Planning a trip to San Juan Island in Washington?
Lime Kiln Point was irresistible when we planned our trip to the San Juan Islands last summer. This state park is known for its whale watching, historic lighthouse and rugged beauty. I'm a sucker for all three.
Here's what you need to know before you go.
According to the official San Juan Islands visitors' bureau website, Lime Kiln Point “is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from land.” Three pods of orcas spend their summers in the San Juan Islands. You may also spot minke whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions and otters.
We didn't see any of these in the couple of hours we were there in June, but it was still a little early in the season. We saw lots of orcas, a minke and other wildlife the next day on our whale watching tour.
Lime Kiln Point is a great place for a picnic. Several picnic tables can be found along the shore. You may also want to pack a pair of binoculars and a good telephoto zoom lens for your camera.
Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse
The Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse was built in 1919. It's small, but scenic. We found two scientists tracking whales inside. They were friendly and answered all our questions about the resident pods, when and how many whales had passed the park recently, and when they might be expected to pass next. This is a good place to start your visit.
Lighthouse tours are offered by volunteers. Check the Friends of Lime Kiln Society website for details.
The most unexpected delight at Lime Kiln Point for my family was the rugged shoreline. My kids loved climbing over the rocks and logs and exploring the tide pools along the water's edge. Be warned that this is a risky activity, best attempted with sturdy shoes (not flip flops!) We were glad to have a first aid kit in the car when my son fell and got a minor cut on his knee.
The interpretive center is a small museum near the parking lot where you can learn more about Lime Kiln Point from local volunteers. It wasn't open when we arrived, and we only spent a few minutes inside before heading off for lunch at Roche Harbor. The Interpretive Center has a few hands-on activities for children, so it's worth a quick look.
You will need to take the ferry or fly into Friday Harbor to visit Lime Kiln Point State Park. Once on the island, you may need to rent a car, bike or moped if you do not bring your own. You can also use San Juan Transit. Lime Kiln State Park is a little under 10 miles from the port.
Good to Know
Where: 1567 West Side Road, San Juan Island
When: The park is open year-round, but summer is the best time to see whales. The Interpretive Center is open May-September.
How Much: $10 per vehicle per day. If you live in Washington or plan to visit 3 or more Washington state parks on your trip, you may want to get the Annual Pass for $30.
There are 12 fee free days for Washington State Parks in 2016. Get the current list, plus more information about fees and passes, at parks.state.wa.us/167/Discover-Pass-Fees
How Long: 1+ hours
Amenities: Picnic tables, restrooms, wheelchair and stroller friendly trail.
How else can we help?
If you're using the ferry for the first time, learn from our mistakes: Washington State Ferries – What NOT to do!
Want more chances to see whales? We also went whale watching by tour boat and kayak. San Juan Excursions will give you another whale watching tour for free if you don't see whales. Read my full review of San Juan Excursions here.
For adventurous families with older kids, a kayak tour with Crystal Seas may get you closer to the whales, if you see them. Read my full review of Crystal Seas here.
Need a place to stay on San Juan Island? We can recommend three great options:
- Earthbox Inn and Spa is located in downtown Friday Harbor, a short walk from the ferry terminal. It has an indoor pool and complimentary bike loans. Read my full review here. Check rates at TripAdvisor or Booking.com.
- Lakedale Resort offers camping, glamping and vacation homes for families of all sizes. This family-friendly resort is loaded with fun things to do. Read my full review here. Check reviews and rates at TripAdvisor or Booking.com.
- Roche Harbor is your best bet for historic and luxury accommodations on San Juan Island. This is the one I'd pick for a romantic getaway. Read my full review here. Check reviews and rates at TripAdvisor or Booking.com.
Just to let you know Orcas are not whales they are dolphins. They are called killer whales because the are known to kill whales.