San Juan Island in the Fall

San Juan Island Off the Beaten Path

It’s Autumn on San Juan Island. The hustle and bustle of Summer has subsided. The isle has returned to its slower, calmer pace. Watch wintering seabirds, otters and sea lions from deserted beaches. Get into your favorite restaurant without reservations. Treat yourself to a luxurious massage at our Spa and have our heated, indoor pool, sauna and hot tub to yourself. Here a few ideas on how to explore the island’s less traveled paths and the delightful Fall pastimes unique to Friday Harbor.

Beach Treasures on San Juan Island
Beach Treasures on San Juan Island

Wildlife Watching at Sea Glass Beach

Just south of historic Cattle Point Light House where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets the mighty Haro Strait, find a rocky driftwood shore we Islanders secretly call “Beach Glass Beach” for the treasures to be found here. The joining of two sea currents makes for an abundance of nutrition for seabirds, seals and sea lions alike. The ensuing spectacle is an absolute pleasure to watch.

Contra Dance at the Grange Hall

Every third Saturday, San Juan Islanders dust off their dancing shoes and shine their fiddles for Contra Dance at the Grange Hall in Friday Harbor. Do you dare to try? Everybody is welcome,  no experience or bringing a partner necessary, no excuses.


Afterglow Vista Mausoleum by Roche Harbor
Afterglow Vista Mausoleum by Roche Harbor

San Juan’s Mysterious Mausoleum

In the woods outside of historic Roche Harbor Resort on the north end of the island, you’ll find “Afterglow Vista”, the McMillen family’s impressive Freemason Mausoleum. The McMillen’s operated limekilns on San Juan Island and believed their riches to be rewards for their religious, personal and family conduct. The mausoleum, surrounded by gigantic Greek pillars, is laden with freemason symbolism. Its coolest feature is the limestone table with a seat for each dead family member in the middle.

Family Art Days at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art

Don’t miss the free Family Art workshops every Saturday at San Juan Islands Museum of Art. This fall’s theme is Food Inspires Art, with fun classes like “Become a Spice Islands’ Explorers-art using spices” on October 27, “Still life-in apples and tasty color’s” on November 3, or “Birds in 3-D” on November 10. Have a peek at the powerful “Food for Thought” exhibition, offering a micro perspective on how one part of nature–our food–is connected to climate change.

San Juan Island's 4th of July Beach
Walk south along 4th of July Beach in American Camp National Historical Park to reach Third Lagoon

Birding at Third Lagoon

The wonderful San Juan County Landbank has, as of today, acquired 15 Preserves and a number of stunning Conservation Easements on San Juan Island alone to be preserved for wildlife habitat and protected from development. One of our favorites is Third Lagoon Preserve, 20 acres of shoreline adjacent to American Camp National Historical Park, featuring a rare saltwater lagoon and mature Douglas Fir forest. Not only are there Bald Eagles nests and a Blue Heron rookery, the area is also frequented by migrating waterfowl in Winter.