San Juan Island is in the San Juan Islands region of Washington State. It contains the county seat for San Juan County, which covers all of the San Juan Islands.
As early as 1845 the Hudson's Bay Company, based at Fort Victoria, had posted a notice of possession on San Juan Island. In 1851 it established a salmon-curing station there and, two years later, a sheep ranch called Belle Vue Farm. About the same time, the Territorial Legislature of Oregon (which then included the present State of Washington) declared San Juan Island to be within its territorial limits, and in January 1853 incorporated it into Island County. In March 1853, Washington Territory having been created, San Juan Island was attached to Whatcom, its northernmost county.
By 1859 there were about 18 Americans on San Juan Island. They were settled on redemption claims which they expected the U.S. Government to recognize as valid, but which the British considered illegal. That crisis came on June 15, 1859, when an American settler named Lyman Cutlar shot and killed a pig belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company because it was rooting in his garden. When British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, American citizens drew up a petition requesting U.S. military protection. The subsequent military buildup caused each side to keep adding more military to the island. When word of the crisis reached Washington, officials there were shocked that the simple action of an irate farmer had grown into an explosive international incident. President James Buchanan sent Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott, commanding general of the U.S. Army, to investigate and try to contain the affair. He was able to get both sides, the British and the American to agree to joint military occupation until the issue could be settled.
San Juan Island remained under joint military occupation for the next 12 years. In 1871, when Great Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Washington, the San Juan question was referred to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany for settlement. The kaiser referred the issue to a three-man arbitration commission who met for nearly a year in Geneva. On October 21, 1872, the commission, through the kaiser, ruled in favor of the United States, establishing the boundary line through Haro Strait. Thus the San Juan Islands became American possessions and the final boundary between Canada and the United States was set.
Many of San Juan Island's roads trace sheep runs cut by Hudson's Bay Company workers. They were led, in part, by Fort Victoria Chief Factor and colonial Gov. James Douglas, from 1853 to 1859. Many of the workers were Cowichan Indians from Vancouver Island.
Most people arrive via Washington State ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor. Some arrive via ferry from Sidney, BC on Vancouver Island. A few arrive via small plane or their own boat. In the summer, a direct ferry operates from Seattle's pier 69 to Friday Harbor for walk-on passengers and cyclists. The below are on those options:
- Kenmore Air, ☎ +1-866-435-9524 ([email protected], fax: +1-425-485-4774), . Kenmore Air seaplanes make up to seven flights daily from downtown Seattle's Lake Union to Friday Harbor Marina (as well as to Roche Harbor Marina at the northwest corner of San Juan Island. Kenmore Air Express  also offers daily land plane service between Seattle's Boeing Field/King County International Airport (BFI) and Friday Harbor Airport (FRD). Complimentary shuttle transfers are available to/from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) for passengers on either Kenmore Air service. A quick and spectacular, though not cheap, way to arrive. $75-139. edit
- If you have a private airplane, Friday Harbor has a well-equipped though modest airport. It is a US Customs Port of Entry, so it can be your first stop from Canada.
- The nearest airports for other (scheduled) commercial airlines are in Seattle (SEA), Vancouver  (YVR), Victoria (YYJ) and Bellingham (BLI). Be sure to have the proper travel documents if needing to cross the U.S./Canadian border. Direct international flights beyond North America are in Seattle and Vancouver.
- Take the Washington Ferries, ☎ +1 888-808-7797, . from Anacortes or once daily sailing to/from Sidney, BC. Additional sailings are to/from Lopez, Orcas and/or Shaw Islands. The rest of the other islands are only accessible by private boat, yacht, kayak or float plane. edit
- Victoria Clipper Ferry, ☎ +1-800-888-2535, . The ferry runs during the summer months (Seattle & San Juan). It leaves from Seattle's pier 69, near the Sculpture Park, at 7:45 am, and gets into Friday Harbor at 11:15 am. They recommend checking in in Seattle one hour early. The ferry leaves Friday harbor at 16:30 and gets back to Seattle at 19:15. The ferry is comfortable and offers very scenic views. It is a convenient way for the car-less to get to the San Juans from Seattle. $80-145 return. edit
- Puget Sound Express, ☎ +1-360 385-5288, . operates passenger only ferries between Port Townsend and Friday Harbor as well as whale watching tours. $55.50 OW or $88.50 Return. edit
- If you have access to a yacht, come in the marina. It is a US Customs Port of Entry, so it can be your first stop from Canada.
Nearest bus stop(s) to Friday Harbor are at the Anacortes & Sidney ferry terminals:
- Island Airporter, ☎ +1 360-378-7438, . operates direct buses or vans between the SeaTac airport in Seattle and San Juan Island (Friday Harbor & Roche Harbor) via Anacortes-San Juan Ferry. No stops anywhere between SeaTac and the Anacortes ferry terminal. edit
- Bellair Airporter, ☎ +1 866 235-5247, . operates buses from the Seatac airport in Seattle to the Anacortes ferry terminal with a transfer of buses in Burlington. edit
- Skagit Transit Rt #410  operates infrequent buses from March's Point P&R to the Anacortes ferry terminal via Guemes ferry terminal (at another location) and downtown Anacortes. From Mt Vernon take the 615 or Island Transit 412c bus to March's Point P&R. Note that buses, outside of Mt Vernon & Burlington in Skagit County are infrequent and that the timing at the transfer points are not smooth which can mean a long wait between buses.
- BC Transit Victoria Regional  operates buses from the Sidney ferry terminal to the Victoria Airport, downtown Victoria (Rt #70, 72) and up to the BC Ferries terminal at Swartz Bay (Rt #72) for onward ferries to the Gulf Islands and Tsawwassen on the mainland.
Everything in town (Friday Harbor) is within walking distance and there are plenty of places to eat and things to do for those arriving by ferry to spend a day or two. A car is necessary for getting around the island outside of Friday Harbor. If not the following are other options:
- San Juan Transit, ☎ +1 360-378-8887, . operates limited fixed route services between Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor. ($5 each boarding, $10 round trip or $15 day ticket) as well as guided tours around the island. edit
- Friday Harbor Taxi, ☎ +1 360-294-4434, . a local door to door shuttle company going from home (anywhere on San Juan Island) to downtown Friday Harbor between 8:30AM to 9:30AM and back home between 2:30PM & 3:30PM for a flat $5 fee. Need 4hrs notice for pick-up. edit
- M&W Auto, 725 Spring St (Spring St & Price St, 0.6mi or 1km in from the ferry terminal past the Best Western Plus-Friday Harbor Suites), ☎ +1 360-378-2794, . a local car dealership that also rents cars for use on the island. edit
- Susies Mopeds, 125 Nicols St (along Nichols St between Nichols Street Suites & ACE Hardware), ☎ +1 360-378-5244 ([email protected]), . rents mopeds, Scootcouples, Pedigo electric bikes or convertible, compact SUVs. edit
- San Juan Island National Historical Park - here in 1859 the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over a dead pig, two visitors centers, one located at American Camp on Cattle Pont Road, the primary southbound road on the island, and the other at English Camp, off West Valley Road, between Yachthaven and Roche Harbor roads
- SanjuanislandsTV.com, Friday Harbor, WA 98250 (San Juan Islands Travel and Visitor Information), . Streaming video website with news, links, and information on what to see and do, where to eat, shop, and stay, and how to get to the San Juan Islands. edit
- Orca Whale Watching from Sea Kayaks Biologist guides lead tours to the prime orca whale watching waters. Abundant seals, eagles, and other marine wildlife. Tour lengths range from a half-day up to 2, 3 and 5 day camping trips to the smaller islands. 360-378-5767 or 888-589-4253, [email protected] Kayaking with Orcas Whales from San Juan Island
- Birding and Bird-watching Tours Local bird book author/biologist Mark Lewis guides birding tours throughout the San Juan Islands, home to 300 species of birds. Tour lengths from half-day to full day to multi-days. 360-378-5767 or 888-589-4253, [email protected] Birding Tours on San Juan Island
- Award Winning San Juan Island Kayak Tours Downtown location where the ferry drops off. Discovery Sea Kayaks has been running kayak tours with routes best to see Orca Whales. Professional naturalist guides provide safe and educational kayak tours. San Juan Island Half Day, Full Day, Sunset and Multi Day Kayak Tours. 360-378-2559, [email protected] San Juan Island Kayak Tours and Whale Watching.
- Lime Kiln Point Lime Kiln Point is a 36-acre day-use park set on the west side of San Juan Island. The park is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from a land-based facility. Orca whales are common in the waters off Lime Kiln. The park, which features a richly diverse environment, includes the remnants and landscapes of a history filled with change, along the rocky shoreline and through the wooded uplands.
- San Juan Safaris Whale Watching (Whale Watching & Wildlife Tours), 2 Spring Street Lainding (steps from the ferry), ☎ 800.450.6858, . 8 am to 8 pm. see wild orca whales (80 + resident orca), seals, porpoise, dolphin, eagles, blue heron, rafts of sea birds. New, fast 55 foot boat with lrg windowed cabin, walk around deck and bathroom. Excellent reputation for respectful wildlife viewing. [email protected] $49 and up. (48.32.07,123.00.56) edit San Juan Safaris
- Wandering around in Friday Harbor is a good way to while away an afternoon, perhaps as you wait for the ferry. Funk and Junk on Nichols Street has an eclectic mix of interesting finds, there are several new and used book stores, 2 bakeries (one on Mullis, the other on Nichols Street), the Doctor's Office and Roy's are two favorite coffee joints....
- Western Prince Whale Watching San Juan Island (San Juan Island Whale Watching), 1 spring st., Friday Harbor, WA 98250 (Next to ferry landing.), ☎ 360-378-5315, . 9 am to 6 pm. Operating since 1986. Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours departing from Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, 90 miles north of Seattle. See orcas, humpback whales, minke whales, seals, sea lions, porpoises, sea birds, and beautiful island scenery. 2 boats to choose from: the 46' “Western Prince II”, limited to 32 guests, and the 30' zodiac style “Western Explorer”, limited to 15 guests. Guided by experienced local naturalists. Conservation focused and observant of all federal and Pacific Whale Watch Association whale watching guidelines. Western Prince Whale Watching San Juan Island edit
- Trail walking. The island has miles of trails and an active trail community. For maps and a calendar of events search for San Juan Island Trails Committee.
- Visit a National Park. The San Juan Island National Historic Park has two sites on the island describing the last armed conflict between Britain and the United States.
- Bird Rock Hotel (San Juan Island Lodging), 35 First Street, Friday Harbor, WA 98250 (At 1st street & West, 1 block up from the fery and 2 blocks west (right)), ☎ 800.352.26332, . checkin: 3 pm; checkout: 11 am. A refreshing combination of a historic hotel exterior and stylishly modern interiors. 15 guest rooms all including a gourmet continental breakfast, free beach cruiser bicycles and use of the Earthbox Inn & Spa, our sister property, indoor heated pool. edit
- Earthbox Inn & Spa (Earthbox San Juan Island Hotel), 410 Spring Street, Friday Harbor, WA 98250 (4 blocks up from ferry on right hand side), ☎ 360-378-4000, . checkin: 3 pm; checkout: 11 am. http://www.earthboxinn.com -A delightful blend of cool resort motel and classic vintage motor inn with an indoor heated pool, full-service spa, 72 stylishly renovated rooms, free WiFi and complimentary beach cruiser bicycles. edit
- The Island Inn at 123 West (Island Inn), 123 West Street (Check INN on Front Street), ☎ 360-378-4400, . checkin: 3pm; checkout: 11am. The Inn’s sixteen accommodations nod to maritime gone by while broadcasting a strong eco ethos. Seven Penthouses are kitted out with gourmet kitchens, remote controlled fireplaces, steam showers and unbelievably comfy bedding. Some penthouses even offer roof decks for guests to soak up the San Juan Island sun. Five Sweets offer up scrumptious styling, unbelievable bedding and solo soaking tubs. Four Euros offer a basically luxurious experience for solo or duo travelers exuding sleek simplicity with trademark bedding, fun washrooms and flat screen televisions. $129. ($599,) edit
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