Breathtaking views, farm-to-table cuisine, and a plethora of low-key activities make Friday Harbor an epic girlfriends’ getaway.
Roughly 175 forest-covered rocky inlets make up this archipelago. Here, lush farmland butts up against freshwater lakes and protected coves. Saltwater surrounds the shorelines, where seals can be seen playing and mountain views often flirt with the horizon.
This is a place where life moves a bit slower. The dress code is come-as-you-are. And, the islands’ 247 days with sunshine induce a smiling spirit that’s downright infectious. From hikes and donuts to wine tasting and whale watching, you’ll discover a plethora of things to do in Friday Harbor — perfect for making memories with your best girlfriends. Or anyone else you love to travel with.
7. FRIDAY HARBOR RESTAURANTS
There are a plethora of Friday Harbor restaurants from which to choose, with cuisines ranging from throughout the globe. And in a place where locally-sourced ingredients isn’t just praise-worthy, it’s necessary for a restaurant’s survival — chefs are serving up the freshest of the fresh.
1. The Restaurant at Friday Harbor House (Dinner)
Located just a hop, skip, and jump from its namesake, Friday Harbor Marina, this local gem is widely recognized as one of the best places to eat in the archipelago’s biggest town. Nestled into the bluff overlooking the marina, the restaurant’s elegant dining room flows onto an equally thoughtful deck space and bordering lawn. Here, views abound and cooler temps are tempered by outdoor heaters and warm blankets.
And while the view is likely to be what first grabs your attention, it’s far from the last. Chef Jason Aldous — a Willows Inn alum — offers up a seasonal menu that is both approachable and intriguing. Here a house-made lemon pasta is accentuated by pine nut pesto. A wild mushroom risotto is given a luscious twist — coconut cream. And, the wagyu burger comes loaded with tomato onion jam and an intoxicating side of duck fat fries.
2. Bakery San Juan (Lunch)
This quaint bakery is only open Monday through Friday, but if you visit on a weekday, Bakery San Juan shouldn’t be missed. The charming spot frequented by locals is well-known for its hand-tossed pizza and freshly baked bread. The minimal selection of pastries is also quite pleasing, but it’s really the pizzas that are rave-worthy.
A New York-style thin crust, the toppings range from vegetarian to meat-loaded. Unique offerings, like the Patate e gorgonzola (roasted potatoes with onion, garlic, jalapeno, and gorgonzola come topped with arugula and sage). However, it’s the house favorite Salsiccia (tomato sauce, Italian sausage, mozzarella, smoked provolone, parmesan, fresh arugula, roasted red peppers, and black olives) that frequently earns this small bakery its local accolades.
3. Downriggers (Lunch & Dinner)
The only restaurant closer to the water in Friday Harbor would be on a charter boat floating in the marina. Nestled between Front street and the rocky shore, Downriggers offers stunning views of the seaplanes taxiing and Washington State Ferries departing. Its Instagram-worthy interior is as quirkily enticing as its menu.
Small plates — like the Dungeness Crab Tots — are addicting. Heartier entrees — like the Spicy Prawn Mac and Cheese — deliver a subtle upgrade to classic comfort food. And for those who just want to nibble, the house-cut potato chips can’t be beaten.
4. COHO (Dinner)
You don’t come here for breathy, waterfront views. There are none from the historic Craftsman House located in the heart of downtown Friday Harbor. You come to COHO for the food — a farm-to-table menu that’s dominated by sustainably sourced, local ingredients.
During the winter months, look for roasted squash and apple salad made with rainbow chard and roasted pumpkin seeds. The homemade pappardelle wrapped in a hearty bolognese warms the soul. And if they’re on the menu — the roasted carrots with tahini should not be overlooked.
Just don’t request salmon. The locally-owned restaurant choose to no longer serve salmon in 2018 in an effort to protect the Southern Resident Whales who call the San Juans home during the summer months.
5. Vinny’s Ristorante (Dinner)
If fresh Italian food is your jam, Vinny’s Ristorante is your game. This cozy Friday Harbor restaurant walks the fine line between casual and elegant — offering a welcoming environment that’s as suitable for a date night as it is for a casual Tuesday dinner.
Classics, like Chicken Parmesan and Veal Piccata, are constant favorites. So too is Vinny’s Spaghetti and the Fresh Linguine Alfredo. In addition to the obvious choice of wine with Italian food, Vinny’s is also well-known for their cocktails. Not sure what will pair best with your menu selection? Ask your server! Offering pairing suggestions is one of the staff’s favorite pastimes.
6. The Net Shed at Westcott Bay Shellfish Company (Lunch)
While not in Friday Harbor, if you love oysters, Westcott Bay Shellfish Company is the place to go. But fair warning, it slows down during the winter months. The Farm Store hours are reduced to Saturdays only. The indoor-outdoor restaurant, The Net Shed, closes until February. And the grill-your-own picnic space, The Tide Tables, doesn’t re-open until the summer.
During the depth of winter, take your oysters to one of San Juan Island’s beaches or your hotel room for a DIY picnic. Starting in February, make a reservation for lunch at The Net Shed. And if you plan your girl’s trip during the summer — by all means plan an afternoon lunch grilling your own oysters at The Tide Tables.
7. Mike’s Cafe and Wine Bar (Dinner)
It may be the only all-vegan restaurant in the San Juan Islands, but don’t let the plant-based menu at Mike’s Cafe and Winer Bar confuse you with flavorless meals and poor versions of imitation meat. It is anything but. This small island gem is beloved by carnivores and herbivores alike from on-island and well beyond.
The flavor-forward cuisine is matched by fabulous wine and on-tap beer selections. (There’s also a delightful refreshing ginger watermelon water on the non-alcoholic menu that should not be overlooked.) Menu favorites include the Southwest Salad topped with a creamy chipotle dressing, the Ruben featuring unreal corned beef and sauerkraut, and the crabby tacos — loaded with vegan crabby cakes and fresh cilantro drizzle.
4. FRIDAY HARBOR BARS
This list of Friday Harbor bars only scratches the surface. There’s a surprising number of amazing places to grab a drink in this remote destination only accessible by plane or boat. But for a Friday Harbor girls’ getaway, these are some of our go-tos.
1. Anchors Away SkyBar
The views from the stunning rooftop bar are hard to beat and so is the ambiance. In fact, it’s the only rooftop bar in this small town where the open-air deck features firepits, heaters, and an open tent during the most tenuous of seasons. Also known as the Friday Harbor SkyBar, this small gem is known by locals for its wine flights, hand-picked by the knowledgeable sommelier and owner, Bex.
The bar is open year-round. But word-to-the-wise, dress for the weather. It can get chilly during the winter months.
2. Top of the Town Lounge
While Friday Harbor’s laidback sense of ‘island time’ and ‘come as you are’ dress code might not seem like the kind of place you’d find a swanky, sultry little watering hole. But that’s just what you’ll discover at Top of the Town Lounge in Friday Harbor. Open until 10(ish), this little speakeasy offers an extensive cocktail list and liquor selection. And for those who want dinner with their toast-worthy pours, their menu is delightfully flavorful.
3. San Juan Island Brewing Co.
Friendly service, fabulous island-brewed beer, and town hall-Esc vibes make San Juan Island Brewing Co. a favorite for locals and visitors alike. This family-friendly establishment has a generously-sized interior space, where communal tables and a long 21-and-over belly-up bar offer views of fermentation tanks. When the weather is warm, the expansive outdoor patio spills into a greenspace where children frequently play while adults relax.
Beyond beer, the menu is a hearty selection of wood-fired pizzas, mammoth burgers, and appetizers that pair with cold pints. (Think fried cheese curds, chicken wings, and pretzels.)
4. Cease & Desist – A Friday Harbor Beerhouse
A far cry from fancy – unless you count the prime, water-front location nestled just above Friday Harbor Marina — Cease & Desist is a beer-lovers haven that tends to be frequented by locals. The decor is sparse. A long wood bar. Wood plank paneling. A few oars and flotation rings on the walls.
The menu is simple. Beer, primarily small-batch brews. (If you’re looking for food, head to Downrigger’s, located one story up.) And weather dependant, there’s a small outdoor patio.
2 FRIDAY HARBOR BREAKFAST
No adventure with your girlfriends would be complete without a decadent breakfast. The following Friday Harbor breakfast joints feature morning menus that range from healthy to hearty.
1. Rocky Bay Cafe
Food Network Legend, Rachel Ray, called Friday Harbor’s Rocky Bay Cafe “the ideal hometown diner” — praising its hearty omelets and flavorful biscuits and gravy. Corned Beef Hash is slow-roasted in-house and served with crispy hashbrowns. Huevos Rancheros comes with or without chorizo. And the extensive Benny Bar selection ranges from crab cakes to veggies. In short, it’s hard to go wrong.
Born from a catering company where intimate meals and personalized service reign supreme, Cynthia’s Bistro bustles with warmth and comfort. The former house where Cynthia Burke flexes her classically trained muscles spreads the dining room throughout the first floor, spilling onto the sunny back patio and welcoming front porch.
The bistro’s all-day brunch menu is always loaded with a wide selection of delectable options that change seasonally. If a sweet start to the day, keep an eye out for the Swedish Pancakes loaded with lingonberries. For a hearty, veggie-loaded selection, sweet potatoes smashed on the frill are served with an egg and seasonal vegetables.
13 FRIDAY HARBOR ACTIVITIES
While one of the best things to do in Friday Harbor is nothing at all, this small town also offers an abundance of unique and fun activities.
1. Susie’s Mopeds
Fresh air freedom with a view makes Susie’s Moped’s a favorite. Offering a selection of scoot coupes, mopeds, electric bikes, and more — this downtown Friday Harbor rental agency allows you to explore the island as fast (or as slow) as you would like. The recommended 48-mile loop takes you completely around the island, including a visit to the west side where you’ll find the iconic Lime Kiln Lighthouse.
2. Day Hikes
If you and your girlfriends like your adventures with a little physical activity, San Juan Island is home to a plethora of day hikes that are easy on the incline and big on the views.
3. San Juan Island Museum of Art
While most of the buildings that make up Friday Harbor’s downtown core were built in the 19th century or really 20th century — the San Juan Island Museum of Art is a cutting-edge, modern attraction. Though small, the breathy space hosts 8-10 culturally diverse exhibits on an annual basis.
4. Whale Museum
Established in 1979, the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor combines groundbreaking research with public education. Primarily focused on the whales which call the Salish Sea home — the San Juan’s beloved Resident Orcas — this is a place to learn about and support the history, conservation efforts, and your own personal role in helping protect our planet’s whales.
5. Whale Watching
While the skeletons and dioramas at the Whale Museum are impressive, there’s nothing like seeing an Orca breach or a humpback surface. It’s breathtakingly majestic and gives you an entirely new perspective on just of gentle these giants really are.
Freshly caught crab, boiled and devoured just hours after you’ve pulled it from the sea. There are few things more primally satisfying. Except of course going crabbing with a seasoned guide who handles all the heavy lifting, boiling, and cleanup.
7. Sea Kayaking
We’re partial to the view from the air. It’s a glorious bird’s eye look at how the islands spread like rare jewels throughout the Salish Sea. But there’s something equally as intriguing as exploring the islands from the water’s surface. A kayak gives you the ideal vantage point that you can’t experience from most other water vessels, allowing you to skim along coastlines and through kelp forests.
8. Wine Tasting at San Juan Island Winery
When you think of Washington wine tasting, you likely think of Walla Walla or Yakima Valley. You might even consider Woodinville. You likely don’t think of Friday Harbor. But San Juan Vineyard has carved out a small space in the Washington wine world, producing estate-grown wines.
The tasting room, housed in a remodeled s1895 school house, is postcard-worthy. While the sunny patio surrounded by pastoral land, is an idyllic space for enjoying an afternoon tasting flight.
9. Cider Tasting at San Juan Island Distillery
On the northern side of San Juan Island, roughly one mile from Roche Harbor Resort, San Juan Island Distillery produces 14 different gins, several liqueurs and flavored brandies, and their award-winning apple brandy. This quaint island distillery is as quirky as it is delicious. They have a small cannon, and hand-hammered copper still, and the most beautiful sprawling lawn perfect for a day sipping brandy over a picnic.
10. Lavendera Massage
Is a spa day a must for than epic girlfriends’ getaway? Lavendera Massage offers a wide range of services and treatments ideal for letting your body decompress.
11. Lime Kiln Cafe’ World Famous Donuts
Freshly baked, freshly-glazed cake donuts have earned Roche Harbor’s Lime Kiln Cafe a world-renowned reputation. The donuts here are so beloved they frequently sell out. So, we recommend going early. Maybe even for breakfast. The cafe has a hearty diner-style menu loaded with breakfast sandwiches, pork and yam hash, and pancakes.
But make no mistake about it — go for the donuts. They’re worth the trip.
12. Take the Perfect Selfie
What’s a girlfriend getaway without a few pictures? And the San Juan Islands is rife with places to snap an IG-worthy selfie. Because while there’s something fabulous about being in the moment, there’s something to be said for taking home a digital memory.
13. Have a Girlfriends’ Photo Shoot
Take your picture game to the next level with a girlfriends’ photo shoot. Hiring a professional photographer is the perfect way to capture the moment and be in the moment.
San Juan Island-Based Photographers