Fourth of July Beach

Cattle Point Road, San Juan Island
Friday Harbor , WA 98250


Every day Dawn - 11:00 PM


This popular beach is nestled on the quiet north shore of the American Camp Unit of San Juan Island National Historic Park, and fronts on the protected waters of Griffin Bay. The beach is backed by forest and dense shrub thickets providing visitors both human and wild some degree of protection from the prevailing south winds that sweep across the more exposed areas of the cape. The firm level path leading to the beach is used not only by picnickers and beach goers but for carrying or even wheeling paddle craft to the beach. For the public there are limited launching options on the south side of the bay and this appreciated location is a listed trailhead of the Cascadia Marine Trail. The parking area may be seasonally closed during winter months so it’s best to check the current schedule if planning to visit and especially if you are intending to launch from this site.

The protected location in the park and the largely undeveloped private lands to the west make this a popular place for wildlife. Tall perching trees next to saltwater are what draw eagles here. Lucky and patiently observant visitors have enjoyed the thrill of witnessing an eagle taking a salmon virtually in front of them. When high winds drive the waterfowl from the blustery south side of the cape, large rafts of floating birds can sometimes form just offshore. Changing tides bring feathered beach goers as well. Troops of birds march up and down following the tidal fluctuations and searching for special treats that become accessible. Parents often prefer this beach as well. With generally calmer waters the surf can be mild and gentler for toddlers and the timid to enjoy.

To the west, the low rocky headland marks the end of the public beach but offers in exchange the fascination of rock hugging creatures and tidepools to explore. In contrast, the beach to the east continues into the distance providing the promise of more sun and breeze. This may be preferred when the shady forest area occasionally offers up a few mosquitoes during midsummer. Along this low lying coast great logs of driftwood have been deposited by the infrequent but powerful northerly storms that occur in winter. The shoreline behind this strip of beach is so low that its interaction with the sea forms an interesting array of different types of salt lagoons. Most of these are in constant transition of flooding and filling dependent on the sea for both water and sand.

The origin of the beach’s name has become somewhat obscured but is possibly related to the Fourth of July fireworks fire of 1890 which burned the nearby village of San Juan Town to the ground. It was never rebuilt. Today all that remains is a lovely protected beach, open fields, and nearby forest. Providing sun and shade, water and sand, Fourth of July Beach may be just what you’re looking for.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 10/15/2009


The beach is located in the American Camp Unit of San Juan Island National Historic Park on the far Southeast end of San Juan Island. Driving south to the Park on Cattle Point Road, the turnoff is located on the left about one mile east of the entrance to the National Park Visitor Center. A sign should mark the short road to the left that leads to the parking lot for Fourth of July Beach.


Parking | Picnic Area | Picnic Tables | Sandy Beach | Shady Areas


Copyright 1998-2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED