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.
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.
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. 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.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!! I also found an extremely old perfume bottle stopper that is now in her Sea Glass ‘Hall of Fame’.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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!
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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?