Visiting Friday Harbor
After your San Juan Island kayak tour, but before you head home, take time to visit beautiful Friday Harbor. Whether you have a few moments while waiting for your ferry, or a few days to spend here, Friday Harbor has a variety of activities to enjoy. Book a whale watching trip, grab an ice cream cone, or wander down to the docks to say hi to Popeye the resident harbor seal.
Historic Friday Harbor
Nestled in the rain shadow of Washington State’s Olympic Mountains, Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands get almost half as much rain per year as nearby Seattle and the South Puget Sound. Historically the San Juans were home to the Coastal Salish peoples who used this area for seasonal fishing; by the mid-1800s the area was a prosperous trade route for beaver pelts, timber, and other raw materials. Officially incorporated as a town in 1909, the protected harbor became a busy seaport with a bustling commercial center, slowly expanding into the town it is today. Visit the San Juan Island Historical Museum or American Camp National Historical Park to see their rich collection of photographs and artifacts, and learn more about early settlers and the infamous Pig War.
Friday Harbor Today
Today, Friday Harbor is the largest town in the San Juans and the county seat. San Juan Island is the only island where the Washington State Ferry terminal is right in town, allowing you to walk off the ferry and immediately get into vacation mode. This adorable island port boasts no stoplights, no billboards, and almost every business in town is locally owned and operated. With Friday Harbor encompassing an area of about one square mile, all the prominent town locales are within walking distance. Less than 10 miles across Haro Straight from Canada’s Vancouver Island, Friday Harbor is a “border town” with ferry and flight service between San Juan Island and Canada.
Some Favorite Friday Harbor Businesses
Friday Harbor has a wide variety of delicious and local eateries. Backdoor Kitchen is a true hidden gem, tucked away behind a freight warehouse with an outdoor patio, international cuisine, and an extensive cocktail list (try the one with muddled nasturtiums picked right from the nursery!) For a meal with a view walk up the hill to the Friday Harbor House Restaurant, seasonal fare with local farmed and foraged ingredients served with a panoramic view of the ferry landing and marina. Need something on the run? Pop into Salty Fox Café for a cup of coffee or snack to go.
Friday Harbor Activities
If you still have room, make your way to the San Juan Island Farmers Market Saturdays from 9-1 to buy fresh local greens and tomatoes from Mama Bird Farm, sea salt taken straight from the Salish Sea from San Juan Island Sea Salt, or a hot plate of local shellfish from Paellas San Juan. Every Friday in August the San Juan Summer Arts Festival runs, with venders selling locally handcrafted goods in addition to live music and cold beer. Stroll up to the Whale Museum to learn about our endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population and all the other marine mammals that make this water their home.
One of the major draws for vacationers heading to Friday Harbor is sea kayaking. San Juan Island is the farthest west island in the archipelago, allowing for sweeping views of the Olympics and Vancouver Island, Canada along its western side. Haro Straight, the body of water dividing San Juan Island from Canada, is about 1,100 feet deep and the currents that ebb and flood through here are dynamic, promoting deep water and nutrient upwelling and thus contributing to the rich biodiversity in the area. From hermit crabs to whales, sea kayaking through this thriving ecosystem allows for some of the area’s best wildlife encounters right from the seat of your boat. Find out which of our kayak tours interest you!!