In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, take an island getaway with mild summer temperatures and lots of outdoor activities, With ferry service from several Washington ports, enjoy a trip full of hiking, exploring and eating seafood. San Juan Island even offers a National Park Service site, packed with history along with one of the best places to see whales from the land. Here’s the top things to do on San Juan Island with kids.
Top Things To Do on San Juan Island with Kids
San Juan Island National Historical Park
San Juan Island National Historical Park celebrates the success of peaceful arbitration between the United States and Great Britain. In 1871, they settled the ownership of San Juan Island with the help of Germany.
For 12 years, the island remained under peaceful joint military occupation. Then in 1871, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany ruled that San Juan Island belonged the U.S. Months later, the British moved out, leaving a civilized camp complete with a formal garden.
With two separate locations on opposite sides of San Juan Island, the American Camp and the English Camp, visitors can learn all about the land dispute of 1859. And believe or not, it all started when a British pig rooted around in an American vegetable garden, nearly starting a war.
Both Camps offer hiking, bird-watching along with amazing sunsets and dark skies for star gazing. For kayaking, both locations offer put-in and take-out sites.
Located on the southern tip of the park, American Camp is where the American soldiers used to live. It features the original officiers quarters along with some out buildings.
Tak a hiking trail through wildflower dotted prairies to the South Beach. The six-mile rocky beach offers orca viewing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. For tide pool opportunities, visit Grandma’s Cove during low tide .
Located at 4668 Cattle Point Road on the southern peninsula, stop by the year-round visitor center for maps, an interpretive area and a park film along with Junior Ranger booklets. Picnic tables are located at the visitor center along with the restrooms. The visitor center is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the park is open from 24-hours a day.
English Camp is on the northern end of San Juan Island and offers more historic buildings including the barracks, commissary, block house and formal garden. If time permits the hike to Bell Point offer views of Garrison and Westcott bays.
The English Camp visitor center is open Thursday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer at 3905 W. Valley Rd.
Getting to San Juan Island National Historical Park
The two camps are on separate ends of the island and a car is needed to visit each. San Juan Island National Historical Park’s grounds are open 365 days a year, 24-hours a day. The San Juan Island National Historical Park is fee-free park site.
San Juan Island National Historical Park for Kids
The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about San Juan Island National Historical Park. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the patches that the Rangers present them after completing their booklets.
To earn the San Juan Island National Historical Park Junior Ranger badge, kids need to watch the park video, located in the visitor center at both locations. Kids will need to take a hike and complete the same amount of activities in the Junior Ranger booklet as their age.
San Juan Island National Historical Park offers a traditional Junior Ranger badge along with an embroidered patch. The Historic Preservation Junior Ranger badge and the Underwater Explorer badge can be earned at San Juan Island National Historical Park as well.
Lime Kiln Point State Park
The best location to scout for whales from land is at Lime Kiln Point State Park. A quick hike from the parking lot, visitors can occasionally see whales from the shore. Check in at the 1919 lighthouse for the most recent information about sightings.
Whale sitings include humpback whales, minke whales and orcas. Lime Kiln Point State Park is a 36-acre day-use park.
Located at 1567 Westside Road. Admission is $10 for a one-day Washington Discovery Pass or $30 for an annual pass. Lime Kiln Point State Park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk. The visitor center is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Memorial Day until the middle of September .
Take a Ferry Ride
Getting to San Juan Island is part of the fun, if you’re not flying, you are taking a boat to San Juan Island. My kids love that we drove our SUV onto the Washington State Ferry. We parked then explored the ferry during our passage that takes about an hour.
Bike around San Juan Island
San Juan Island doesn’t have stop lights and there’s a 45 mph speed limit across the island. Adventurous families could bike around the island. In Friday Harbor, there are several bike shops for rentals and find a bike tour operator as well.
Tour The Whale Museum
During my visit to San Juan Island, we stopped at The Whale Museum. Ideal for kids who yearn to learn about the whales seen from the shore. It’s a quick tour and can be explored in an hour.
Located at 62 First Street in Friday Harbor. Adult admission is $10, kids 6 to 18 enter for $6 and kids under five enter for free.
Lavender fields swaying in the gentle breezes of San Juan Island is nothing short of a watercolor landscape. During my visit, I stopped at Pelindaba Lavender Farm buzzing with activity. Peak color is July to August.
Stop by the Pelindaba Lavender Shop in Firday Harbor for lavender products. Located at 150 First St. and open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Located at 45 Hawthorne Lane. Open daily and free to enter.
Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm
See the cutest hoofed animals at the Krystal Acres Alpacao Farm. Each has kind eyes and graze the pastures on San Juan Island. After seeing the Alpacas, visit the farm store for yard along with knitwear.
Located at 3501 W. Valley Rd. Open Monday, Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
Walk in the 20-acre park with more than 150 pieces of outdoor sculpture. Find a picnic tables and it is dog-friendly.
Located at 9083 Roche Harbor Rd. Donation of $5 greatly appreciated.
San Juan Islands Museum of Art
Enjoy an intimate museum while visiting San Juan Islands. If offers a traveling exhibitions. Located at 540 Spring St. Open Friday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission (18+) is $10.
Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm
A working shellfish farm where Manila clams, Mediterranean mussels and Pacific oysters are grown. Have lunch at the farm or take some shellfish back with you to cook. Located at 904 Westcott Dr. Open during the summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day) Wednesday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
My kids love animals and I love to knit so we stopped at Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, located at 3501 West Valley Road. With cuddly alpacas and a store packed with clothing and yarn, it’s a family-friendly stop.
I love art and my kids needed to run around so I stopped at the Sculpture Park, near Roche Harbor. I found a 20-acre sculpture park with 150 works on five marked trails, including a sand pit for kids to create their own art. Donations suggested.
Glamping on San Juan Island
During our visit to San Juan Island, we glamped at Lakedale Resort. My family had a canvas cottage ($$) along the shore of Neva Lake.
The centerpiece of my canvas cottage was the chandelier that I never knew I needed until I had one. I especially loved looking at it from my king-sized bed dressed with flannel bedding. And did I mention my canvas cottage had decorative throw pillows, I found lots of them.
The front of our cottage overlooked the lake with a large deck inches off the water. With a wall of bug netting we left the front open for our entire stay, just an incredible view first thing in the morning.
The canvas cottage includes a twin-sized daybed outfitted with a trundle underneath and bedding. My kids loved sleeping on the trundle and day bed.
I found a large and bright bathroom that features a jumbo shower head with hot water. The bathroom includes a dressing area with a full-length mirror and a closet rod. The pedestal sink featured plenty of light to apply make-up and I even found a blow dryer.
Since Lakedale Resort is heavily treed, I didn’t see the RV or tent campsites from my site. I let my older kids explore on their own on the loaner bikes.
Activities at Lakedale Resort
My kids found lots of activities just for them like games like giant chess, bocce ball and horseshoes. Find crafts in the crafts tent, like tie-dye T-shirts. With 40-acres of lakes, find SUPs and kayaks to enjoy.
I found a complimentary breakfast at the mess tent in the morning. So incredible helpful when trying to feed the kids and make it to the ferry on time.
Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes, is 5 miles from the Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal. It features a 10-room lodge, two pet-friendly log cabins, canvas cabins and cottages, a vintage Airstream and standard camping and RV sites.
How to get to San Juan Island
During my visit, I took the Washington State Ferry to Friday Harbor from Anacortes, Washington, 85 miles north of Seattle via Interstate 5. It was easy to load up my SUV and head to the top deck for a scenic ride. Locals advise making reservations during the summer for the ferry.
For visitors without cars, floatplanes offer service to the San Juan Island from several locations including Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport).
Friday Harbor offers plenty of moorage for boat owners. Rental bikes are available in Friday Harbor.
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Know Before You Go:
- Friday Harbor is your place for shopping on San Juan Island from groceries to souvenirs.
- Find all you need for a picnic and a camp fire cookout at the grocery store.
- Reservations for the Washington State Ferry are highly recommended, only 10% of the ferry capacity is available for drive-up passage.