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Recreational Activities in the San Juan Islands

There are many outdoor activities on San Juan Island — so many choices and so little time, muse our guests. We suggest a minimum of 2-3 days on San Juan Island to hit the highlights. For memories of a lifetime, consider a whale-watching adventure viewing the magnificent orca whales in the wild or a scenic flight to take you and your friends on an aerial tour high above the San Juan Islands.

For the adventurous traveler, there’s sea kayaking, a fast zodiac-style whale watching vessel, and hiking. There are two National Historic Parks — American and English Camp — for a day of nature walks along the beach, cedar forests, and sandy bluffs.

You will find plenty of activities on San Juan Island to suit your fancy.  Our concierge is pleased to assist in helping you to make the most of your San Juan Island holiday.

Beaches & Parks

Find your own rocky bluff, explore the gravel beaches and tide pools, or stroll along the cliff-side trails along the San Juan Island shorelines.

American Camp Trails
Offering a variety of trail experiences. A 1.25 mile self-guided history foot trail, begins in the American Camp parking lot.– Jakle’s Lagoon Trail is 1.5 miles long. Great bird watching.
– Mt. Finlayson Trail is a 3 mile loop taking you to the top of Mt. Finlayson. Beautiful views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and British Columbia. Enjoy a few side trails to the Lagoons.
– The South Beach walk is 2 miles long. Great tide pooling during low tide.

English Camp
Located about nine miles northwest of downtown Friday Harbor. It contains 530 acres with 2 miles of shoreline and approximately 4 miles of trails. A self-guided history walk includes trails to the open Parade Ground, a formal English garden, around the shoreline, the former site of the officer’s quarters, the cemetery, and up through the woods leading to breathtaking views of Canada at the top of Mt. Young. Picnic tables, restrooms, and a dinghy dock are all located in the lower portion of the park.

San Juan County Park
San Juan County Park is a lovely 12-acre park located at Smallpox Bay (between Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor). Here you’ll find beautiful views of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the Olympic Mountains, and British Columbia. Park amenities include water, flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, 25 campsites, boat launch & mooring buoys.

Westcott Bay Reserve Sculpture Park
Located at 9083 Roche Harbor Road, the park contains original sculpture in a twenty-acre setting, with woodland trails full of art installments and a pond with picnic facilities. Wander through unique surroundings for over 150 pieces of art.

Eagle Cove ParkEagle Cove Road, 6 miles southeast of Friday Harbor
This is a nice sandy beach great for picnicking and beachcombing.

Fourth of July Beach
Part of American Camp, this is a quiet spot for a picnic or kite flying. Many people enjoy wading in Griffin Bay on a summer day.  Mt. Finlayson Nature Trail, up 290 feet on Mt. Finlayson, is also part of American Camp. On a clear day, it offers beautiful views of Mt. Rainier.

Cattle Point Lighthouse
Part of American Camp, this is a great spot for a picnic. Visit the former Coast Guard Radio Station.

Egg Lake
Fish for rainbow trout in April and May, and largemouth bass throughout the summer. This small year-round lake is located on the northeast end of San Juan Island. There is a public access dock and launch ramp on Egg Lake Road.

Jackson BeachOff Pear Point Road
Locals like this sandy beach close to town. It’s popular for volleyball, picnics, wading and skimboarding.

Lime Kiln State ParkWest Side Road
Also known as “Whale Watch Park”, Lime Kiln State Park is located 9 miles west of Friday Harbor. Orca whales, porpoises, seals, dolphins, and eagles frequent these shorelines during the spring and summer months. High rocky banks and majestic Madronas add to the rugged beauty of this park. Facilities include toilets, picnic sites, a lighthouse, and a viewing platform.A narrow trail leads to driftwood strewn Deadman’s Cove, part of the San Juan County Land Bank holdings.

Reuben Tarte ParkLimestone Point Road
Located approximately 3 miles northwest of Friday Harbor on Roche Harbor Road, this 66 acre lake has a public access boat launch.

Turn Point Park – Off Turn Point Road
Launch kayaks/canoes only; carry from the parking area.

Show More Parks

Bikes, Mopeds & Scoot Coupes

Biking San Juan Island on two wheels (or three) will give your tour of the island a more leisurely pace, a closer connection to nature, and the opportunity to see more of the island’s wildlife. Our concierge service will make those arrangements for you. There are a number of options:

Bicycles
Our guests at the Tucker House Inn & Harrison House Suites have access to the inn’s complimentary bicycles from April through October, weather permitting. Mountain, electric, accessories, and touring bikes may be rented from Meat Machine Bicycles.

Mopeds/Scoot Coupes
Scoot Coupes are three-wheeled gas-powered vehicles that can accommodate two adults, an adult and a child, or an adult and a canine companion. There’s room in the trunk for a picnic lunch.

Susie’s Mopeds also rents one and two-person mopeds.

There’s nothing better than biking San Juan Island.

Birding on San Juan Island is incredible. Enthusiasts will love the 42 different trails on the island because the terrain is ripe for an addition to their birding “life list” at every turn. There have been more than 290 species of birds recorded so far, and there is a robust program in place to bring Western Bluebirds back to the meadows and valleys.

Local birders communicate through the San Juan Island Audubon Society Facebook page daily, often with rare bird alerts. A standard list of island vehicles and boat equipment begins with binoculars and spotting scopes.

Check out the list at BirdWeb or the one compiled by the San Juan Island National Park Service.

You are more likely to spot a Bald Eagle than a pigeon while birding on San Juan Island. There are a multitude of shorebirds by the sea, ducks and mergansers in the inland lakes, warblers and juncos in the bushes, and the ever-present crows and ravens. Sometimes the Bald Eagles even set up nests in downtown Friday Harbor. The San Juan Islands are the winter home for a number of northern species including the Trumpeter Swan and Rough-legged Hawk – species you would have to go to the Arctic Circle to see in spring. One of the best viewing areas on the island is American Camp.

Add species to your birding “life list” while on San Juan Island.

A private “birding tour” can also be arranged. Ask our concierge to get the details for you, and add that experience to your visit.

The San Juan Islands Audubon Society meets monthly to take bird walks on different islands serviced daily by the Washington State Ferry system. A schedule of their bird walks is listed on the website. A private “birding tour” can also be arranged with birding expert and author of Birds of the Northwest, Barbara Jensen.

Westcott Bay Reserve Sculpture Park is a 19-acre nature reserve displaying more than 80 sculptures. There are lots of great trails with excellent bird-watching opportunities on this property as well.

Pack your binoculars, hiking shoes, bird book, camera and walking stick – the birds of San Juan Island await you!

Grab your rod and reel, and cast away for some of the finest fishing in the country. Rocky shores, pristine lakes, ponds, and secret fishing holes lie waiting to be discovered – the perfect test for your fly or bottom fishing skills.

Egg Lake, located on the northeast end of San Juan Island, offers opportunities for large mouth bass and rainbow trout, with good rainbow fishing in April and May. Sportsman’s Lake is a 66-acre lake located three miles northwest of Friday Harbor.

Fish for salmon, halibut, lingcod, and other bottom fish year round in the waters around the island.

Contact the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife for regulation updates and news. Their fishing hotline is (360) 902-2500 and their Shellfish Regulation Hotline (866) 880-5431. Licenses can be obtained at Ace Hardware or Kings Marine, a block from the Tucker House Inn & Harrison House Suites.

San Juan Golf and Tennis Club a few miles from the Tucker House Inn & Harrison House Suites on San Juan Island, Washington, offers a 9-hole links-style public course and outdoor hard tennis courts. The course has majestic views of Lopez Island and Mount Baker to the east and is challenging for all skill levels. With a variation of tees, from the front nine to the back nine it measures 6694 yards.

San Juan Golf and Tennis Club is a favorite of locals and visitors alike, and it is easy to see why it is rated as one of Washington’s tougher 9-hole courses. Motorized carts, handcarts, and clubs are available to rent. PGA Professional Instruction with grass tee practice areas is also available. After your round, grab a cold one and relax at the Greenside Grill. They offer a full bar and grill menu.

Hiking & Walks

American Camp Trails
Offering a variety of trail experiences. A 1.25 mile self-guided history foot trail, begins in the American Camp parking lot.– Jakle’s Lagoon Trail is 1.5 miles long. Great bird watching.
– Mt. Finlayson Trail is a 3 mile loop taking you to the top of Mt. Finlayson. Beautiful views of Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and British Columbia. Enjoy a few side trails to the Lagoons.
– The South Beach walk is 2 miles long. Great tide pooling during low tide.

English Camp Trails Visitor Center
A part of San Juan Island National Historical Park.
– Bell Point Trail is a 1-mile loop with views of both Garrison and Westcott Bays.
– Young Hill Trail is 1.25 miles of steep trail, taking you to the top of Young Hill for a panoramic view of the island’s northeast corner. You will pass the English Camp cemetery which holds the remains of six Royal Marines.

Friday Harbor Historic Walking Tours
Two self-guided walking tours. Guide brochures available at Friday Harbor Town Hall, 60 Second Street; San Juan Historical Museum, 405 Price Street; SJ Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, 135 Spring Street.

San Juan Island Audubon Society Bird Walks
Monthly field trips with Audubon society members

San Juan Island Trails Committee
List of hiking and biking trails on San Juan Island.

San Juan Transit Hiking Information
San Juan Island hikes rated from easy to moderate/strenuous.

Horseback Ridging

Horseshu Farms offers guided horseback tours through the meadows and valleys of San Juan Island Island. Horseshu also offers a Mini Forest loop and Pony Rides for children under 8 years old. Horses are available to rent by the hour or for a five-hour excursion.

Island Hopping

The Tucker House Inn & Harrison House Suites in Friday Harbor is the perfect base for day tripping to neighboring islands.

The Washington State Ferry System runs regularly scheduled inter-island ferries between San Juan’s Friday Harbor and Orcas, Lopez, Shaw Islands. Ask our concierge to assist with rental car reservations, museum tickets, and information on hiking and bike routes. Spend the day and you’ll be back in Friday Harbor in time for happy hour!

Travel to the other islands via foot or by bicycle is free; however, there is a charge to come back to Friday Harbor from the other islands if you take your vehicle. Each Island has its own distinct character and features a range of outdoor activities at county and state parks.

Scenic Flights

There is no better way to enjoy the spectacular views that the islands offer than from above with a scenic flight. If you didn’t fly onto the island, treat yourself to an aerial tour with Westwind Aviation or Friday Harbor Helicopter.

What better way to relax after an action-packed day than with a day at a San Juan Island Spa – or better yet, an in-room massage. We can arrange for a therapist to come to your cottage or suite. Please give us 24 hours notice when possible. There are also several day spas on the island that will pamper you with a range of services including a velvety French green clay body wrap, a stimulating and rejuvenating salt glow, or an hour-long reflexology session.

Swimming

Many of the beaches around the island, while beautiful to look at and hike, are not good places for swimming. The water temperature is 50 degrees year round. There are a few shallow beaches at Granny’s Cove and Eagle’s Cove at American Camp National Park that warm during the summer months to provide a safe place for a swim.

Other Activities

Farm Visits

The San Juan Islands are rich in agricultural history. We encourage interested guests to get out and take in a farm visit during their stay. There are several other farms to visit for culinary and liquid arts exploration, including San Juan Vineyards and San Juan Island Distillery. We come back to that age-old debate as to where to categorize the producers – under farms or culinary exploration. They are technically both.

Culinary Exploration

Galleries

Theaters

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