Family-friendly things to do on the San Juan Islands

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There’s no better time of year to visit the Pacific Northwest than summer. The quintessential rain and grey clouds that typically hover over Seattle and its surrounding cities finally let up, paving the way for sunny skies and warm weather, especially if you’re headed to Washington’s San Juan Islands for a weekend of whale-watching, water sports or nature hikes.

If you’re planning on whisking the family away to the islands this summer, don’t miss these four family-friendly activities.

Spot the orcas

Family-friendly things to do on the San Juan Islands
Orcas are a common sight off the shores of the San Juan Islands (Image: amcdawes used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

If there’s one thing the San Juan Islands are known for, it’s the incredible views visitors can enjoy as migrating whales pass through Puget Sound. Summer is prime time to see the orcas pass through the Pacific Northwest’s tranquil waters, as their migration typically takes them past the San Juan Islands from April through October. Kids and adults alike will enjoy seeing these marine mammals bob through the waters of Puget Sound on a guided whale-watching tour, though you can also spot them from the shores of the aptly named “Whale Watch Park” on San Juan Island.

Visit the Whale Museum

After the family has had a chance to spot whales in the wild, follow the encounter with a visit to San Juan Islands’ Whale Museum at Friday Harbor. Two floors of exhibits give you a meaningful introduction to the killer whale through the likes of whale sounds, family trees and whole skeletons. The museum also educates visitors about the environmental dangers orcas face today in the wild. If sighting orcas was a special vacation moment for your little ones, you can pick up souvenir artwork or other trinkets at the museum’s shop.

Hang out at Cascade Lake

Family-friendly things to do on the San Juan Islands
The family can spend the day in the water at Cascade Lake (Image: ozmafan)

There’s something for everyone to enjoy at Cascade Lake on Orcas Island, a family-friendly destination in Moran State Park. Pitch a tent at any of the three campgrounds, then spend the day swimming in the lake, taking paddle boats across the water or enjoying a treasured family pastime: a summer picnic. A three-mile trail surrounds the lake, offering hiking and horseback riding to keep the family entertained.

Zip across the island

Family-friendly things to do on the San Juan Islands
See the San Juan Islands from above with a zipline tour (Image: avhell used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Is your family full of adventurous thrill-seekers? Luckily, you can feed their need for thrills on San Juan Island with a zip line tour through the treetops. A total of eight zip lines take you all across San Juan Island, with views of the isle’s wetlands, lakes and forests below. Guests should be at least 8 years old for the zip line tour.

What’s your favorite thing to do on the San Juan Islands?

(Main image: PatrickMcNally)

Family-friendly things to do on the San Juan Islands was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Marissa Willman
Author: Marissa Willman (786 posts)

Marissa Willman earned a bachelor's degree in journalism before downsizing her life into two suitcases for a teaching gig in South Korea. Seoul was her home base for two years of wanderlusting throughout six countries in Asia. In 2011, Marissa swapped teaching for travel writing and now calls Southern California home.