Winter Activities on San Juan Island

by | Nov 6, 2017 | Blog, Explore San Juan Island, Outdoor Adventures and Activities

This blog was written in 2017 and updated in 2023 and 2024.

San Juan Island is one of the most beautiful places on earth (OK, we are a little bit biased). Although we’re famous for our summers, our Salish Sea archipelago is a paradise in winter, too, with plenty to see and do in our “quiet season.”

In this blog, we’ll show you why San Juan Island is just as worth a visit in the winter as it is in the summer. By the time we’re done, you may even be convinced that it’s more fun to visit in the winter, but you’ll probably have to test the theory out in person. Have we mentioned we know a place?  

A note about ferries: You may be wondering, Are ferry schedules impacted during the winter months? And the answer is yes, they are. The ferry schedule is reduced during the winter (December through March) with fewer boats going back and forth to the islands compared to summer. Same goes for seaplanes. What that means for you is you’ll need to be vigilant about booking your reservations and commit to being flexible if changes arise. You’re on island time now—embrace it! Also, deep breaths. We promise it’s not that bad and totally worth it. 

What are the best activities to do in the winter on San Juan Island?

Get Outside

1. Take a walk

If you like to stroll with the crisp, fresh smell of sea air in your lungs, you’ll love exploring San Juan’s parks and pathways in the winter. You can storm watch from the beach or stroll along any of the many island trails, sometimes with a fresh dusting of snow.

For a walk to enjoy the stillness of winter, choose the Afterglow Vista Trail. Only a short half mile, this spot just north of Roche Harbor winds through an abandoned cemetery to The John S. McMillin Mausoleum. The McMillin family founded Roche Harbor, and the stone table and columns that mark their remains bear the inscription, “Death breaks the column of any man’s life.” One column is deliberately broken.

Afterglow Vista Mausoleum on San Juan Island

If you want to stick a little closer to your Lakedale “home,” our 82 acres of lakes, forests, and meadows (with paths throughout) will give you a taste of the outdoors without having to get into your car. Come November and December, you’ll also get to experience the magnificent white trumpeter swans who are our repeat winter guests. You can read more about them in the blog we wrote about winter wildlife here.

Aerial view of English Camp on San Juan Island

2. Take a hike

Interested in a slightly longer walk? Bell Point Loop Trail is an easy 1.8 mile loop where history and natural beauty mingle. You’ll pass through historical English Camp, where the English army was stationed during the famous Pig War of 1860. History buffs will have a field day with the informational markers, so if you have one with you, plan accordingly! And by “plan accordingly,” we mean build in extra time and pack a snack to munch on while you wait for them to read every sign.

View from Mt. Young on San Juan Island with map

3. Climb to the top

If you feel up for a challenge and the weather permits, hike to the top of Mount Young, the base of which begins along the Bell Point Loop Trail. Mount Young is the highest point on San Juan Island at 650 ft. On the hike, you’ll discover an abandoned English cemetery, grassy meadows, and an old-growth forest – and you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view from the top.

Other outdoor winter activity ideas: Check out the holiday lights in downtown Friday Harbor, try whale watching from shore, or observe some of San Juan’s other winter wildlife.

Know before you go: Just like most places in the Pacific Northwest in the winter, San Juan Island can get very cold, especially near the water. Pack layers! Bring a coat! Drink warm liquids! If you’re lucky, you may even find yourself on the island during one of our annual dustings of snow. On those days, we invite our guests to make snowpeople with us. Here’s one from a few years back. We’re still entertaining name suggestions.

Painting of Lime Kiln lighthouse by  Aimee Dieterle

The Great Indoors

4. Appreciate the arts

Winter is a lovely time to visit a museum—especially when it’s hosting a major event! The San Juan Islands Museum of the Arts (SJIMA) is a gorgeous glass building that houses the work of artists from the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia across a mixture of mediums, and winter is a great time to visit.

Every winter, SJIMA hosts its annual Registry Show, where you can discover more than 75+ exciting artists from the San Juan Islands and experience their newest works.

5. Enjoy Community Theater

San Juan Community Theater is the perfect place to cuddle up on a stormy night and take in a show. Live performances are regularly hosted here, and we always enjoy getting in the holiday spirit with performances like 2023’s San Juan Singers: Christmas Through the Ages running December 9th and 10th. Keep your eye on their calendar for even more shows announced for 2024!

Enchanted Forest Cabaret on Orcas Island

6. See a cabaret

This event actually takes place at the Orcas Center, but if you want to day trip from San Juan to Orcas Island, this cabaret is a great reason to hop on a ferry!

The annual Enchanted Forest Cabaret is a cherished local tradition and the shows keep both adults and children laughing and in suspense. Keep their website refreshed (and subscribe to their calendar) to be the first to know about this year’s dates. 

Other indoor winter activity ideas: Visit a San Juan brewery, winery, distillery, or restaurant in Friday Harbor!

There’s plenty to do both indoors and out this winter in San Juan. Join us, and experience a side of the island that only locals typically see: calm streets, still forests, and empty trails. Check out Lakedale’s fall and winter specials to book a room!

Lakedale lodge in winter

Does Lakedale offer winter specials?

There’s plenty to do both indoors and out this winter on San Juan Island. Join us, and experience a side of the island that only locals typically see: calm streets, still forests, and empty trails. Check out Lakedale’s fall and winter specials to book a room!

And let us know where you end up by tagging us in your social media posts—we’re @lakedaleresort on Instagram and Facebook!



Call now: 800-617-2267
4313 Roche Harbor Rd,
Friday Harbor, WA