San Juan Island (Part 2): Things to do

An island paradise in the winter

By Marguerite Cleveland on February 17, 2017

There are so many interesting sites and things to do on San Juan Island that it can be hard to know where to begin. I recommend starting with the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway. The portion of the byway that is on San Juan Island contains 15 stops that give you a great overview of the island.  On my recent family trip, we took a morning ferry to Friday Harbor, had lunch, and then drove the complete scenic byway, picking just one stop to see before checking into our accommodations. This allowed us to decide which sites we wanted to spend more time on during the next few days. Maps can be obtained from Here are the highlights of our trip.

Lime Kiln Point State Park. Also known as Whale Watch Park, this beautifully scenic park inspired my two teenage boys to discover a newfound love of photography. We enjoyed the 1.6-mile trail, which wanders along the shoreline to the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, built in 1919 and still a working lighthouse. A little further on the trail are the remains of the lime kilns from which the park takes its name. The interpretive signs give you insight into one of the early businesses on the island.

Open 8 a.m. to dusk, 567 Westside Rd., Friday Harbor, 360.378.2044,

San Juan Island National Historical Park. This park is where the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over the death of a pig in 1859.  The park is two separate locations, American Camp and English Camp, and each offers its own charms.  American Camp is 1,200 acres of prairie, forests and historic buildings, and includes five miles of waterfront, much of it walkable beach. English Camp is a historic garrison located on a protected bay with a formal garden, wooded hiking trails and a hike up Mt. Young.

Both camps open dawn to 11 p.m., 4668 Cattle Point Rd., Friday Harbor, 360.378.2240,

San Juan Vineyards.  Wine tasting on a family trip?  Yes, it can be done. While I went in to taste the wine, my husband and boys toured the grounds and went across the street to see Mona the camel and her pal, Lisa the alpaca. Owner Yvonne Swanberg is warm and welcoming.  She keeps printed copies of Mona's story to hand out.  I focused on her local estate wines and purchased a bottle of 2014 Siegerrebe, a nice "patio" sipping white wine on The Seattle Times list of top 50 wines for 2015.

Open daily 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 3136 Roche Harbor Rd., Friday Harbor, 844.243.6359,

Black Fish Whale and Wildlife Tours. A great tour has a great guide, and Capt. Hobbes is one of the best. He operates year-round.  The highlight of our adventure was the trip around Speiden Island, nicknamed Safari Island.  It is the Jurassic Park of the San Juan Islands, and as you float around it, that is the first description that comes to mind.  In 1969, a group of investors started a for-profit hunting preserve, stocking it with wild grazing animals and game birds.  The hunters are long gone, but many of the animals remain including European Sika deer, Asian Fallow deer and Corsican Big Horn sheep.

In addition to the noon tour, Capt. Hobbes also offers a day trip to Jones Island Marine State Park, which can only be accessed by boat.  He will drop you off in the morning and pick you up in the afternoon.

Open daily at noon, reservation required, Spring St. Landing, Friday Harbor, 360.298.0012,

Quiet season on San Juan Island is a peaceful respite from the daily grind.  Our family was able to disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other, all in a weekend getaway. We will definitely be back and look forward to exploring other islands in the San Juan chain.