Visiting the San Juan Islands, WA

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  • Orcas Island with tween boys?

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    We are late in planning but now hoping for a week on ORCAS Island with 'tween boys. Didn't find anything in archieves that was specific. Would love to hear from families who have spent time there. Thank you!

    Your post brought back some great memories for me! I brought my tween son to Orcas Island a few years ago. We spent two nights on the island and camped out at the state park campground (Moran Park). We spent the two days exploring the island. We bought pottery and visited the art galleries in town. We ate tons of good food. We looked for driftwood on the beach. We hiked. There was a great skate park on the island, which my son had heard of and said was well known in the skate community. He was happy to have his skateboard with him at the time. We only spent two days on the island and didn't have a chance to visit any of the other islands. Prior to visiting the island, we rode the train up from the Bay Area and stayed overnight in Portland and then Seattle. We rented a car in Seattle and drove it to the ferry/island. We then finished the trip by driving up to Canada/Vancouver before flying home out of Seattle. One of my favorite adventures with my son!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


San Juan Islands and Vancouver in July

March 2012

My husband and I are hoping to fly to Seattle and go to the San Juan Islands and Vancouver BC for about a week/10 days in July (probably early to mid-July). We have been to Seattle before briefly, but are really looking for recommendations for the San Juan Islands and Vancouver. We are looking for recommendations on pretty much everything: where to stay, where to eat, great things to do outdoors (e.g.,we like hiking, bike riding), things not to miss, etc.

All recommendations much appreciated!

Orcas Island is beautiful, esp the state park there. The towns are quaint and friendly.

Great vacation choice! As a former Seattlite, here are a few recommendations:

1) Mt. Constitution, Moran State Park, Orcas Island - A nice hike with beautiful views from the top of Puget Sound, Mt. Baker, and the North Cascades.

2) Crow Valley Pottery gallery, Eastsound, Orcas Island - The Eastsound store of a local pottery cooperative, also has beautiful (and reasonably priced) works by local artists in other media, including glass, pastels, oils, and woodcut prints. I don't normally buy professional, framed art (I usually prefer tribal/ethnic type stuff), but on two successive visits to Crow Valley, I got two beautiful pieces, a woodcut and a pastel landscape, that I'm looking at now as I type this.

3) The Whale Museum, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island - A great small museum focusing on the local population of Orca whales. Lots of fun for kids, and pretty cool for grownups, too.

4) Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver - A fantastic and sensitively-curated collection of Pacific Northwest native artifacts, both historical and modern, including at least half a dozen full-sized totem poles. Extensive collections from other areas of the world as well. Very well-constructed displays.

5) Granville Island, Vancouver - Great public market with amazing food, and lots of cool local shops.

Have fun! Missing the Pacific Northwest

We had a wonderful trip to Vancouver in early August last summer with our 3 kids. It was truly fantastic, so much to do. We stayed at the Pan Pacific hotel, which was a great location, you can watch water planes take off and land from the hotel. Its kind of a fancy hotel but they were had some good family rate. They also had a rooftop pool and it was fun to go swimming there in the evening after a long day outside.

There are bike rental places right around the corner where you can get bikes to ride around Stanley Park. then you can keep going and ride all the way around Vancouver on great paths along the water. Then, take the water taxi's across the sound to the Science museum, Maritime museum, etc. We went to a cool botanical garden that had a hedge maze and a musical instrument ''petting zoo'' where kids could try out all sorts of instruments.

We also took the ferry across to Vancouver Island. Tofino is really nice, esp if you like sea kayaking. But if I had to do it over again, I may have just stayed in Vancouver the full week. There was a lot of waiting in line for the definitely go online and buy your ferry tickets WAY in advance! I also think it might be fun next time to drive up to Whistler.

On our way home we also stayed one night at the Stanley hotel in Vancouver, which is way more basic than the pan pacific but also just fine. with a great location across from a swimming beach which was fun. It seems like the whole town stayed out on the beach till 10pm.

I think we googled ''what to do with kids in vancouver'' and there were tons of resources.

Have fun. I envy you! I can't wait to go back again! anon

Trip to San Juan Islands with 3 young kids

Feb 2011

We are considering a trip to the San Juan Islands this summer with our three young kids (oldest will be 7). We would like recommendations on places to stay -- did you rent a house or stay in a hotel? Did you rent a car, if so, did you do so on the island or in Seattle? If Seattle, was it hard to get on a ferry? Which island did you stay on? Anything else? Amy

We went to the San Juan Islands about 8 years ago-they are beautiful. Orcas Island has the most nature-great state park with camping. The ferries in the Seattle area are great. San Juan is the most crowded island. Lopez is not as beautiful as Orcas, but low-key and flat, good for biking.

Orcas Island Family Trip

May 2008

My extended family - grandparent, kids and grandkids age 9 to 25 - will be spending a week on Orcas Island this summer. I'm looking for recommendations of things to do on the island, places to see, favorite spots, like that. Thanks! Rebecca

My extended family has spent several summer vacations on Orcas Island -- it's a great place. We spend a lot of time in Moran State Park -- swimming, hiking, and boating. There is a swimming beach at Lake Cascade w/lifeguard and snack shack. This is fun, especially for young kids. We also love to rent a rowboat on Mountain Lake (rental is at Cascade, they give you a key to padlock, then you drive to Mountain Lake and unlock your boat) and go out to the islands in the lake and swim from there. There are lots of great hikes in the park -- hiking up Mt Constitution from Lake Cascade is fun and challenging, the less mobile of the group can drive to the top and meet you. The view from the lookout tower is superb on a clear day.

There is lots of great sea kayaking to be done -- I don't know too much about it as our kids are just gettin old enough to give it a try (5 and 9). A whale watching cruise is another favorite - I think they leave from Deer Harbor (try the ice cream while you are there).

Food is always central to extended family vacations, at least in my experience. There is an amazing gourmet shop/bakery/cafe, I think it is called Rosies (Roses?) in East Sound near the Library. The town of Olga, past Moran State park, has a popular breakfast place. The Deer Harbor Inn has a great family style dinner, perfect for large groups. Bilbo's in Eastsound is a fun Mexican restaurant.

Also fun to check out the outdoor hanging mobile gallery just outside of East Sound -- you'll see them hanging from the trees on your way into town.

I'm sure you'll discover even more, but these are the first things that came to my mind!

Doe Bay hotsprings are wonderful. Very peaceful, incredible view. The restaurant there (when I was there quite a few years ago) had a great breakfast. The tubs are clothing optional though, so this would be a nice couples evening for when family is watching your kids. Wish I was there...

Orcas Island with a group of friends and kids

April 2007

We're spending a week on Orcas Island at the end of June - any recommendations on things to do, favorite restaurants, best spots to view orcas, markets for fresh seafood, places to rent bikes, kayaks, etc.? It's a family reunion, so we're 7 adults and 2 kids, 3.5 and 1 year. We're thinking of visiting other islands and maybe doing a day trip to Canada - is that easy to do? --I can't wait for this vacation!

We have the best memories of fishing on ponds and lakes on Orcas Island. They are surrounded by apple trees, and absolutely no one is around. Just stop and park along the road and get out and fish! It's so remote. Our kids played and sat at these idyllic spots while we and our friends tried to outsmart too smart trout, about two feet long. The obvious attractions are good. One great thing we ended up doing on our last day was take a chartered sailboat from the Eastsound harbor at the Rosario Resort, an amazing hotel that's worth a drink or dinner, but doesn't like kids. Great wading for kids is best at Eastsound or somewhere on this bay -- much warmer than elsewhere on the island. Have fun