Winters on San Juan Island are invigorating, quiet, festive and just what the doctor ordered when holiday planning, cooking and shopping gets you down. Our brisk, sunny days – courtesy of the Olympic Rain Shadow – when the rest of Washington experiences its infamous rainfall, invite you to recharging walks on empty beaches, cozy candlelit dinners at quaint restaurants you can walk to, and unique holiday shopping without crowds, traffic or stress. Treat yourself to a weekend away from it all.
Whether alone, with your love or the entire family, San Juan Island in the Winter will let you unwind, relax and replenish without straining your pocket book.
1. Spa & Hot Tub Day
Spend a soothing self-care day at our sister hotel the Earthbox Inn & Spa, just two blocks from the Bird Rock Hotel. Soak in the bubbly hot tub, take a sauna and a swim in the pool, before getting pampered with a rejuvenating body wrap, an Open Sky Signature Massage or a long, cleansing Tree of Life Face Treatment at The Spa at Earthbox. You’ll sleep like a baby and will wake up a new person.
2. Wildlife Tour
Maya's Legacy Whale Watching offers whale and wild life tours as late as December and as early as March, weather permitting. Let the fresh, salty air breeze through your hair while the knowledgeable, entertaining captain shows you his secret spots for Bald Eagles, Steller Sea Lions, exotic wild game on a small dessert island off our coast, Porpoises and the occasional Orca family or Humpback Whale.
3. Day at the Museum
On a cold and rainy day, stay close to home and visit one of Friday Harbor’s outstanding museums. Across the street from the Bird Rock Hotel, you’ll find the Friday Harbor Whale Museum, the first in the nation solely devoted to a species living in the wild. You’ll learn about the history as well as the current status of the whales in the Salish Sea including recent sightings, see real whale skeletons and artifacts, and you can even adopt an orca as an individual, family or classroom. What a great gift idea…
Regardless of weather and time of the year, San Juan Island offers absolutely stunning hikes, featuring every terrain and vista imaginable. To help you decide which hike is for you, we put together our 5 Favorite Hikes.
5. Holiday Shopping
Imagine walking from unique boutiques to extraordinary galleries to splendid antique stores in a quaint, small town to get your holiday shopping done. Sure beats a crowded mall! Friday Harbor’s shops stay open late during the holiday season and if you get that native sculpture, bulky antique table or fragile piece of beautiful pottery, we’ll help you ship it home. Find some Unique San Juan Island Gift Ideas here.
6. Night at the Theatre
The San Juan Island Community Theatre, just three blocks from the Bird Rock Hotel, presents world class entertainment by the sea. From “the Met Live in HD” showings to Christmas concerts with our talented island musicians, from thought provoking plays to contemporary music performances by nationally acclaimed artists, you’ll be entertained and inspired. The snacks and wine bar are great too.
7. Driving Tour
San Juan Island offers stunning vistas you can enjoy without ever getting out of your car. If you do nothing else, drive down Cattle Point Road to the old lighthouse. Drive high above South Beach, through rolling hills of prairie grass. Watch foxes play and eagles soar, while the Salish Sea beneath you roars. Or drive out to Lime Kiln State Park along Westside Road, through fertile farmland dotted with cows and sheep, until the road bends and reveals breathtaking views of the crystal clear Straits with the snow-covered Olympic Mountains in the background.
8. Eat, Drink, be Jolly
After a blustering day playing outdoors, have a waterfront seafood dinner at Downriggers or grab a pizza and a beer at San Juan Brewing. If you visit over the holidays, leave the cooking to COHO Restaurant, where they put on amazing, Farm to Table chef’s dinners for all major (and minor) occasions.
9. Sculpture Park
The 20-acre San Juan Islands Sculpture Park on the north end of the island, combines wandering along pristine Westcott Bay with experiencing amazing sculptures from all around the world. The park is open year-round, pet friendly and is a delight for all ages. Make a day of it and visit historic Roche Harbor Resort and one of its acclaimed restaurants afterwards.
10. Storm Watching or Not
You never know what to expect when visiting South Beach - San Juan Island’s longest beach - in the winter. It could be cold and stormy, with the high tide smashing majestic drift wood logs onto the pebbly beach or absolutely still, with a couple of loons swimming by as if on a lake. Make a bonfire, bring a blanket and some hot dogs or a slab of salmon for the grill, watch for eagles and foxes, bunnies and seals and breath the fresh, salty air, before going back to your comfy hotel bed to dream about the sea.