The Town of Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, is a walkable historic seaport village surrounded by spectacular mountain and marine views. With a natural grandeur that combines salty breezes, vibrant blue water, pebbled beaches, and fragrant woods, it is a rare, unspoiled retreat ideal for outdoor adventurers, wildlife enthusiasts, and history buffs alike. Whatever you choose to do, a trip to the San Juan Islands is the ultimate haven from the stresses of mainland life.
The San Juan Islands were granted to the United States in 1872, after an arbitration from a territory dispute with the English. The town grew in the 1880s due mainly to the deep water anchorage “Friday’s Bay” offered. Development of the waterfront began and farmers tilled the rich valleys of the island. In addition to agricultural pursuits, the Islanders were involved in lime production, logging, and fishing.
One often-asked question is how Friday Harbor was named. The story goes that a ship’s captain was shouting to shore “what bay is this?” and heard the reply of “Friday” in response to the misheard question “what day is this?” Hence, it is always Friday in Friday Harbor!
The Town of Friday Harbor, the county seat of the San Juan Islands archipelago, is a year-round destination, accessible only by ferry or seaplane, where visitors can easily get around on foot to indulge in the eclectic collection of art galleries, coffeehouses, boutiques, and eateries. The Port of Friday Harbor is a working harbor home to the ferry terminal, fishing boats, whale watching operators, pleasure craft, and floating water residences. Nestled in the center of a “rain shadow” cast by the mountains on the Olympic Peninsula, Friday Harbor enjoys nearly 250 days of sunshine each year and only half the annual rainfall of nearby Seattle, making it a place where kayaking, biking, and walking are as common as driving. It is one square mile of walkable seaside activity, recreation, and culture, known for its picturesque streetscape of turn-of-the-century wood frame buildings and popular harbor.
Friday Harbor boasts no stop lights, billboards or look-alike big-box retail stores. Instead, the hamlet offers authentic small-town atmosphere, rich with culture, and a landscape of pastoral countryside and marine views.
In the early 1900s, houses sprang up — some in Victorian, Pacific Northwest Prairie, and later, Craftsman style, like Harrison House Suites. Schools and churches were raised by the citizens, new shops opened, clubs were formed, parks set aside. Located near the Harrison House was a blacksmith shop, and the second owner of the house operated and managed a meat market in downtown Friday Harbor. Island citizens fought in the world wars, the conflicts in Vietnam and Korea, and currently serve in the Armed Forces of the USA all over the world. The pioneer families continue to be a part of the Friday Harbor community, and each year, a number of folks who originally found Friday Harbor during a vacation come to put down roots in this community.
Despite its small size, the Town of Friday Harbor boasts nearly 150 historic buildings reflecting the community’s civic, commercial, and residential history. Friday Harbor has been selected as a 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destination by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Friday Harbor is one of Washington’s few seaport villages to survive the turn-of-the-century fires that engulfed early Seattle and other cities. Its authentic downtown streetscape and postage-size Memorial Park are the gateway to discovering the rich history, rural character, and pristine marine environment of the San Juan archipelago.
Today the Town of Friday Harbor retains the values and spirit of the pioneers. Islanders are involved in their community and committed to local sustainability. They are engaged with environmental concerns including our famous pods of Orcas, our resident Eagle Community, and look out for the health and well-being of our fellow islanders.
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