San Juan Island is a paradise for kids (and kids at heart) and the fun starts with getting to the island! Hop aboard a Washington State Ferry in Anacortes for the hour-long journey, explore the ship, watch the islands pass by and keep your eyes open for seals, whales, and eagles. You’ll arrive in Friday Harbor before you know it! (The ferries also take reservations for your voyage which means no waiting in long lines to get your car aboard.)
A great place to start your kid-friendly visit is with San Juan National Historical Park, which comprises 2,141 acres of woodland, prairie and saltwater shoreline in two parks, American Camp at the south end of the island and English Camp at the north. Enroll the kiddos in the Junior Ranger Program (free) to learn about the infamous and casualty-free (except for the pig) Pig War of 1859, local wildlife, and you can even relive island life of 1861 every Saturday during the summer Re-Enactments at English Camp. The Park has some of the best hiking on the island, so after the kids earn their patches and Junior Ranger badges, hike to the pocket coves to do some tide pooling: discover crabs, shrimp, barnacles and plant life at the water’s edge.
Pelindaba Lavender is an island institution, and one that kids love! In addition to wandering through the lavender fields (the “peak of purpleness” is from July-August), you can visit the Demonstration Garden, harvest a lavender bouquet from the Cutting Field, and make some seriously cool lavender items at the Craft Workshop in July and August. If you and the kids need a snack at this point, swing by the Gatehouse Farm Store for lavender lemonade, ice cream, and cookies, as well as a zillion other lavender products (moms love this part!)
Have an animal lover in tow? Next stop…Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, an 80-acre farm with the largest herd of alpacas in the San Juans. Take a stroll around the farm through sunny pastures and the shade of huge 100-year-old oak trees, visiting the 70+ cuddly alpacas along the way. Stop at the Country Store on your way out for an excellent selection of alpaca sweaters, coats, yarn, and alpaca toys.
If you’re ready for a family adventure, San Juan Island Zip Tour offers the only zip lining experience in the islands. Eight zip lines and a suspension bridge traverse the natural beauty of the island (dense forests, pristine lakes, and protected wetlands) at heights of up to 70 feet. The 3-hour tour is perfect for beginners and experienced zipliners alike and instruction is given before you start. (Participants must be 8 years or older and weigh between 60 and 280 pounds.)
The San Juan Islands Sculpture Park, located at the north end of the island adjacent to Roche Harbor, is open every day from dawn to dusk. There are 150 works of art scattered over 20 acres on 5 marked trails, so you’ll get some exercise along with your art. Stop at the sand pit for the kids to create their own art…kids and well-behaved dogs are free!
On your way off the island, swing by The Whale Museum to give the kids a wonderful taste of what life as an Orca whale is like! The museum opened in 1979 and is the first museum in the country devoted exclusively to a species living in the wild. Allow an hour for a good tour, admission is $3 for kids, and free for kids under five!
And last but not least, if you need a respite from traveling to all the remarkable kid’s activities on the island, stay put at Lakedale and have a blast! Play a rousing game of chess on our two giant chess sets, go fishing in a canoe, play a game of ping pong, bocce ball or horseshoes, or take a paddleboard out for a spin. We also have some great organized activities every day for kids and kids at heart! Make a tie-dye t-shirt (a Lakedale tradition), paint your own birdhouse or create some crazy jewelry. Top it off with some ice cream at the General Store and you have the recipe for a perfect kids’ day!