San Juan Island serves up gorgeous views in every direction, so no matter where you’re posing for a photo, it’s going to look like a painting. The visuals are all different and stunning, and often stop us in our tracks. We are so grateful to live where we do! Our island has natural beauty in spades—from driftwood-scattered beaches to pastoral farms, lush forests, and rocky shorelines brimming with sea creatures—so keeping the list down to 10 was the hard part. Herewith, our top ten most Instagrammable places on San Juan Island:
- Lime Kiln Point State Park, on the west side of the Island, has it all. Take a 1.6-mile hike to catch a glorious sunset, with the lighthouse serving as a picturesque backdrop. The 41-acre state park is also one of the best places in the world to watch orca whales (also humpbacks and porpoises) from the shoreline. Best viewing is usually between May and October when the whales are in residence, so remember your long-distance lens to capture a shot of them breaching!
- Kayaking in the San Juan Islands provides an abundance of photo ops. One of our favorite kayak trips is from the Friday Harbor Marina to Turn Island Marine State Park, a leisurely one-hour paddle. Turn Island is only accessible by boat, so once there, pull your kayak ashore on the pebbly beach, set out a relaxing picnic, and then hike the perimeter trail around the island (counterclockwise is recommended). You’ll find madrone trees arching over the shoreline, blue herons, and gorgeous views around every twist and turn. First come, first served camping is also allowed here.
Photo courtesy of San Juan Outfitters and Brendan McGarry
- Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor Marinas. We’re not sure about you, but “walking the docks” is one of our favorite ways to spend an afternoon. Friday Harbor Marina is adjacent to the ferry terminal at the foot of Spring Street. It offers panoramic vistas across the Salish Sea to Mt. Baker, ferry boats chugging in and out of town, and float planes landing dockside. If you want to photograph yourself alongside sleek yachts and mega powerboats, visit Roche Harbor Marina. The historic seaside resort at the north end of the island also boasts lush gardens and quaint white turn-of-the-century buildings. (Food photo note: One of our favorite clam chowders can be found at the Lime Kiln Café on the Roche Harbor property.) Right outside of its grounds is the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park, home to over 150 pieces of outdoor art, and the perfect place to add to your growing camera roll.
- Beaches are plentiful on San Juan Island, from tiny rocky coves to long expanses of pebbles strewn with driftwood. South Beach, in the San Juan Island National Historical Park, is ripe for your Insta-perfect shots. Its 2-mile stretch of gorgeousness offers views to the Olympic Mountains over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and an impressive display of driftwood. Just across the road from South Beach is Fourth of July Beach, on the leeward side of things, which means warmer, less windy, and perfect for picnicking. From this view, you can shoot images of the Salish Sea toward Mt. Baker—a combination that will undoubtedly add to your “likes.” Hike the trail south of the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, and you’ll discover a jewel of a beach at Deadman’s Cove. It’s small, sheltered, and is the local’s go-to location for finding sea-glass and taking wedding photos
- Historical buildings always seem to catch our eye when we’re traveling. English Camp, part of the San Juan National Historical Park, is a day-use area situated on Garrison Bay. Hundreds of British Royal Marines were stationed here during the peaceful 12-year joint U.S./British occupation of San Juan Island in the 1860s. Some of the original 27 picturesque, white structures are still standing. American Camp, at the south end of the island, is where the Americans were stationed during the occupation. It only has two structures remaining, but is still photo-worthy, with windswept views from the Strait to the bay.
- Our favorite forest, especially on a hot summer’s day, can be found on the hike from Jakle’s Lagoon to Mt. Finlayson. It offers massive Douglas Firs with peek-a-boo views to the sea and mountains, and lush undergrowth for close-up shots. The last half of the hike provides an expansive view from the Cattle Point Lighthouse across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island and the Olympic Mountains. Stunning.
- The town of Friday Harbor, with its quaint buildings, is always a good source for photos, but head a little further out of town to Pelindaba Lavender Farm for some guaranteed winners. Summer is the peak of color in the lavender fields. Try to schedule your trip for their annual Lavender Festival in mid-July.
- The Washington State Ferries, the most common transportation to the islands, provide a terrific place to take photos of the Salish Sea, its picturesque islands, passing sailboats, soaring birds, and—if you’re lucky—an occasional whale or two. If you want to take some incredible aerial shots, book a flight to San Juan Island on Kenmore Air and ask the pilot if you can ride shotgun. You won’t be disappointed with the images you get from up high.
- Food photos. Someone once said that 75% of the photos taken on iPhones were food images. If so, you’ll have plenty of inspiration on San Juan Island. One of our favorite foodie photo restaurants is the Duck Soup, which never fails to deliver a beautifully plated, delicious dish and inspiring cocktail. Duck Soup is located ¼ mile from Lakedale in a quaint house shrouded in flowering vines in the summer. A welcome reward at the end of a long photo day. We also love Westcott Bay Shellfish, which offers shucking opportunities (should you desire), farm tours, and magical visuals to accompany its delicious food.
10. And last but not least, we never tire of using Lakedale as a backdrop for our photo excursions. With docks floating atop reflective lakes, verdant meadows, towering pine trees, colorful tie-dye t-shirts hanging to dry, Trumpeter swans in the winter, and so much more, you’ll get great shots without ever leaving our San Juan Island resort. Plus, your Instagram account will thank you!
What are your favorite Instagram-worthy spots on San Juan Island?