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Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own." - Charles Dickens

San Juan County Attractions

Parent Category: Washington Counties
Created: 09 October 2014

Population:  15,875

Area: 621 square miles

County Seat: Friday Harbor


San Juan County is located in the Salish Sea and is accessible only by water or air. There are about 700 islands and reefs that can be found between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The sea border in the Haro Strait divides the islands into the Canadian Southern Gulf Islands and the American San Juan Islands.

Photo from San Juan CountyTwenty of the islands are inhabited. The islands are mainly rural, there are not many towns and residents here, but the number of people in this region increases in summer, when visitors come here to enjoy the stunning scenery and wonderful recreational opportunities. The largest islands in the county are Orcas Island, San Juan and Lopez Island.

The San Juan Islands were the subject of a political and territorial dispute between the United States and Great Britain. This dispute led to the Pig War in 1859. Only in 1872, the San Juan Islands became part of the United States, and the next year the county was created.


Photo from San Juan CountyThe Lummi, Samish and other Northern Straits Salish tribes were the first people who inhabited these islands. These people were great fishermen, both native tribes and early settlers depended heavily on natural resources of the county, including fish. Nowadays there are still people who make their living from farming, forestry or fishing, but tourism has become the main industry that brings money into the county.


Friday Harbor is San Juan County Seat. It’s population is about 2,278 people. The town got its name from a native Hawaiian Joseph Poalie Friday, who worked for Hudson’s Bay Company and raised sheep around harbor.

The best way to explore the town and to enjoy its’ beauty is to take a walking tour around its’ historic districts that still have old buildings and churches.

The town of Friday Harbor was officially incorporated on February 10, 1909 and it is still the only incorporated town in the San Juan Islands.


Deception Pass State Park

Photo from San Juan CountyDeception Pass State Park is an amazing 4,134-acre park that offers 77,000 feet of saltwater and almost 34,000 feet of freshwater shoreline for exploration.

Old-growth trees, sand dunes, different kinds of birds and animals – all of these can be found in the park.
The best way to explore the park is to go hiking. The Headlands Trail is one of the most popular. The path takes its’ visitors through the park along its most beautiful parts.

The hike starts at the CCC Interpretive Center and leads you to Rosario Head and back. In order to thoroughly explore the Headlands, choose the Bowman Bay Rosario Beach Trail, and you enjoy wonderful views of the Olympic Mountains and marvelous waters of the lake. If you go west, the path will take you through the forest, opening great views of Bowman Bay.

Be sure to hike along the beach and go to Pass Lake. In order to enjoy the diversity of the park, the visitors are encouraged to visit Deception Pass Bridge and Lighthouse Point.

Photo from San Juan CountyShark Reef Sanctuary

Shark Reef is located on the south west side of Lopez Island. This beautiful and easy hike takes its’ visitors through the peaceful forest to the rocky cliffs, opening stunning views of San Juan Channel.

Shark Reef Sanctuary was a military site, but it has been changed into the most spectacular hike. The main goal for hikers is to find a sunny place and enjoy breathtaking and impressive views. Mount Finlayson is seen across the channel, as well as the highest mountain on the island – Dallas Mountain. If you look south, you will surely enjoy the snow-capped Olympics. Straight ahead are wonderful reefs, offshore rocks and Dead-man Island.

Orcas Island

Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands. There are numerous opportunities to observe the orcas from the long shoreline of Orcas Island, and the inland waters of Puget Sound. Enjoy Orca Whale or Killer Whales nature tour. The marine inland waters of Washington State have about 300 orcas.

Three pods, knows as the Southern Residents are typically here from mid-April to early October, but the best chance to see them is from late May through September.

On Orcas orca whale watch tour, tourists enjoy not only orca whales, but different species of whales: gray, minke and humpback whales, not to mention seals, porpoises, sea lions, otters, bald eagles, and numerous seabirds, such as great blue herons, rhino auklets, surf scoters and maybe puffins.

Photo from San Juan CountyCattle Point Lighthouse

Cattle Point is one of the most popular places in the south part of San Juan Island. Its history started in 1853, when the Hudson’s Bay Company established the Belle Vue Farm on the island. Cattle Point Lighthouse was built in 1935, but a special lantern that navigated the way has been working here since 1888.

Though the lighthouse is closed to public visits, the views that this place offers just incredible.

Lime Kiln Point State Park

Photo from San Juan CountyLime Kiln Point is a very nice 36-acre park which is located in the western part of San Juan Island. This island is very popular among tourists, because it is considered to be one of the best places in the world for whale-watching. The lighthouse, which is located on the territory of the park, is a center for ongoing orca research, but it is open for tourists and tours during summer. It was built in 1919 and still serves as a navigational beacon for ships in the Haro Strait. A very nice path that runs along the rocky shoreline and offers great view takes hikers from the Karen Munro Outlook and brings them to the Lighthouse.


Information: Marina Petrova

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