May 15, 2016

5 Ways to Vacation like a Local on San Juan Island

Sunset at Lime Kiln Lighthouse

When traveling to San Juan Island there are many great activities and adventures to be had.  Here a a few of my favorite to-dos and places that are found here on the Island.  When in doubt, ask your naturalist or anyone on staff for their favorite place or activity!

1.  The Farmer's Market

When: Saturday's from 10am - 1pm

Where: Brickworks

The Friday Harbor farmer's market may be small, but it sure is mighty!  From produce and flower stands to local pottery and BBQed oysters, there is a stand for everyone!  Some of the local restaurants, caterers, and bakeries are found at the farmer's market serving up specialty items and their standard delicious treats.  Do not miss out on the fresh tomatoes and amazing greens that are seen all summer long.  The farm land on San Juan Island produces some of the best produce around!  Stop by to grab lunch, shop, and pick up great ingredients for dinner. Don't forget to try the ravioli and grab a hibiscus lemonade!

2.      Movies Outside

San Juan Island is lucky enough to have two groups that host outside movies through the summer!  Island Rec, the local Park and Recreation department, hosts free movies and the San Juan County Fair hosts drive-in style movies for just $5.  Ranging from classics to new flicks and both children's and adult movies there is sure to be one for everyone.  Pack a picnic and spend some quality time with friends and family watching great films!

Movies in the Park at Sunken Park at dusk (Free popcorn!)

July 30: Robin Hood: Men in Tights

August 6:  How to Train your Dragon 2

August 13:  Finding Nemo

August 27:  Inside Out

Drive-in Movies at the Fairgrounds at 8:45pm

May 20: The Big Year

May 27:  Twister

June 10:  Top Gun

June 24:  Practical Magic - filmed here on San Juan! Keep an eye out for County Park!

July 8:  Dirty Dancing

Beach Glass
Look for beach glass while walking along the beach.
Beach Time
Enjoying a relaxing day on the beach

3.      Beach Days

While San Juan Island may not be your typical beach vacation spot, there are many great beaches, both pebble and sand, where you can enjoy a day spent in sun.  Don't forget the SPF and water bottle!  While the water is quite chilly at 48 degrees, summer days here can be very hot and visitors are surprised to find that temperatures often feel 5-10 degrees higher than what is reported.

Here are a couple of my favorite beaches:

Grandma's Cove - One of the only sand beaches on San Juan Island, Grandma's Cove should not be missed.  A half mile walk from the American Camp Visitor Center the beach is easily accessible.  There is usually a plethora a sea glass to find and a harbor seal or two hanging out in the bay.  Eagle Point, just south of the cove, got its name from the eagle that is usually perched watching out over Haro Strait.  You can also then access the American Camp hiking trails for an afternoon walk.  Look for red foxes as you go through the fields!

4th of July Beach - An awesome pebble beach on the east side of San Juan Island means little to no wind and calm waters.  Located just past the American Camp turn 4th of July Beach is an easy drive (or bike!) from Friday Harbor.  The beach has several picnic tables and lots of good space to lay a towel out.  4th of July Beach got its name by being a local favorite to watch fireworks from on the Fourth of July.  If you visit over Independence Day Weekend, enjoy views of not only San Juan's firework show, but also Lopez's!

4.      Contra Dancing

When: Monday's from 7:30pm - 9pm

Where: English Camp (hosted at the Grange until June 20th)

Ever Monday at English Camp step back in time and learn the dancing style of the troops that used to call this island home!  Full of do-si-dos and plenty of twirls, Contra Dancing will quickly put a smile on your face.  The band that plays along is fun and lively and includes a squeeze box!  The host walks you through the dance steps and will have you dancing like a pro in no time.  Switching partners is encouraged and it is a great place to meet island locals young and old.

Bowl of clams
Clams for dinner!

5.      Clamming

Not afraid to get a little dirty?  Try out clamming and collecting mussels!  There is clamming access at English Camp that is open to the public that has a few spots to collect mussels as well.  Clamming does require a license that can be purchased at Kings Marine or at the Roche Harbor Store.  Grab a bucket, a trowel, and an old pair of jeans to collect your next meal by hand!


Don't want to get your hands dirty, but still want to enjoy the pleasure of fresh shellfish?  Visit Westcott Bay Oyster farm for fresh oysters, clams, and mussels.  Shuck an oyster onsite and enjoy their picnic area to get the whole experience.