The San Juan Islands offer the ideal backdrop for a family outing with towering mountains in the distance, supported by abundant foliage and waterways unique to the Pacific Northwest in the foreground. Ensure that you and your children get the most out of this beautiful area with the following list of San Juan Islands activities, created with the youngsters in mind.
1. The Whale Museum
Children with an interest in marine wildlife will be thrilled to visit the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor. Dedicated to the local orca population, The Whale Museum houses everything from educational programs to group tours, as well as a number of orcas that can be adopted.
2. Whale Watching
If the Whale Museum piques your interest, then take it a step further and schedule a whale watching tour! Friday Harbor is home to several stellar whale watching tour companies, including San Juan Excursions and San Juan Safaris. A day on the boat will grant you an unforgettable experience witnessing not only whales but also all of the fascinating creatures that reside in the San Juan Islands.
3. A Place to Play
True to its name, A Place to Play offers your kids the space and environment they need be a kid. An assortment of toys and activities are at the disposal of visitors, as well as snacks. Stop by for an afternoon, or book your child’s next birthday party!
4. Zip San Juan
For 8-year-olds and older, zip lining is an exciting San Juan Islands activity to experience. Participants get the chance to fly in a variety of environments with eight different lines that traverse through the forest, across a lake, and over wetlands. View the San Juan Islands from new heights with Zip San Juan!
5. Pelindaba Lavender Farm
An afternoon exploring the Pelindaba Lavender Farm is one of the most popular San Juan Islands activities. The farm presents a rolling sea of purple during the spring and summer seasons and a gift shop with lavender products and collectibles. The Pelindaba Lavender Farm also holds a Lavender Festival the 3rd week of July, which has fun craft activities for kids (see header and top right image).
6. San Juan County Fair & Fairgrounds
The San Juan County Fair is a great draw for families with kids who want to enjoy amusement park rides, petting zoos, and arcade games. The fair is held each year in August, so be sure to book your stay accordingly. There are plenty of other great things to do year-round at the fairgrounds, like going to the skateboard park or the family park & playground.
7. Tide Pooling
Tide pooling on San Juan Island at Dead Man’s Bay or False Bay is a fun activity that is perfect for people of all ages. When the sea recedes on the rocks near the shore, it leaves little puddles of water, tide pools, often home to delicate creatures that may hide under rocks or seaweed to protect themselves from the sun or camouflage themselves to blend in with their surroundings to avoid predators. so you need to look closely to find them!
8. Visit Mona the Camel
Be sure to add to your San Juan Island bucket-list, a visit to see our beloved camel celebrity, Mona. If you haven’t met Mona yet, she’s usually hanging out in the pasture on Roche Harbor Road across from San Juan Vineyards. Don’t forget to bring your carrots!
9. Check Out the Alpaca Farm
Krystal Acres is a 70-acre farm with more than 40 alpacas, and a country store which offers an extraordinary selection of alpaca sweaters, coats, and alpaca toys. This is a definite must-see for kids of all ages!
10. Lime Kiln Lighthouse
Trips to the San Juan Islands would not be complete without a lighthouse tour. With so many of these oceanfront beacons lighting the islands, they are begging to be explored. The Lime Kiln Lighthouse welcomes climbers on certain days during the summer and offers a gift shop, on-site food truck, and often views of passing orca whales.
11. Feed Popeye by the Harbor
Take a chance to meet Popeye, who is quite possibly the world’s most famous harbor seal! She even has a statue down by the waterfront. Popeye only has one eye and lives off offerings of scraps from the fresh fish shack down on the marina.
12. Become a Junior Ranger
Kids can become Junior Rangers of the San Juan Island National Historical Park and receive badges upon completion. Visit American Camp or English Camp National Park to pick up a free workbook!
After a day enjoying these San Juan Islands activities with the family, settle down at the Tucker House Inn in Friday Harbor before waking up and exploring more in the morning! For more information on things to do in the San Juan Islands, download our free Vacation Guide.
Photo credit: Pelindaba Lavender