Eagle Cove Road, south end of San Juan Island
Friday Harbor , WA 98250
(360) 378-8420


Every day Dawn - Dusk


Eagle Cove is a small pocket beach on the southern end of San Juan Island. Its most appreciated feature is the sandy beach that it offers rather than the more common rock, gravel, and pebble shorelines found throughout the islands. This beach is a favorite among locals and visitors in the know despite or possibly because of its small intimate nature and somewhat obscure access in a quiet residential community.

To get to the beach, you’ll walk down a moderately steep trail in a narrow ravine that can have slippery patches at times. The 100 or so yards will feel short or long depending on how much you’re bringing down to the beach with you. Rather than considering this path an inconvenience, enjoy it as a mini-tour through the ecological transition from a windswept exposed naturally grassy upland, down along a small stream with riparian characteristics of woodland and shrub habitat. While searching out the little birds flitting about don’t be surprised to find a large great-horned owl perched over the trail, hoping that you won’t notice it.

To your right as you look out from Eagle Cove, the rocky headland is a favorite for sea mammals to pull out and get their necessary rest and daily dry period. Binoculars are what you need to see them up close. It would be dangerous to approach them, and just like human babies, they need their rest to grow up strong and healthy. While not known for its whale watching potential, the larger marine mammals commonly pass by Eagle Cove on their way up the coast so you’ll want to look offshore once in a while. The beach also offers a rich habitat for animal life. Rock and sand tidepools shelter a wealth of marine life. Most people just enjoy the sand for walking and sunbathing but if you get down on your knees and sift through the wet sand a little, you’ll discover a teaming universe of life. Little shrimp-like copepods jump about and escape your hands and sometimes, sneak up and give you a little bite when you sit still too long.

The steep banks can sometimes provide protection on days when the wind and waves seem uncomfortably strong elsewhere. When this happens, summertime swimmers can be tempted to enjoy a quick dip in the year-round chilly water. Divers also visit this location. Just offshore is a rich kelp jungle with lots to see on the sandy bottom and among the rocky outcrops. Besides plenty of fish there’s octopus and in deeper water the spooky looking, but not as dangerous as they look, wolf eels. Fishermen know this spot and frequently come here by land and sea to try their luck and skill. The tradition of fishing in this area goes back to the Hudson Bay Company in the 1850s and further back in time when a Native American village actually flourished on the abundant sea life in this tiny cove.

The sandy beach can grow and shrink with the fluctuating tides and seasonal cycles so it won’t be unusual to find conditions different depending on when you visit. For a side trip and variety, give this little beach a try. It may become your favorite, just as it has for many others.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 10/15/2009


Drive south on Cattle Point Road toward the American Camp National Park location on the south end of San Juan Island. Just before the park entrance, turn right onto Eagle Cove Road, entering a residential area. In a ½ mile or less, look for the parking area on your left, immediately after passing a narrow forested strip.


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