It has been proven that having and spending more money doesn’t necessarily make you happier. What does though is fun, fulfilling experiences, deep awe of nature and making memories with your family. Gorgeous San Juan Island offers tons of things to do, which aren’t expensive at all or even free. Come on up and spend an entire weekend doing things for under $10 each.
1) Whale Watching
Cost: Free, parking requires a Discover Pass or is $10 per vehicle per day
Lime Kiln State Park, also known as the Whale Watch Park, is the best place to see Orcas from land on the planet. Whales are typically seen twice per day during the Summer. The park boasts an interpretive center, whale watching platforms, a hydrophone for listening to wildlife under water, a historic lighthouse, a rebuilt lime kiln, nature trails, picnic tables and bathrooms.
2) Sculpture Park
Cost: $5 suggested donation per adult, kids and puppies are free
San Juan Islands Sculpture Park features over 150 sculptures from local, national and international artists along five trails on 40 acres. Meander through meadows and woods along a natural lake and beautiful Westcott Bay, put a wish in the Tibetan wishing urns and have the kids create their own art at the Starfish Project, a starfish shaped sandbox filled with drift wood, sea shells and art supplies. Have a picnic under the watchful eyes of nesting Bad Eagles and marvel.
3) Shuck your own Oysters at the Oyster Farm
Cost: $8 for a half dozen
Visit the idyllic Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm, learn all about the delicious bivalves and see aquaculture farming in action, while shucking and enjoying the plumpest, freshest oysters. Westcott Bay also grows and sells Manila Clams and Mediterranean Mussels to take home, and offers beer, wine and island made breads, cheeses and charcuterie to enjoy at their sunny picnic tables.
4) Shakespeare under the Stars
Cost: Free, donations appreciated
Talented, San Juan Island based theater troupe Island Stage Left puts on a Shakespeare play every summer at permanent outdoor stage on Wold Road. Bring a blanket and wear layers, show up early for good seats and enjoy world class performances under the twinkling stars. Shows start at 8:00pm sharp.
5) Bonfire at South Beach
Cost: a bundle of wood and some s’mores
South Beach in American Camp National Park is San Juan Island’s longest, most breathtaking beach. Surrounded by high cliffs and prairie, this pebble and driftwood beach gives way to astonishing views of the Olympic Mountains. Sit by your fire and watch the sunset while whales and sea lions swim by.
6) Pig War Re-enactment
Every Saturday from June through August American and Canadian re-enactors are recreating 19th century Royal Marine Light Infantry and U.S. Army camp life at the English Camp and American Camp National Park barracks. Watch spinning, weaving, blacksmithing, cooperage and black powder rifled musket demonstrations to commemorate the island’s Pig War and ensuing British and American occupation from 1859 to 1872, and final settlement of the Northwest Boundary dispute. This is a fun way to learn about American history in a spectacular setting.
7) Ice Cream at Friday Harbor’s Waterfront
Cost: $3.50 per scoop
The Friday Harbor Ice Cream Company right by Friday Harbor’s ferry landing, offers 72 flavors of frozen goodness, one more flavor- and colorful than the next. Treat yourself while watching sailboats bob and seaplanes land and enjoying a lovely Summer day in our cute coastal town.
8) Distillery Tour & Tasting
San Juan Island Distillery and Cidery offers free tours and tastings every Saturday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Learn which apples make the best cider and which cider makes the best brandy. Tease your taste buds with island flavor infused liqueurs like Madrone or Wild Rose and Lavender and check out the shiny Adrian Copper Still.
9) Stroll Galleries, Antique Stores & Boutiques
Cost: Free, if you stay strong
The mesmerizing, former fishing village of Friday Harbor sports seven unique galleries and countless boutiques, antique stores and shops in walking distance to the ferry dock. Get inspired by island made arts, crafts and fares, try on a new style, window shop for your imaginary yacht and envelope yourself in the islander’s friendliness and stories.
10) Alpaca Farm
Watch these cute, soft members of the camelid family from the viewing platform at the scenic Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm and discover that alpaca wool is five times warmer than wool and how they communicate by spitting. Don’t try the latter at home!