12 Things to Do in Friday Harbor without a Car
A fetching slice of paradise, Friday Harbor is the largest town in Washington state’s sunny San Juan Islands. Often a homebase for travelers, the plethora of things to do in Friday Harbor without a car make it alone with a visit.
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Best Things to do in Downtown Friday Harbor
From the best museums and the top spots to savor seafood to the best places to enjoy a drink outside and a line-up of the can’t miss art galleries, discover the best things to do in Friday Harbor without a car. Really want to get out of town? We included two tips on where to rent a ride.
1. Savor Seafood with a View
Seafood is touted for its health benefits. And, it is praised for its sustainability (when harvested using environmentally friendly practices). It’s also darn delicious — especially when it comes straight from the sea to your plate.
And in the San Juan Islands, that’s exactly what you get. The chefs in this remote sliver of America have fully embraced the sea-to-table concept. Fresh, locally caught seafood is a star on many restaurant menus, especially in Friday Harbor. Seaside views are equally as abundant, with several restaurants offering frame-worthy marina vistas.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular is the Friday Harbor House. Set above the Friday Harbor Marina, it specializes in refined northwest fare. When the weather is nice, outside seating is the way to go while you enjoy decadent started like a Crab and Halibut Cake and show-stopping mains like house-made lemon trottole with prawns.
The hip and modern Downriggers is another seafood staple with seafood-infused updates to classic comfort food, like Dungeness crab tots and prawn mac and cheese. Friday’s Crabhouse is another Friday Harbor staple that’s offered a casual seafood bar and grill for more than 30 years.
2. Enjoy Toast-Worthy Al Fresco Watering Holes
Spending as much time outside as possible is a highlight for most island visitors and locals alike. And for a town that’s petite, to say the least, Friday Harbor offers an impressively large selection. Cocktails at the Friday Harbor House are always a favorite, but the rooftop bar at Anchors Away SkyBar is another favorite. It features firepits, heaters, and an open tent during the most tenuous of seasons. Those who love a good locally brewed pint, fabulous wood-fired pizzas, and the chance to rub elbows with locals, won’t want to miss San Juan Island Brewing Co. The expansive, family-friendly patio is particularly enjoyable during the spring and summer when the neighboring green space becomes a veritable playground.
3. Tour the Art Galleries
A hub for local artists, the San Juan Islands are home to a plethora of artists and art galleries. Friday Harbor, in particular, hosts more than a half dozen art galleries located within just blocks of each other. Among the local art scene, you’ll find:
- Friday Harbor Gallery
- Harbor Song Art Gallery at Friday Harbor
- Waterworks Gallery
- Arctic Raven Gallery
- Crisanti Glass Art
- Debbie Daniels Art
One of the most interesting things about visiting these local galleries is that you might meet one of the artists! Thanks to the intimate nature of the islands, it’s not uncommon for the artists to stop by to check on their work or drop off new pieces.
4. Go on a Whale Watching Adventure
There are few things quite so humbling as watching a whale breach — its massive body rising above the water’s surface, before crashing back into the ocean. While seeing an orca breach isn’t terribly common, whale sightings during the summer months certainly are.
Orcas, gray whales, minke whales, and humpback whales are frequent visitors. In addition to whales, the San Juan Islands are home to a plethora of seals, sea otters, bald eagles, shore birds, and more.
5. Hunt for a Pre-Loved Read at Serendipity Books
Nestled on A Street, roughly two blocks from the Friday Harbor Seaplane Dock, is one of the funkiest little bookstores you may ever well visit. Throughout the first floor of a 120-year-old house, Serendipity Books is a floor-to-ceiling maze of gently used treasures.
Take your time hunting for an inspiring read. But don’t assume you have to hunt for a new-to-you title. The 40,000+ selection has been computerized, so all you need to do is ask, and they’ll help you find it.
6. Tour the San Juan Islands Museum of Art
In 2014, the San Juan Islands Museum of Art (SJIMA) established the first fine visual arts museum on the islands. Located just .5 miles from the Friday Harbor Marina, it showcases 8-10 exhibitions per year in its three galleries.
The beautiful, modern space has two traditional galleries. But the real star of this museum is the soaring glass atrium. Flooded with natural light, the space is truly a unique setting for installations that often celebrate nature.
7. Grab a Locally Brewed Pint at San Juan Island Brewing Company
There’s something about sipping a pint, in a brewery, at a communal table, while enjoying some pub-style food that just feels right. And that’s exactly what you’ll get at San Juan Island Brewing Company. Opened in 2017, this fabulous community hub brews a large selection of beers on-site (you can see their tanks from their indoor dining room) and dishes up wood-fired pizza with a fabulously thin and blistered crust. On sunny days, the patio area spills into a spacious green space (perfect for children to run around).
8. Tour the Whale Museum
One of the most iconic sights in the San Juan Islands are undoubtedly the orcas. These magnificent creatures are interwoven into the islands’ culture, dating back to the earliest days of the Coast Salish People.
Among the orcas who reside in the Salish Sea, the Southern Residents are the most well-known. Made up of the J, K, and L pods, these salmon-eating giants have faced a variety of threats throughout the years — including hunting, capture, and most recently a decline in salmon (their primary food source).
In 1976, the Whale Museum was founded to study and protect the Southern Resident orcas. The museum is housed in the historic Odd Fellows Hall (built in 1892). Located on First Street, across from the town’s courthouse, it overlooks the marina.
In addition to the Southern Resident killer whales, the museum also highlights a wide array of marine residents, showcases how you can practice stewardship, and more.
9. Visit the San Juan Island Farmers Market
At the heart of downtown Friday Harbor, Brickworks was built in 1921. True to its name, the historic building was a brick factory (known as Friday Harbor Brick and Title Co.). Thanks to a host of grants, community donations, and community support, the historic property was purchased and completely restored in 2013. Today, it is a central hub for the San Juan Island Farmers Market, a variety of community gatherings, and a favorite destination for events.
We’re particularly fans of the farmers market, a seasonal gathering of the best farmers, artists, harvesters, and local musicians. A variety of pop-up food stands can also be found, making this a great opportunity to stock up on goodies, souvenirs, and grab a bite.
Housed in the historic Brickworks Events Center at the heart of Friday Harbor, this seasonal farmers market is loaded with the best island and harvest food, island-made wares, and local musicians.
10. Rent a Scoot Coupe
Susie’s Mopeds in Friday Harbor offers a variety of rental options, but our favorite is the scoot coupes. These small two-person vehicles are a cross between a scooter and a car. They allow for one driver (who is required to have a driving license) and one passenger, along with a very small storage space.
These small vehicles allow you to explore the island at your own pace, making a full loop around San Juan with stops at some of the most iconic landmarks and destinations. Among the can’t-miss visits are Lime Kilm Lighthouse, Roche Harbor, The Farm at Krystal Acres, and Pelindaba Lavender.
11. Go for a Bike Ride
Looking to explore the island, while getting a bit more of a workout? Rent a bike! Meat Machine in Friday Harbor offers a variety of bike rentals — including several different e-bike rentals. What’s even better? They’ll deliver the bike to you.
Planning to take a Kenmore Air Express flight from Boeing Field or Paine Field? They’ll bring the bike to Friday Harbor Airport! Land at the Friday Harbor Seaplane Dock? They’ll deliver the bike directly to the Marina. Of course, you could also walk to their shop, which is conveniently located downtown.
Discover the ultimate 7-hour San Juan Island biking itinerary.
12. Bakery Delights
Pastries. Cookies. Cakes. Wild yeast bread. Bakery San Juan has it all. But the favorite for locals and visitors is undoubtedly the thin-crust pizzas. Among the top pies is the island pepperoni — featuring island-made pepperoni and the bakery’s housemade mozzarella. Just keep in mind, the bakery is only open Monday through Friday. If you happen to only be visiting during the weekend, check the farmers market, where they often have a stand.
Additional Info About Things to do in Friday Harbor without a Car
What is the Fastest Way to Get to Friday Harbor?
Flying from Paine Field to Friday Harbor Airport is the fastest way to get to Friday Harbor, with direct flights taking just 25 minutes.
The second fastest way to reach this island town is a flight from Boeing Field in Seattle to Friday Harbor Airport. Both of these quick and easy flights are provided by Kenmore Air Express, the wheeled plane division.
Seaplanes are also another quick way to reach Friday Harbor. Flights depart from Lake Union in downtown Seattle and from Kenmore Air Harbor at the north end of Lake Washington.
How do You Get to Friday Harbor without a Car?
There are two ways to get to Friday Harbor — by plane or by boat. If you want to travel to the San Juan Islands without a car, the easiest way is by plane. Without a car, the Kenmore Air terminals can all be reached quickly by a car service.
If you would like to travel to Friday Harbor car-free by boat, you’ll need to walk onto a Washington State Ferry departing from Anacortes. Anacortes is roughly a 1.5-hour drive from Seattle, without traffic.
(In years past, the Victoria Clipper’s San Juan Clipper service offered service to Friday Harbor. Unfortunately, this route is not currently in operation.
Do You Need a Passport to Fly to Friday Harbor?
No. You do not need a passport to fly to Friday Harbor, as it is not an international flight.
Is There a Beach in Friday Harbor?
While Friday Harbor is nestled beside the water, there is no classic “beach” within the downtown stretch. The closest beach is Jackson Beach — located just five minutes by car or a 20-minute walk from the downtown core. Offering two miles of sandy beachfront, it is scattered with driftwood and features a boat launch with a small dock. This quaint beach is a favorite for strolling, picnicking, and watching the sunset.
Is a Friday Harbor Day Trip Worth It?
We like to think that any time in Friday Harbor is worth the journey. After all, Friday Harbor is one of our favorite destinations. That being said, you want to consider how much time you will spend getting there and how much time you will actually have to explore.
If you’re walking on the ferry in Anacortes and arriving at the Friday Harbor ferry landing, this trip can take you roughly 3 hours, without traffic or waiting for a ferry boat. If you plan to visit Friday Harbor for a single day, the best way to maximize your time on-island is to fly.