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10 Things to do for Free on San Juan Island

Updated May 2017

Visiting San Juan Island doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket. It is true, things are a bit more expensive here than on the mainland. Just think that everything, from pillow to nail, from gas to coffee has to be shipped or flown over. Wages, taxes and utilities, especially drinking water, are much higher. But don’t let that keep you from experiencing beautiful San Juan Island with its pristine nature, astonishing wildlife and amazing culture. There are tons of fun, unique things to do here which only require your presence and sense of wonder and don’t cost a thing. Come explore!

  1. Whale Watching at Lime Kiln State Park

Lime Kiln State Park with its picturesque lighthouse, interpretive center, and impressive rebuilt lime kiln on the shores of the deep green Salish Sea is the perfect place to hike and picnic. It is also the best place in the world to see Orca Whales from land. There is nothing like watching the majestic black fish from shore and hearing them breach and sing. Orcas are most often seen from May through September.

Beach Cruisers at the Bird Rock Hotel. It’s like riding a bike!

Beach Cruisers at the Bird Rock Hotel. It’s like riding a bike!

  1. Beach Cruiser Bike Ride

Check out our complimentary beach cruiser bikes and head to Jackson’s Beach, just a mile out of Friday Harbor. Spend the day tide pooling, flying a kite and picnicking. Take the long way home on Pear Point Loop, a lovely 5-mile loop along the shore, which gets you back into town where the ferry lands (and where the ice cream shop is).

  1. Visiting the Pelindaba Lavender Farm

No matter which time of the year, a stroll through the Pelindaba Lavender Farm , its rolling fields and tasteful sculptures is always delightful. We here at the hotel source all our bodycare products from the farm. Your shampoo travelled less than you! Take a free farm tour in the summer, cut your own lavender, visit the distillery and exhibits and learn about this amazing, versatile plant.

Tasting at the San Juan Distillery with the impressive Adrian Still in the background

Tasting at the San Juan Distillery with the impressive Adrian Still in the background

  1. San Juan Distillery Tasting

San Juan Distillery makes small batch ciders from their own orchard and award winning and delicious brandies, gins (12 different kinds!) and liqueurs, often infused with local, unique flavors like Madrona, Salal or Elderberry. The free tastings on weekends in the summer are as much fun as they are educational.

  1. Swimming at Grandma’s Cove

San Juan Island has only two sandy beaches and the ocean is disturbingly cold. At cute Grandma’s Cove though the water is so calm and shallow, that is warms up quite nicely in the summer for a refreshing dip. The beautiful, protected cove is the perfect spot to watch tide pool and build sandcastles.

  1. Hiking Mt Grant

San Juan Island’s newest mountain, Mt Grant, was acquired by the San Juan Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank  in 2016 and made into a nature preserve. The steep, one mile loop through old-growth Douglas Firs and carpets of wildflowers, rewards with views of Mt Baker, Mt Rainier & Glacier Peak, the fertile valleys of San Juan Island, the Gulf Islands, the Olympics and the Cascades.

  1. Visiting the Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm

This serene 80-acre farm has a herd of about 70 alpacas, grazing under 100-year-old Gerry Oaks. The funny looking animals come in 22 natural colors; their hair is warmer than wool and softer than silk. Stroll the farm and browse the country store, featuring Alpaca wool clothing, toys and wool.

Scribner Log Cabin at the San Juan Historical Museum

Scribner Log Cabin at the San Juan Historical Museum

  1. Exploring San Juan’s History

The San Juan Historical Museum, located in the outskirts of Friday Harbor, is home of the annual 4th of July community picnic, the Music on the Lawn summer concert series and the old-fashioned Christmas celebration. Its grounds feature historic buildings from the island, among them the restored James King farm house, the Scribner log cabin and the original county jail.

  1. Bird Watching

San Juan island, home to over 300 species of migratory and non-migratory birds, is a bird watcher’s paradise. We have the highest concentration of nesting bald eagle couples in Washington State and about every seabird you have ever heard of. The Audubon Society’s Puget Loop of Washington State Birding Trail identifies the Lime Kiln State Park, American Camp, English Camp and Jackson Beach as the best spots to see feathered friends.

Popeye waiting for a snack in front of the Friday Harbor Seafood Company

Popeye waiting for a snack in front of the Friday Harbor Seafood Company

  1. Explore Friday Harbor

Visit the festive Saturday Farmer’s Market at Brickworks, listen to live music, smell some hand-made soaps and lotions and taste the homemade jams. Meander through town and visit locally owned shops, unique galleries and cute boutiques. See the small aquarium on the “Clock Dock”, the dock next to the ferry landing, take a stroll along the waterfront through Heritage Park and check in on Popeye, Friday Harbor’s one-eyed harbor seal, always waiting for a snack or two by the Friday Harbor Seafood Company - a houseboat selling fresh fish.

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