Camping San Juan Island, Washington

Camping on San Juan Island-

Travel to the San Juan Islands used to be an all day affair.  The new Washington State Ferry Reservation System  makes access to the San Juan Islands both easy and economical. It takes the stress out of ferry travel and allows advance planning and full use of time on the island.  A trip to San Juan Island takes about an hour and if you are lucky you will see members of our local Orca pod, seals and even dolphins during the crossing.  Plan ahead, make your reservations and enjoy beautiful campsites, great hikes, and enough food and spirits establishments to satisfy the most discriminating epicure. We like to chose one island per trip and set up a base camp making day trips in the van or by cycle and hikes from that location. 


Where to Camp-

Make reservations so that you are able to secure a nice camp site on San Juan Island.  Consider the San Juan County Park as your first choice.  Gather shells on the beach, use the no bank shoreline to launch your kayak or take a short drive with a picnic lunch to Lime Kiln State Park to watch for Orcas that often frequent that shore.   You can also camp at Lakedale Resort which is located on the northeast end of the Island and has a variety of nice campsites that can be reserved in advance. 

Activities on the Island-

  • Be sure to stop at English Camp to walk the grounds, visit the formal garden at Garrison Bay.  Try to envision island life at this small outpost in the mid 1800s. If you are there in early July you may be able to pick some of the tiny wild blackberries that grow along the trails to the beach.
  • Pack a lunch and take a short drive to the other end of the Island for a day on the wild beaches of American Camp.  Walk the shoreline out to Cattle Point and view the over 150 nesting pairs of eagles present at this National Park Site.  If you are there in spring you may be able to view one of the nests of fledglings through a telescope at the interpretive site.  Pause during your walk through the open fields to the beach to look for Black Foxes on this part of the island.
  • Make time to go into the city of Friday Harbor and visit the nationally acclaimed Whale Museum. You will enjoy looking through the shops and restaurants in this little town that has a population that ebbs and flows with the arrival and departure of the ferry.


Where to eat and drink on San Juan Island-

  •  Downriggers Restaurant in Friday Harbor is top on our list of places to eat if you are tired of camp food.  They have fully recovered from the fire that devastated the restaurant in 2013. They have great views and a wide assortment of Northwest seafood.
  • For a variety of ethnic menu choices in a beautiful garden setting make reservations for dinner at the Backdoor Kitchen.
  • Stop by San Juan County Distillery and taste their latest spirits.
  • Make time to visit Roche Harbor.  We enjoy walking the docks, looking at the yachts and hiking around the grounds of the old estate. Enjoy lunch at the Lime Kiln Cafe out on the end of the dock.  This is also a great place to get a hot shower if you feel the need.

San Juan Island is just a short ferry from Bellingham but the “island feeling” makes it feel miles away. A trip to the island is a great camping experience with each coastline offering a different view of life on this island.  There are opportunities to study the history of San Juan Island, appreciate the marine life and as you explore the island you will have many opportunities to visit the variety of farms that sustain the full time residents.  A camping trip to the islands is a great chance to slow down, smell the salt air, listen to the birds and appreciate this part of the area known as the Salish Sea.

Let us know if we can help with your camping plans,

Bob and Maureen Jorgenson
Chuckanut Westfalias