I love when I find a new favorite family vacation spot. It’s always great to visit new places, but even better when you find a place that you want to come back to. San Juan Island is my latest favorite family vacation spot and I can’t WAIT to visit again with the boys. Maybe we’ll go back just so we can make a video this time! Obviously there is NO such thing as a “perfect” family vacation, but as for places to go, San Juan island has most everything we look for!
The San Juan Islands are an archipelago (a sea or stretch of water containing many islands) in the U.S. state of Washington. While there are several choices we stayed on San Juan Island (with the County seat of Friday Harbor).
There are so many GREAT reasons to vacation here with your family. I thought I’d give you my thoughts and then a little list at the end of where to stay, what to do etc.
You can get to the island by ferry, or plane but my favorite way to get there is by seaplane! This is such an awesome experience for families and definitely makes getting there almost as fun as the whole vacation itself. We flew with Kenmore air and loved every minute of our experience. It’s not as “scary” as you might imagine and you get an amazing view of the islands from above. The only downside to this way of travel is that you can only bring 25lbs of luggage (total) for each person. If you planned on bringing your food in this wouldn’t work well, but you could take it on the way out!
Once you’re there, I recommend visiting The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor as early in your visit as possible. San Juan Island has one of THE best spots in the world to watch orcas from land at Lime Kiln Point State Park. The Whale Museum will give you tons of great information about the pods of whales that frequent the area and you/your kids will even be able to learn how to figure out which whales you’re looking at (plus a ton of other really great information).
I think where you stay, especially on the island, is a big part of any vacation. We stayed at Lakedale Resort and it is the perfect spot for families (or even couples) to vacation for a long weekend or even a longer length of time.
They have 3 lakes, 82 acres and gorgeous campsites where you can set up camp, but they also have some great glamping options or cabins if you don’t want to tote all your stuff in. Lakedale has created an amazing atmosphere that really gives you that “unplugged” quintessential American family vacation you might be looking for. In the summer months they have all kinds of great summer camp type activities like tie-dye, games, fishing or SUP boarding. They’ve somehow figured out how to mix this with more luxury type camping in their lodge (where guests are over the age of 16 and includes an awesome more-than-continental breakfast each morning).
We’re thinking of heading in for some glamping or maybe even staying in a cabin with some friends! If camping is your thing we really liked campsite 30 for our family!
As for the rest of the island, they have plenty of amazing sightseeing, hiking, biking, whale watching or even an alpaca and lavender farm! SO many things to do to keep you busy.
The island definitely has that “island feel” but with a small seaside town feel (if that makes any sense). Hiking in Lime Kiln Point State Park you can see Orcas while you smell cedar mixed with salt water, then you can head to South Beach to watch the sunset while the kids try their hands at driftwood fort building.
Can you tell why we’re so ready to go back? Have you ever been to any of the San Juan Islands? What’s your favorite thing to do? You can read more from our stay HERE and about visiting in the “quiet season”.
Here’s our list if you’re a list-type person:
Where to stay: Lakedale Resort for camping, glamping or in the lodge.
What to Do:
- The Whale Museum
- Hiking or Biking
- Whale watching on land
- Whale watching by boat
- get a history lesson at the American Camp and English Camp (part of the National Historical State Park) – don’t forget to get your Junior Ranger Activity Book at the National Parks visitor center.
- Build forts on South Beach
- Visit Alpacas
- Take a ride on a seaplane
Obviously these are only a handful of things because you should definitely take time to just BE.
- There are no fast food/drive through stops on the island so plan ahead with snacks if you’re used to grabbing dinner in the car.
- Make sure you watch your phone for roaming. Many times it may think you’re in Canada so you may want to turn off data and just use wifi to be safe.
- If you’re gluten free (like me) there are plenty of options at the shops and restaurants in Friday Harbor!
- If you can swing it – May is a great time to visit since the summer activities are kicking off but schools haven’t let out yet!
- If you’re flying in to Seattle and not taking a seaplane you could always rent a car for your stay and take it across on the ferry, then you could visit the Seattle area as well as the islands.