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Vacation like a Local on San Juan Island – 10 Insider Tips

Most people visit San Juan Island to see Orca whales in the wild, watch rare birds and other wildlife, eat in fancy restaurants and have dessert, go zip lining, take a guided kayak tour, do wine and distillery tastings, explore the Friday Harbor Film Festival – the things you do on vacation. Have you ever wondered what the folks who live here do for fun? Check out our insider tips to experience San Juan Island like a local.

Bonfire on South Beach San Juan Island, Washington

  1. Bonfire at South Beach

When we islanders celebrate a birthday or anniversary or Mother’s Day or solstice with a drum circle, we do it at South Beach, San Juan Island’s longest, most breathtaking beach. Bring a picnic and something to throw on the barbeque, build a driftwood structure and fly a kite, take a long walk and make a bonfire to warm up, while watching birds and otters and seals and whales.

  1. San Juan Island Library

The San Juan Island Library on the outskirts of town, offers so much more than just books to check out. There are daily & weekend events for kids and adults, ranging from Preschool Story & Play Time, Family Creative Workshops, Nature Lecture Series to a Literary Salon and a Classic Film Series. And the best part? The events are free. This is a lovely, sophisticated way to connect with island families and learn something new.

Deer on San Juan Island

  1. Know Your Island Walks

What animals live in the lagoons, who were the first people living on the island, which wildflowers are growing on the mountains? Questions like these, about San Juan Island’s past and present, geological and environmental facts and more will be answered on the Know-Your-Island-Walks. Once a month the San Juan Trails Committee offers these fun, entertaining, free hikes to learn something about the island you may not know. Puppies on leashes are welcome.

  1. San Juan Community Theatre

When have you been to the theater the last time? The Community Theatre presents theater and music performances from local, as well as national and international artists. Listen to chamber music or the newest songs of a Blues Guitarist, watch New York’s The Met performances live in HD or a play put on exclusively by our talented islanders. Whatever high quality production you choose, you will have an excellent time.

  1. Fishing at Egg Lake

Sometimes you just need to sit at a dock with your rod and listen to the frogs. Cute Egg Lake in the middle of San Juan Island has a new public dock complete with bench. The lake is stocked. The calm and quiet of the place are amazing.

  1. Farmer’s Market

San Juan Island’s Saturday outdoor Farmer’s Market is a mini county fair each weekend. There is a festive atmosphere among purveyors and shoppers alike. Browse booths bowing heavily under colorful, local produce, flowers, meats, cheeses, seafood, jams, jewelry, baked goods and tons of ready to eat food (homemade paella anybody?). Listen to live music, learn about environmental issues, get a chair massage and bring some starts home for your own garden.

  1. Contra Dance

Every third Saturday, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm, we contra dance at the Grange Hall, with the finest bands and callers in the Salish Sea. All of us, couples, singles, grandmas and grandpas, babies on the back of Dads, little boys with their Mom, and you should too (no experience necessary). Authentic island fun at its finest.

  1. Karaoke at Herb's Tavern

Sing your heart out and watch other's doing the same at Friday Harbor's oldest tavern at Karaoke Night every Wednesday and Saturday. Herb's also hosts awesome local bands, has a pool table and large flat screen TV's for Hawks games.

  1. Hike the Roche Harbor Trails

Explore the vast 4000-acre trail system and 12 miles of coastline surrounding Roche Harbor Resort. Hike through astounding nature with old quarries and lime kilns. Learn about the former company town and its rich history. Pay attention though: you can get lost here.

“America’s” rudder on display at the San Juan Historical Museum

Check out the “America’s” rudder on display at the San Juan Historical Museum

  1. Hang with the History Buffs

San Juan Historical Museum in Friday Harbor is the home of the 4th of July Pig War Picnic, the Music in the Park Summer concert series and the Old-Fashioned Christmas Celebration. They offer cool family work-shops throughout the year. The museum grounds with old buildings from the island and other artifacts are fun and educational to stroll any time of the year.

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