Pacific Northwest Area Information

San Juan County

San Juan County, comprised of the San Juan Islands in Washington's North Puget Sound, has two distinct personalities.

Most people know of the county from visiting San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands during the summer months when tourism reigns. However, the pace is much quieter the rest of the year and only 16,300 people called the county home in 2009.

Friday Harbor (population 2,260), a quaint town on San Juan Island, is the only incorporated city in San Juan County and serves as its county seat. Visitors flock to the island in the summer, many of them coming to see orca whales. Whale-watching boats are prevalent, but often whales can be seen from the shore at Lime Kiln Point State Park just 10 miles from Friday Harbor. The park is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from a land-based facility.

Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands at nearly 57 square miles, but had only 4,920 people scattered on it in 2006. Shaped like a horseshoe, it is almost completely bisected by the fjord-like East Sound. The community of Eastsound, the largest on Orcas Island, is at the end of the sound and therefore at virtually the middle of the island. Many talented artisans reside on the island, resulting in a variety of studios that feature paintings, pottery and glass art.

Orcas Island's Moran State Park, five miles south of Eastsound, is the most popular attraction in the San Juan Islands. Moran State Park encompasses over 5,200 acres of woodland and includes five freshwater lakes, which are ideal for swimming, fishing and non-motorized boating, especially kayaking. The park also features numerous waterfalls that are accessible from miles of walking, hiking and biking trails.

Lopez Island is the third-largest of the San Juan Islands at nearly 30 square miles, but is the closest by ferry to Anacortes (45 minutes). It's best known as the "friendly island" because drivers wave at acquaintances and strangers alike as they drive by them. Lopez Island isn't as much of a tourism draw when compared to San Juan and Orcas islands, contributing to its slow-paced nature. After a surge of people in the 1980s and 1990s, its population stabilized, rising only 12 percent from 2000 to 2006 (2,432 people).

Self-employment is high on Lopez Island, which doesn't have large resorts or manufacturing plants. A mixture of farmers, fishermen and artists populate the island. The local school district is Lopez Island's largest employer.

San Juan, Orcas and Lopez islands each have their own K-12 public school systems.

Weather for all of the San Juan Islands is drier than its stereotypical image. Islanders see the sun an average of 247 days each year. The Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges limit both rain clouds and cold fronts that reach the islands. The surrounding ocean waters contribute to the mild climate, with temperatures rarely rising above 80 degrees in the summer nor falling below 30 degrees in the winter.

Boating, bicycling and beach combing are among popular recreational activities on San Juan Island.

Most people reach the San Juan Islands via the Washington State Ferries system, which serves San Juan, Orcas, Lopez and Shaw islands. Some public and private airstrips also are available.

Quick Links:

San Juan County Government
Town of Friday Harbor
San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce
San Juan Island School District
Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce
San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau
Orcas Island School District
Lopez Island Chamber of Commerce
Lopez Island School District
Washington State Ferries
Lime Kiln Point State Park

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Photography & Information Courtesy of: Photography Magic, Lawliss Creative, Scherrer Photography, Jon Brunk Photography, Getty Images, iStock and the following Chambers of Commerce's and Visitor Bureau's from: Bellingham/Whatcom County, Birch Bay, Blaine, Bow, Everson-Nooksack, Ferndale, Mt. Baker Foothills, Point Roberts, Sumas, Anacortes, Burlington, Concrete, La Conner, Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley, Camano Island, Central Whidbey, Coupeville, Langley, The Greater Oak Harbor, San Juan Island, Lopez Island and Orcas Island.