The Best San Juan Islands Camping Spots for a Family Getaway

Summer is almost here and for us, that means it’s camping season, the best time of year! But why go camping in the first place? In some families, camping is a tradition that is passed on from one generation to another, singing the same goofy songs, having grandpa teach junior how to catch a fish, and making gooey S’mores over a campfire. Another reason is to get out (and as far as I’m concerned, the farther out the better) and be immersed in nature: listen to raindrops dancing on your tent, watch an eagle swoop over the sea in search of dinner, or gaze at the constellations without the distraction of city lights. Millennials are the fastest growing group of folks going camping and glamping, according to a recent report by KOA. Part of this is the fact that they’re having kids, but they’re also looking for a way to escape technology – camping is a great digital detox. Whatever your reason to head to the great outdoors, we’d love to help by sharing our favorite camping spots in the San Juan Islands. Pack up your family and come have an adventure!

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Of course, we’re biased, but we think Lakedale is a pretty amazing place to camp. Situated just four miles from the Friday Harbor ferry landing, Lakedale offers 82 acres of natural beauty with 3 spring-fed lakes, forests, and meadows to play in. With over 40 campsites (classic, lakeside and family sites) along with hike- and bike-in sites, each campsite has a fire-pit and picnic table.  If you’d prefer camping in the comfort of your own trailer or RV, we offer 5 RV sites with electrical and water hookups. Take advantage of Camping E-Z, a fun amenity for camping newbies or folks who just want to ditch the gear. We’ll set up an REI tent, shade canopy, 2 cots and 2 camp chairs for you…and we’ll take it down! Make the most of all the recreational activities of a full resort (canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards, aqua-cycles, swimming, rowboats, fishing in well-stocked lakes, giant chess, ping-pong, bocce and more), and a General Store that is open seasonally and has everything you’ll need for your camping stay. Wine, beer, groceries, ice cream, freshly prepared food, and yes, espresso!  Lakedale

San Juan County Park

Located on the west side of San Juan Island, San Juan County Park is a beautiful campground overlooking Haro Strait, with views toward Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula…sometimes you can even catch the lights of Victoria twinkling at night.  The park has 20 campsites, with tents, RV’s or vehicle/trailer combinations less than 20-feet welcome, and no hook-ups. Most sites have water views and overlook a meadow framed by trees. Amenities found at the park are water, flush toilets, picnic grills and tables, a gravel beach and a boat launch. Lime Kiln State Park, a day use park, is nearby and is the local favorite site for whale watching from shore, hiking, and kids will love the tide pooling. San Juan County Park

Orcas lsland

Moran State Park

Photo thanks to VisitSanJuan!

Moran State Park is the largest state park in the San Juan Islands at 5,424 acres, and is home to Mt. Constitution, the highest point in the islands. There is something for every camper here: 124 standard campsites, 6 hiker/biker sites, and group campsites spread over five separate camping locations. The more popular sites are located on the shores of the park’s five lakes, with Southend Camp being most favored with most of its sites hugging the shoreline. Park-wide amenities include five restrooms (one ADA), 10 showers, one dump station, boat rentals, and horseback rides. The maximum site length is 45 feet, although not all campsites can accommodate large RV’s or motorhomes. There are no electrical hookups. Although you can drive to the summit of Mt. Constitution, hardy campers will want to hike to the top and then climb the historic stone tower to witness the awesome views. At the summit, the Friends of Moran operate a gift shop and learning center with maps, gifts, cards and information about the park and its history. When you’re finished hiking, kayak in one of the refreshing fresh water lakes or hop on your mountain bike to cruise 38 miles of trails. Horses welcomed too. Plan on a 30-minute drive from the ferry landing. Moran State Park

 Mt. Baker Farm and Campground

Looking for a unique camping experience for your family getaway? Mt. Baker Farm and Campground, located close to Eastsound, will deliver you to your campsite via a full-gauge train. All the heavily wooded campsites are walk-in (they provide a complimentary cart for your gear) and are equipped with a tent pad, picnic table and fire-pit. They have recently added some Drive-in Vehicle Campsites for cars (no RV’s). Amenities include portable toilets and four outdoor hot showers. If you’re just trying on the camping lifestyle, they will rent anything from bedding to lanterns to get you started and the kids will be entertained with the onsite petting farm complete with goats, donkeys, and chickens. Mt. Baker Farm and Campground

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Spencer Spit State Park

Do you love crabbing and clamming while you’re camping? Spencer Spit maybe your next best place. This 138-acre marine and camping park was a summer camp for the Salish Indians – it was named for a sand spit which enclosed a saltchuck lagoon, and which Mother Nature may decide to reclaim one of these days. There are 37 tent camping spaces, one dump station and two restrooms available (no showers or hookups). Two group campsites can accommodate groups of either 50 people (with 10 walk-in sites and a large grassy commons) or 20 people (with 3 walk-in sites and a shelter structure with eight bunks). Camping by sea? there are 12 mooring buoys available on the Cascadia Marine Trail. Take a walk on two miles of hiking trails (avoiding the rabbit holes), shuck a few clams and enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sun set. That’s what we call camping! Spencer Spit State Park

Odlin County Park

Conveniently located a mile from the ferry and three miles from the “Village”, Odlin is the only County camping park on Lopez Island.  Spaciously set on 80 waterfront acres, you can choose from 31 campsites, with 10 beach locations, many with scenic views, beach access, picnic tables and fire rings. Some of the sites allow for small RV’s, although there are no sewer hookups. One group site is also available. A picturesque sandy beach is perfect for sandcastle building, and the ball players in your family will love the full-sized ball field. Bring your boat and enjoy the day-use dock and mooring buoys. All in all, a great base to explore the pastoral beauty of Lopez, and don’t forget to get a scoop of Lopez Island Creamery ice cream before you leave, best ice cream in all the land! Odlin County Park

Shaw lsland

Shaw County Park

Shaw is the smallest of the ferry-served San Juan Islands at only 7.7 square miles and 165 inhabitants. The only store on the island is at the ferry landing (operated by an order of nuns for over 27 years before they moved south), so stock up before driving 2 easy miles to the wonderful 60-acre County Park. 11 wooded campsites overlook Indian Cove, and while water is available in the summer months, remember to bring your own from September through May. RV’s and trailers aren’t recommended, and amenities include vault toilets, picnic facilities and a boat launch. The beachcombers in your family will keep busy on the long sandy beach. Shaw County Park  

Camping by Sea

Photo thanks to Lisette Wolter-McKinley!

The Cascadia Marine Trail is an amazingly cool way to camp. This water trail traces some of the coves and inlets in the Puget Sound that originally marked a Native American water trade system. The trail was conceived, along with 16 other Millennium Trails, as part of a government initiative to stimulate national and local activities. The trail is primarily accessed from the water, and is suitable for single or multi-day trips by canoe, kayak, motorized boats or swimming, if you’re an exceptionally hardy type. There are 66 campsites and 160 day-use sites, many of which are great places to launch a non-motorized, beachable boat. Cascadia Marine Trail

Jones Island                                                                                         

Jones Island is located half a mile off the south-west corner of Orcas Island and is certainly one of the more popular destinations in the San Juan Islands. Take a walk along the 2 miles of hiking trails and you’ll meet tame deer who will eat out of your hands, birds, mink, or you can search for the foundation of a pioneer’s home-site on the south side of the island. The cove and dock on the north side of the island are a short walk away. Water is available mid-May through mid-September and there is also a composting toilet. Beware the raccoons who are happy to abscond with any food you may leave around! Jones Island State Park

Sucia Island Marine State Park                                               

While not part of the Cascadia Marine Trail, Sucia is part of the Washington State Marine Park system and some folks think it is her crown jewel. With 814 acres and 77,700 feet of shoreline there is ample camping and moorage. Accessible only by watercraft, Sucia Island offers pristine emerald waters, picturesque rocks, forested trails, sandstone formations and stunning sunsets. There are 60 standard campsites, available on a first-come, first served basis and four reservable group sites. The park offers picnic shelters, drinking water available seasonally at Fossil Bay, and composting toilets. And if your family has a dinosaur lover or three, in 2012, part of a femur bone from a theropod dinosaur was discovered on a rock on the island. (Just remember, no fossil collecting is allowed in WA State parks!)  Sucia Island Marine State Park

For more information on camping in the San Juan Islands, check out Visit San Juans. We can’t wait to see you here!

Photo thanks to @2017 Favors Ventures, LLC