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Things to do on San Juan Island, Washington

Updated on May 19, 2013
Reuben Tart State Park
Reuben Tart State Park | Source

Getting There

Catch the Washington State Ferry in Anacortes. Be sure to check the sailing times and arrive at least an hour early to ensure you make the boat. 

If you miss your ferry because you are late or it is overcrowded, you will have to wait until the next sailing, which can be several hours later.

Some sailings are direct to Friday Harbor, but not all the boats go to San Juan Island. Others will take you to Orcas, Lopez, and Shaw Islands. Those too are fun to explore, but know your destination.

At the ferry dock, there are plenty of bathrooms, places to walk your dog, old school video game machines, a cafe, and gift shop. You can also get local newspapers and enjoy the scenery.

Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor | Source

Friday Harbor

Shop, dine, and browse the storefronts in the hillside town of Friday Harbor.

Come for the jazz festival, the San Juan County Fair, or plan for other seasonal events. Friday Harbor boasts the only movie theater on this sleepy little island. It also has a drug and grocery store. If you go in the summer, grab an ice cream cone at one of the many parlors. You can also support San Juan Island businesses by buying lotions and sachets from the Pelindaba Lavender Company and wines from the San Juan Island Vineyards.

Roche Harbor
Roche Harbor | Source

Roche Harbor

Historic Roche Harbor is an all-inclusive resort on the north side of the island. The activities there abound, from swimming at the pool and playing tennis to exploring the ruins of the Roche Harbor Lime Kiln Company that thrived during the early 20th century. Near the grocery store you can check out artist booths, where people from all over the islands come to sell their handmade wares. Be sure not to miss the flag ceremony each night. On special holidays, you will be in for a surprise.

Mausoleum | Source

The Masoleum

This monument to John S. McMillian and his family is a must see. McMillian ran Roche Harbor and the lime company and was also a mason. It stands incomplete, missing the gold dome he envisioned. Found near Afterglow Drive, a short walk from Roche Harbor, the mausoleum is surrounded by the company cemetery. See the remains of the McMillian family entombed in chairs around a stone table. The wooden bleachers have since rotted and been removed, but the masons used to have ceremonies at this place. This creepy burial site is a relic of the past.

Sea anemone
Sea anemone | Source

Beach Combing

Explore beaches all over the island, from South Beach to False Bay. The sandy shores are loaded with unique driftwood and sweeping sand dunes while rocky beaches are home to small creatures like crabs, eels, sea stars, chitons, anemones, and more. Every rock turned over reveals a surprise. If the season is right, hunt for clams or gooey ducks.

Top of Young Hill
Top of Young Hill | Source

British Camp

Explore the Victorian garden, old barracks, and climb Young Hill, where the British soldiers would look out for enemies over Garrison Bay. British Camp is found on the Northwest side of the island, tucked away in a secluded harbor. There are many little trails around the camp which makes a great picnic destination.

American Camp
American Camp | Source

American Camp

Visit historic buildings and get an amazing view of the Olympic Mountains at American Camp on the south side of the island. A guided walking tour takes you around the grounds to see the sites the US Military once occupied. Learn the history of the Pig War and how this little scuffle mirrored the larger conflict for territory between England and the US.

Deer on the beach
Deer on the beach | Source


Set your sights on deer, bald eagles, orca whales, hawks, kingfishers, woodpeckers, blue herons, seals, sea otters, snakes, raccoons, and even a camel. Not a day will go by that you don't have a run in with nature. Go hiking, kayaking, biking, and get outdoors to see all the wildlife that the island has to offer.

A markerSan Juan Island -
San Juan Island, San Juan, WA, USA
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The stern of a Washington State Ferry
The stern of a Washington State Ferry | Source


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    • profile image

      Mariele 5 years ago

      Love your hub. Informative and fun with great pictures. Keep them coming!

    • happyexplorer profile image

      happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere

      The Masoleum seems like a nice place to visit - intriguing! San Juan islands is one of my favorite places. I like kayaking in these beautiful location and Orca watching, too! I love traveling and I'm looking forward for more of your future hubs.

    • profile image

      lauren rowe 6 years ago

      very informative! enjoyed reading it and loved the beautiful pictures!! thanx!