San Juan Island Travel Tips for Families
Updated May 2019
Taking your family on a road trip to an island is a brave and challenging adventure. Fear not! We understand that the logistics can be complicated and the cost a little daunting, but we have some great travel tips for you, which will make your San Juan Island vacation the relaxing, memory making, fun break you and your family deserve.
On the Road & Ferry
- Know your family’s rhythm. If your baby boy falls asleep right after a meal, plan on doing the bulk of the driving around his eating schedule. If the older ones have a two-hour window before starting the “her foot is on my side” argument, switch seats every two hours. Bring iPads and tablets to keep the kids entertained. Don’t forget old-fashioned entertainment like crayons, books and magazines. Leave enough time for potty and Frisbee stops and make ferry reservations to avoid lengthy waits.
- Know how to connect You are going to an island, which is not wired like the mainland, both literally and figuratively. There is no WiFi on the Washington State Ferry and little to no cell phone service. Take that time to walk around on the boat after sitting in the car all day, have the wind blow through your hair on the sun deck, soak in the stunning views, play games and work on the puzzles provided on the tables of the ferry. Just don’t forget your camera. The views are stunning.
Once in Friday Harbor there is cell phone service. We at the Earthbox Inn & Spa offer free WiFi, the best you can buy on the island, but it is not as strong and fast as on the mainland.
Once you leave Friday Harbor to explore, cell phone service becomes spotty. Sometimes your phone will pick up a signal from Canada, incurring foreign charges. Call your service provider and inquire about how such a charge would be handled, or better yet, turn your phone to airplane mode and live like it’s 1999 for a few days, with paper maps and no interruptions.
- Book the best room to fit your needs: Call us or browse our website to find a room perfect for you and your family. We have a two-bedroom house, sleeping six, with a full kitchen, offering privacy and plenty of room to spread out. Or book one of our light, spacious studios with kitchenettes, sleeping up to five people. Consider reserving adjoining rooms with two queen beds each or, if on a budget, ask us about futons and cribs to keep everybody comfy and warm.
Don’t forget the swim suits: we are the only hotel on San Juan Island with an indoor heated pool, sauna, hot tub and exercise room, the perfect spot to let the kids play, while soaking in the tub with a book.
- Go on a wild ride: We offer complimentary beach cruiser bikes to our guests. Have a picnic at the nearest beach or ride into town for lunch. Our bikes come in one size only and we do have helmets.
- Take advantage of our onsite Spa: Treat yourself to a facial while your hubbie is taking the kids to the pool. Or get a mani/pedi with your teenager for some bonding time. Kids get stressed out too. Massages are healthy, relaxing and beneficial. Consider giving your children their first massage experience, while here.
On the Island
- Kid friendly: Friday Harbor and San Juan Island are very kid friendly and laid back. Nobody will turn you away because you have a little one in tow. And don’t worry about your wardrobe. Even at the fanciest places, you’ll find folks in festive attire next to people in t-shirts and sandals with socks.
- Schedule something for everybody: Is strolling through quaint Friday Harbor and shopping in cute boutiques and unique galleries your thing? Have you always dreamt about going on a whale watch tour? Self-care isn’t selfish. Schedule at least one activity you want to do, even if the rest of the family doesn’t.
Let your teenager pick an activity. Friday Harbor is small and safe. Consider letting him go to the movies alone or sit in a coffee shop to play on his phone. It’ll make him feel free and grown up.
Let the littler kids be creative and have fun with others at the Kiddie Cove, an indoor playground filled to the brim with imaginative play areas. Don’t forget to stop at the Toy Box, the coolest toy store on the island.Is there an art connoisseur or a history buff in your party? You’ve come to the right place. Plan a trip to San Juan Island’s Museum of Art or the Sculpture Park. Visit the San Juan Historical Museum and English and American Camp, where the last war on American soil was fought (don’t worry, the only casualty was a pig).
- Connect with the awesome natural surrounding: Schedule plenty of time for long walks on San Juan’s lovely beaches, fly a kite, play in tide pools, watch birds, otters and seals, look for Indian arrows in the prairie behind South Beach, make a fire and roast s’mores, skip stones, run and scream as loud as you can and build a tipi out of drift wood. This is what being on the island is all about and this is what your kids will remember the most.