by Matia Schwartz
The San Juan Island Inn Collection is proud to offer a complimentary concierge service for all of our guests at the Tucker House Inn & Harrison House Suites, our two lodging properties. We strive to ensure that your stay is everything it can be, and you’re able to experience the most our island has to offer. That being said, there are many local tours that offer a number of ways to experience it; and while many of them are superb, here are our five favorites:
1. Crystal Seas Kayaking
Kayaking the San Juan Islands is a calm, peaceful experience that allows you to get an up-close and personal view of our archipelago. Crystal Seas Kayaking offers a 3-hour long tour, perfect for anyone interested in getting on the water. There is no required skill-level and the group sizes are small and personal.
Your naturalist guide will keep you safe and share the Islands’ history, geography, geology, and explain the different plant and animal life surrounding you. The experienced guides will also provide you with gear at their Snug Harbor input site to keep you comfortable and dry!
After launching, you will explore the western coastline where you may catch a glimpse of Orcas in the sheltered coves between Lime Kiln State Park and English Camp, along with eagles, seals, otters, and foxes. If you don’t have your own transportation, or wish to stay parked at the Inn, Crystal Seas offers a shuttle from Friday Harbor to Snug Harbor, with return. Our friends at Crystal Seas Kayaking offer an intimate, interesting and active tour that you simply can’t miss.
2. Western Prince
There are several companies offering whale watching boat tours in the San Juans, you truly can’t go wrong in your selection, however Western Prince offers you a ride unlike most others.
Western Prince is the one of three companies in Friday Harbor that offer a zodiac-style boat as a form of transport to and from the whale sightings. The Western Explorer pontoon boat is one of the fastest options and will get you to Orca territory in no time. Their tour starts by getting fitted in an exposure suit, as our weather is often chilly enough to need it. You’re then put on an entirely open, and very fast boat, with 24 other hearty whale watchers, crew, a captain, and a naturalist who can explain the flora and fauna around you.
Being on the bow of an open vessel cruising around the sound is the quintessential Salish Sea experience. Although this might not be the best tour for the little ones, as only ages seven and above are allowed, it is a thrilling adventure for bigger kids and adults…and one you’ll remember for a lifetime.
3. Schooners North
Schooners North offers a different mode of power altogether from man-propelled kayaks and motor-propelled whale watching boats; wind.
The peaceful quiet of slowly sailing along the sound guided by the wind is unforgettable. Your trip will be aboard the beautiful historic schooner, Spike Africa, with your course dictated by the wind and currents. On both their half and full-day sails you, are likely to make your way up the San Juan Channel. This route offers sweeping views of Yellow and Jones Islands, both state parks, accessible only by boat.
On a full day cruise, you might sail through Cattle Pass and down Haro Strait. Here you can see panoramic views of the Olympic Mountains, and possibly even whales. If you’re looking for something a little shorter, try an evening sails. These trips are only two hours long, where you can bring a beverage and snack to enjoy as you watch the sunset from the deck. Evening sails are a great option for a romantic night or the perfect way to unwind after a busy day.
4. Meat Machine
Biking on San Juan is one of the easiest ways to get around on the island. It is also one of the most interesting. Meat Machine Tour has all of the things you might need on your trip.
If you’re looking for a tour that takes you to the most beautiful and historic parts of the island, this is the one for you. They have a variety of bikes available for rent. These include: hybrid, endurance road, or electric bikes, all of which are maintained regularly. Along with your bike, their team will outfit you with a helmet, lock, flat tire change kit, trunk bag for storage, and apron request lights, panniers, and specialty pedals are an option.
The tour starts from their shop in Friday Harbor, just two blocks from our inn. Over the course of the day, you will be able to visit Cattle Point, American Camp, and English Camp. You may want to opt to visit Lime Kiln as well. You can visit the Alpaca farm on the way and the possibly see Orca whales once you arrive. If you get too tired on your ride, there’s a van on standby to come get you at any point!
Aside from their daily scheduled tour, they also offer a historic tour. On this tour, you will visit several historical landmarks throughout the island. If you’re interested in going in the evening, they also offer a sunset tour. Here, you’ll visit the west side of the island with a supplied gourmet dinner and a shuttle back to town after the sun goes down. Every tour you will have a guide that knows all about our island and the history. Plus, any other questions you may have! Any one of these tour options is a great way to get to know the island better during your stay.
5. Zip San Juan
Zip-lining doesn’t always have to be for the adrenaline junkies of the world. Case-in-point, Zip San Juan provides an exhilarating experience for everyone.
After a safety instruction and demonstration, their certified crew start you off small, with just a 10-foot high zip line. Then it’s all up from there! Soon you will be soaring through the forest and even over a lake. With eight different lines, two practice lines, and a suspension bridge, there is enough variety to keep everyone in your party excited. As you get further into the forest you will even find platforms that are up to 70ft high. The views as you glide along these tours are spectacular. There is no other way to see San Juan Island from the treetops. Anyone eight years and older is welcome to participate in this thrilling ride. Zip-lining isn’t offered anywhere else in the San Juans!
But Wait, There’s More!
We hope these tours gave you a good start in planning out your San Juan Island experience! Some other wonderful stops on your tour list include: The Pelindaba Lavender Farm, the Whale Museum, the San Juan Island Museum of Art, Historical Museum as well as the Farm Tours if you’re visiting in the Fall. If you need any assistance planning or booking your tours, please allow the concierge team at the Tucker House Inn & Harrison House Suites to make things easy! We look forward to having you soon. Happy planning!