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8 Things To Do this Spring In The San Juan Islands

Springtime is a great time to get away to quiet beaches and fresh air, delicious local food, and stunning art. From whale watching to horseback riding, kayaking to gallery browsing, there are plenty of fun things to do on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Islands before summer arrives.

1. Take a Hike with Stunning Views

The San Juan Islands are a hiker's paradise, and each island offers a different experience, from mountain trails to beach walks, passed waterfalls, and mossy boulders. On Lopez Island, hike or bike Lopez Hill, a 400-acre preserve with a range of trails, from simple to steep, that can be strung together for longer, more challenging hikes. Orcas Island offers Moran State Park and Obstruction Pass State Park, each with stunning views and serene forest trails. Moran's five fresh-water lakes include Cascade Lake, with a sandy beach and designated swimming and play area. Rent a paddle boat if you’re feeling energetic, or cast a fishing line off the dock. At Obstruction Pass, you'll find pocket beaches hidden away where you can pull up a kayak or have a picnic. On San Juan Island, the National Historical Parks offer driftwood-covered beaches at South Beach and fabulous views from the summit of Mount Young.

2. See Majestic Wildlife in their Natural Habitat

The San Juan Islands are a wonderful place to see all kinds of wildlife from birds to foxes, stellar sea lions to whales. Lime Kiln Point State Park is one of the best places to see orca whales from shore. Tour the lighthouse and listen to the whales from the hydrophone! You can also ride with expert whale and wildlife tour operators to gain a new perspective. Join a larger tour with up to 80 people, or a smaller boat with up to six people, and explore the the waters of the Salish Sea. You'll visit inlets and passages filled with natural beauty, history, and wildlife of all kinds. Whether you find a pod of orca whales or a humpback passing by, a porpoise playing in your wake, or a glimpse of a minke whale, you're sure to find adventure in the islands. Zip up to Canadian waters or down to the southern tip of San Juan Island near Cattle Point Lighthouse, where seals and sea lions loll on distant rocks. Onboard naturalists offer detailed information about the habitats and behavior of animals in this rich ecosystem.

3. Spend an Afternoon Rock Climbing

Step outside of your comfort zone (and out of the rain) and spend an afternoon at Climb San Juan — a climbing gym that's ready to show you the ropes! Open to seasoned climbers and beginners alike, Climb San Juan is located inside San Juan Island Fitness and Aquatics where you'll also find a cafe, pool, hot tub, sauna, and weight room. The perfect activity for families, couples, or adrenaline-seekers, rock climbing at Climb San Juan is a perfect spring activity! 

4. Watch Spring Bloom at the San Juan Islands Sculpture Park

Walk among massive sculptures and discover hidden artistic gems at this 20-acre outdoor art experience. Bring your dog on-leash and wander through more than 125 unique sculptures in a beautifully landscaped setting. Follow the mapped and marked trails down to a view of beautiful Westcott Bay. A great place for a family picnic, the park is open all year round from dawn to dusk.

Orcas Island Lit Festival

5. Enjoy the Orcas Island Lit Fest

Calling all bookworms, writers, and anyone looking for an excuse to spend a few days on beautiful Orcas Island! The Orcas Island Lit Festival brings together people who love to read books with the authors who love to write them. Every year, the literary festival invites a select group of authors to join local and regional writers in sharing their art, wisdom, and know-how. Attendees can participate in book signings, explore exhibits at an interactive book fair, and engage with world-class writers in an intimate, inclusive, and welcoming setting.

6. Follow the Liquid Arts Trail

When it comes to drinking great locally made beverages, the San Juan Islands are coming of age. New wineries, breweries, and tasting rooms offer local liquid arts-lovers a chance to enjoy classics or find a new favorite. Chat with cidermakers and distillers, all while learning about how these tasty beverages are made with local fruits and botanicals such as mint, Nootka rose and lavender from Pelindaba Lavender Farm. Follow the Local Liquid Arts Itinerary.

7. Visit a Working Lighthouse at Lime Kiln Point State Park

Just a short walk from the parking lot at Lime Kiln Point State Park, a.k.a. Whale Watch Park on San Juan Island’s west side, you can stand on the rocky promontory and see a richly diverse environment, from rocky shoreline to wooded uplands. Orcas, minke whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and river otters cruise the shoreline through kelp beds and eel grass, looking for food. Eagles and seabirds reel overhead. The lighthouse was built in 1919 and still serves as a navigational beacon for ships in the Haro Strait and offers tours during the summer. The park is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from land, and there are a small seasonal gift shop and interpretive center where you can learn more.

8. Visit Art & History Museums 

Discover the stunning work of local artists and step back in time as you tour art exhibits and history museums. In Friday Harbor, enjoy the San Juan Islands Museum of Art or if you're on Orcas Island, take a trip to Orcas Island Pottery or Orcas Island Artworks in Olga. If you're a history buff, consider stopping by San Juan Island Historical Museum to see the 19th-century farmhouse filled with fascinating old photos, diaries with fancy script handwriting, vintage hats, and more artifacts of island life. On Orcas Island, you can wander through old pioneer cabins at the Orcas Island Historical Museum that serve as spaces for interpreting specific aspects of island history as told through the life stories and material culture of the Native American and early European-American settlers. Lopez Historical Society and Museum also offers an educational look at island history, the tribes who stewarded these lands, and the history of farming on Lopez.  

Stewardship in the San Juans

We have a responsibility to protect the places we love. Because while the beauty here feels powerful, it’s still quite fragile. More and more people realize that the reasons they come to the San Juan Islands, are also the reasons to care for and protect them.

Discover Island Stewardship
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