A Visit to San Juan Island: When a Day Turns into a Morning

We planned a whole day on San Juan Island as an excursion for us from our week-long stay on Orcas.  However, we quickly realized that while we might like touring around the island by car getting in and out to look at various natural awes and historic sites, Bergen was not such a fan.  He made this glaringly obvious.

By our first stop after a ferry ride and breakfast, he’d had it with the car seat.  Even though he never had to be confined for all that long, just having to go back again and again was frustrating him. I was also used to the nice schedule we had going on days previous: one hike or exploration in the morning, back to the cabin for lunch and nap, back out for more exploring & dinner.  Nap time had become just as relaxing for me as it was for Bergen, and I wasn’t ready to give it up.

Time for a change of plan.

Instead of taking the 5:00 pm ferry back to Orcas, we would scrap the day for a morning, and take the 11:30 am. We’d only see a couple of sites, but we were okay with that sacrifice, and Bergen could get his usual 2 hour nap as opposed to a 45 minute (at best) car nap.  Changing plans is not easy for me.  I get so excited about the upcoming events, I get my heart set on what I’ll see and experience.  This was necessary though, and it paid off in the long run.

With our day whittled down to just a couple of hours, we chose what was most important for us to see.

First a bit of history to get us oriented.  At the San Juan Island National Historical Park on the Southeast end of the island, we learned how the islands that belong to the United States were acquired.  Back in the 1800’s there was joint occupation between the Americans and the British with both sides believing they had a right to the land.  Two camps were established with the American Camp at this location, and the English Camp about 13 miles away on the Northwest side of the island.

The disagreement was eventually settled through third party, Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany.  Many call it the Pig War because, though there were no other casualties, the hostility between the two parties began after an American shot and killed a British pig who was digging around in his garden.

Laundress Quarters: San Juan Island National Historical  Park

Laundress Quarters

View from San Juan Island National Historical Park

View of Griffin Bay and Mount Baker from the Redoubt

Following our history lesson, we could only make one more stop before we had head back to Friday Harbor to catch our ferry.  Lime Kiln State Park was at the top of my list.  It’s noted as one of the best whale watching spots in the world (though we were unfortunately off-season), has a beautiful lighthouse, and of course an actual Lime Kiln.

Whale Lime Kiln State Park San Juan Island

Closest to a whale sighting as we were going to get!

Lime Kiln: Lime Kiln State Park (San Juan Island, WA)

This Lime Kiln was renovated after the parks acquired it in 1996.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse: San Juan Island

Lime Kiln Lighthouse: Still operational today though the inside is used for Orca Whale research.

Whale Watching Point Lime Kiln State Park

Norman doing his best to spot a whale.

No, not what we planned.  There were more harbors, a lavender farm, the English Camp, a whale museum, restaurants, wineries and shops to check out, but we had a nap to get home to.

Info to Know:

  • Breakfast: We recommend the Bakery San Juan.  It’s a bit out of town (about a mile away from Friday Harbor), but worth the drive for the cinnamon rolls! They also serve the best brewed coffee (no espresso) on the island.
    •  775 Mullis Street  Friday Harbor  WA 98250
  • San Juan Island National Historical Park is located on the Southwest part of the island.  It’s American Camp visitor center is open year round though hours are limited in the winter.
    •  4668 Cattle Point Road Friday Harbor WA 98250
  • Lime Kiln State Park on the West side of the island is 36 acres and and features whale watching, the lighthouse, lime kiln, and about 1 1/2 miles of hiking trails.
    • 1567 Westside Road Friday Harbor, WA 98250

Have you visited Washington’s San Juan Islands? How did you spend your time?

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Friday Harbor ferry San Juan Island


7 thoughts on “A Visit to San Juan Island: When a Day Turns into a Morning

  1. Loved the closest to a whale sighting pic and Norman on Whale Watch Duty. I also find it hard to accept changes to my travel plans.

    • Thank you! Bergen was so taken by that whale. Can’t imagine what he’d do if he saw a real one 😉 Glad to know I’m not the only one haven’t hard time changing plans–kind of feels like a failed effort, but really it all worked out for the best–I’ll definitely remember this for next time!

    • I know, too funny! Must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak.

      Exactly what I was thinking! I really want to plan a trip during actual “whale season” when Bergen is a little older.

  2. It’s tough sometimes with little kids who don’t want to go along with your plans but generally better to be flexible than miserable! I remember a trip to PEI when our oldest daughter was Bergen’s age and we had to fight to get her in the car seat each and every time that we tried to drive somewhere – eventually we decided to just stay close to the cottage! 🙂 Your photos are beautiful – Norman watching for whales is awesome!!

    • Thanks, Lisa! We love getting to bring Norman on our trips when we can. He’s a great companion, especially for the more outdoorsy trips like this one.

      Flexibility is so key at this stage of the game with Bergen. One day he likes something, the next maybe not…always keeping us guessing 🙂 Good to keep travel as simple as possible these days.

  3. I like information section in the last of your post and I must say that your dog is so cute. Light house are very rare to find but you catch the one working in your post. Congo. 🙂

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