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Best Vacation Towns in the San Juan Islands

Jan 29th, 2024

The San Juan Islands offer a wide range of remote and peaceful getaways, even for those living just a few miles away in bustling Seattle! 

Kayak through serene bays, hike rugged trails with ocean views or spot majestic orcas breaching in the Salish Sea. Quaint towns like Friday Harbor and Lopez Village are bursting with charm with local art, cafes and farm-fresh eats, while history buffs can delve into the island's past at museums and historic sites. Beyond the towns, pristine beaches, rolling hills and untouched forests are ripe for exploration. Bottom line, there's something for everyone.

Whether you seek a weekend of adventure or day or pure relaxation, the San Juan Islands offer a unique island escape — and it’s all just a ferry ride away from our luxury Seattle apartments!

4 great towns to visit in the San Juan Islands

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Friday Harbor, nestled on San Juan Island, is the beating heart of Washington's San Juan archipelago. Think charming harbor town, vibrant arts scene and outdoor adventures galore, all wrapped in breathtaking Pacific Northwest scenery.

Orcas are the stars of the show here, so hop on a whale watching tour and witness these majestic creatures glide through the emerald waters. Landlubbers can get their fix at The Whale Museum, packed with fascinating exhibits and interactive displays.

The town itself is both walkable and bikeable — whatever you prefer! Ultra-fresh seafood, cozy cafes, local stores and quiet paths are the name of the game, so you’re sure to find something you like at this serene town. 

Roche Harbor, San Juan Island

On the Other side of San Juan Island from Friday Harbor is the charming little town of Roche Harbor.  Barely a stone’s throw from the U.S.-Canadian border across the Haro Strait, this quaint town is quiet, small and seemingly straight out of a Victorian seaside novel.

Walking and biking around the town is a superb way to experience this corner of San Juan Island. Cobblestone roads, Victorian architecture, white picket fences, manicured gardens and waterside cafes are dotted throughout the forested town — not to mention the stunning boats bobbing gently in the harbors. Grab a bite at a casual restaurant or splurge on some top-of-the-line fresh oysters at the Westcott Bay Shellfish Company’s lunch spot. 

When you’re done in town, head outside to explore the 10-mile trail system weaving through the area’s forests and coastlines. 

Eastsound, Orcas Island

Tucked in the center of sprawling Orcas Island and at the end of East Sound (the town’s namesake), this great seaside town has everything you want from a northwest island getaway. 

As you can imagine, fresh fish and seafood is the name of the game here in Eastsound, thanks to both Ship Bay and Fishing Bay conveniently located just south of the town. There are restaurants, cafes, bakeries, taverns, breweries, distilleries and practically anything else you could hope for if you’re a foodie, and all of it’s as fresh as it gets!

The arts are alive and thriving on Orcas Island, too, and Eastsound is its hub. Galleries featuring local artists are all over town, and be sure to catch a dance, play or concert at the Orcas Center for performing arts. 

Later, spend some time walking the trails in the nature preserves nearby, where you can spot bald eagles, songbirds, seabirds and forest creatures in the pristine woods of Orcas Island. 

Lopez Village, Lopez Island

Lopez Village isn't about being too fancy; rather, it’s a low-key island hub on Lopez Island, offering a laid-back vibe and essentials for a relaxing island getaway. It’s got all you want or need — charming shops and cafes lining a quiet main street, a park for picnics alongside the bay, farmland stretching beyond quiet country roads and plenty of nature to get lost in. 

Stock up on local produce at the local grocery store or grab fresh pastries at the town bakery. Browse local art galleries and bookstores, picking up souvenirs or beach reads to enjoy at the sandy Fisherman Bay Preserve. Don't miss the Saturday farmers market bursting with fresh produce and handcrafted goods, and be sure to sample some of the farm-to-table cuisine at the town’s restaurants, savoring the town’s fresh local ingredients from both land and sea. 

For the more adventurous, rent a bike and explore the island's scenic byways, passing rolling hills, farm stands and secluded beaches. Kayak through Fisherman Bay and spot marine life while taking in the coastal views. Or, for a gentle walk, hike the Lopez Village Loop Trail, a 3-mile trek through forest and farmland with panoramic island vistas.

You really can’t go wrong here!

The San Juan Islands feel like a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Seattle, but they’re just a short ferry trip away! Next time you have a day or a weekend free, head to one of these great towns for fun, food, nature and some gorgeous scenery here on these quiet islands.


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Featured photo by Bryan Hanson on Unsplash

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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