The Ultimate Guide to 48 Hours in Friday Harbor, WA

Maggie in Friday Harbor
Maggie in Friday Harbor

On the edge of the US and Canadian border, where the ocean flows freely between the two countries – water-locked drops of island oases can be found. With the Olympic Mountains lining the horizon and old-growth forests aplenty, the 250 days of sunshine beckon visitors and delight locals.

Friday Harbor, the largest of the San Juan Islands’ towns, is home to some of the finest restaurants, coffee shops, and artists’ studios and galleries. Here, whale watching enthusiasts enjoy the sights of resident and transitory pods; outdoor adventurists explore a variety of parks and trails; and boaters take full advantage of known and lesser-known coves, marinas, and shorelines.

Book a scenic flight directly to Friday Harbor!

Friday in Friday Harbor, Washington

5:00 PM – Dinner at Coho Restaurant

Perched on a hill overlooking Friday Harbor, you’ll find the historic Craftsman House, home of Coho Restaurant. The dynamic menu constantly changes with the season to showcase local farmers and daily sea-inspired specials. From crab and scallops to beef and pork (sourced from the Jones Family Farm on Lopez Island), the flavors are a bold introduction to the San Juan Islands’ bounty.

What you won’t see on the menu is salmon. In September of 2018, the restaurant removed salmon from its menu permanently. A large sacrifice for a dining establishment praised for its seafood, the decision was made to protect the health of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. 

coho pasta

Saturday in Friday Harbor, Washington

8:00 AM – Breakfast at the Rocky Bay Café

mexican burrito at Rocky Bay Cafe

Fill up for the day with a good ol’ mom-and-pop breakfast at the Rocky Bay Café. From Eggs Benedict and corn beef and hash to loaded breakfast burritos and French toast, these morning starters are packed with warm goodness. Daily specials change regularly, featuring options such as a bacon, garlic, mushroom, and Swiss omelet.

During the winter months, stay warm next to the Amish fireplace. And, make sure to check out the monthly-featured artist. You’ll find their work displayed on one of the restaurant’s walls.

9:30 – Whale Watching at Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Lime Kiln Lighthouse on San Juan Island

Pack some snacks and don’t forget your binoculars. No trip to the San Juan Islands would be complete without a little whale watching. Just a 20-minute drive to the opposite side of San Juan is Lime Kiln Point State Park (also known as Whale Watch Park). This is one of the best places in the world to catch sight of these magnificent creatures from the shore. You might also see seals, sea lions, otters, the occasional fox, and a variety of birds.

To check out the latest whale activity, follow the walking path to the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, where current whale reports are posted. Make sure to visit the historic lime kiln adjacent to the park which operated from 1860 – 1920. 

BONUS TIP: Looking to learn even more about the Resident Orca population? Be sure to visit the Whale Museum.

12:00 PM – Lunch at Friday’s Crabhouse

Seafood just tastes better when you eat it with a view and Friday’s Crabhouse has one of the best views of the harbor. Their three open-air decks are pet friendly, as long as you remember your furry friend’s leash. Inside seating is also available for those who need a break from the fresh salt air. 

While burgers and dogs appear on the menu, it’s their seafood dishes which are worth ordering. Enjoy a selection of pan-fried oysters, crab-packed salads, fish tacos, and more.

1:30 PM – Explore the Town

Shopping in Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor is packed with local artists’ galleries and eclectic shops. Snag a coffee to go at Salty Fox Coffee, where the baristas pride themselves on their coffee-making wherewithal. Then take to the sidewalks to explore. Love hunting through forgotten treasures? Check out Funk and Junk Antiques. Looking for a few trendy keepsakes? Pebble carries a carefully curated selection of gifts, clothing, and homegoods for all ages. 

Do you love bringing home some unique, regional flavors? It doesn’t get much more San Juan Island grown and island harvested. Pelindaba Lavender Farm is located at the heart of the island, offering a you-cut garden, gift shop, and more. (Unfortunately the farm has closed. We will update this post when we know more.) They also have a storefront in downtown Friday Harbor where you can find their selection of essential oils, lavender hot chocolate, and lavender soaps. Another unique destination for flavor-filled spices is San Juan Island Sea Salt. 

Visit their new store on Nichols Street to sample and buy their solar-made salts. Plus, be sure to check out their chocolate chip cookies. They are worth the trip alone!

5:00 PM – Cocktails with a View at Friday Harbor House

Friday Harbor House Bar

On top of a bluff overlooking the ferry landing sits the Friday Harbor House. Tucked within this quaint inn, you’ll find The Restaurant. Unwind in the bar with the sunset and a cocktail. Here you’ll find an interesting selection of infused libations such as English Camp, a cucumber vodka and elderflower liqueur cocktail spiced with brut, cardamom, and lemon. 

7:00 PM – Dinner at Vinny’s Ristorante

The causal elegance of the dining room at Vinny’s Ristorante is lit with the romantic glow of candlelight. In a combination of Italian specialties and Pacific Northwest inspiration, this is a meal meant to be savored over good conversation and a glass of well-paired wine. The menu features pasta with a spicy Habanera sauce topped with prawns, grilled steak with a balsamic reduction, and a smoked then grilled pork chop with polenta.

Sunday in Friday Harbor, Washington

8:00 AM – Breakfast at Medio Cafe

Medio’s breathy, modern interior isn’t what you might expect to find in the San Juans, where many establishments are in historic buildings with sloping floors. But plant-filled space is home to gorgeous coffee and “Ugly Donuts” that are anything but. Handmade daily, these fried treats are tossed with sugar and salt. On the heartier (and savory side), don’t overlook their breakfast burritos and sandwiches.

Planning a Weekend in Friday Harbor

Don’t feel like this itinerary is set in stone. It is intended to be used for inspiration. Friday Harbor is loaded with fun things to do, places to eat, and views to savor. Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know by dropping a comment on Facebook or Instagram.

More Fun Things to Do in Friday Harbor

Visit Printshop Northwest

Andrew Youngren Printing Shirts
Looking for a unique island momento? Printshop Northwest allows you to be part of the creative process in designing your custom-printed piece!

Dinner at Cynthia’s

Cynthia Burke on San Juan Island
Chef Cynthia Burke of Cynthia’s Bistro in Friday Harbor is known for her good food without any muss or fuss.