The largest town in the San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor is far from a bustling metropolis. Here, traffic lights are nonexistent. Horses, bicycles, and tractors share the road with scoot coupes and cars. Sunshine reigns supreme. And rolling farmland sprawls into rocky shores and expansive ocean views.
The list of what the island has can go on and on. However, it’s more about what the island doesn’t have. It’s devoid of the city hustle and bustle. Here, restaurants focus on locally sourced ingredients and slowly developed flavors. Shop owners linger with visitors, especially during the shoulder season.
With a plethora of fun things to do in Friday Harbor (and plenty of opportunities to do nothing at all), this is one of the best weekend getaway destinations in the Pacific Northwest! Because while there are plenty of fun things to do in Friday Harbor (many of which are detailed below), sometimes the best way to experience island life is to do nothing and love it!
36(ish) hours Exploring the Best Things to do in Friday Harbor
The following 36(ish) hour guide is based on catching a seaplane flight to Friday Harbor Marina on Friday afternoon and flying back to Seattle on a Sunday afternoon flight. But of course, we encourage you to go for as much or as little time as your schedule allows. Any time in the islands is well spent.
Friday Night in Friday Harbor
6:30 p.m. House Made Pasta Dinner at Coho
Despite the name, don’t come expecting salmon. In 2018, Coho announced it would no longer serve the prized fish in an effort (and sacrifice) to support the, “overall health of the [Southern Resident Killer Whales].” But don’t let their announcement fool you. The Coho menu is anything but disappointing.
The seasonally driven menu features a regularly changing selection of items that can be enjoyed as a four-course tasting menu (with optional wine pairing) or a la carte. Housemade pasta is a consistent star, especially when the bolognese is on the menu.
Saturday in Friday Harbor
9 am Breakfast at Cynthia’s Bistro
Visiting Cynthia’s Bistro is a bit like plopping into the kitchen of the classically trained great aunt you’ve never had. The former house where Cynthia Burke has set up shop bustles with warmth. The intimate dining room is spread throughout the home’s first floor. It spills onto a sunny back patio and welcoming front porch.
The bistro is an extension of Cynthia’s original business — Cynthia’s of Course Catering Company — and her Friday Harbor Farmer’s Market stand. The all-day brunch menu features a wide array of delights, including an Avocado Breakfast Boat topped with poached eggs and optional smoked salmon. But for those looking for ultra-warming comfort food, the Salish Sea Skillet — baked eggs in rich marinara sauce and golden parmesan — is a sure winner.
10:30 am Wander the Friday Harbor Shops
Just steps from the Friday Harbor Marina, the small downtown core spans just a few blocks. But don’t let the small footprint fool you. It’s loaded with art galleries, novelty shops, and bookstores sure to pique your curiosity.
WaterWorks Gallery features an exquisite collection of Pacific Northwest artists with works ranging from oil paintings and sculptures to mixed-media designs and jewelry. Serendipity, a used book shop that feels as though it was plucked from a novel, is housed within an old home. Discover casual, comfortable apparel at Cotton Cotton Cotton, where socks are even made out of recycled shirts! And for those who like to find previously used treasures, you won’t want to miss Funk & Junk Antiques.
12:30 pm Seafood & Views at Downriggers
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Located on the water’s edge of Friday Harbor, Downriggers offers a seafood-forward menu and scratch-made cocktails. The small plate selection is perfect for sharing, with fun nibbles like Dungeness Crab Tots. The spicy twist on Mac and Cheese is studded with prawns, three kinds of cheese, and oyster mushrooms, while the blackened cod tacos come with a zippy cilantro-lime creme and pickled red onion.
2 p.m. Adventure Whale Watch & Wildlife Tour with San Juan Safaris
There’s nothing quite like seeing an orca breach or a humpback whale come up for air, though depending on the time of year, you may not see much (if any) whale activity. That’s because these gentle giants migrate during the winter months. But don’t assume whales are the only water attraction.
The San Juan Islands and the surrounding Salish Sea are home to a wide array of wildlife, including Bald Eagles, seals, sea lions, and more. And, no whale watching tour operator has a better success rate at spotting wildlife than San Juan Safaris. Each trip is led by a naturalist guide, who will help you spot and learn about each item you see.
6 pm Dinner at Duck Soup
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You don’t go to Duck Soup for the sunset view. Hidden in a forest, this island gem doesn’t boast a waterfront location. It’s a little bit wild. A little bit raw. A little bit untamed — just like much of its foraged menu. Sourcing wild-grown ingredients, the restaurant’s never quite sure what it will serve precisely. You may see items like ramps, fiddlehead ferns or sea beans.
And what Duck Soup inn can’t harvest from Mother Nature’s tended garden, it sources from local farmers and fishermen. Raw oysters from down the road. Lamb from an island farm. Here, fresh flavors are given a chance to shine and the happy staff is readily willing to share just how it all came together.
8:30 Cocktails at The Top of the Town Lounge
Swanky and sultry in Friday Harbor? While it’s not a combo one might expect in the laidback town where joints tend to close down by 10 pm, it’s exactly what you’ll find at The Top of the Town Lounge. A little bit speakeasy and a whole lot of flavor, their extensive cocktail list and liquor selection make this the perfect place for a nightcap.
Sunday in Friday Harbor
8:30 a.m. Breakfast at Salty Fox Coffee
Water views, healthy breakfast options, and good coffee have made Salty Fox Coffee a favorite. A selection of traditional breakfast burritos and sandwiches don’t disappoint, but it’s the breakfast bowls that are the real star — especially the Savory Pesto Bowl that features rice, topped with crumpled eggs, pesto, avocado, sprouts, and carrots.
10 a.m. Explore the Island on a Scoot Coupe
Fresh air and island views make a Scoot Coupe ride around San Juan Island a must. (Susie’s Moped’s also has mopeds, electric bikes, and Electric F.U.V.s for rent.) It takes roughly 2 hours to do the 48-mile predetermined loop around the island — but you’ll likely want to take a bit longer.
Stop at Lime Kiln Lighthouse to look for whales. Visit the San Juan Island Sculpture Park to see locally crafted art installations. And don’t forget to pop by Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm to see the cute alpacas.
1 p.m. Pints and Pizzas at San Juan Island Brewing Co.
If an island devoid of fast food chains and stop lights had a ‘hip’ destination, San Juan Island Brewing Company would be it. Founded by three locals, the modern joint opened in 2017. While this makes it a relative newbie to the Friday Harbor restaurant scene, it’s quickly become a beloved community watering hole.
The spacious, sunny patio is adorned with bistro lights. The lofted interior features a long 21-and-over bar, a large mix of dining tables, and a clear view of the brewing operations. But this brewery is more than a great environment with a rustically swanky vibe — they throw down with flavor-forward beers, woodfired pizzas, and some hearty burgers you’ll need two mits to enjoy.
Things to do in Friday Harbor FAQ
How to Get to Friday Harbor from Seattle
There are two primary ways to get to Friday Harbor from Seattle. The first is to catch the Anacortes to Friday Harbor ferry. Taking the ferry to Friday Harbor is, at best, three hours from Seattle. That’s assuming you can make it to Anacortes in 2 hours and catch a ferry right away. Unfortunately, both the drive and the wait for the ferry often take longer.
Alternatively, you can fly to Friday Harbor. We offer a variety of regularly scheduled flights to Friday Harbor that are available seven days a week. One of our most popular ways to fly to Friday Harbor is aboard our seaplanes. These 45-minute scenic flights take you to the Friday Harbor Marina, where you have easy access to the island.
What’s the Weather Like in Friday Harbor
Like all of the San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor is tucked within the Olympic Rainshadow. It enjoys an average of 220 days with sunshine, making this a delightful escape from the drizzly weather in Seattle.
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48(ish) hours sampling the best things to do on the biggest island in the San Juans including baked treats, fresh seafood, and epic views.