10 Best Places to Shop in Friday Harbor

The San Juan Islands offer incredible scenic beauty and so many wonderful opportunities to escape “regular life”.  But THE San Juan Island is the only isle in the archipelago where the ferry docks right in the cute coastal town of Friday Harbor. The streets are lined with restaurants, galleries, museums, shops and boutiques. And the best part: the whole town is completely walkable. Shopping here is a breeze and so much fun. Here are 10 not-to-be-missed places to check out:

1)         The Mystical Mermaid

This magical, new agey crystal, rock and mineral store, on Spring Street, features whimsical art from over 50 artists, air plants, candles, tarot cards, CDs, books, jewelry and home décor. Don’t miss the adorable indoor garden tucked away in the back, replete with live birds.

 2)         Island Studios

Right next door find Island Studios, representing over 200 San Juan Islands artist and their versatile arts & crafts. They have the tiniest outdoor sculpture and art garden by a fountain in the back.

 3)         Farmer’s Market

Saturday’s Farmer’s Market in the heart of Friday Harbor is a festive, colorful affair with live music, arts & crafts, chair massages, informational booths, and fresh, local produce, seafood, meats & cheeses. You’ll also find plenty of ready-to-eat food like freshly baked pizza or paella, sweet and savory pastries, soups and quiches.

 4)         Friday Harbor Chocolates

This former barber shop on Spring Street sells handcrafted chocolates and confections made with natural ingredients and no preservatives, along with dessert wines and port. Have Aylene help you pair your truffles with the perfect Port and lovingly gift wrap your souvenirs.

5)         Deer Hazel

Enjoy strolling through this welcoming, unique boutique on Spring Street, selling youthful clothing lines, handmade jewelry and island-inspired accessories.

6)         Toy Box

Come play at the best toy store in town. Find gag gifts, kites, puzzles, stuffed animals, dolls, educational games and the world’s farthest flying frisbees.

7)         Serendipity Bookstore

This used book store with over 17,000 paper and hard backs stacked neatly inside a cute Victorian house is so much fun to explore. Between the extremely knowledgeable owner and the comprehensive computer inventory you are bound to find your perfect Summer read.

8)         Arctic Raven Gallery

Fine art gallery featuring Arctic and Northwest Coast Native work. Explore enchanting masks, wood carvings and prints depicting the rich history of our local tribes like the Coast Salish, Kwaguilth or Makah.

9)         Funk’n’Junk

The licensed auctioneers and certified appraisers at Funk & Junk run one of the loveliest antique stores in the Pacific Northwest. Browse through their store on Nichols Street filled to the brim with American and Victorian furniture, glass and silverware, housewares, decorative and marine themed items, art, pottery, Native American arts & crafts and musical instruments.

10)    Girlfriends

This adorable, high-end consignment store located near the Farmer’s Market makes you feel just like being out with the girls. Debbie and her staff will make honest suggestions and help you select outfits and accessories for any occasion. They have a fine men’s section as well.

Hello from San Juan County Park

On San Juan Island’s scenic Westside, 10 miles from Friday Harbor, find the rocky bluffs, pebble beaches, tide pools and breathtaking vistas of San Juan’s adorable 12-acre County Park.

 Charmingly named Small Pox Bay, where Native Americans waded to cool their fevers, is where kayakers put in to explore the dramatic Haro Strait. The shallow, protected bay gets warm enough for a refreshing dip in Summer. The rocky bluff above, dotted with picnic tables, lends itself to lawn games, picnics with a view and wildlife watching. On Friday evenings throughout the Summer Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center holds wildlife talks here.

10 Reasons why you need a San Juan Island Vacation

How is your Summer going? Have you had the fun, the relaxation, the adventure and all of the leisure time that you deserve? If not, there’s still time to schedule a San Juan Island getaway? Come on up before the kiddos go back to school or plan a romantic Fall weekend just for the two of you! Bucket list adventures, fresh seafood, art and music festivals and the beaches beckon! Find 10 more Reasons why you need a San Juan Island Vacation here.

5 Best Seafood Restaurants in Friday Harbor

Where to go to get the best fresh Wild Salmon, Halibut, Cod, local mussels, oysters, clams and Spotted Prawns in Friday Harbor?

With 44 restaurants within walking distance of the ferry to choose from, finding exactly what you like, can be a delicious challenge. Our friends at the Earthbox Inn & Spa have done all of the heavy (fork) lifting for you and are sharing their 5 Favorite Seafood Restaurants in Friday Harbor here! Bon appetite!

3 Totally Cool, Non-invasive Ways to observe Whales & Wildlife on San Juan Island

Any time of the year is an amazing time to observe the majestic whales and stunning wildlife on San Juan Island. Humpbacks have made a huge comeback in recent years. We also see Greys and Minkes, who look to the untrained eyes like mini Orcas. There are sea lions, seals, otters and over 200 species of migratory seabirds to explore and of course, the famous Orcas themselves. The mammal-eating Biggs Killer Whales are having lots of healthy, fat babies, thanks to a surplus of harbor seals. Our endangered Resident Killer Whales are struggling. Their diet consists mostly of Chinook (King) Salmon and there is not enough of it. Visit the Friday Harbor Whale Museum, three blocks from the ferry landing, to learn about their history, habitat and challenges, then get out there and see for yourself!

 1)        From Land

Lime Kiln State Park, also known as the Whale Watch Park on the westside of San Juan Island, is one of the best spots to observe whales from land on earth. The 42-acre-park features the historic Lime Kiln Lighthouse, which turned 100 years this June and doubles as an interpretive center. There are shaded, ADA-accessible trails to the whale watching platforms, picnic tables with the most amazing views, a food truck with ice cream and sandwiches and a rebuilt lime kiln to explore.

2)        By Kayak

Silently gliding through the crystal clear Salish Sea on a guided kayak tour is a profound experience. Our friends at San Juan Outfitters in Roche Harbor offer 3 & 5 hour tours, tours especially dedicated to searching for Orcas and the very special Bioluminescent tours during the New Moon, when reactive plankton creates the most phosphorescent glow. All ages and experience levels are welcome. Give them a ring and find out which tour is best for you and yours.

3)        By Boat

Your best chance to see whales and other wildlife are from a professional and extremely responsible whale watch tour provider. The fun San Juan Safaris offer multiple tours per day out of Friday Harbor, always have at least one, if not two naturalists on board and all their vessels have “heads” -  that’s “boat” for “bathroom”.  For families with small kids or on a day with cooler weather, chose a trip on the Sea Lion with heated cabin and 360 degree viewing deck and make memories of a lifetime.

Summer Family Vacation San Juan Island

Do you remember your school days from childhood? Getting up awfully early, sitting still in class, homework, dinner, playtime? Yeah, me neither. But we all do remember our family vacations, the first time we saw a whale, climbing the tiny spiral staircase of a lighthouse, touching an anemone and that huge cherry ice cream we ate on the ferry. Give your family the gift of memories and experiences with a San Juan Island vacation this Summer. This great article from our friends at the Bird Rock Hotel outlines the10 Best Family Fun Things-to-do on San Juan Islandthis Summer.

Happy Independence Day from San Juan Island!

4th of July is a big deal on San Juan Island. Festivities starts at 10:30am with an adorable small town parade, immediately followed by a community Pig War Picnic on the corner of Spring and Price Street by the baseball field in Friday Harbor. The historic resort of Roche Harbor on the north end of the isle features fun activities throughout the day, like the legendary blindfolded Dinghy Race or the Log Rolling contest. And come evening, both Roche Harbor and the town of Friday Harbor will have stunning fireworks over the water. Come celebrate America’s birthday with us!

 Photo by Anne Dubert.

5 Best Places to Go Swimming on San Juan Island

Swimming in the Salish Sea, even in July and August, is not for the faint of heart, especially if you are over 6 years old or have only two feet and no fur. That doesn’t mean you’ll have to go without when vacationing on gorgeous San Juan Island. There are breathtaking lakes to explore, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a few sheltered coves, where the salty sea does warm up enough for a refreshing dip. Find the 5 Best Places to go Swimming on San Juan Island here.

Orcas, Art & History – How to Make the Most out of Your San Juan Island Vacation

1)        How long to stay?

At least two nights, any less and you are likely to feel rushed.  Stay a little while and experience the isle’s slower pace. A week is ideal. Keep in mind, San Juan Island will always be here and you will definitely want to come back. It has happened to all of us! Consider coming midweek to take advantage of lodging specials.

2)        Don’t over-plan!

The best part about a San Juan Island Getaway is to just … be. Allow yourself to meander the streets of the adorable coastal town of Friday Harbor, lined with restaurants, cute boutiques, shops and galleries. Stay at the beach for the sunset. Ask the front desk at your hotel about special happenings or events, like free live music in the park. Leave room for spontaneity and feel really free!

3)        Whales & Wildlife

San Juan Island is best known for its exceptional wildlife. Here you’ll find a nesting Bald Eagle couple for every mile of shoreline, plus over 200 migratory seabirds to observe. The best place for birding are the dunes by Cattle Point Lighthouse in American Camp National Historic Park. Watch killer whales, humpbacks, sea lions, seals and more on a guided Whale & Wildlife Tour with San Juan Safaris. Spend some time at Lime Kiln State Park, also known as the Whale Watch Park, one of the best places to observe Orcas from land in the world, complete with whale watching platforms, an interpretive center in an historic lighthouse and a hydrophone to let you hear the whales sing.

4)        Art

There are seven galleries and four museums in walking distance to the ferry dock in Friday Harbor. You say that’s not enough? There is more: San Juan Island’s Sculpture Park on the north end of the isle, displays over 150 sculptures along five trails leading through woods, along the shore and around a natural lake. Visit the buzzling historic resort of Roche Harbor, featuring an entire street lined with artist’s booths in the Summer. Join us for the Annual Lavender Festival at the stunning Pelindaba Lavender Farm on July 20 & 21, 2019, a very good smelling mini arts fair with live music, amazing food, kids activities and learn everything you ever wanted to know about Lavender.

5)        History Lives Here

Two absolutely gorgeous National Historic Parks pay testament to San Juan Island’s Pig War, the last war fought on American soil. Enjoy historic re-enactments and demonstrations of life during the 19thcentury on Summer weekends there. Don’t miss the San Juan Historical Museums grounds in Friday Harbor, speckled with historic buildings and home to the free Music in the Park Summer series. 

6)        Food

The San Juan Islands are known as the “Gourmet Archipelago”. Our talented island chefs concoct the most artful, fresh and tasty fare from the healthy island-grown produce and local seafood. Visit the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Friday Harbor for fantastic ready-to-eat food like paella and pizza. Have a romantic dinner at Friday Harbor’s renowned Farm-to-Table -Restaurants like COHO or the Back Door Kitchen or go dessert and cocktail hopping one evening.

June is Orca Awareness Month

This beautiful photo of J26 and J50, who we lost in 2018, was taken by Whale Watch Captain James Maya with Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching. He sent it along with the following message:

“This is my small gift to you. Make prints of this image, as many as you like. Give them away, send them to friends, gift them to others, go spread the word, the story of J50, and the SRKWs and their plight. Talk about salmon restoration. Join the Center for Whale Research. Give your dollars to worthy causes. Talk about global warming. Talk about the Snake River. Talk about the Big Leaf Maples that are dying. There is much to be done. Spread the word. 

J50 and her clan are the canaries in the coal mine. Our environment is the coal mine. The canaries are dying.”

Capt. Jim

James Mead Maya