Kayaking off of Lime Kiln Lighthouse on the west side of San Juan Island.


Where to Eat

Image: Kilii Fish
Roadriggers in Friday Harbor.



Friday Harbor’s popular Downriggers seafood house burned down last year and owners expect to reopen in 2015; until then, the team will park a food truck at the construction site to dish out familiar Baja fish tacos, salmon sandwiches, and Downriggers clam chowder. roadriggerssanjuan.com


Duck Soup Inn

Hidden like a fairy tale witch’s cottage in the woods, the fine-dining restaurant dishes up ramps, fiddleheads, wild fennel, and other foraged goodies from the forest just outside. Local farms provide the domesticated produce and meats for dishes like fried chicken breast and steak Diane, but the sourdough bread and anchovy spread is made in house. ducksoupinn.com


Westcott Bay Cider

Bakery San Juan.
The source orchard on the island dates back to the nineteenth century, and the barn the mill shares with San Juan Distillery isn’t much newer. Cider varieties range from a traditional very dry to medium sweet, available in 750 milliliter bottles, about the size of a wine bottle. westcottbaycider.com


Bakery San Juan

Envy the locals that get to shop the San Juan Island Co-op, but placate yourself with the pepperoni, mushroom, or artichoke pizzas sold at the bakery next door. A slice won’t make it to the ferry; consider grabbing a frozen whole pie as well. bakerysanjuan.com

What to do

Bioluminescence Kayak

Midnight waters alight with glow-in-the-dark microorganisms, but the Discovery Sea Kayak web page has to remind folks, “We are not located in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We are in Washington state, USA.” 

The culprit is a dinoflagellate called Noctiluca, nicknamed the sea sparkle and most visible in August. The four-hour expedition leaves near sunset, with paddlers in tandem kayaks heading into a dark San Juan Island bay. Midway, about two miles from shore, occasional paddle strokes elicit pinpricks of blue-green light—prompting everyone to stick their hands in the cold water. Of the hundreds of kayak destinations in the San Juans, the darkest may be the most magical. discoveryseakayak.com

San Juan Islands Sculpture Park and McMillin Mausoleum

There’s art in both the sun and shade on the island’s west side. The sculpture park presents 125-plus artworks in a well--manicured field, but just across the street and up a forest path is the McMillin Mausoleum. Wander past creepy overgrown grave sites to find a memorial that resembles a Greek temple, complete with stone table. sjisculpturepark.com


San Juan Island National Historic Park

Two historic sites, English Camp and American Camp, on opposite sides of the island commemorate the two countries that once had soldiers on the island (see this comic). Both feature historic buildings and show that both militaries must have considered it good strategy to select scenic home bases. nps.gov/sajh 

An historical painting of Camp San Juan Island, today known as the American Camp.

Rent a Scoot Coupe

Imagine a moped crossed with a two-seater bumper car—that’s a Scoot Coupe, rentable by the hour from Susie’s Mopeds in Friday Harbor. They’ll convey you anywhere on the island, albeit at 30 miles per hour tops. susiesmopeds.com


Pick a Port

While Friday Harbor has big-town bustle, the island’s west side offers privacy. Roche Harbor Resort has historic rooms in the Hotel de Haro, and Snug Harbor opened 16 new waterfront cabins and two outdoor fire pits this year. rocheharbor.com, snugresort.com

Coming Soon...

Now scheduled to open this winter, the San Juan Islands Museum of Art’s new (and very first) home was formally the island’s EMS vehicle garage but is undergoing a $3.25 million renovation. 

Courtesy San Juan Islands Museum of Art


  • The museum’s premiere show, Illuminated: William Morris, will use the windowed Atrium Gallery; the glass artist once drove a truck at Pilchuck Glass School and worked under Dale Chihuly.
  • A second-floor studio is illuminated by skylights and will welcome guest artists to teach workshops.
  • The north gallery in the back of the museum will feature local student art, particularly those studying under the Friday Harbor public school art program funded by the museum.


This feature appeared in the August 2014 issue of Seattle Met magazine.