San Juan Island at its best.
Stories of 4-hour waits in ferry lines have for years discouraged summer travelers from visiting San Juan Island. And even though foot passengers have never had to wait to board the ferry, lodging was limited, and there was no way to get around except by moped or bicycle. But recent changes have made this island the easiest of the San Juans for foot passengers to visit.
Now when the ferry docks at Friday Harbor, visitors are mere steps not only from restaurants, stores in the Cannery Landing complex, and whale and historical museums, but also from astylish new inn and several new B & Bs. And a new bus service provides carless visitors with another way around.
LODGING WITH HARBOR VIEWS, HISTORIC CHARM
Friday Harbor, the San Juan Islands' largest and only incorporated town, is an east-facing village offering spectacular sunrise views and a day-long panorama of ferry and other boat activity. Its two customhouses make it an international crossroads for boaters. Lodging reservations are essential if you want specific dates.
Perched on the hillside above the marina, Friday Harbor House claims the best of the views. The new 20-room inn, a sister of Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island, upholds the same standards of elegance, amenities, and cuisine; rates range from $185 to $325; call (360) 378-8455 for reservations.
You'll also get great harbor views from the Osprey and Eagle Cove rooms at Friday's, a nine-room B & B in an 1891 house in the center of town; $90 to $155; (800) 352-2632. Views are commanding from the Eagle's Nest penthouse at the contemporary seven-room Hillside House Bed & Breakfast on the west side of town; $65 to $160; (800) 232-4730.
Wharfside Bed & Breakfast, which floats on a 60-foot motor sailer moored in the marina, puts you right on the waterfront. It has two staterooms with compact yet comfortable accommodations and a generous full breakfast; $80 to $85; (360) 378-5661.
The classic 1873 San Juan Inn offers 10 rooms and Victorian charm a half-block from the ferry; $70 to $175; (800) 742-8210. Argyle House, a new three-unit B & B in a 1910 Craftsman-style house, is quietly tucked away on a country acre in town; $90; (800) 624-3459.
At the southern edge of town, Mariella Inn, an impressive 1902 mansion on a small peninsula, has waterfront to explore, a garden, and views of the ferries' comings and goings. The inn has 11 rooms; seven cottages on the property include a tiny log cabin and a three-bedroom house with smuggler's trapdoor; $100 to $225; (360) 378-6868.
For other lodging options in town and in the country, call the Bed & Breakfast Association of San Juan Island at (360) 378-3030. San Juan Central Reservations can help with cabin and motel accommodations; call (360) 378-6675.
Friday Harbor is an easy - albeit hilly - village to explore on foot, but you really need wheels to get around the rest of the island. New bus service makes stops at Roche Harbor, American Camp, and British Camp; call (800) 887-8387. Bicycle tours can be arranged through Bicycle Adventures, (800) 443-6060, and day rentals through Island Bicycles, (360) 378-4941. Mopeds can be rented by the hour or day from Susie's Mopeds, (360) 378-5244.