One of the perks of living in Seattle is that we have so many gorgeous weekend trip options. As a family with a baby and a preschooler, we love taking small trips around Washington State. We’ve recently visited Semiahmoo Resort & Spa, Suncadia and Seabrook. A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to head up to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Spring has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and San Juan Island was simply stunning.
We started our trip by driving up to Anacortes, WA on Friday afternoon. Thank goodness for the carpool lanes because we had a 6pm ferry to catch. The ferry ride was about 75 minutes. We managed to grab one of the last tables on the upper deck. I headed to the cafeteria and got a cup of Ivar’s famous clam chowder and a bag of popcorn. Our 3-year-old ate dinner in the car, so he chomped on the popcorn while I enjoyed the chowder. Then, we still had lots of time to head outside and watch the ferry dock at Lopez Island before continuing on to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.
Earthbox Inn & Spa
When we got off the ferry, we drove up 4 blocks and arrived at our hotel. The Earthbox Inn & Spa was recently renovated. It’s the only San Juan Islands hotel with an indoor pool and a classic retro chic vibe. All of their rooms have simple designs and calming colors, inspired by the earth, sea, sun and sky so you can kick back and remember you’re on vacation. And as a bonus, they offer hot coffee, tea and apple cider in their lobby.
Since we had our 3.5-year-old and our 6-month old with us, we split them between the beds. I try not to travel with a crib or pack and play if I can help it. They take up so much room. This was an ideal set-up for our family.
I also loved the bar seating. We ended up getting take-out for dinner one night and it was great to have this spot to eat. There were plenty of room for the three of us.
There was a great counter top outside the bathroom. That’s where the fridge and microwave were. These were great amenities to heat up leftovers for our hungry kids.
I really enjoyed staying at the Earthbox Inn & Spa. The pool was fabulous! I loved that there was a life jacket available for kids. My son put it on and hopped right in the water. It was the first time one of us didn’t need to hold him. It was glorious! We brought our 6-month-old in his car seat and he took a nap. I spent my time in the hot tub chatting with other guests. Everyone I spoke to seemed impressed with the hotel.
Friday Harbor Waterfront
I loved that the Earthbox Inn & Spa was on the edge of the Waterfront district of San Juan Island. It made it easy to just walk from the hotel. We packed the boys in our Uppababy Vista and headed to breakfast.
We parked are stroller at the door and snagged the last table at Rocky Bay Cafe. The interior was super colorful and they featured flags on the ceiling. I had a chai tea and the oatmeal and both hit the spot. They had a great kids menu that featured yogurt and fruit. My son gobbled it up. Our food was really tasty and filling. It’s no wonder they were featured on Food Network.
After breakfast, we still had about 2 hours until our whale watching tour. We saw that the San Juan Island Farmers Market was going on, so we headed that way. It was a small market, but they had lots of freshly prepared food and interesting art pieces. Plus there was an on-site massage therapist! We really wanted to get food but we were so stuffed from breakfast.
Then, we saw a children’s store and thought we’d check it out. Osito’s offers adorable clothing and an assortment of toys. I found a Koosh ball in Seahawks green and blue! My son also found a few wind up tugboats that he “really, really, really” wanted. I loved that they had a whole display of Green Toys. They are some of our favorite toys!
A Place to Play
We still had 45 minutes left. I saw a sign for A Place to Play and decided to check it out. It’s the only indoor play space on San Juan Island. We spoke with the owner and she said when she moved back to San Juan Island to raise her family, she saw a need for an indoor play space. She did a fabulous job creating A Place to Play.
Our 3-year-old had a blast and didn’t want to leave. It’s a larger space than I thought and it’s set up for imaginative play. There’s a wooden boat, a vintage diner, a camping area, a chicken coop and more.
Our son primarily spent his time at the train table. They also have drop-off available for preschoolers, in case parents want to have a quiet lunch or check out the Farmer’s Market at a leisurely pace.
We took advantage of their clean bathroom. Not only did they have a changing table, but they also offered a seat reducer on the toilet. This was a perfect pit stop for us because I was able to nurse and change our baby before our whale watching trip.
San Juan Excursions Whale Watching Boat Tour
San Juan Excursions is a fabulous option for families with small children. They had two sizes of child life vests. The naturalists instructed to keep my baby in our carrier or in a life vest whenever we went outside on the deck. I kept him in our Tula the whole time and was glad he could nap comfortably.
Even though I had on a jacket, I was appreciative of the indoor option since it was a chilly day. The cabin is heated and they sold snacks for just $1 each. They also had thick blankets for us to use. The naturalists passed out kid-sized binoculars. For kids, they also offered whale-themed children’s books and fun toys on board.
There were two naturalists on board who walked around explaining what we’d do on the boat trip. They had laminated handouts that featured pictures of the different whales. We headed up North into Canadian water. There were reports of humpback whales.
We ended up seeing several humpback whales and it was thrilling! Our 3-year-old was able to spot them. They were diving down into the water to get the fish in a frenzy. Then, they would slowly gobble them up and dive back down. I got some video so we could watch them while we waited for them to make another appearance.
We also got to see some sea lions, minke whales, and a bald eagle. I enjoyed just looking at the peaceful water and the little islands we passed. I’m so fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The captain invited children to come up and drive the boat. Our preschooler was beyond excited! He chatted a bit with Captain Pete and took great pleasure in steering the boat. Captain Pete said he was a natural and must have steered other boats. I guess his practice on his uncle’s boat paid off! They even invited our 7-month-old to steer. He gripped the wheel tightly and smiled! It was a great way to end the boat ride!
The San Juan Excursions boat tour ended up being almost 4 hours long. The time really flew by as we were all engaged the whole time. In hindsight, we should have brought lunches on board. But, my son loved his lunch of Cheetos and Doritos (you know, the other food group!)
At the end of the boat tour, they offered everyone on board a rain check for another boat tour because we didn’t see orca whales. The rain check never expires so we will definitely be using it on our next trip!
San Juan Islands Sculpture Park
My husband and I came to San Juan Islands almost 8 years ago. It was our first trip together and it was with 20 of his relatives for a full week. I was completely overwhelmed and it was a crazy trip. However, we were able to steal away to explore the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. This was one of my favorite memories and I was excited to come back with our kids.
Our 3-year-old immediately started exploring the park. He had a lot of questions about the different sculptures. He also wanted to play. We found a rocking horse with a plaque that encouraged kids to hop on. Our son enjoyed the vintage rocking horse for a bit before spotting other sculptures.
Thankfully, my son wore his boots so we were able to explore almost every inch of the park. He wanted to get closer to the water. We compromised by walking near the water so he could toss a few rocks. It was great to get fresh air and spend some time in one place.
There was an exhibit where visitors could carve something into wood. My husband carved our initials and the Chinese character for our last name. This was a unique activity to do. It was fun to leave our mark. We ended up spending about 90 minutes walking around the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park.
Lime Kiln Point State Park
Our next stop on our little trip around San Juan Island was to Lime Kiln Point State Park. Our son really wanted to see a lighthouse. As it happens, I had just purchased our Discovery Pass the week prior so we could park for free.
The parking lot is a short walk from the trail that leads to the lighthouse. I put our baby in our trusted Tula baby carrier and we started our walk to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, it was closed when we were there.
Thankfully, that didn’t phase our oldest son. He found handfuls of rocks and was content tossing them into the Salish Sea. We were really careful to hang onto him because it was a long way down to the water. There are lots of gravel paths around there that can get slippery.
Kevin Roth’s Roadside Attraction
One of my favorite stops on our drive around San Juan Island was on West Side Rd. We met two women who were hanging out and seemed like they knew what was going on. They informed me that local San Juan Island artist Kevin Roth repurposes trash and turns them into whimsical art pieces. Most importantly, he’s passionate about involving kids in art.
My preschooler and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the houses. They had heaters inside and patrons had left notes and gifts inside. Additionally, there were also free books available. My son got a kick out of being able to go inside and explore.
I’m drawn to anything pineapple, so Kevin Roth’s Pineapple Clubhouse is what first caught my eye as we drove down the road. There was a nod to Spongebob Squarepants inside. Mostly, it was just a special place to spend a few moments with my son exploring art.
We still had a bit of time before our ferry home. We noticed Horshu Ranch on our map of San Juan Island. Amazingly, it was just a short drive away so we headed over. We were hoping to do a pony ride, however we learned that they were only offered on Saturday mornings or by appointment. That’s what we get for not calling ahead. There’s a shuttle people can take from the ferry if they come over just for the day.
Thankfully, we still had a great experience at Horshu Ranch! One of the staff members introduced us to Mango and Woody, two heavy-set goats. We also met baby ducks and chickens. We definitely will make it a stop on our next trip and schedule a horse ride through the woods.
Our last stop on San Juan Island was the ferry terminal. We got there a bit early for our departure, so we were sent to Lot B. This was a few blocks from the terminal. This was actually a blessing because it gave us the opportunity to play at Sunken Park.
Not only were there swings, but they had a small play structure with a telescope. I told my son to keep watch for the ferry! There was also a basketball court, lots of picnic tables a barbecue, and a drinking fountain. The small gazebo was a great place for some shade. This was a perfect place to get some wiggles out before the long trip home.
We received a hosted and discounted stay at Earthbox Inn & Spa and 3 hosted tickets on San Juan Excursions. All opinions are my own.