Stunning sunsets, spy hopping orca whales and reeling bald eagles are just part of the wonders of the San Juan Islands. These fascinating islands also offer the chance to experience rich local history, a vibrant art scene, and a “gourmet archipelago.”
From Captain Vancouver’s explorations to the 12-year “Pig War” standoff between the British and the Americans, the San Juans have a colorful heritage. With three island historical museums, the San Juan Island National Historical Park, and 18 National Historic Registry sites, there is a plethora of activities and attractions for the history lover, or anyone curious about how life was lived during the islands’ early days. In May, “History Lives Here” features dozens of events to celebrate National Historic Preservation Month. Stroll the historic streets of Friday Harbor with a self-guided walking tour, take a tour with a local history expert and listen to the fascinating tales of smugglers, sailors and soldiers, and see beautiful, historic quilts on display at Lopez and Orcas Islands’ historical museums.
In addition to their storied history, the San Juan Islands are a present day mecca for art lovers. Whether your interests lie in the visual arts, music or performing arts, a vast array of artists offer their wares in the islands. Galleries and studios offer local art on Orcas, San Juan and Lopez Island. You’ll find treasures at the Saturday farmers’ markets on each island – and the Friday night Art Market in Friday Harbor - where you can meet artists face-to-face. You can also engage with these creative types in a more intimate setting during the Artist’s Studio Tours on San Juan in June, Orcas in August and Lopez in September. Or visit the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park, where nature and art abide together. There are always new events and shows in the works, so find out more information on the arts scene before planning your trip.
An art form all its own, the food scene in the San Juan Islands is an important part of the local economy. Local farmers, winemakers and chefs are just a handful of the culinary community working together to bring diners the freshest ingredients straight from farm-to-table. Pick up local produce and shellfish at one of the weekly farmers’ markets, visit a vineyard or distillery and taste local liquid arts, or learn beekeeping from the experts at a local farm. Many restaurants and inns specialize in local cuisine and locals love to share the bounty of the islands. Plan your entire getaway around your taste buds with one of the many festivals and events offered year round on the islands. Learn more about the San Juan Islands’ culinary offerings here.
Whether you get your thrills from a historical landmark or a perfectly shucked oyster, the San Juan Islands has something for you. Come see all that the islands have to offer and leave with your curiosity satisfied and your stomach satiated.