San Juan Island and its quaint coastal town of Friday Harbor are especially charming in the Winter. When Seattleites are bundling up in rain gear and have said goodbye to the sun for months to come, the San Juan Islands, just 65 miles north, are enjoying many sunny, crystal clear days, courtesy of the Olympic Rain Shadow. There are no lines at the ferry or at restaurants and museums, the beaches are deserted, hotel rates are much lower (check out our specials) and the friendly locals have time to chat and are even friendlier than in the bustling Summer months. And there is plenty to explore:
1. Be Festive
We San Juan Islanders know how to celebrate and do so every chance they get. There are the lovely Savor the San Juans events around the joy of harvest and good food in October & November. December is sprinkled with darling holiday events like the Festival of Lights, Holiday Markets, old fashioned Christmas celebrations and the Lighted Boat Parade with Santa’s arrival by ship.
2. Spa Day
Treat yourself to a self-care day at the Spa at Earthbox. Get the chill out of your bones by soaking in the communal hot tub and take a swim in the heated pool before getting a massage or a facial to relax and unwind your body and mind.
3. Long Walks on the Beach
There are so many breathtaking beaches to explore on San Juan Island. Driftwood beaches, pebbly beaches, sandy beaches, beaches where the trees grow all the way down to the water, beaches for kite flying, running, castle building and throwing the Frisbee. Find our favorite beaches here.
4. Romantic Dinner
Have you ever dreamed of your Sweetie reserving an entire restaurant for the two of you, just so you can pick the best table? That’s how you’ll feel when setting foot into Vinny’s Ristorante on a brisk Winter day, right at 5:00pm when they open. Indulge in modern Italian comfort food and amazing cocktails and leave room for the best Tiramisu you have ever had.
5. Whale and Wildlife Tour
Going out on a boat is always a special treat. On a Whale and Wildlife tour with Maya’s Legacy Whale Watching, one of the few adventure providers going out as late as December (weather permitting), you’ll see Bald Eagles and other seabirds, Steller sea lions, seals, porpoises, sea otters and maybe even Orcas and humpbacks. Give us a call, we’ll be happy to book a tour for you.
6. Museum and Gallery Day
Friday Harbor has four museums and nine galleries within walking distance of the ferry and our hotel. Learn about Orca whales, their habitat and history at the Whale Museum. Get inspired by contemporary, local and regional art at San Juan Islands Museum of Art or find the perfect island-made gift at Waterworks Gallery, featuring contemporary art, paintings, jewelry and sculptures.
7. In the Footsteps of History
San Juan Island features two stunning National Historical Parks devoted to its turbulent history as a nation-less territory. The San Juan Historical Museum in Friday Harbor displays historic town buildings, like the first Friday Harbor jail, as well as exhibits of 19th and early 20th century island life.
8. Bird Watching
With over 300 species of migratory and non-migratory birds, San Juan Island is a bird watcher’s paradise no matter what time of the year. Rocky shores, mudflats, open saltwater and a temperate climate make our isle particularly attractive bird habitat. Don’t miss North America’s largest birds, the Trumpeter Swans, migrating here from Alaska from November through March, and one of the 89 nesting Bald Eagle couples, more than any other county in the state.
9. Shopping and Antiquing
Friday Harbor’s streets are lined with unique gift & specialty shops, boutiques, second hand and antique stores, galleries, cafes and restaurants. No matter what you are looking for, you’ll find it here, and all without ever getting into your car. Don’t miss downtown’s Pelindaba Lavender Store, selling amazing lavender body care, décor, culinary and gift items, all made right here at their island farm. We at the Bird Rock Hotel source all of our body care products for our guest rooms from there.
10. Scenic Byway Driving Tour
San Juan Island is part of Washington’s newest Scenic Byway. On a windy, chilly day, take a driving tour of our diverse isle and see gorgeous vistas, lush farmland, historic sites and art, before returning to our warm, cozy hotel.