Island Experience

8 Things to do this Spring in the San Juan Islands

Flowers blooming, birds nesting and the orcas are swimming

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

1. Roll into Spring on the Tour de Lopez

In springtime, you want to get outdoors and breathe. Taking your bicycle on the ferry means one less car on the road, more fresh air and exercise for you and your family, and a more intimate experience with the sea spray, wind, trees, birds and scents of the islands. One day a year, the Tour de Lopez bicycle rally celebrates the landscape of Lopez Island, with its stunning vistas and rolling hills. Three different routes—5, 12, 18 & 31 miles—take riders of all levels past some of Lopez’ most beautiful views, ending with a fresh, locally grown lunch, music and a beer garden.

Breaching orca, Photography by Jim Maya


2. See Majestic Orca Whales in their Natural Habitat

Ride with expert whale and wildlife tour operators based in Friday Harbor, just steps from the Washington State Ferry Landing. You can join a larger tour, with up to 80 people, or a smaller boat for up to six people, depending on your group and interests, year round. They frequently ply the waters of the Salish Sea, visiting inlets and passages between islands up to Saturna Island in Canada, 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. 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.


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. A per-person donation of $5 is requested and children are free. 

5. Experience an Earlier Age Riding Horses through the Woods

Orcas Island's Moran State Park features a special horseback riding experience with Orcas Island Trail Rides, through quiet forest trails and past beautiful Cascade Falls. 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. Visit the salmon hatchery at the lake’s day-use area.


6. Follow the Liquid Arts Trail

When it comes to drinking great locally made beverages, the San Juan Islands are coming of age. It used to be, visitors to Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands – and liquid-loving locals would have to cart in their own cases and kegs. But in the past couple of years, a new winery, brewery, and distillery have opened to join the small but dedicated cadre of tasty options. Now, even a bitters producer Kari’s Island Elixers adds a splash of botanical magic to the mix.  Visit winery tasting rooms and 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. 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, past 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 has five lakes to explore. 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.


8. Zip Through the Woods

For an adrenaline rush, try zip lining through the forest on San Juan Island with Zip San Juan. The only zip line tour in the San Juan Islands, this family-friendly tour features eight zip lines that will take you through a beautiful forest, across a pristine lake and sailing above protected wetlands. This tour is an amazing way to experience the natural landscape of San Juan Island while zipping from platform to platform through the forest canopy.

For more ideas on what to do in the San Juan Islands, click here.


Plan Your Trip to the San Juan Islands

Springtime is a great time to visit the islands for whale watching, hiking, kayaking and more!