GETTING HERE


Car & Passenger Ferry

Washington State Ferries (WSF) accepts reservations for travel to and from the San Juan Islands and Sydney B.C. There are multiple departures every day, see the schedule for times. Please refer to ferry system recommendations for how early to arrive. 

When traveling by ferry you can bring your car, bike or walk on. For more information about traveling on the ferry please see the WSF General Information FAQ.  Pay parking is available near the ferry landing. Please know there is public transportation on the Island or you can rent a car, jeep, moped or bike.

Driving Directions to Anacortes Ferry Terminal

From I-5, take Exit 230 at Burlington and follow State Route 20 west to Anacortes. Then, follow signs to ferry terminal. It takes about 90-minutes (with no traffic) to drive from Seattle or Vancouver, B.C. to Anacortes.

Bus from SeaTac to Anacortes Ferry Terminal

Airporter Shuttle runs coach service from Sea-Tac Airport and other Seattle and Puget Sound locations to the Friday Harbor ferry terminal six days a week.

Bellair Charters and Airporter offers service to and from Sea-Tac and other destinations around Washington including the Anacortes ferry terminal.

Air

Flying shortens your travel time and allows you to get a bird’s eye view of the gorgeous San Juan Islands. The trip takes about 40 minutes by floatplane from Seattle, 25 minutes from Bellingham or 15 minutes from the Anacortes Airport.

Kenmore Air offers several daily scheduled, non-stop flights from over 45 locations in the Pacific Northwest, including Seattle, Victoria, B.C. and Port Angeles.

San Juan Airlines offers several daily scheduled, charter and scenic flights from Anacortes, Bellingham, Port Angeles, Victoria, B.C. and more.

Westwind Aviation offers charter service from anywhere in the Pacific Northwest and scenic flights in the San Juan Islands.

Island Air air charter company based in Friday Harbor and serves the greater community of the San Juan Islands.

Northwest Seaplanes provides charter seaplane flights from South Lake Washington to many location in Washington and Canada; including Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor.

Foot Ferry

The Victoria Clipper operates a passenger ferry from Seattle once daily on a seasonal basis.

Puget Sound Express operates a passenger ferry from Port Townsend on a seasonal basis.

Victoria San Juan Cruises operates passenger ferry from Bellingham on a seasonal basis.

Boat

Port of Friday Harbor has space available for over 150 visiting boats ranging in size from dinghies to 150 foot yachts. Phone: 360-378-2688VHF Channel: 66a.

Skippered Yacht Services has the only skippered yacht service that offers day and overnight trips to Friday Harbor, as well as other locations in the San Juan Islands. 


Getting Around

Bike

Island Bicycles rents high-quality bicycles for self-directed cycle touring and sight-seeing.  380 Argyle Ave., 360-378-4941

Taxi

Classic Cab Co. friendly service and authentic vintage cab 360-378-7519

Bob's Taxi and Tours provides taxi and tours service with extended hours 360-378-6777

Friday Harbor Taxi offers friendly taxi service around San Juan Island. 360-298-4434

Rhodetrips Taxi and Tours is an island style taxi and tour service that accommodates kayaks and bicycles. 360-298-6975

San Juan Taxi & Tours has professional and courteous drivers. 360-378-8294

Car Rental

M&W offers daily, weekly and monthly car rental rates.  They will pick you up in Friday Harbor and provide unlimited mileage while on the Island. 725 Spring St., 360-378-2794

Moped & Scooter

Susie’s Mopeds offers several types of mopeds and other vehicles to explore the island., 25 Nichols St., 360-378-5244

Bus

San Juan Transit offers transit service seasonally. 50 Spring St., 360-378-8887

Boat

Friday Harbor Marine has a large selection of boats to rent for an hour or days. 4 Front Street North 360-378-4047

Schooners North offers full day, half day and evening sails; as well as, multiple-day adventures, special events and private charters. 360-378-2224

Skippered Yacht Services has the only skippered yacht service that offers day and overnight trips to Friday Harbor, as well as other locations in the San Juan Islands. 360-303-3356


Events

Credit // kim smith

Credit // kim smith

For a complete, by-the-hour listing of events happening daily all around San Juan Island, take a look at the San Juan Community Calendar here.

+ Year-Round Events

San Juan Island Farmer’s Market
The Farmer's Market is held year-round in downtown Friday Harbor on Nichols Street each Saturday from April through October. In November and December it takes place on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month, and from January – March on the 1st Saturday of the month. Hours are 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.

San Juan Islands Museum of Art (SJIMA)
The SJIMA is committed to promoting the arts of the Pacific Northwest and Southwest British Columbia. They offer rotating exhibitions through their three galleries, with approximately 8-10 exhibitions per year, as well as a lecture series titled Art as a Voice. Visit their website for more information. Admission is $10, 18 & under are free. Admission every third Monday of the month is free. Winter hours are October 1st to April 30th – Friday to Monday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Summer hours are May 1st to September 30th – Thursday to Monday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

San Juan Community Theatre
The San Juan Community Theatre is a non-profit performing arts organization that enriches the lives of island residents and visitors as it: offers quality entertainment throughout the year; encourages participation in performing arts events, programs and activities; and provides opportunity for artistic growth for youth and adults. Visit their website for more information and upcoming performances.


+ January

Roche Harbor Salmon Classic
January 18 - 20, 2018
A three-day sport fishing event; 3 nights of hosted dinners and prizes awarded in the Derby Headquarters in beautiful Roche Harbor Resort. With over $26,000 dollars in cash & prizes, this event brings out fishermen from all walks of life to fish our island waters.


+ February

San Juan Classic Salmon Derby
February 9 - 10, 2018
Now in it’s 3rd year, the Friday Harbor Salmon Classic is a not-for-profit event with proceeds going to salmon enhancement organizations and Salmon for Soldiers. This derby will be part of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series.


+ March

Come back for 2018 events.


+ April

Great Islands Clean-up
Date TBD
Islanders and visitors alike are invited to join in the fun and help give San Juan island its annual spring cleaning. Litter-picker-uppers can work as individuals, families, or as part of a larger group.


+ May

National Historic Preservation Month
Each year in May, the Town of Friday Harbor helps tell the story of the people and places of the San Juans by celebrating National Historic Preservation Month. Guided walking tours, local history talks and other special events are held throughout the month.

Opening Day Boat Parade
Date TBD 2018
Enjoy the beginning of boating season with a festive parade sponsored by the San Juan Island Yacht Club. It is open to just about any kind of seaworthy vessel, powerboats, sailboats, and human powered boats. There are prizes for the winners in a variety of categories. To register, contact theSan Juan Island Yacht Club. The port of Friday Harbor is giving a free night of moorage per parade participant, through opening day weekend. To reserve a place, call Harbormaster Tami Hayes at 360-378-2688 or email tamih@portfridayharbor.org.

UW Friday Harbor Labs (FHL) Annual Open House
Date TBD 2018
This event offers a fabulous opportunity to meet scientists and students at the Labs and check out the world-renowned research and teaching facilities. The Labs will be open for self-guided tours. Scientists and students will showcase their marine science research, answer questions and provide demonstrations. There will be posters, marine plants and animals, microscopes, plankton sampling and observations, and activities for visitors of all ages. Venture out to the end of the dock! Visitors can step aboard and tour our 58’ research vessel, the R/V Centennial, and check out its remotely operated vehicle (ROV), oceanographic tools, and high-tech sonar systems. FHL divers will be demonstrating SCUBA. In keeping with FHL tradition, there will be fresh popped popcorn for one and all.

Boating Safety Fair & Marine Swap Meet
Date TBD 2018
Celebrate National Safety Boating Week! Port of Friday Harbor's Annual Boating Safety Fair will have an array of in the water demonstrations by; US Coast Guard, Vessel Assist, and others, boat rides, FREE vessel safety checks. While learning about boating, or working on your own boat, check out the many wares at the SWAP meet, learn boating safety tips and more.

Theatre Under the Stars
Dates TBD 2018
Put on by Island Stage Left. Each year they pick a new play to perform through the summer months.

Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony
Memorial Day 2018
The annual Memorial Day Parade and ceremony in Friday Harbor is both an authentic small town parade and a worthy tribute to the sacrifices made by Americans both past and present. Parade starts at 10:00 a.m. in downtown Friday Harbor.


+ June

Three Lakes Triathlon and Marathon
June 15 - 18, 2018
Spend a day running through some of the San Juan Islands most beautiful terrain at this multi-faceted event, which includes an Olympic Triathlon, an Olympic Relay Team Triathlon, a Sprint Triathlon, and a Sprint Relay Team Triathlon, Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K.
See website to register and for more details.

San Juan Artists Studio Tour
Dates TBD 2018
An annual free event, the SJI Artists’ Studio Tour showcases individual art studios along with guest artists and musicians amid luscious gardens and breathtaking views. Sign up for a raffle at each studio for a chance at local fine art. Maps and brochures are available online for your convenience at the San Juan Artists website and at many local businesses in Friday Harbor. Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Theatre Under the Stars
Dates TBD 2018
Put on by Island Stage Left. Each year they pick a new play to perform through the summer months.

Pirate Festival
Date TBD 2018
The Port of Friday Harbor hosts this Annual Pirate Festival. Music, vessel tours, local sails & more! Book your reservation today! Contact: 360-378-2688 or email contactus@portfridayharbor.org.

Orca Sing Annual Concert
Date TBD 2018
Orca Sing is an annual event where people gather for an evening of music at Lime Kiln Point State Park to honor the Southern Resident orcas. Typically held on a Saturday near the Solstice. The event is free and open to the public. Festivities start at 6:00 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring a picnic to enjoy the beauty of Lime Kiln. A Discovery Pass is required for parking at the State Park and can be purchased through the Lime Kiln Point State Park Interpretive Center. Carpooling is encouraged as parking is limited. For more information, contact The Whale Museum at 360-378-4710 ext 30.


+ July

Music at the Park
Date TBD 2018
The Port of Friday Harbor provides free music concerts at the Port throughout the summer. They occur on a weekly basis every Friday starting at 5 pm and Sunday starting at 2 pm. Bring a picnic, relax and listen to local and regional music as you gaze out at the harbor, watching ferries, boats and seaplanes come and go.

4th of July
Both Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor offer a fun packed 4th of July. There are parades, a Street Dance, Fireworks, the Pig War Barbecue and many more events that make the 4th of July on San Juan Island spectacular.

Friday Harbor
The parade passes through downtown Friday Harbor at 10:30 a.m. Immediately following the parade is the 'Pig War Picnic' put on by the Kiwanis at the San Juan Historical Museum grounds. Expect live music and a great lunch. In the evening , there will be music at the Port of Friday Harbor, which lasts until the fireworks begin at dusk, at approximately 10:00 p.m.

Roche Harbor
Enjoy the Family 3.3K Fun Run, log-rolling contest, blindfolded dinghy race, doughnut eating contest, children's games, live music and fireworks.
9:00 a.m. - Fun Run at Yellow Brick Road
10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. - Kids Games at Pool Lawn
12:30 - 2:30 p.m. - Doughnut Eating at West Lawn
3:30 p.m. - Blindfolded Dinghy Race
4:00 p.m. - Log Rolling at Wharf Building
10:30 p.m. - Firework Show in the Harbor.

Music on the Lawn
Dates TBD 2018
Bring blankets or lawn chairs, a picnic, and enjoy an evening of great music at 405 Price Street - San Juan Historical Museum. Wednesday nights in July and August. The music starts at 6:30 p.m.

Theatre Under the Stars
Dates TBD 2018
Put on by Island Stage Left. Each year they pick a new play to perform through the summer months.

Movies in Sunken Park
Dates TBD 2018
Enjoy Island Rec‘s free outdoor movie series Friday evenings beginning at dusk in July and August. Bring blankets or lawn chairs. Free popcorn. No alcohol and pack it in, pack it out please.

San Juan Island Lavender Festival
Dates TBD 2018
The Lavender Festival, at Pelindaba Lavender Farm, offers a variety of cultivating, cooking and essential oil distillation demos, craft workshops, tours, music, picnics in the blooming organic fields, and much, much more! Parking and admission are FREE.

National Historical Park Encampment
Dates TBD 2018
Reenactors from throughout the Pacific Northwest and Canada celebrate peace as they gather for the Annual Encampment on the English Camp parade ground. The three day weekend includes recreations of mid-19th century Royal Marine Light Infantry and U.S. Army camp life, demonstrations of music, blacksmithing, spinning and weaving, sewing, cooperage and carpentry, along with the pageantry of period uniforms in scarlet and blue. Black powder rifled musket demonstrations and the firing of howitzer also are planned each day. Saturday evening will be the Candlelight Ball, scheduled at 8:00 p.m., in the English Camp barracks. The public is invited to join in the dancing and refreshments that will include the traditional cake and punch. Admission is free.


+ August

Music on the Lawn
Date TBD 2018
Bring blankets or lawn chairs, a picnic, and enjoy an evening of great music at 405 Price Street - San Juan Historical Museum. Wednesday nights in July and August. The music starts at 6:30 p.m.

San Juan Summer Arts Festival 2017
Dates TBD 2018
Join us from 4:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. at the Brickworks Plaza for a fun festival showcasing the talents of the makers from all of the San Juan Islands! Over 25 art vendors, food from local farmers and chefs, local beer, wine, and spirits, and a stage with local and visiting musical talents! It's a festival to celebrate this incredible community, to welcome visitors, and to enjoy the amazing talents of the creatives who live here! Fun for the whole family, please come out and support this incredible event!

Movies in Sunken Park
Dates TBD 2018
Enjoy Island Rec‘s free outdoor movie series Friday evenings beginning at dusk in July and August. Bring blankets or lawn chairs. Free popcorn. No alcohol and pack it in, pack it out please.

Music at the Park
Dates TBD 2018
The Port of Friday Harbor provides free music concerts at the Port throughout the summer. They occur on a weekly basis every Friday starting at 5 pm and Sunday starting at 2 pm. Bring a picnic, relax and listen to local and regional music as you gaze out at the harbor, watching ferries, boats and seaplanes come and go.

Annual Shaw Island Classic
Date TBD 2018
The San Juan Island Yacht Club proudly hosts the annual Yacht Race and invites all eligible boats and crews to participate. The course starts in Friday Harbor, heads around Shaw Island in either direction, and returns to Friday Harbor for the finish. Race details and registration information will be posted by June 1 on the Club's website.

San Juan County Fair
August 15 - 18, 2018
The San Juan County Fairgrounds is a community gathering place for 4H, events, festivals, recreational activities, agricultural shows, competitions and the annual San Juan County Fair.

Concours d’Elegance
Date TBD 2018
The Sports Car Club of the San Juan Islands, in conjunction with the Rotary Club of San Juan Island orchestrate this annual event. It is open to all Classic and Unique Cars. There is also wine, music, prizes and a drawing. Rounding out the weekend will be a get-together Saturday afternoon for registered entrants to a BBQ and fun drive / poker rally, so come early and enjoy a relaxed and fun weekend. 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Theatre Under the Stars
Dates TBD 2018
Put on by Island Stage Left. Each year they pick a new play to perform through the summer months.

Jazz at the Labs
Dates TBD 2018
An evening of live music and dinner that supports the Friday Harbor Labs Science Outreach program. The program works with the San Juan Island elementary, middle and high schools and the Spring Street International School. This event is from 6:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. and costs $40 for dinner and music.

Friday Harbor 8.8K Loop Run
Date TBD 2018
40 years running! Be part of this Island tradition. The race begins on Spring Street, goes through town on Warbass to Turn Point, to Pear Point, to Argyle and ends at the County Fair. A fun run/walk for people of all ages! Island Rec sponsors this fun island event.


+ September

Savor the San Juans
September 22, 2017 - November 11, 2017
Come and savor many celebrations of food, art and culture. See many of the annual events listed below.

Music at the Park
September 1 & 3, 2017
The Port of Friday Harbor provides free music concerts at the Port throughout the summer. They occur on a weekly basis every Friday starting at 5 pm and Sunday starting at 2 pm. Bring a picnic, relax and listen to local and regional music as you gaze out at the harbor, watching ferries, boats and seaplanes come and go.

Friday Harbor Bike-n-Brew!
September 23, 2017
Friday Harbor Bike-n-Brew brings together visitors with local islanders on a fun biking tour of the island followed by an evening of relaxing and microbrew-tasting. After a hearty breakfast at the Fairgrounds on Saturday morning, approximately 200 bicyclists will have a choice of three routes around the island with varying difficulty levels. The San Juan Lions Foundation in Friday Harbor will provide support for riders including bike repair, transportation, and refreshments along the way. Points of interest include Lime Kiln State Park, Roche Harbor, and British Camp. For more information visit the Friday Harbor Bike-n-Brew website . Bike 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Brew 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Oktoberfest Celebration at San Juan Brewing Company
September 29-30, 2017
Join San Juan Brewing Company for their first Oktoberfest celebration . They will be releasing their very own Festbier, enjoy this traditional Oktoberfest Lager alongside 7 other beers. Beer garden setup on the patio/lawn for both days of the celebration. BBQ'd Brats on the patio could not make for a better combo. Come celebrate this long standing German tradition. Live music both days! p.m.


+ October

Savor the San Juans
September 22, 2017 - November 11, 2017
Come and savor many celebrations of food, art and culture. See many of the annual events listed below.

Friday Harbor Fall Farm Parade
October 7, 2017
The Friday Harbor Fall Farm Parade is the genuine deal. Everybody gets in the act: from island children with their favorite backyard chickens, to long-time island farm families with island-scale tractors and harvesters, all parading through Friday Harbor’s main streets to celebrate the resurgence of small farms and local food in the San Juan Islands. Starting at 2:30 p.m. The parade will once again depart the fairgrounds onto Argyle, travel down Argyle, Spring Street, turn left on First Street, and terminate at the Grange Hall for after-parade celebration at the Grange Hall.

San Juan Vineyards Harvest Festival
October 7, 2017
San Juan Vineyards celebrates its Annual Harvest Festival of Siegerrebe Grapes, with picking starting at 9:00 a.m. Stop by, pick, enjoy the day in the vineyard, then later an end of the day party. Call 360-378-9463 for more information.

Annual Master Gardening Workshop: Secrets of Gardening
October 7, 2017
San Juan County Master Gardeners present the 2017 Annual Gardening Workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Friday Harbor Middle School. This all-day workshop will feature horticultural professionals and garden enthusiasts. To purchase tickets and for more information please visit their web page.

San Juan Island Farm Tour
October 7 - 8, 2017
The San Juan Island Farm Tour is a unique opportunity to visit farms on the island! Meet heritage breeds of goats and sheep, walk in an Edible Food Forest, and taste locally grown heritage wheat baked in delicious pastries. Judge different varieties of garlic, learn about cultivating herbs, distilling essential oils, and taste apple varieties and enjoy apple treats. Get your Tickets at Brickworks/Farmers Market from 10:00 – 1:00. For more information visit the event page. Tickets are $15 per adult, $5 per child 12 and under, children under 5 free.

Eat Island Grown Tasting Event
October 22, 2017
The best tastes of the San Juan Islands showcasing chefs, and the farmers that make that food possible!

Using fresh, quality products from San Juan County farms, local chefs will prepare delicious samples for you to enjoy. Come for a bite or make a meal of it. Locally produced soft and alcoholic beverages will make it a full gourmet adventure. Fun-filled for all ages with live music, live auction and silent auction. Proceeds benefiting San Juan County farming initiatives. A mouthwatering event celebrating the islands’ unique cuisine. Tickets start at $2.00 and the event is from noon – 4:00 p.m.

Savor Friday Harbor Haunted House
October 27 - 28, 2017
The Friday Harbor Jolly Trolley & The San Juan County Fairgrounds presents the 3rd Annual Friday "Frightmare at the Fairgounds!" Friday Harbor's huge Haunted House. Come and get Spooked on Halloween weekend in the main fairgrounds building. This fabulous walk through haunted house is sure to frighten and delight you! Special afternoon tours, without the big scares, for the little ones.

Friday, October 27th
From 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. - Age 10 years & up for this night! (scary) The cost is $10 per person.
Saturday, October 28th
From 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. - for little ones, no scares, scenery only. The cost is $5 per person.
From 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. - Age 10 years & up for this night! (scary) The cost is $10 per person.


+ November

Savor the San Juans
September 22, 2017 - November 11, 2017
Come and savor many celebrations of food, art and culture. See many of the annual events listed below.

Friday Harbor Film Festival
November 3-5, 2017
The annual Friday Harbor Film Festival presents entertaining, inspiring, educational and award winning full length and short documentaries about the diverse Pacific Rim and one of the largest features on earth; the Pacific Ocean. The variety of film subjects range from island cultures, marine ecology, environmental issues and human interest. Directors and Producers of many of the Films will be on hand throughout the event to introduce their films, give workshops on documentary film-making, mingle with film goers and answer questions.

San Juan Island Artisans Holiday Marketplace
November 24 - 25, 2017
San Juan Island Artisans are sponsoring their 38th annual event featuring the 'best of the best' creations by San Juan County artists. Fifty-five artists will sell their unique, hand-made arts and crafts this year—just in time for holiday gift giving—offering a wide variety of items from soaps and lotions to jewelry, clothing, cards, paintings, island-made foods, scenic photography and much more. There will be delicious snacks available by local caterer Cynthia's of Course to keep shoppers satisfied. This is a fundraiser for the Island Artisans Scholarship Fund. This market will be at the Friday Harbor Elementary School on Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free.


+ December

Island Lights Holiday Festival & Tree Lighting
December 1, 2017
The San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce the upcoming Island Lights Festival on December 1st. It will be a fun filled evening, starting with an Open House and ornament making, 3:30-5:00, at the Whale Museum. At 5:15 the Elementary School Choir, led by Joshua Boland, will lead caroling from the Whale Museum down to Memorial Park, where everyone will join the Island Chordsman Plus, led by Angel Michaels. Santa will arrive and turn the lights on, followed by more caroling before heading up to Brickworks for chestnuts on the open fire, pictures by Mark Gardner with Santa, crafts with Island Rec, cocoa, and more… Brickworks and the San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild will have local harvest vegetable soup and bread for sale, along with spiced, local apple cider & hot chocolate.

San Juan Singers Christmas Reflections
December 2017 - Dates TBD
San Juan Island’s annual holiday choral concert features Daniel Pinkham's Christmas Cantata & Gordon Thornett's Gloria in D. Both are accompanied by brass and percussion, bright up-beat works that celebrate the joy and glory of the Christmas season. In addition, the chorus will perform carols and songs of the season. Sponsored by San Juan Community Theatre. Admission is $18 and $9 for students.

Lighted Boat Parade and Santa Ship
December 2017 - Dates TBD
Sponsored by the Port of Friday Harbor, the Lighted Boat Parade, escorting the Santa Ship to the dock. This colorful parade begins at 6:30 p.m. and can be best viewed from Spring Street Landing, down on the docks or from a water view restaurant. Santa arrives on the last boat, about 7:00 p.m. For more than 40 years Santa has brought gifts to children in the islands. This is a great time to bundle up the whole family and come on down to the waterfront for cider, cookies, carolers in song, and some warm holiday and community cheer. Boaters from elsewhere are invited to the Port for a free nights moorage with parade participation and local boats that participate will receive a nice Port retail goodie.

New Years Eve Events
Check Back


History

Credit // Peter Miller, Soup Standard

Credit // Peter Miller, Soup Standard

Once a mountain range carved out by glaciers, now an archipelago, the 100-million-year old San Juan Islands feature some of the most spectacular scenery in the Pacific Northwest. Depending on the tides, the San Juans number anywhere from 428 to 743 islands. Only about 170 have names, including the four largest: Orcas, San Juan, Shaw and Lopez. The islands were explored (1790-92) and named by the Spanish Francisco Eliza expedition.

San Juan Island is steeped in unique history. It has the dubious fame of being host to one of the longest running wars on American soil. The whole gist of the war was to determine if the island would become American or British soil. There was a treaty in place, but arguments erupted over a portion of the boundary described as the “middle of the channel” separating the British colony of Vancouver’s Island from the U. S. mainland. There were actually two channels, Haro Strait (nearest to Vancouver) and Rosario Strait, nearer to the U.S. mainland. San Juan Island huddles right between the two straits. Britain insisted that the boundary ran through Rosario Strait, but the Americans said it lay through Haro Strait. So both sides considered San Juan theirs for settlement.

In 1845, Hudson’s Bay Company posted a notice of possession on San Juan, and in 1850 they established a salmon-curing station. A few years later they started Bellevue Farm, a sheep ranch. By 1859, 18 to 25 U.S. citizens had also settled on San Juan Island. They were settled on redemption claims which they expected the U.S. Government to recognize as valid, but the British considered illegal. Neither side recognized the authority of the other, so everyone was on edge and things were bound to come to a head.

In June of 1859, Lyman Cutlar (one of the U.S. settlers) shot a pig that was raiding his garden. Afterwards, he realized the pig belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company and offered to pay for it. They claimed the pig was a champion breeder and was valued at $100. Cutlar was outraged at the price considering the pig had also just trashed his garden, and he refused to pay. He was told he’d pay or be arrested for trespassing.

The American citizens requested U.S. military protection. George E. Pickett (of later Civil War fame) was sent to San Juan Island with a 66-man unit. They landed in July and set up camp near the Hudson’s Bay Company wharf, just north of Bellevue Farm. Throughout the remaining days of July and early August, the British forces in Griffin Bay (then San Juan Harbor) continued to grow. Pickett also received reinforcements under Lt. Col. Silas Casey, who now assumed active command. Captain Hornby (in charge of the British troops) waited to take any action against the Americans until the arrival of Rear Adm. Robert L. Baynes, commander of British naval forces in the Pacific. Baynes was disgusted and wanted no part of involving “two great nations in a war over a squabble about a pig."

By the end of August, 461 Americans, protected by 14 cannons, were opposed by 5 British warships mounting 167 guns and carrying 2,140 troops, including Royal Marines, artillerymen, sappers, and miners. Still no one budged, nor was a shot fired. Eventually an agreement was forged whereby a token force from each nation would occupy San Juan Island until a final settlement could be reached. On March 21, 1860, British Royal Marines landed and established camp on Garrison Bay, to this day known as English Camp. The U.S. troops stayed where they were, still known as American Camp.

San Juan Island remained under joint military occupation for 12 years. In 1871, when Great Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Washington, the dispute over San Juan Island was referred to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany for settlement. In October of 1872, the emperor ruled in favor of the United States, establishing the boundary line through Haro Strait. San Juan became an American possession and the final boundary between Canada and the United States was set. In November of 1872, the Royal Marines withdrew from English Camp. By July of 1874, the last of the U.S. troops had left American Camp. The 49th parallel was no longer occupied by any military force. San Juan Island would be remembered for a military confrontation in which the only casualty was a pig.

Many Hudson Bay Company employees settled on San Juan Island.  A Hawaiian sheep herder and employee of Hudson Bay  was known as “Friday”.  He settled in the area of what is now the town of Friday Harbor.   The geographic attributes of Friday Harbor, especially the  protected harbor made it a natural place to start a town and in the 1870′s the town began to be built.  In 1873, Friday Harbor was named the county seat of the islands.

 In 1884 John S. McMillin, a Tacoma lawyer, discovered the largest deposit of lime in the Northwest at Roche Harbor.  He set up the Tacoma and Roche Harbor Lime Company in 1886.  He then built the 22-room Hotel de Haro and the company town of Roche Harbor grew up around it.   Roche Harbor consisted of a lime factory, a barrel works, warehouse, docks, ships, piers, offices, company store, church, school, barns and homes.  Roche Harbor’s 800 residents exceeded the population in Friday Harbor at the time.  The workers at Roche Harbor were paid in scrip which was only good only at the company store.  The town was  sold in 1956 and is now a popular resort town on the island.

For more historic information about San Juan island:

Historic Friday Harbor
San Juan Historical Museum
San Juan Island National Historic Park


Map