Top 10 Summer Activities

Here are our top 10 summer things to do. Okay, we couldn't limit it to just 10...so if you are counting, there are 12. Even if you only fit in 10, you will so rewarded.

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1. Whale & Wildlife Watching

On San Juan Island, we obsess about the Orcas! These huge marine mammals frequent our shores from late March to early October, and their whereabouts, health and activities are more important to the islanders than any celebrity sightings. Join those of us who love these sea creatures by booking passage on a whale watching boat that departs the San Juan Island and searches the straits and bays for J, K or L Pod, the killer whales of the Salish Sea. While cruising, you will be guided by trained naturalists who will point out Bald Eagles soaring overhead, and the countless other marine life which fill our lives here on the island.

Kayaking San Juan Island

2. Sea Kayaking

Kayaking San Juan IslandWhether you only have an afternoon or several days to spend on the water, heading out with a highly trained guide for a sea kayak adventure is a memorable experience.  If you bring your own kayaks, there are several safe harbors from which to launch, and islands awaiting your discovery.

San Juan Island Biking

3. Hiking & Biking

San Juan Island BikingStroll along a pebbly beach, find a private alcove, stride amongst tall trees, hike through a meadow full of foxes and rabbits.  Bike the 32 mile trail around the island, or just pedal peacefully through the town of Friday Harbor.

San Juan Islands Aerial

4. Day Trips to Other Islands

San Juan Islands Aerial

Ride the inter-island ferry to Orcas, Shaw and Lopez Islands, or schedule private transportation to some of the other islands (there are 743 islands, islets and reefs – 428 at high tide!)  Explore the archipelago in all its beauty.

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5. Visit the Lavender Farm

Pelindaba Lavender Farm is beautiful during the summer when the plants cast a light purple hue on the fields. Wander through the fields at any time (just close the gates behind you please) – committed to sustainable agriculture, creating essential oils, handcrafted personal products, and so much more.

San Juan Island 4th of July Parade

12. Visit for the 4th of July Parade, Street Dance, Fireworks and Pig War Barbecue

The Island celebrates from 5 am when the first canons go off in Friday Harbor to 11:30 p.m. when the last of the fire works are finished.  Join the community for a barbecue and then a Rock the Dock Dance by the Port of  Friday Harbor.San Juan Island 4th of July Parade

San Juan Island Beaches & Hiking

6. Picnic

San Juan Island Beaches & HikingFind a quiet cove and enjoy a picnic and perhaps a nap.

San Juan Vineyards

7. Take a Scenic Drive on the Scenic Byway

San Juan Vineyards

The Island is 55 square miles and the main road that circumnavigates the Island is about 35 miles.  Enjoy a relaxing drive as you take in magnificent vistas!

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8. Dinner at Coho

Enjoy a memorable dinner at Coho Restaurant.

San Juan County Fair, Washington

9. Attend the San Juan County Fair in August

Join all the Islands for a week long celebration of food, fun, livestock, music and exhibits.San Juan County Fair, Washington

Lighthouse at Lime Kiln State Park

10. Visit Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Lighthouse at Lime Kiln State ParkView this picture-perfect postcard vista and take home a couple of memories as well.

San Juan Island Blackberries

11. Pick Blackberries

The Island is covered with blackberries in late August.  They are perfectly ready when the fruit slips off the vines.San Juan Island Blackberries

The view from the Orcas Hotel of the ferry landing

Island Hopping – Visit Orcas Island!

The view from the Orcas Hotel of the ferry landing

The view from the Orcas Hotel of the ferry landing

Of course, there is no shortage of amazing ways to fill your days right here on San Juan Island…but the beauty of our archipelago is that each of our ferry-served islands (San Juan, Orcas, Lopez and Shaw) are all unique, and have their own unforgettable experiences to offer.

This week, I’d love to share a bit about Orcas Island with you. I was fortunate enough to spend the summer of 2012 there, and while it is very different from San Juan Island, I found it every bit as delightful.

San Juan Island is the “hub” of the islands, as we have Friday Harbor, the only bona-fide proper town in the archipelago. We are known for a little bit of everything – art, culture, shopping, restaurants, hiking, biking, kayaking, whale-watching, bird-watching, the list goes on.

Orcas Island is called “the emerald isle,” and with good reason. It is the largest of the islands and also the most mountainous, with an endless supply of hiking trails and unspoiled wilderness. It is only two square miles larger than San Juan Island, but a bit more spread out than we are. Most of its roads are very hilly and rural; if you’re a biker, make sure you are prepared for some grueling uphills! The island is known for miles of nothing, interspersed with charming old barns and eclectic artists’ studios.

Orcas is also the home of the almost-6,000 acre Moran State Park, a breathtaking place with almost 40 designated hiking

You can find breathtaking waterfalls like this all over Moran State Park

You can find breathtaking waterfalls like this all over Moran State Park

trails. It is a camper’s dream, but if you’re only there for the day, you can enjoy a leisurely kayak or canoe paddle, or just breathe in the sunshine and marvel in the chance to immerse yourself completely in nature. It has stunning waterfalls and lake vistas, as well as very challenging trails. Most notably, it has Mt. Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans. You can drive to the summit or hike – either way, it’s completely worth the effort. The view from the top is unbeatable – you can see the entire archipelago in one glance, as well as snow-capped Mt. Baker.

Eastsound is the main “town” on Orcas, although as it is only a couple of streets wide, perhaps “hamlet” is a better word. It’s an incredibly charming place, with a handful of beautiful art galleries, excellent restaurants, and historic homes. There is also a full-service grocery store and a post office. You can take a taxi from the ferry landing to Eastsound; during the summer, you can utilize a shuttle service as well. Parking is much more laid-back there than in Friday Harbor, so feel free to take your car. Don’t miss the very impressive farmer’s market on Saturdays, which takes place on the village green and can easily take up a couple of hours.

Just outside of Eastsound proper there is a little beach called Crescent Beach, given of course due to its half-moon shape. It is nestled perfectly into the land by stunning mountain peaks, and when the tide goes out, the flat beach is a perfect place to hunt for little sea creatures and even sea glass.

images-2Olga, on the other side of the state park from Eastsound, is home to the famous Orcas Island Artworks, with a large selection of pottery, artwork, jewelry, glasswork, and woodwork by more than 50 island artists.

You can easily see the highlights of Orcas Island in a full day, then take the ferry back to Friday Harbor and retire to your suite, exhausted and sun-kissed!

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