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Northwest Traveler

Travel news, consumer advice and trip reports for the Northwest and beyond.

April 30, 2013 at 12:36 PM

May is a month of history events in the San Juans — with a new small cruise ship to take you there

Want to take an evening walk to the haunted spots of Friday Harbor? Maybe take a guided tour of Roche Harbor and the founding father’s quirky mausoleum in the fashion of a Greek ruin?

Saloon Best is known today as the Blue Water Bar and Grill. Built about 1874, it is the oldest building in Friday Harbor. (photo courtesy University of Washington Archives)

Saloon Best, known today as the Blue Water Bar and Grill, is among sights on the Historic Downtown Friday Harbor walk. Built about 1874, it is the oldest building in town. (photo courtesy University of Washington Archives)

Free guided walks every weekend in May are among offerings in the San Juan Islands as part of national Preservation Month, designated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service to celebrate history and historic places. In the San Juans, they’ve declared it Heritage Month.

Here’s what’s on the calendar:


  • May 4: Historic Downtown Friday Harbor walk, 10 a.m. from Memorial Park, Front and Spring streets.
  • May 5-11: Bloom Week, concluding with May 11 Wildflower Festival, San Juan Island National Historical Park.
  • May 11: A Walk through Time: Historic Argyle Avenue, touring one of Friday Harbor’s most important historic residential neighborhoods, built around the Argyle Wagon Road, circa 1890. 10 a.m. from Acanthus Antiques, 460 Argyle Ave.
  • May 17: Crook House Tour and Lecture at English Camp, San Juan Island National Historical Park. The home, circa 1900, will be open to the public for the first time. 7 p.m., $5.
  • May 18: Historic Home Tour fundraiser and American Camp Officers Quarters Tour; a rare opportunity to peek inside several historic homes and farmhouses from 100 years ago. For the first time, the National Park Service is opening the historic officers’ quarters at American Camp, from the Pig War of 1859. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.; $20. More information here.
  • May 18: Post-War Friday Harbor walk, 10 a.m. from the San Juan County Courthouse on Second Street.
  • May 25: Cast Stone: The Materials, Times and People who Built Friday Harbor, walk with architectural historian Boyd Pratt, visiting the town’s historic Brickworks and the buildings constructed from its concrete brick. 9 a.m. from the Brickworks, 150 Nichols St.
  • May 25: Historic Churches Walking Tour, 10 a.m. from St. Francis Church on Price Street.
  • May 26: Roche Harbor tour, 1-2 p.m. from the Hotel de Haro, and mausoleum tour, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. from the moped rental stand.
  • May 27: Local American Legion Post hosts a traditional Memorial Day Parade and ceremony, 10 a.m., first block of Spring Street.
  • May 31: Ghosts Among Us walking tour, with local genealogy researcher and ghost story enthusiast Robin Jacobson, 7 p.m. from Memorial Park, Front and Spring streets, Friday Harbor.


  • May 11: Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Washington State Parks with Orcas Island Historical Museum at its birthday party atop Mount Constitution in Moran State Park, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The museum, 181 Northbeach Road, Eastsound, will also have a special exhibit of photographs of the changing face of the park since its beginnings in the 1920s.


  • All month: Lopez Island Historical Society Museum, on Weeks Road in Lopez Village, celebrates its 40th anniversary with a new exhibit throughout May, entitled “Homesteaders, Indian Wives and Second Sons,” featuring photos and artifacts from the colorful homesteaders who settled on Lopez in the mid-1800s.

For more information, visit San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau or call 888-468-3701.


If you’re looking for something a lot fancier than a state ferry to get you to the islands, and your wallet is fat and happy, you might want to check out the new 7-night small-ship tours of Puget Sound and the San Juans launched this week by American Cruise Lines. Rates start at $3,750 per person, from Seattle, aboard the 100-passenger American Spirit.

Or, if you’re happy with a day trip and hoping to save enough for, say, a trip to Tahiti, try the Victoria Clipper or Washington State Ferries.


Comments | Topics: American Cruise Lines, Friday Harbor, heritage


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