The most fantastic and comprehensive way to experience San Juan Island for the first (or fiftieth) time is driving or biking the Washington’s Scenic Byway route. Explore breathtaking beaches, National Historical Parks, unique farms and world class art and find your favorite spot on our little slice of paradise. Here’s a guided tour to keep you going for a full weekend.
1. American Camp National Historical Park
From Friday Harbor’s ferry dock, take Spring Street out of town and turn left on Mullis Street. Drive through lush pastures and browse roadside farm stands until you enter American Camp, site of the 14-year American occupation during the American-British boundary dispute in the 19th century. Stop by the visitor’s center to learn about the last war on American soil, meander through the prairie and former barracks. Watch for Bald Eagles and just about every seabird you have ever heard of, as well as foxes, bunnies, otters, seals, sea lions and Orca Whales. Visit the historic Cattle Point Lighthouse and a variety of diverse beaches along the way, including stunning South Beach, the island’s longest and most dramatic driftwood beach.
2. Pelindaba Lavender Farm
Take Cattle Point Road back towards town and turn left on Little Road. Take another left onto Douglas Road, then turn right on Wold Road to find the beautiful grounds of San Juan Island’s Lavender Farm. While gorgeous any time of the year, the height of “purpleness” happens in July & August. Wander and breath the fields, cut your own lavender, refresh with lavender lemonade and cookies and stock up on the most amazing lavender products. We here at the Bird Rock Hotel source all our body care products for our guest rooms from there. You’ll see why.
3. The Whale Watch Park
Go south on Wold Road from where you just came and take a right along stunning West Side Road with views of the majestic Haro Straits, the snow-covered Olympic Mountains and Vancouver Island in the distance, until you reach Lime Kiln State Park, the best place to spot Orcas from land in the entire world. The park features nature trails, an interpretive center, whale watching platforms, a historic lighthouse, an underwater hydrophone and a rebuilt lime kiln along sensational cliffs high above crystal clear water. In the summer months Orcas are usually seen twice per day here (but do keep in mind, they are wild animals not on a schedule).
4. Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm
Continue north on West Side Road through dense woods. Stretch your legs at the San Juan County Park, where the kayakers put in and the movie “Practical Magic” with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock was filmed.
Take a right on Mitchell Bay Road and a left on West Valley Road to find the Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm and Country Store. Observe the cute 50+ herd of super soft camelids and browse for alpaca wool garments, wool and toys at the adjacent store.
5. English Camp National Historical Park
About a mile further north on West Valley Road, discover the English counterpart to American Camp in the south, complete with formal English garden, barracks and graveyards dating back to occupation time. English Camp is a hiker’s paradise, like the 3-mile roundtrip trek to the top of Young Hill with breathtaking views of all the other islands.
6. San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
Get back to West Valley Road and take a left on Roche Harbor Road. When driving through the arches of Roche Harbor Resort you’ll see the 20 acre sculpture park on your left. Get inspired by over 150 phenomenal sculptures while leisurely wandering through fields and woods, around a natural lake and along Westcott Bay. Have the kids create their own art at the Starfish Project and carve your name in the friendship Totem and feel connected to people all over the world through art.
8. Roche Harbor
Follow Roche Harbor Road into the historic resort, the former site of the Mc Millen’s family lime kiln operation. Roche Harbor has a beautiful marina and several notable restaurants. Check out President Roosevelts signature in the guest book at the historic Hotel De Haro and John Wayne’s custom made bath tub, still in use in one of their guest rooms today.
9. San Juan Distillery
Take Reuben Memorial Drive out of Roche Harbor. The road changes names to Armadale Road. Turn right on Anderson Lane and arrive at the charming, boutique San Juan Distillery and cidery, offering free tours and tastings every Saturday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Learn which apples make the best cider and which cider makes the best Brandy. Sip on island inspired concoctions like Lavender & Wild Rose Liqueur, Madrone Flavored Brandy and Salal Gin and don’t forget to take some home.
10. San Juan Vineyards
Get back to Roche Harbor and take Roche Harbor Road south. Drive by San Juan Island’s original Farm-to-Table restaurant, the famous Duck Soup Inn, and Lakedale Resort, an awesome place to go swimming and paddling on a hot day. Another mile down the road, find the picture perfect San Juan Vineyards. The historic tasting room is open on weekends for tastings, picnics and to stock up on award winning, island grown vines.
Follow Roche Harbor Road for another three miles and you are back in Friday Harbor.
Have so much fun!