There is no place in San Juan Islands that more effectively embodies the old meeting the new than San Juan Island.
One of the oldest locations of US and European settlement in San Juan County, Washington, San Juan Island is the only island with parkland monuments dating back to the mid 1800s. Its interior countryside is doted with farmland and beautiful, quaint country houses. Yet this historic region is also the county’s most modern.
The town of Friday Harbor is the only incorporated township in the San Juan Islands, and is the seat of the county government. While it doesn’t have all of the modern accoutrements of the city, visitors to Friday Harbor will notice just a hint of the urban in its building-lined streets, awkward intersections, and sidewalk accessibility. Urbanization is not all that San Juan Island is known for.
Many roads leading from Friday harbor run past extensive cattle pasture and lead to densely forested parkland, historic parks, and quietly nestled resorts like Lakeside Resort and Inn to the Woods. Roche Harbor, the second-largest populated area outside town, features a classic resort, dockyard, and historic “downtown” built adjacent to the old boat works and lime kiln that provided the county with an industrial boost in the early 1900s. The resort is very popular with boaters, and those travelling through the Gulf Islands should not miss the chance to stop and have dinner at one of several eating establishments on the waterfront.
Visitors to the county should not miss the opportunity to visit American Camp and English Camp National Park. These reserved acres recall the Pig War, San Juan County’s most notable instance of international fame when the United States and Great Britain clashed over the US/Canada boundary lines. Park attendees can read about the events, talk with local and park experts, and on special occasions even witness some reenactment demonstrations.
The history, charm, and change of the San Juan Islands is all wrapped up on San Juan Island, and no exploration of the San Juan Islands is complete without perusing Friday Harbor’s stores or watching for orca whales at the Lime Kiln Lighthouse Park. One of the best parts is that Washington State Ferries delivers passengers right to downtown Friday Harbor, making day trips or weekend visits easy, flexible, and fun.