Friday Harbor is home to art, whales and local flavor.
On the west side of San Juan Island, Friday Harbor is the largest town on the island and is the commercial and boating center of the San Juan Islands. Here visiting boaters will find a colorful harbor with plenty of amenities and spectacular views of the nearby islands, snowcapped Mt. Baker and the Cascade Range. There are plenty of things to do in Friday Harbor and many of them are within walking distance of the marina.
The town evinces a village feel, suitable for walking, and since the San Juan Islands sit in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, fair weather, even in winter, is distinctly possible. Besides charm, scenery and an unhurried pace, three things attract visitors to Friday Harbor: art, whales and the local food.
MOOR YOUR VESSEL
Port of Friday Harbor boasts a 500-slip marina with space available for more than 150 visiting boats ranging in size from dinghies to 150-foot yachts. The port also provides all the amenities boaters are looking for and has nearly 30 marinerelated businesses.
Fresh seafood is available in the marina at the bottom of the M-dock ramp, which is home to Friday Harbor Seafood, owned and operated by Eric and Brenda Wagner. This floating shop is well stocked with live and cooked crabs, prawns, salmon, smoked scallops and tuna. Our favorite is the fresh-in-the-shell Kumamoto Oysters.
STROLL THE VILLAGE
At the top of the dock ramp, next to the harbormaster’s office, take a left and follow the paved footpath through Fairweather Park to town. The park is a great place to stroll or sit and relax while enjoying the stunning view of the harbor.
Spring Street, lined with hanging flower baskets, is Friday Harbor’s main shopping street. Galleries and specialty shops occupy many of Friday Harbor’s storefronts. For provisions, we stock-up at Kings Market, which has liquor and a variety store and, upstairs, a very good marine and outdoor store.
TASTE OF FRIDAY HARBOR
Shoreline dining choices abound and include many ethnic cuisines, including Chinese, Italian, Mexican and Thai, along with pub food. Our favorite place for breakfast is Rock Bay Café, and for lunch or dinner, the Downrigger Restaurant is great choice for seafood and chops served up with an excellent view of the bay from the patio deck. In 2013, the restaurant’s building was destroyed by fire but it reopened in the fall of 2016.
For pub food, one of our favorites is a Friday Harbor institution. Herb’s Tavern, the oldest tavern in town, provides a smoke-free environment in a comfortable beach-bar setting. Its ceiling is decorated with orange life rings and inflatable beer paraphernalia. The menu includes the Hippie Burger, Cow-Dipper and Pile-O-Fries.
For an education on all things cetacean, visit The Whale Museum on First Street to catch up on what’s happening with the local resident orcas and learn all about whales, from environment to anatomy and vocalizations to conservation. The museum is housed in a two-story, historical 1892 building and is well worth a visit. Or stroll up Spring Street to visit the San Juan Islands Museum of Art (SJIMA), where varied works of local artists are showcased.
Saturday visitors can wander and wonder at the San Juan Island Farmers’ Market. More than 40 vendors sell their wares — island-raised produce, flowers, meat, eggs, dairy products, local seafood and crafts from area artisans.
CROSSING THE BORDER
Canadian visitors or returning U.S. boaters will find a U.S Customs office, a telephone and document reader on the outside of Breakwater B. The local Customs office is located just up the ramp on shore.
Port of Friday Harbor is a great place to visit, attracting boaters from all over the West Coast with its diversity of offerings.
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