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Escape with a Washington Day Trip: Friday Harbor

If you find yourself with a free day during school breaks or over the weekend, Friday Harbor is a quaint and relaxing day trip to explore Washington State and distance yourself from the traffic and crowds of the city. Friday Harbor and the journey to Friday Harbor offer nice views, an enjoyable ferry trip, and lots of charming spots to grab coffee, lunch, or ice cream. 

When visiting Friday Harbor, a town on San Juan Island, I take a ferry from Anacortes which is about an hour-and-half drive north of Seattle. There’s a popular Starbucks in Anacortes on the way to the ferry terminal, so early morning ferry rides with coffee in hand are a great way to get an early start to the day. 

Friday Harbor was one of the first places I visited in Washington after moving from California in 2011. I had never been on a car ferry before or been able to visit a nearby island like that, and the experience really helped me understand Washington’s landscape and way of life as I saw people live in, commute from, and visit Friday Harbor. Below are some fun things to do at Friday Harbor and my favorite spots to view wildlife, shop, and eat!

One of my favorite things to do is walk around the marina looking at boats and wildlife. When walking on docks there are sometimes seals swimming underneath the boats and right by your feet. They are really fascinating and cute to watch as they dive to catch fish, and this is a great way to enjoy the fresh air without spending a lot of money on activities. In fact, during my most recent trip to Friday Harbor, all I did was eat lunch and walk around the docks looking at wildlife. Because you take a ferry to get there, the journey to the island is a fun activity in itself, making spending extensive hours on the island and cramming activities into the day unnecessary. Ferry rides in Washington inherently provide the opportunity to spot orcas, birds, and seals. Standing on the top deck or front of the boat offers great views of the surrounding area and provides an extremely refreshing feeling as the cool air rushes against your face. 

Friday Harbor is also known for its Lavender Farms. While I haven’t spent much time at the actual Pelindaba Lavender Farm, its influence on the island is evident as there is a shop near the ferry dock specializing in lavender-based goods from the farm like soap, body mists, and even chocolate, cookies, and spreads. This shop is a great place to buy a gift for a friend or family member that highlights a unique company native to Friday Harbor and the Pacific Northwest. 

If you don’t bring a car to Friday Harbor (which you definitely don’t need to have an enjoyable day on San Juan Island) there are lots of quaint stores and art galleries along Spring Street and around that downtown area—but don’t let “downtown” scare you, even this more developed area of the Island has a laid back and quaint feel, perfect for a day-long escape. I love browsing in the Friday Harbor Island Studios, an art store featuring local artists; the San Juan Islands Museum of Art is also about five blocks from the ferry terminal. 

Friday Harbor also offers kayak and sea place tours as well as whale watching, which make for great activities if you have more than a few hours to spend in the area.  

Finally, Friday Harbor offers hikes and parks like Lime Kiln Point State Park, Cattle Park, and Eagle Cove Beach for more outdoor experiences, as well as a wide range of restaurants to satisfy your hunger while visiting the island. I have personally been to a small Mexican restaurant where I had a great burrito (although be cautious of the spice level) and the Bean Café which offers an array of drinks and sandwiches. There are small and quick places to get fish and chips, coffee, ice cream, and more expensive waterfront restaurants for higher end seafood and a longer dining experience. Ultimately, Friday Harbor is a quaint town that encapsulates Washington’s island life and offers a relaxing getaway only a few hours from home.  

Amelia Nathan

Washington '22

My name is Amelia and I am studying Comparative History of Ideas and Math at the University of Washington. I was born in California but love my home in Washington and when I'm not writing, I love hiking, painting with watercolor and alcohol inks, and watching crime shows!
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