With over 40 restaurants within walking distance to the ferry to choose from, finding the place which serves something everybody will eat and fast, can be an (admittedly very delicious) challenge. Luckily our friends at the Earthbox Inn & Spa have shared their kid-tested and approved 5 Best Places to Eat with Kids in Friday Harbor. And pssst, there is an ice cream shop on the waterfront offering 75 flavors, for a nice after dinner stroll on the docks.
If you live in our glorious Washington State anywhere along the I-5 corridor, you’ve talked, endured and/or heard about it today already: the traffic. You plan your outings and shopping around it. Arranging a weekend getaway involving ferry travel may even seem daunting at times. But to get to the secluded, breathtakingly beautiful places, you’ll need your car, right? Not so! Thanks to Clipper Vacations.
Clipper Vacations run passenger-only ferries from Pier 69 in downtown Seattle directly to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island from April 23 to October 13 (weekends only on September and October). Instead of sitting in traffic and worrying if you will make the car ferry, take a stunning 3-hour and 45 minute boat ride through the glistening Salish Sea, underneath the majestic Deception Pass bridge, leisurely winding through the San Juan Island archipelago until docking in perfectly walkable Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Clipper offers a gift shop, locally-sourced, freshly prepared, light snacks and beer and wine on their boat. There are three viewing decks and amble indoor seating, as well as wheel chair access and restrooms. Puppies in carriers and bikes are allowed on board for a fee.
Add a whale watch tour and stay a while by adding a night--or a few --at the lovely Earthbox Inn & Spa, a retro motor-inn with indoor heated pool, sauna, hot tub and exercise room, a full service, on-site spa and free beach cruiser bikes to check out the nearest beaches.
The former fishing village of Friday Harbor offers over 40 restaurants, cute shops and boutiques, the Saturday Farmer’s Market, four museums and seven galleries, all in walking distance to the harbor and the Earthbox Inn & Spa. Take the cute Friday Harbor Jolley Trolley or rent a moped to explore the two National Historical Parks on the isle, visit the lavender farm, the sculpture park or shuck your own oysters at beautiful Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm.
Come treat yourself to a truly relaxing island getaway as the Summer winds down and the leaves begin to turn and enjoy the beauty and harvest bounty of San Juan Island, so close, yet feeling so far away.
A massage treatment reduces stress, improves circulation, loosens tight muscles and tendons, reduces pain, eliminate toxins, improves flexibility and sleep, enhance Immunity and reduces fatigue. But most of all, massages feel so good!
The cute Spa at Earthbox in Friday Harbor offers not only an array of massage treatments, but also rejuvenating body treatments, soothing facials as well as nail care, eyelash extensions and sugaring. Sugaring? It’s a form of hair removal similar to waxing, but more hygienic, less painful and longer lasting than waxing. This spa uses stones from San Juan Island’s beaches for their Hot Stone Massages. How cool is that?
Nothing gets you out of a rut and in touch with what you really want and need like a solo trip. Such trips are so healing and rejuvenating, especially for most of us women, who habitually put the needs of others before our own. San Juan Island is close by, safe, has tons of fun stuff to do, super friendly people and plenty of room to find solitude and calm. Check out these solid Solo Trip Tips and your Solo San Juan Island Itinerary here.
San Juan Island is abuzz with activities in the summer. There are whale watch tours, kayak trips, beautiful beaches to hike and tall hills to explore. There are summer art fairs, cute boutiques and galleries, free live music and unique farms waiting to be checked out.
And yet if it’s just the fresh air that you crave, you can find yourself completely alone in nature, really feel the magic of the island and hear nothing but the waves and birds. Find 7 Ways to be One with Nature on San Juan Island here.