15 Best Friday Harbor Things To Do (2024)

Seaplane docked at Friday Harbor Marina in the San Juans
Seaplane docked at Friday Harbor Marina

Nestled on San Juan Island in Washington, Friday Harbor is a picturesque town exuding coastal charm and historic allure. Framed by scenic harbors and surrounded by lush landscapes, this waterfront gem captivates visitors with its vibrant community and maritime ambiance. Quaint streets are adorned with shops, cafes, and galleries.

Notable sites, such as the historic San Juan County Courthouse and The Whale Museum, showcase the town’s rich heritage. The bustling marina offers whale watching excursions, adding to the town’s allure.

The fastest way to get to Friday is a quick and convenient scenic flight. Direct flights are available from Boeing Field, Kenmore, Lake Union and soon Ruston Way in Tacoma

Sip and Savor – Great Places to Eat in Friday Harbor

1. Seafood with a View

Friday Harbor House Patio View
Friday Harbor House Patio View
Downriggers on San Juan Island
Downriggers nestled beside the water.

Health benefits. Sustainability (when environmentally-friendly harvesting practices are in place). Downright delicious. There’s a lot to love about seafood. And, Friday Harbor is one of the ultimate destinations for those who want to experience sea-to-plate dining.

Chefs in the remote archipelago fully embrace this sustainable concept. Fresh, locally caught seafood is frequently showcased on many restaurant menus. One of the most popular seafood-filled dining destinations is the Restaurant at Friday Harbor House. Here, frame-worthy marina vistas are paired with a thoughtfully curated menu. (Hot tip: When the weather is nice, request a seat on the patio near one of the firepits.)

The trendy and contemporary Downriggers is another seafood haven. Here, classic comfort food is infused with modern twists, such as Dungeness crab tots and prawn mac and cheese. Friday’s Crabhouse, a longstanding Friday Harbor fixture, has been serving as a laid-back seafood bar and grill for over three decades.

Love oysters? Head to Oystertale for fresh, local oysters and other local, seasonal bounty. This small oyster shop is nestled beside the Spring Street Landing dock and offers views of the marina. 

2. Toast Al Fresco

san juan island brewery

It may be a small town, but Friday Harbor boasts an impressively wide range of al fresco destinations perfect for enjoying a libation (or two). Cocktails at the Friday Harbor House are always a favorite, especially at sunset.

A bit more of a hidden enclave, Anchors Away SkyBar is frequented by locals. It features firepits, heaters, and an open tent even during the most challenging seasons. 

For those with a penchant for locally brewed pints, delectable wood-fired pizzas, and the opportunity to mingle with locals, a visit to San Juan Island Brewing Co. is a must. The expansive, family-friendly patio is especially delightful in the spring and summer, transforming the neighboring green space into a vibrant playground.

Love a good glass of vino? Don’t miss San Juan Vineyard. Located just outside of Friday Harbor’s downtown core, the small estate winery’s open-air patio is set beside a historic schoolhouse and the estate vineyard.

3. Sample Fresh Baked Goods

From pastries and cookies to cakes and wild yeast breads, Bakery San Juan offers a diverse array of baked goods. However, the undisputed favorite among both locals and visitors is the thin-crust pizzas. 

A standout is the island pepperoni pizza, showcasing locally made pepperoni and the bakery’s own house-made mozzarella. It’s worth noting that the bakery operates only from Monday through Friday. If you find yourself visiting on the weekend, be sure to check out their stand at the farmers market, where they frequently set up shop.

4. Lunch Like a Local

Market Chef in Friday Harbor
Market Chef Lunch Counter

It doesn’t pop up in many review guides — likely due to its limited hours — but The Market Chef’s scratch made, locally sourced lunch fare is the kind of wholesome midday meal that is indulgent, without weighing you down. Don’t come here expecting a revolutionary take on smoked spot prawn-infused potato salad. 

The sandwich and salad menu mirrors a classic deli. Think spicy Italian loaded with cured meats and house roasted turkey topped with cranberry and Russian dressing. Each is freshly made. Each is delightfully loaded with flavors and textures. Each great to take with you for an impromptu picnic around town or while exploring the rest of the island. 

The Best Friday Harbor-Based Tours

5. Whale Watching with San Juan Safaris

Orca killer whale off the coast of Canada

The waters surrounding the San Juan Islands are recognized as one of the best whale watching destinations in the world. Prime whale watching season runs May to October. During this period, sightings of orca whales, humpback whales, and gray whales are most frequent. 

Beyond whales, the vibrant ecosystem features rocky shorelines teeming with diverse wildlife, including seals and sea lions. Bird enthusiasts can delight in spotting bald eagles, Pacific Loons, four gull species, white-winged scoter, and more along the salty waters. San Juan Safaris offers daily tours departing from Friday Harbor Marina, conveniently located near the seaplane dock.

6. Scoot Coupe Around San Juan Islands’ ‘Loop’ 

Susie's Mopeds on San Juan Island

The 48-mile ‘loop’ outlined by Susie’s Mopeds takes you past some of the island’s top attractions, including:

  • The Farm at Krystal Acres (aka the Alpaca Farm)
  • Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm
  • Lime Kiln State Park
  • Pelindaba Lavender Farm (Unfortunately they closed. We will update this when there is news about what will happen to the farm.)

They offer a variety of rental options, ranging from mopeds to scoot coupes — allowing you to explore as slow or as fast as you would like. 

7. Take a Self-Guided e-Bike Tour

Want to tour the island and get a little bit of a workout? Consider renting an e-bike — allowing you to peddle as hard or gently as you’d like. (Friday Harbor’s Meat Machine bike-rental company offers several different e-bike rental options and they’ll deliver it to a requested location!)

8. Shop As You Walk

Downtown Friday Harbor

Shopping in Friday Harbor is a delightful experience, offering a blend of quaint boutiques and artisanal finds in this charming island town. Explore unique shops along the waterfront and Main Street, where locally crafted treasures, maritime-themed souvenirs, and eclectic gifts await. A few of our favorites include:

Educational Things To Do in Friday Harbor

9. Learn About the Salish Sea at The Whale Museum

Friday Harbor Whale Museum

Situated near the downtown waterfront, The Whale Museum is dedicated to educating the public about whales and the Salish Sea environment. Its easily accessible exhibits feature informative displays, with the highlight being several whale skeletons suspended from the ceiling.

Whether or not you initially have a keen interest in whales, a visit is worthwhile, and your fascination with these magnificent creatures is likely to grow. The second-floor main gallery offers a straightforward stroll through the intricacies of the Salish Sea ecosystem.

All proceeds from the admission costs support the non-profit organization’s scientific research. The adjacent whale-themed gift shop, near the admissions desk, also contributes to these valuable efforts.

10. San Juan Islands Museum of Art (SJIMA)

San Juan Islands Museum of Art

The San Juan Islands Museum of Art (SJIMA) is on Spring Street, less than a half mile from the Friday Harbor Marina. It showcases a wide variety of artwork in its rotating exhibitions. Generally, new pieces are installed every few months, offering something new and exciting each season. 

11. Dive Into Friday Harbor’s Past on a Self-Guided Historical Tour

Embark on a captivating journey through time with Friday Harbor’s self-guided historical tour. This immersive experience invites explorers to stroll through the charming streets of this waterfront town, uncovering its rich past. As you meander through the historic district, meticulously crafted plaques and markers unveil fascinating stories about the architecture, notable events, and prominent figures that shaped Friday Harbor. A self-guided historical tour was produced several years ago and many of the items on this list still exist today.

Friday Harbor Seasonal Events, Local Gatherings, and More!

12. San Juan Island Farmers Market

San Juan Islands Farmers Market

The San Juan Island Farmers Market is held at Brickworks, a historic brick factory located in the heart of downtown Friday Harbor. The building was restored in 2013 and the grounds now also feature an expansive patio and outdoor stage. On Saturdays from 9:30 AM to 1 PM from April through October (along with some seasonal gatherings during the off season), the market becomes a bustling affair. 

Local farmers bring freshly harvested goods.Island food purveyors — including San Juan Bakery and some of the top creameries in the San Juans — set up booths. You may mind locally-made teas, exquisite hand-thrown pottery, thought-provoking paintings, and more. Music and food stalls also prevail during this event, making it a lively place to wander and grab lunch. 

13. 2024 San Juan Island Artists’ Studio Tour — June 1 & 2, 2024

Dave Ber — Knife Maker
Paula West Throwing a Pot on San Juan Island
Paula West – Pottery Artist
River and Luna Wylde
River and Luna Wylde – Driftwood Resin Artists

Another annual event, the San Juan Island Artists’ Studio Tour offers visitors the opportunity to see inside the working studios of San Juan Islands’ artist, meet the artists, and buy art directly from the makers. The studios vary widely in location, size, and medium. You can visit everyone on the tour or just a few, with studios located close to Friday Harbor and throughout the rest of the island. 

14. Savor the San Juans — Fall 2024

An annual culinary extravaganza, Savor the San Juans is a celebration of the San Juans’ bounty. Held during the fall, it highlights the region’s diverse and delectable food and drink offerings. Local restaurants, farms, and artisans collaborate to present a variety of themed events, dinners, and tours. 

15. Friday Harbor Film Festival — October 16 – 24, 2024

The Friday Harbor Film Festival is an annual cinematic celebration. Dedicated to inspiring and enlightening audiences, the festival showcases a diverse array of documentary films that explore thought-provoking subjects such as nature, culture, and social issues. With a focus on impactful storytelling, the event attracts filmmakers, enthusiasts, and community members alike. Attendees have the opportunity to engage in discussions with filmmakers, participate in workshops, and immerse themselves in the captivating world of documentary cinema. The Friday Harbor Film Festival serves as a cultural hub, fostering a deeper understanding of the world through the lens of powerful storytelling.

Fun Things To Do In The San Juan Islands