Discovering Washington: 7 Reasons to Visit the San Juan Islands

We received a media package from the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, however, all opinions are my own.

Is there a place you used to visit with your family every single year? Somewhere you grew up spending summers and looked forward to it all year long?

When I was growing up, we always visited Lake Chelan. When my husband and I started dating, he joined in on my family trip. Then, of course, as we had kiddos, they came along.

This year though, we decided to go on the family trip my husband remembers from his childhood. We went a bit north to visit the San Juan Islands.

It was a whirlwind of a vacation* in only three days. We have already decided that for next time, there is way too much to do in just three days.

But here are my 7 Reasons to Visit the San Juan Islands.If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands!

1. Wildlife. On the ferry ride up, we saw a pod of Orcas. We were told that it was pretty rare, so we were already feeling pretty jazzed about our vacation*.

Within an hour of being on San Juan Island, we saw a fox wandering into the road. Have you ever seen a fox up close? Wow. They are gorgeous!

And for a very special treat, we saw three Bald Eagles. They were eating something on the side of the road (so gross!), and as we got closer, they flew right in front of us. A Bald Eagle’s wingspan in front of your face is insane!!

There are a bunch of other animals we saw while there, but I thought I would only name the most unusual.

2. Beaches. We spent two days on San Juan Island and one day on Orcas Island and didn’t get to see a fraction of the beaches.If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands!

On San Juan, we stopped at Cattle Point, Dead Man’s Bay, Jakle’s Lagoon, and Jackson Beach.

All my son wanted to do was throw rocks in the water, then run in and swim. My daughter loved searching for special rocks and driftwood. If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands!My favorite thing to do at the beaches was search for sea glass. So lucky for me, we met up with an old college friend of mine that makes sea glass jewelry on Orcas Island at Orcas Island Sea Glass.If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands!She showed us where she has been collecting since she was a little girl. It just happened to be the beach right downtown in Eastsound. She helped us search, and taught us some tricks of the trade, so we made out like bandits!!If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands! I also found an extremely old perfume bottle stopper that is now in her Sea Glass ‘Hall of Fame’.

If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands!Photo by Erica Lyons

3. Hikes. If you love hiking, this would be your heaven. With two little ones five and under, we stuck with little hikes to the beaches.

We did take them up to the Mausoleum, a popular piece of history on the island, but the hike is quick and it didn’t have too many steep spots.

Next time, we may give Mount Young a shot, but as I recall, it is more suited for older kiddos.

On Orcas Island, the absolute must-go place is Mt. Constitution. If you have kids along, good news, you can drive pretty much all the way to the top. If you have adventure on the mind, there is also a trail to hike up. The view is absolutely incredible. Not to sound cheesy or anything, but it took my breath away.If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands!

4. Privacy. Every beach we visited, every hike or activity we went on, we were practically alone. Not because the island isn’t popular. But because there are so many different places to explore, the visitors are completely spread out. This is perfect for my family and me, because we don’t like crowds. If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands!

5. Island Hopping. As I mentioned before, we only made it to San Juan Island, and Orcas Island. But you could also hop a ferry and visit Shaw Island or Lopez Island for little day trips. The large islands are surrounded by over 100 little islands, most uninhabited, and some with just a house or two. And to this city girl, that is fascinating!!

6. Activities. One of my favorite places to visit on the island is the Pelindaba Lavender Farm. Just being there, seeing the fields of lavender is relaxing. My kids and husband had fun running between the rows of plants.If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands! The farm also has a gift shop with lotions, oils, spices, and cookies, to name a few…all made with their lavender. Behind the gift shop, they have the equipment they use to extract the oil from the lavender.

The Whale Museum is also a good place to go. Especially if you have kiddos. Mine had a lot of fun pointing out the different whale skeletons that were suspended from the ceiling.If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands!

The islands also have a ton of other fun activities that we didn’t get to partake in, either because of age or time constraints. But if you have the time, a visit to San Juan Vineyards would be worth the trip. You can also go boating, kayaking, sailing, or whale watching, for just a few ideas.

A few years ago, we went out on a charter fishing boat for some saltwater fishing. Next time, we’ll bring our fishing rods to fish off the dock on my husband’s favorite lake from his childhood (Egg Lake).

7. History. If you’re a history buff, there is plenty that went on on these little islands. Just from the names of some of the places, you can tell something must have gone down back in the day. “Dead Man’s Bay,” “American Camp,” “English Camp,” and “False Bay,” are just a few. Sadly we didn’t make it to any of the history museums, but we certainly will on our next trip.

If you're visiting Washington State, or even if you're a resident, here are 7 Reasons you should take a trip to the San Juan Islands!Photo by Erica Lyons

As I said, three days was not nearly enough time for us to enjoy everything these islands have to offer. But we certainly had a blast. And as exhausting as it was with the two kiddos, it was so worth it. They loved the beaches and my husband and I loved the scenery and being in the great outdoors-and the weather just happened to be incredible!

Do you have a special place you grew up visiting? Perhaps a place you want to share with your kids?

*With two kids, 3 and 5, is “vacation” really the right word?

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11 Comments

  • Reply Lauren

    This looks like so much fun, I love the sea glass you found! This also does seem like an awful lot to do in just 3 days (like you said) but kudos to you for fitting it all in!

    July 18, 2016 at 9:06 am
  • Reply Joanna

    I have never been here! Next time I am up that way, I will have to check it out:) It looks so pretty!

    July 18, 2016 at 1:50 pm
  • Reply Erika

    These pictures are breath-taking! I would LOVE to bring my tots to the West coast to search for sea glass along the beach. Looks like a great time! 🙂

    July 18, 2016 at 7:16 pm
    • Reply Tarynn Playle

      Thank you!! Yes, it is beautiful over here!

      July 18, 2016 at 7:17 pm
  • Reply CourtneyLynne

    Awwwwww thes wow lands definitely look beautiful!!! I will have to add them to my travel bucket list 🙂

    July 19, 2016 at 7:00 am
  • Reply Tessa Shull

    This looks like a wonderful time! Now, I can add a destination to my list 🙂

    July 22, 2016 at 9:19 am
  • Reply Andria

    Such a great vacation! We will have to check this out since we aren’t to far from you!

    July 25, 2016 at 2:38 pm
    • Reply Tarynn Playle

      It was! That’s right, you are!! You definitely should, it’s so much fun!!

      July 25, 2016 at 2:59 pm
  • Reply NW Roadtrips

    Looks like you had an awesome time. I could easily spend a week in the San Juan Islands.

    September 25, 2016 at 8:47 pm
    • Reply Tarynn Playle

      We did! I could too! I’m so excited because we’re going back in the winter. It will be a completely different trip!

      September 25, 2016 at 9:02 pm
  • Reply Mark

    Family time in the Northwest is just the best. Love the photos. So much to do out in the islands and it’s been far too long. Gotta get back myself!

    November 29, 2016 at 8:41 am
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