From Seattle you drive up north for about 80 miles to Anacortes Ferry terminal. There you take the ferry to Friday Harbor. To drive around the entire island and explore, its better to take your car in the ferry. You can very well do without a car since there are many activities to do very close to the ferry drop off(details follow) in Friday Harbor. To ensure you have a place for your car in the ferry, its wise to make a reservation ahead, it costs $10 per car, and you have to reserve few days ahead. We reserved our ticket for 9.30am ferry(check all ferry schedules here) on Saturday and started from home at around 7.30. After picking up our friends, we cut pretty close and reached the ferry terminal at about 9.20am, phew!
Ferry ride itself takes about an hour. But you hardly notice the time. Park your car, and head upstairs. There are lot of games and puzzles which are available, but you have to hurry to get your hands on them though, cause it gets taken pretty quickly. But if its your first time, then i would advice to enjoy the scenic views instead of playing games. Be sure to dress in layers if you want to stand outside on your ferry ride, it gets cold.
THINGS TO DO
This is a must do in Friday Harbor. I mean why would you go all the way there and not have the chance to spot a family of killer whales. We had the opportunity to spot like more than 10 killer whales or orcas, swimming around as three different families. We saw a male orca which was about 30ft long, that his dorsal fin alone was 6ft long. It was unbelievable. Well worth to experience it once. We did the tour with a company(seen in the background in the below pic) thats right on the ferry drop off area, it was $90 per person, and the tour takes about 3 hours.
Our friends (who had already been there once) took us to the whale museum which was the place to learn about the whales, their history, how they live together as families, and how these specific group of whales inhabit this area around the san juan islands, all the way up-to Vancouver, BC during the warmer months. We did the museum tour on saturday and did the whale watching on sunday which was perfect, because we were already informed of about the whales and their habitat at the museum. So i would advise that you do it in that order too, but not necessarily.
Lime Kiln Lighthouse**
The light house is always a good spot to unwind and relax. And if you are lucky, you can spot some porpoises, which we did. And inside the light house they keep a record of the last time(and date) whales were spotted on the waters there. There is also a cool little microphone receiver linked to the underwater, which lets you listen to the sounds of the underwater, and if lucky hear the whales communicating using their clicks and ticks.
This was a total surprise. We did not expect to see Alpacas on the middle of an island here in the pacific north west. There were so many, and they were so calm and friendly, it was such a fun experience. It was my first time seeing Alpacas so i was very excited(below pic says it all). Its a must visit for families with kids.
This was a cute little harbor on the other end of the San Juan Island. This area was so quaint and pretty, its a photographer's paradise. The harbor was calm and serene, we just sat there for a while sipping our drinks. Most of the shops/stalls were closed by the time we got there, i bet it would have been many folds better if they all had been open.
We went here to spend some time in the morning before our whale watching schedule on sunday morning. A simple beach visit turned out be interesting since we spotted a fox right on the road side, it was just like in the cartoon movies, a bright orange colored fox. We also saw two gray colored foxes running around chasing each other in the mountains(using the binoculars T impulse bought on this trip :| at least it was useful). We were then informed that these foxes were introduced on the island by the government to control the rabbit population(which got introduced earlier somehow-reasons unbeknown to me). Apparently these foxes are friendly with the humans, but of course caution advised.
Fox crossing the road
There are some cute local shops just a block from the ferry drop off on the way to the whale museum. me and my friend took off by ourselves on saturday afternoon to peruse the shops while the boys where busy enquiring about the whale watching tours. She got a colorful framed mirror for her place, and i got a souvenir and cute little bunny bookends for our ever so slowly growing book collection.
* - Walkable from the ferry drop off, no need to take car with you
** - need to car to get here
WHERE TO EAT
This is where we had dinner on Saturday night. We all just had some sandwiches and coffee for brunch and skipped lunch, and were pretty famished by the dinner time. We ordered four different main dishes and all of them were pretty good. Garlic Black Pepper Sauce with Halibut and Hall Moak Talay(seafood platter in red curry) were just so good, must try in Friday Harbor. Their Thai Iced coffee was also really good.
First off, such a cool name, isn't it? This was our late lunch/early dinner spot on Sunday before taking the ferry back home. This restaurant had some well known menus from all major cuisines. I ordered the Mediterranean dish called Keftedes(with lamp patties, pita and roasted potatoes) and i might have wiped the plate clean. The patties were of perfect consistency, so good. Everyone loved what they ordered. We finished it off with S'mores Brownies for the dessert, which was exceptional too. There is also live music there. We were just too early to enjoy it. It starts at 6 i think, i am not sure. They were setting up the stage as we were leaving, which was around 6pm.
We had a our saturday brunch at 'The Bean Cafe'. While their coffee cake was good i wasn't too happy with their sandwiches.
So that was my round up of the things to do/see in Friday Harbor/San Juan Island. We had a great time, and if you are planning a trip to the island, then i hope you have an equally amazing time too. Say hi to the whales for me.
Thanks for reading. xo, Hems.