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San Juan Island: 6 Things to Do with Kids + Where to Stay

San Juan Island: 6 Things to Do with Kids + Where to Stay

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Planning a trip to the San Juan Islands with kids? Find out some of the best things to do on San Juan Island for a weekend getaway. You’ll also get a mom’s review of Earthbox Inn & Spa in Friday Harbor
This post about things to do on San Juan Island with kids was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

One of the perks of living in Seattle is that we have so many gorgeous weekend-trip options, like San Juan Island. And we were impressed with all the fun things to do in San Juan Island with kids!

As a family of 4, we love taking small trips around Washington State. We’ve recently visited Semiahmoo Resort & Spa, Suncadia, and Seabrook.

When we were had the opportunity to head up to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, we knew we were in for a treat.

When we went, Spring had finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and San Juan Island was simply stunning. There were so many kid-friend outdoor activities, and we even went on a whale watching tour!

Below, you can read all about my family’s experience and get ideas for your San Juan Islands itinerary. Plus, I’ll share my review of Earthbox Inn & Spa in Friday Harbor.

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Photo of the Washington State Ferry, which is a San Juan Island ferry from Anacortes, WA and is How to get to San Juan Island and Friday Harbor #sanjuanisland #washingtonstate #pnw #fridayharbor #ferry #sanjuanislands
We love any excuse to take a Washington State Ferry! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

How to Reach San Juan Island

From the Seatle area, we started our trip by driving up to Anacortes, WA on Friday afternoon. We caught the 6 PM ferry at the Washington State Ferries terminal.

The ferry ride was about 75 minutes and we managed to grab one of the last tables on the upper deck. During the scenic ride, you can head to the cafeteria if you want!

I 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, you can enjoy the views lots and watch the ferry dock at Lopez Island before continuing on to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. And then you’ve arrived!

Looking for another perfect weekend retreat? Read my Semiahmoo Resort & Spa in Blaine, WA Review!

Family-Friendly Things to Do on San Juan

1. Explore the Friday Harbor Waterfront

We stayed the weekend at Earthbox Inn & Spa (more on that Below!) I love that the inn was on the edge of the Waterfront district of Friday Harbor.

It made it easy to just walk from the hotel! We packed the boys and headed breakfast at a San Juan Island restaurant.

Photo of Friday Harbor in San Juan Island, Washington State | things to do in Friday harbor washington
This was the first sign of Spring we had seen in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

We parked our 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. And they had a great kid’s menu that featured yogurt and fruit.

Our food was really tasty and filling. It’s no wonder they were featured on Food Network!

Photo of the Farmer's Market in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA, which is a fun thing to do in San Juan Island #sanjuanisland #washingtonstate #pnw #explorewa #farmersmarket #fridayharbor
The food at the Farmer’s Market smelled so delicious and we almost wished we hadn’t eaten such a large breakfast. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

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!

This is a seasonal farmers market that’s open on Saturdays from April through October. You can check them out between 9:30 AM and 1 PM.

Then, we just walked around the cute waterfront, one of the easiest things to do in Friday Harbor, Washington!

For more fantastic family getaways, read my 4 Day Itinerary for Vancouver, BC with Kids!

2. Take a San Juan Excursions Whale Watching Boat Tour

San Juan Excursions is one of the best San Juan Island whale watching tours for families with small children! They really cater to families.

Plus, they had 2 sizes of child life vests, which is super helpful.

The naturalists instructed to keep my baby in our carrier or in a life vest whenever we went outside on the deck.

So, I just kept him in our Tula baby carrier the whole time and he napped comfortably!

Photo of Whale Watching on San Juan Island. We think the best time for whale watching in San Juan Islands is spring/summer. #whalewatching #sanjuanisland #fridayharbor #sanjuanislands #whalewatchingcruise #washingtonstate #pnw
Captain Pete invited children to sit in his seat and steer the boat! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Even though I had on a jacket, I’m glad we had the option to stay in the cabin. It was a chilly day!

The cabin is heated, and they had thick blankets for us to use. They also sold snacks for just $1 each.

The naturalists passed out kid-sized binoculars. For kids, they also offered whale-themed children’s books and fun toys on board!

Photo of San Juan Islands whale watching cruise on the San Juan Excursion Boat Trip, which is a fun thing to do in San Juan Island with kids #whalewatching #whalewatchingtour #whalewatchingcruise #washingtonstate #pnw #sanjuanisland #sanjuanislands #fridayharbor
The whale watching trip was superb! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

There were 2 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.

Photo of a humpack whale from a San Juan Island whale watching boat trip on the Strait of Juan de Fuca #humpbackwhale #whalewatching #whalewatchingtour #whalewatchingcruise #pnw #washingtonstate #washington
I can’t believe we got to see so much of a humpback whale! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

We ended up seeing several humpback whales and it was thrilling! Our 3-year-old was able to spot them.

We also got to see some sea lions, minke whales, and a bald eagle. And 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!

Photo of our honorary sea captain on the San Juan Island Excursion Whale Watching Boat Trip, which is our favorite San Juan Island whale watching tour. #sanjuanisland #pnw #washingtonstate #sanjuanislands #whalewatching #whalewatchingtour #whalewatchingcruise #pnw
Our baby made a fantastic sea captain! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

The captain invited the 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 6-month-old to steer. He gripped the wheel tightly and smiled! It was a great way to end the boat ride.

Photo of our San Juan Island Whale Watching tour from Friday Harbor, WA #whalewatching #washingtonstate #pnw #whalewatchingcruise #fridayharbor
My preschooler loved coloring while we headed back to Friday Harbor. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

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 filling up on snacks that we bought on the boat, of Cheetos and Doritos. (You know, the other food group!)

At the end of the boat tour, they offered everyone on board a raincheck 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!

If you’re looking for fun things to do in San Juan Islands, going on a whale watching tour should top your list!

Heading to Vancouver? Read Vancouver with Kids: Vancouver Lookout + Harbour Cruise Reviews!

3. Run Around the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park

Photo of San Juan Island Sculpture Garden, which is a fun thing to do in San Juan Island with kids #sanjuanisland #rocheharbor #fridayharbor #pnw #sculpturepark #washingtonstate #explorewa
This was the first sculpture we saw as we entered the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

My husband and I came to San Juan Islands almost 8 years ago for a crazy family trip. It was our first trip together and I was completely overwhelmed!

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.

Photo of San Juan Islands Sculpture Park near Roche Harbor, Washington State in the Pacific Northwest #sanjuanisland #rocheharbor #fridayharbor #pnw #sculpturepark #washingtonstate #explorewa
We love art exhibits that encourage the audience to participate! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Our 3-year-old immediately started exploring the park. He had a lot of questions about the different sculptures.

And of course, 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. It’s one of the coolest things to do on San Juan Island with kids!

Photo of San Juan Island Sculpture Park, which is a fun thing to do in San Juan Island for families #sanjuanisland #rocheharbor #fridayharbor #pnw #sculpturepark #washingtonstate #explorewa
There were so many places for kids to explore at San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

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.

Photo of San Juan Islands Sculpture Park near Roche Harbor, Washington State #sanjuanisland #rocheharbor #fridayharbor #pnw #sculpturepark #washingtonstate #explorewa
It was so cool to leave a lasting mark (in a good way!) at the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

There was a really cool 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.

4. Visit Lime Kiln Point State Park

Photo of Lime Kiln State Park, which is a fun thing to do in San Juan Island, WA #sanjuanisland #washingtonstate #pnw #explorewa #lighthouse
The water view from Lime Kiln Point State Park is the best in the Northwest! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

During our weekend trip around San Juan Island, we made it a point to visit 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 at Lime Kiln Park 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! It’s usually open 7 days a week from 10 AM to 5 PM, but you might want to double check if this is an important stop for you.

Photo of Lime Kiln Point State Park on San Juan Island, WA #sanjuanisland #washingtonstate #sanjuanislands #pnw
Tossing rocks into water never seems to get old. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Thankfully, that didn’t faze 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.

5. See the Animals at Horshu Ranch

Photo of Horshu Ranch in San Juan Island, WA near Friday Harbor, WA #horshuranch #goats #farm #sanjuanisland #fridayharbor #washingtonstate #pnw
I’m not sure who enjoyed the goats more, my son or my husband. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

We noticed Horshu Ranch on our map of San Juan Island, and it was just a short drive away! This is a horse rental and feed store that also offers horseback riding lessons and trail rides for visitors.

We were hoping to do a pony ride, but we learned that they were only offered on Saturday mornings or by appointment. That’s what we get for not calling ahead!

Thankfully, we still had a great experience at Horshu Ranch!

Photo of Horshu Ranch in San Juan Island, WA near Friday Harbor, WA #horshuranch #chickens #farm #sanjuanisland #fridayharbor #washingtonstate #pnw
The staff at Horshu Ranch were so sweet to give us a private tour to meet the animals! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

One of the staff members introduced us to Mango and Woody, 2 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.

Also, there are a shuttles people can take from the ferry if they come over just for the day.

6. Play at Sunken Park

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. And it was actually a blessing because it gave us the opportunity to play at Sunken Park!

Photo of Sunken Park in Friday Harbor, WA on San Juan Island #sanjuanisland #fridayharbor #washingtonstate #explorewa #visitwa
Sunken Park is located by Lot B near the ferry terminal in Friday Harbor. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

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. Plus, 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.

Where to Stay on San Juan Island

My Review of Earthbox Inn & Spa in Friday Harbor

Photo of Earthbox Inn & Spa in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, a San Juan Island accommodation, and is one of the San Juan Island hotels in Friday Harbor #sanjuanisland #fridayharbor #pnw #washington #washingtonstate #sanjuanislands
The Earthbox Inn & Spa is just a few blocks from the picturesque Friday Harbor waterfront. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

If you’re wondering where to stay in San Juan Island with kids, I recommend anywhere near the waterfront. This way, you’ll be able to walk or drive right off the ferry.

When we got off the ferry, we drove up just 4 blocks and arrived at our hotel, the Earthbox Inn & Spa!

The inn was recently renovated. And 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.

It’s easy place to kick back and remember you’re on vacation! And as a bonus, they offer hot coffee, tea and apple cider in their lobby.

Photo of the Earthbox Inn & Spa, a San Juan Island hotel in Friday Harbor, WA #fridayharbor #sanjuanisland #pnw #washingtonstate #explorewa
The linens on the bed were so smooth and soft! Photo credit: Darren Cheung

Since we had our 3-year-old and our 6-month-old with us, we split them between the beds. This was an ideal set-up for our family.

I try not to travel with a crib or pack and play if I can help it. They take up so much room!

There was a great counter top outside the bathroom. That’s where the fridge and microwave were, which were great amenities to heat up leftovers for our hungry kids.

I also loved the bar seating in this San Juan Island hotel in Friday Harbor.

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 3 of us.

Photo of the Earthbox Inn & Spa, a San Juan Island hotel in Friday Harbor, WA #earthboxinn #fridayharbor #sanjuanisland #explorewa #washingtonstate #pnw
The room was large enough for our family of four without feeling cramped. Photo credit: Darren Cheung

And 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 this San Juan Island accommodation.

I really enjoyed staying at the Earthbox Inn & Spa and recommend staying here when you’re visiting the San Juan Islands with kids!

We received a hosted and discounted stay at Earthbox Inn & Spa and 3 hosted tickets on San Juan Excursions. All opinions are my own.

Looking for more Pacific Northwest weekend getaways? Check out these posts!

Family Travel Guide to Portland, Oregon with Toddlers
4 Day Itinerary for Vancouver, BC with Kids
Downtown Victoria, BC Romantic Weekend Getaway from Seattle
Semiahmoo Resort & Spa in Blaine, WA Review
Weekend in Suncadia

Weekend Getaway with Kids on San Juan Island
Exploring San Juan Island in Washington State with kids for your next Pacific Northwest weekend getaway #sanjuanisland #pnw #pacificnorthwest #washingtonstate #washington #explorewa #northwestisbest

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    Nelofar Shaik

    Monday 26th of August 2019

    Seattle is a great place to travel with all these wonderful extraordinary sightseeing places. Thanks.

    marciecheung

    Wednesday 28th of August 2019

    Yes, we have so many fun local trips!

    hanna

    Friday 2nd of June 2017

    well this looks like an absolutely amazing little trip! i just love the ocean and the way it smells, and the way the wind feels on your face don't you?!

    marciecheung

    Friday 2nd of June 2017

    Yes, I do!

    Carrie

    Friday 2nd of June 2017

    Looks like an amazing time.

    marciecheung

    Friday 2nd of June 2017

    It was fabulous!

    Sharon Chen

    Friday 2nd of June 2017

    The hotel room looks so spacious! I bet you had so much fun on your vacation :)

    marciecheung

    Friday 2nd of June 2017

    It was quite spacious and clean!

    Vicki @ Babies to Bookworms

    Thursday 1st of June 2017

    This looks like an amazing trip! I love all of the places you found to play!

    marciecheung

    Thursday 1st of June 2017

    We always try to find quirky or interesting places to discover!

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