Exploring the San Juan Islands

Last week Orcas Island got its own feature, but we certainly can’t forget about the rest of the San Juans!  There is so much adventure to be had in such a small area! Did you know the San Juans are the number one destination in America to view Orca whales and one of the top sea kayaking destinations in the world? Throw in a side of quaint farm life, small-batch distilling or fine dining, and you have yourself a pretty amazing getaway destination.  This trip to San Juan Island reminded us of how much we have to appreciate and enjoy in the Pacific Northwest playground that we get to call home.  We hope this list of our favorite things to do on San Juan Island does the same for you and helps you plan your next trip, hopefully sooner than later! 

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WHALE WATCHING IN LIME KILN STATE PARK 

Lime Kiln Point is known as one of the best whale-watching spots in the world. For about half the year, from late April to September, San Juan Island is home to roughly 90 Orca whales! Pods of whales, including humpback and minke as well, can be seen passing through this area and you can have the perfect vantage point from a vintage 100-year-old lighthouse. Yes, please. 

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WESCOTT BAY SHELLFISH 

Here at this family-run, working aquaculture farm, you can have a picnic with friends shucking and slurping your own oysters or chose from the incredible selection of Pacific Oysters, Manila Clams, or Mediterranean Mussels to take home. Everything is hand raised from seed to shell right there in Wescott bay. The painstaking process is a labor of love and is very fascinating to learn about and witness firsthand. Their slow process creates what they say makes for the “sweetest, plumpest Manila clams known to man,” so I suppose you’ll have to go try them and see for yourself! 

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SEA KAYAKING WITH SAN JUAN OUTFITTERS 

This is an amazing way of seeing all the coastline, mountains, and marine wildlife San Juan Island has to offer bundled into one incredible adventure. San Juan outfitters offer small group kayaking tours guided by a professional kayaker who is also a marine naturalist—so they may be able to teach you a thing or two about the local flora and fauna, but you can also feel safe knowing you’re in good hands.  They offer half or full-day excursions from Friday and Roche harbor as well as family, custom, and multi-day packages. San Juan Outfitters supply all the equipment you need and require no previous experience, which means if you’ve always wanted to try kayaking, this is would be the perfect opportunity! 

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DINING AT DUCK SOUP 

Nestled in the woods halfway between Roche and Friday Harbors, you’ll find this little cozy cabin where they are serving up exquisite Northwest cuisine in the most romantic, quaint setting. Here, they strive to use produce, meat and seafood that can be obtained locally which is what we love to hear! They are well known for their artisan cocktails featuring spirits from nearby distilleries or wild botanicals that they foraged themselves. We want everything on the menu— from the island mushrooms with pearl couscous to the seared scallops in coconut curry and finished off with the cedar infused (!) cremé brûlée. We highly recommend you accompany whatever you decide to try with the house martini, made with local spirits and garnished with pickled sea beans! 

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KRYSTAL ACRES ALPACA FARM 

Krystal Acres is an 80-acre working farm located in Friday harbor that is home to about fifty alpacas and where you can come year-round to die of cuteness overload. The farm always welcomes those who wish to walk the grounds and take photos of the animals, but they also offer guided tours with advance booking. Not only do alpacas have an adorable charm and playful personality, but their fleece happens to produce one of the softest, most luxurious and silky fibers available.  Alpaca fiber is apparently stronger and warmer than wool but buttery soft, feeling just like cashmere on the skin. It also comes in the widest range of natural colors of any animal on the planet and is hypoallergenic! The Country Shop is stocked with a vast array of garments and toys using this amazing material so make sure you stop by! 

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SAN JUAN ISLAND DISTILLERY 

This is a small batch distillery making spirits and ciders with tons of personality. No doubt because there are so many botanicals to forage on the island, they make fourteen different gins!  They also produce an award-winning apple brandy as well as floral spirits, such as elderflower gin or wild rose and lavender liquor.  Their apple ciders are produced the same way they are in Normandy, France— by distilling the cider in a stunningly gorgeous hammered copper still, then transferred to old French oak barrels for aging. Tastings here couldn’t be more delicious! 

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PELINDABA LAVENDER FARM 

This farm is nestled in a 25-acre field surrounded by breathtaking views and is rightly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations on the islands. Although the prime months to visit are the summer months of July & August in what the farm calls the “peak of purpleness,” there are still things to do from spring through fall. When flowers are in bloom, you can harvest your own bouquet from the cutting field and enjoy refreshments such as lavender ice cream, lemonade, and cookies along with your packed picnic on the lawns. You can also visit the essential oil distillery and the Farm Store, where they have a vast selection of products for sale— all lavender based, of course—from their certified organic fields, and hand made on site. This is a great place to bring the whole family; they even welcome pets on leashes. Don’t forget your camera! 

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KENMORE SEAPLANE RIDE 

This is a way to go sightseeing in the San Juans from a whole new perspective— from the air! 

Kenmore Seaplane flights are available round trip from Seattle, as well as to their express destinations like Friday Harbor or Roche Harbor. A flight from Lake Union in Seattle to the Friday Harbor marina is only 45 minutes. During peak season, (March-October) you can even book whale watching tour packages that include this flight as well as a 3-hour cruise on a guided tour around the Islands. This includes time to explore the downtown Friday Harbor village on your own before or after your cruise, as well!  If you can only spare a day to come out to the San Juans, this may be a very unique and worthwhile way to experience the beauty. 

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