Friday Harbor Off The Beaten Path

  • View from Viewpoint
    View from Viewpoint
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  • Carriage House as Seen from Main Museum
    Carriage House as Seen from Main Museum
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  • Concerts on the Lawn are Found with Signs
    Concerts on the Lawn are Found with...
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Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in Friday Harbor

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    Sunken Park: Tiny Park near Center of Downtown

    by glabah Written Apr 5, 2015

    I will not go so far as to say that Sunken Park is a hidden gem in this city, but the fact is that there are only so many places to go in a city as small as Friday Harbor. This little park is certainly one of the lesser visited places, though there is no great view of the water or much of anything else here.

    It's name derives from the depression that was formed when Harrison Street was raised.

    The largest feature of the park is a basketball court, and the other main part of the park is made up of open grass that could be used for all manner of outdoor activities.

    The very south side of the park has a gazebo like structure that could be used as a picnic shelter, as well as some open picnic tables for the nice weather season.

    How to Get Here: From the main part of downtown Friday Harbor, go west on 1st Street, which curves into and becomes Harrison Street. The park is on the south side of Harrison, just before you get to B Street. The park is on the south side of Harrison Street and north of Nichols Street, along the west side of B Street.

    Gazebo or Shelter in Sunken Park Basketball Court in Sunken Park Benches along Basketball Court in Sunken Park Picnic Tables at South End of Sunken Park

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    A Whale of a Tail: "Fluke" by Micajah Bienvenu

    by glabah Written Apr 3, 2015

    On January 10th, 2013 a new sculpture was installed at 1st and A Streets in Friday Harbor. Created by Friday Harbor sculptor Micajah Bienvenu, this is a more artistic reminder of the largest of creatures commonly found around San Juan Island than the cheap plush toys or other goofy tourist objects.

    A small bench is also located at the sculpture, and if you happen to be waiting in the ferry queue for a long time this might be one place to sit and enjoy the weather, should it be a nice day. There are a number of small restaurants near here, including Market Chef, Hungry Clam, Doctor's Office Café, and several others.

    The sculpture is located in a very small plaza at the south side of the intersection of A, First, Harrison and E streets. This is also the top of the hill end of the ferry terminal queue lanes.

    Bench with
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    Friday Harbor Floating Breakwater

    by glabah Updated Jul 9, 2014

    Providing a unique way to view Friday Harbor from the water without having to rent a boat or kayak and get out into the water yourself, the floating breakwater constructed for Friday Harbor's marina not only serves as a protection for the boats that are moored here but also as a public floating observation walkway.

    Unfortunately, only two benches are currently places on this walkway. Even so, if they are not already in use they offer a unique perspective on island life, and can offer a unique perspective of the ferry terminal and the marina.

    The main photo shows the breakwater as seen from Spring Street Landing and shows that there are no handrails or benches here. During peak season there are boats that do tie up here from time to time but most of the time the breakwater is free of obstruction. You just have to be careful.

    The view of the breakwater taken from the breakwater shows one of the two benches that do exist on the breakwater at this point.

    How to Get Here: Like most of Friday Harbor, this area is best explored on foot. Walk through Fairweather Park between Front Street and the water. Towards the north end of this park you will find an entrance to the docks which also gives a map of the marina and a bit of information about the breakwater (see photo 2). From here you can walk out onto the pier and gain access to the floating breakwater.

    View of Breakwater, No Benches but Good Viewpoint View of Friday Harbor from Floating Breakwater Map of Floating Breakwater at Entrance to Marina View of Ferry Arriving from Floating Breakwater View of Sunset on 6 June 2013 from Breakwater
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    Fairweather Park

    by glabah Updated Jun 12, 2014

    Hugging the waterline between the harbor and Front Street, and running northwest of where West Street should be if it were to continue all the way to Front Street, this little park provides a relaxing view of the waterfront and the harbor without being quite so near the auto traffic noise that surrounds Spring Street and Front Street.

    The park has a reasonably good sized picnic shelter, benches overlooking the water, and a monument / story pole inspired and carved by local First Nations people. Near the picnic shelter you will also find a statue of Popeye, the harbor seal that has decided Friday Harbor is home.

    A small fountain on the far northwest side of the park provides additional natural obstruction of the city noise, should it be desired or prove necessary. Following a staircase up the hill to a small, open grass area at the top of the waterfall yields an even more off the beaten path area, as this part of the park is seldom visited by tourists.

    Fairweather Park along Waterfront in Downtown Picnic Shelter in Fairweather Park Story Poles from First Nations in Fairweather Park Small Waterfall Fountain with Duck with Sunglasses Top of Fountain and Top Entrance to Park

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    Spring Street Landing

    by glabah Updated Jun 2, 2014

    This modern but attractive structure serves as the arrival and departure point for the Victoria Clipper, and sits at the end of the pier from which a number of the whale watch boats and other tour vessels depart.

    However, rather than consider it a "transportation" tip I have put it in the "Off the Beaten Path" category because the facility has some attraction in its own right, beyond the restrooms that are located on the north side of the structure.

    Except for when the Victoria Clipper is boarding or alighting passengers, this structure is generally not crowded at all. As seen in the main photo for this tip, it is a great spot to watch the ferry loading process next door at the state ferry terminal. The benches on the platform on the south side of the structure have a clear and unobstructed view facing the northeast including Shaw Island in the distance (see photo 3).

    The channel here is also used as the airport for the seaplanes and this location offers one of the better spots to watch them take off and land.

    Inside the building you will find two tile murals that run the length of the side of the building. The one on the north side (see photo 2) includes a rough tile map of San Juan Island in the middle.

    The south side of the room has a reasonably large fish tank, which serves as the Friday Harbor Aquarium and has a number of native plant and fish species to the waters beneath the Spring Street Landing.

    How to Get Here:

    Spring Street Landng is just slightly northwest of the ferry terminal along Front Street. As the name implies, the pier connects to Front Street just slightly north of the intersection of Front Street and Spring Street.

    Spring Street Landing is Boat Watching Prime Site Tile Mural in Interior of Spring Street Landing Benches on South Side of Building are Nice Spot Spring Street Landing from Victoria Clipper
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    Story Pole / Totem Pole (Fairweather Park)

    by glabah Written Nov 8, 2013

    In an acknowledgement of First Nations culture, this story pole was erected in Fairweather Park.

    Calling these totem poles isn't always accurate. A totem pole tells the story of a particular family living in a particular longhouse. Story poles tell a particular legend that isn't associated with a particular family. This pole does a little of both.

    A totem pole would be part of a Coast Salish longhouse, and so the history of the family living there would be there for all to see. While this pole doesn't necessarily tell the story of a particular family, it is designed to be a similar pole to tell a bit of a story of the San Juan Islands.

    The dominating theme of the pole is the responsible interaction of wildlife and human.

    The interlaced hands and paws of the woman and cougar on one pole represent the necessary tolerance of animals and humans for each other in order to assure mutual survival.

    The second pole represents the marine environment that surrounds the San Juan Islands, including the orca whale and salmon. The tale of a whale forms a seat, and according to the interpretive sign it is the artists intention that if someone sits on the seat they would then complete the circle of life represented on the pole.

    The pole was carved by native artists Susan Point in red cedar and dedicated in 2004.

    Signs built into the pole as well as on a nearby separate board give insight into the local Coast Salish culture and the artist's symbols. However, to read those signs you need to visit Friday Harbor. I will not reveal all of her symbols in this writing.

    How to Get Here: The pole is located in Fairweather Park, which is slightly north of the Spring Street landing and ferry terminal. Take the main pathway north through the park from Front Street and you will see the sculpture right beside the trail.

    Fairweather Park Story Pole overlooks Water Marine Ecosystem Pole has Symbolic Seat Intertwining of Nature and Human Life on Pole Crossbeam features Eagle and Other Symbols Signs On, Near Pole give Insight into Coast Salish
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    Spring Street Aquarium (in Spring Street Landing)

    by glabah Updated Sep 11, 2013

    In some ways, Spring Street Landing isn't that much of an off the beaten path place. This is where the Victoria Clipper ties up once a day during peak tourist season, and quite a number of people walk past here. However, other than the public rest rooms, few people seem to appreciate the structure for what it has.

    There is a very attractive mural inside this building, plus the waiting room area has a fairly good sized fish tank inside it which features examples of what is in the water under your feet.

    This free aquarium comes equipped with a self-guide book at the west end of the tank, which helps identify the various species in the tank.

    It isn't huge, but it is available free of charge to anyone who bothers to look into the tank. It is located inside the building at the end of the Spring Street Landing, which is just slightly northwest of the ferry terminal along Front Street. As the name implies, the pier connects to Front Street just slightly north of the intersection of Front Street and Spring Street.

    Spring Street Aquarium is Free to Anyone who Looks A Guide to What is In the Tank is Available

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    Concerts on the Lawn: Free Music in Summer

    by glabah Written Aug 19, 2013

    Due to the difficulty of getting to the islands compared to the mainland, an awful lot of touring bands don't even think about coming out to the islands.

    In order to try to provide a bit of cultural activity in town on weekday evenings, the Island Parks and Recreation District has helped organize an outdoor concert series that runs in the summer months. Due to the limited peak tourist season the series is generally limited to 5 weeks, one concert a week. Despite the limited budget and limited attraction for bands to come here, they have been able to attract some groups that are pretty outstanding for the conditions.

    As the web site says, you will want to bring chairs (though there are limited picnic tables for seating there) and probably warm clothes as the evenings here tend to be quite cool.

    The concerts are held on the lawn of the historical society museum at 405 Price Street on Wednesday Evenings. Occasional posters around town, plus signs (see photo 2) directing people to the park make the location easy to find, Parking is limited at the location and as it isn't too far from the central part of town I suggest walking if you can do so.

    Band Correo A��reo performs Outdoor Concert Concerts on the Lawn are Found with Signs
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    Viewpoint at Top of Stairs at West Street

    by glabah Written Jul 22, 2013

    A small public park (as a sign in the park clearly states - see photo 1) sits at the northwest end of West Street. Here you will find a picnic table and several benches overlooking the harbor and marina. If you like watching some spectacular skies, and the weather is slightly cloudy, grab a breakfast item of some sort or other and sit here and watch the sun come up over the hills and islands to the east of here. This is best done in high summer, when the sun comes up further north than any other time.

    Stairs down to Front Street lead past condominiums and private viewpoints, but the stairs also have a few benches on them - to rest or to take in the view as desired.

    Public Park and Viewpoint at End of West Street View of Harbor from West Street Viewpoint Park Benches in West Street Viewpoint Park, Harbor View Ferry departing Friday Harbor, West St. Viewpoint
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    Historical Museum: Scribner Cabin / Schoolhouse

    by glabah Written Jul 19, 2013

    This tip is part of a larger set of tips about the San Juan Island Historical Museum (see my overall San Juan Island Historical Museum tip at
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/230a64/
    for a bit more about this complex of buildings and links to related tips).

    Built by San Juan Island pioneer Edward Scribner in 1891, this cabin uses techniques in its construction that are very typical of much earlier structures on the island, and is perhaps the oldest surviving example of this type of construction on San Juan Island. By 1891, most places on the island had moved to somewhat more modern house building techniques but almost all such structures have now been lost. Originally it was the home of the Scribner family (including 9 children) but later the family moved to Friday Harbor and used the more remote cabin as a fishing retreat house.

    Today it has beenIn 1988, facing possible uncertain future with the development of many areas of the island, it was moved to Friday Harbor and rebuilt on the historical society grounds. Though moved, it is still a wonderful example of early style construction methods used on the island.

    The main room of the structure has

    Log Cabin and Schoolhouse part Historic Museum Arrangement of Classroom in Log Cabin
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    Historical Museum: Friday Harbor Antique Jail

    by glabah Updated Jul 19, 2013

    The old jail is part of the San Juan Historical Museum, which I have covered in a Friday Harbor Things to Do Tip, Please see my overall San Juan Island Historical Museum tip at
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/230a64/
    for a bit more about this complex of buildings and links to related tips.

    In an amazing bit of history, the original hand written bid for constructing this jail in 1894 still exists, and a copy of it is on display inside the jail. The building remained in use as a jail into the 1970s, and probably would be in use today as the island jail if it hadn't been condemned by the local health authorities as being the worst and most outdated jail in the state.

    The jail was then moved to the grounds of the San Juan Historical Society and has become part of the museum.

    On display inside are various key moments in history in law enforcement in Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands. During the era of prohibition, due to the proximity of Canada, the islands did a pretty brisk trade in alcohol and criminal activity.

    San Juan Islands Jail was In Use into the 1970s Display of Law Enforcement History of Jail Example of Life in the 1894 era San Juan Jail 1894 Bid to Construct the San Juan Islands Jail
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    Historical Museum: Carriage House

    by glabah Written Jul 19, 2013

    This tip is part of a larger set of tips about the San Juan Island Historical Museum (see my overall San Juan Island Historical Museum tip at
    http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/230a64/
    for a bit more about this complex of buildings and links to related tips).

    Telling the story of life in a historic farm house really isn't enough. The artifacts that show the early history of the community must show more than just household items.

    The carriage house has several sections. One of these sections is, of course, the actual carriage house. Here there are two restored carriages that serve as examples of transportation in the early years of Friday Harbor. To that end there is also a single preserved example of one of Friday Harbor's first streetlights (a very large kerosene lantern designed for mounting on a street post), with a photograph showing how they looked in service originally.

    The main room of the carriage house also shows all the tools that would have been required for maintenance of the carriages as well as other equipment around the farm (see photo 3), with each item labeled with a brief description.

    Outside, there is huge rudder from the clipper ship "America" which sank off San Juan Island in 1914. It gives an up close look at a piece of a ship that is seldom seen above water (see photo 4) and gives some idea of the impressive wood pieces that were once used in these early sailing ships.

    Sort of hidden behind the carriage house is a different section entirely, which preserves some of the early commercial instruments from Friday Harbor history. Examples include the first telephone exchange (see photo 5) and an early accountants desk.

    The carriage house is connected to the farm house by a brick walkway, as seen in the main tip, and therefore even in bad weather you don't have to worry too much about your feet getting muddy. (see photo 2)

    Carriages in the Carriage House Carriage House as Seen from Main Museum Tools of the Trade in the Carriage House Rudder from Clipper Ship Friday Harbor's First Telephone Exchange
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    Friday Harbor Art Studio: Famous Scrimshaw Artist

    by glabah Written Jul 13, 2013

    It should not be surprising at all that Friday Harbor produces and attracts artists that are very good at showing water scenes. Howard Rosenfeld is one such artist, and inside his studio you will find scrimshaw works and paper work depicting mostly water, ship and boat scenes. Block prints and other forms of art are also part of his work. Perhaps his most famous work is the pendant featured in the movie Free Willy II.

    All of the scrimshaw work is done on ivory that is fully documented as being legal for sale in the USA. The web site features some examples that have been sold internationally. One set of scrimshaw works shown there was done for Hawaiian royalty in the late 1970s.

    If you are looking for a unique card to send to someone from Friday Harbor, it may be worth taking a look at one of his unique cards.

    See the gallery web site, below, for some examples of the various art works he has made.

    The name of the studio also indicates one of his other specialties: as one of Friday Harbor's few picture framing shops.

    How to Get Here:

    From ferry staging area, head directly up hill on A Street. At end of A Street road turns onto Web Street. Here at the intersection you will find the Friday Harbor Art Studio.

    Home plus Art Studio on Web Street
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    2nd Story Public Viewpoint

    by glabah Written Jul 5, 2013

    This isn't necessarily an extremely difficult location to find, but it is something that is very easy to walk right past and not know it exists.

    The building known as "Town Square" directly across the street from the marina has a roof top viewing deck. So long as you don't stay past the posted hours you are welcome to view the boat traffic and marina from this location, and it probably has a pretty good sunrise view as well.

    The bad news is that there are two full flights of stairs to climb, and a third half-flight, but once you get to the top of the building it is one of the rare rooftop views of Friday Harbor that doesn't require spending money in a restaurant or bar in order to enjoy the view.

    As seen in photo 2, you will find that there are benches and planters up here on top of the building, for the purpose of enjoying the view while relaxing.

    How to Get Here:

    The Downrigger's Restaurant is probably the best landmark, other than the marina. Cross Front Street. On the other side of the road you will come across a building with a name painted on it called "Town Square" (see photo 4). Also looking at photo 4, you will find that there is a sign that points to the staircase and says there is a public viewing deck up two flights of stairs.

    After climbing a short flight of stairs and then a full flight of stairs, you will get to the first level balcony. This balcony is mostly used for storage of mops and brooms. Go up one more floor, and you will get to the observation deck on the roof of the building.

    View of Friday Harbor Marina from Public Roof Viewing Deck on Roof of Building with Benches Way to Viewing Deck is Well Marked, if Find Signs Entry to Town Square. Note Sign to Viewing Deck.
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    Public Viewpoint on Warbass Way - Mt Baker

    by glabah Updated Jun 13, 2013

    There are two important things you need to know about this little viewpoint on Warbass Way: the road is a one-way street so getting to and from here requires a loop in any wheeled vehicle (I walked so it was different for me), and there is no vehicle parking here unless you are a member of the marina that sits below the viewpoint (again, this didn't matter to me as I walked here).

    On many days, other than the marina and the passage between the islands there really isn't too much to see here, though certainly the view from here is a bit more scenic than you find in a typical street-facing park or restaurant. However, there is one exception to this. It may seem an odd location for a viewpoint. Certainly, the area is nice but not necessarily that much more pleasant than what can be seen elsewhere in Friday Harbor. However, if the view looking east is good and clear, especially at sunrise, there is a very good view of Mount Baker from this viewpoint - unlike most other locations elsewhere in Friday Harbor. See photo 4. It is this view that has been preserved by allowing the public to access this platform.

    The only thing that identifies this as a public viewpoint as well as parking for the marina are signs that state "Public Viewing Area" posted on the platform.

    The real purpose of this platform, however, is to serve as a parking area for the elevator to the marina below.

    How to Get Here: The platform is located just slightly northwest of the western intersection of Warbass Way and Harrison Street. It isn't too far of a walk from downtown Friday Harbor, and if you drive there is very limited parking anywhere around the location.

    Public Platform Viewpoint at Marina View from Viewpoint Signs Indicate no Public Parking but Viewpoint Is On a Clear Day, Mount Baker Dominates the View
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