San Juan Island Parks & Shorelines
San Juan County Park
On the island’s west side, about 10 miles from Friday Harbor or Roche Harbor, you’ll find the popular 12-acre San Juan County Park, where you can camp on the coast of Haro Strait and enjoy views of the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island. Find your own rocky bluff, explore the gravel beaches and tide pools, watch for whales, picnic and play in the meadow or the short cliffside trails, or launch your kayak in the waters of Smallpox Bay, where First Peoples waded to cool their fevers. (More recently, Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock starred in scenes shot here for the film Practical Magic.) There are twenty campsites, with amenities including water, flush toilets, a small picnic shelter, picnic tables, a beach, and boat launch. Reservations are strongly recommended from May to September.
Lime Kiln Point State Park a.k.a. Whale Watch Park
Spanning 36 shoreline acres, the day-use Lime Kiln Point State Park, popularly known as Whale Watch Park, offers some of the finest shoreline and forest hiking on the island. Wind your way along trails through madrone trees and past rock formations, historic lime kilns, and lookout points. With a seasonal interpretive center, tide pools, picnic tables, and a lighthouse, this is an especially family-friendly park. Here’s one of your best bets for spotting orcas -- it’s one of the best places in the world for shore-based whale watching. The park is about an 8-mile drive from Friday Harbor, and about 9 miles from Roche Harbor; San Juan Transit shuttles stop here from late May to early September.
English Camp – San Juan Island National Historical Park
Spend a little time on San Juan Island and you’re almost certain to hear about the Pig War, which in 1859 led to a 12-year joint British/U.S. occupation of the island while the two nations argued over who owned the San Juans. The Royal Marines lived at English Camp, at the north end of the island, and a few buildings, a formal garden, and a cemetery remain from their time here. This day-use park on the shores of Garrison Bay includes a small, seasonal visitors’ center and trails that range from a fairly strenuous hike up Young Hill to the cemetery and beyond to an easy 45-minute loop through woodland and along the bay. On Saturdays from June through August, park rangers and volunteers recreate some of the skills of military and civilian life during the island’s early pioneer period; for an entire weekend in July, the park hosts a reenactment of life in the mid-19th century camp. The park is located about 9 miles from Friday Harbor, 5 miles from Roche Harbor; served by San Juan Transit shuttles late May through early September.
American Camp – San Juan Island National Historical Park
At the south end of the island lie the prairie and forest of American Camp, home to U.S. soldiers during the U.S./British occupation in the mid-1800s. A visitors’ center offers a good selection of books and guides to island history and wildlife, and ranger-led nature and history walks take place on weekends from June through August. Here you’ll find some historic points of interest (a redoubt, parade ground, and buildings) and a great variety of trails. Several take you through prairie and down to South Beach, the longest public beach in the islands, with views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains; others lead up 285-foot Mount Finlayson and down to Jakle’s Lagoon and the beach on Griffin Bay. Seasonal residence of more than 200 species of migratory birds, the Camp is home to a nesting pair of bald eagles, red foxes abound, and orcas are frequent visitors to the waters off South Beach. The park is located about a 15-minute drive south of Friday Harbor
Lime Kiln Point State Park is a 36-acre day-use park set on the west side of San Juan Island. The park is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from a land-based facility. Orca whales are common in the waters off Lime Kiln. The park, which features a richly diverse environment, includes the remnants and landscapes of a history filled with change, along the rocky shoreline and through the wooded uplands. Minke whales, orcas, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters and bald eagles cruise the shoreline. [more...]