We San Juan Islanders love our island and we love to share this special place with our visitors. And we especially love you to be well informed and totally excited about coming here and knowing what to expect when you get here. We here at the Bird Rock Hotel, have compiled answers to our lovely guest’s most frequently asked questions. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have a question not listed here. Being knowledgeable concierges and helping you plan your trip is what makes what we do so rewarding and fun.
1. How do we get there?
Gorgeous San Juan Island is 65 miles north of Seattle, WA and 65 miles south of Vancouver, BC. The most popular way to get here is via the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes (no, there is no bridge to the island). You can walk or bike onto the ferry and never be turned away. If you are planning on bringing your car, reservations are highly recommended. The ferry runs year-round.Alternatively, you can fly to the island on a small commuter plane.For more travel information, take a look at this helpful guide.
2. Will we need a passport?
We are located within the United States on the border to Canada. If you travel from within Washington State, you will not need a passport..In Summer, the Washington State Ferry runs a ferry between Friday Harbor and Sydney, BC, once per day. This is an international ferry. If you take that, you will need to go through customs and have proper international identification. And yes, we do accept US currency.
3. When is the best time to see Orcas?
There are two different kinds of Orcas living in our waters: the Biggs Killer Whales, also known as Transients, who forage on mammals and the Resident Killer Whales, a close-knit family of endangered whales, mostly foraging on declining King Salmon. Both groups are seen year-round with the most sightings between April and October. Both groups are going where they’ll find food. The time of the day doesn’t seem to play a role. Go on a guided whale watch tour for the best chance to see Orcas. Don’t miss a trip to San Juan’s Lime Kiln State Park, also known as the Whale Watch Park, one of the best places to see orcas from land in the world.
4. Are there dangerous animals on San Juan Island?
Our predominant land predators are foxes, who are so much more interested in bunnies than us. There are no venomous snakes, cougars, coyotes or wolfs. We also don’t have squirrels, which makes our birds and gardeners really happy. Not that squirrels are dangerous…There was however a black bear sighting a few years back. He or she swam over from Orcas Island, appeared non-aggressive and only interested in bird feeders and garbage cans.
10. What’s the weather like?
San Juan Island lays in the Olympic rain shadow and enjoys over 247 sunny days per year, giving Washingtonians a well-deserved break during their usually rainy Winter and Spring months. Summers are temperate with cool nights. Fall on San Juan Island is a real treat with long, warm, sunny days after the Summer people have left.
6. Will we need a car on the island?
The ferry lands right on the shores of the beautiful coastal town of Friday Harbor, which is completely walkable (albeit a bit hilly). In Summer, the Friday Harbor Jolly Trolley and San Juan Transit can get you to all the attractions and even most beaches on the island. There are taxis and shuttles to get you to your kayak or whale watch tours. We here at the Bird Rock Hotel have Beach Cruiser bikes to check out for our guests, free of charge, perfect to ride to the nearest beach or restaurant. In Winter though, we’d recommend your own transportation if you want to explore beyond Friday Harbor.
7. When is the best time to visit?
Every season has its own charm. Summers are festive and very popular. Besides whale watching and kayaking being in full force, there are countless festivals, fairs and markets to explore. Come midweek if you can. Fall and Spring are gorgeous, uncrowded, a paradise for hikers, bikers, birders and romantic getaways. Winter is quiet and intimate, a time to really get away from it all.
8. Is there a place to go swimming?
The Salish Sea is a chilly 50 degrees--even in Summer. There are a few spots though, Granny’s Cove in American Camp National Park and Small Pox Bay at the County Park, which are shallow and protected and manage to warm up nicely for a refreshing dip. San Juan Island has no rivers, but several lakes and ponds, like Egg Lake in the middle of the isle, with public access and a dock to jump in from.
9. What not to miss?
Find a comprehensive San Juan Island Weekend Getaway Itinerary here and also check out these 7 Most Iconic Places to visit on San Juan Island.
10. Is there enough to do?
Oh yes! Explore the island’s stunning nature and wildlife, go on guided adventures, feast on delicious fresh seafood, tour unique farms, see amazing art, learn about our rich history, meander through Friday Harbor and shop for cool souvenirs. Check out this comprehensive list of Favorite Island Adventures or come talk to us. We love to share our dearest places and local’s things to do.