San Juan Islands

San Juan Island: Cheap camps and free tours

The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor (on San Juan Island) is offering two great family activities this summer. But if you want to take advantage of either one, you’d better act fast! San Juan Island offers a truly spectacular family getaway — picture pastoral countryside and artisan farms alongside regular family-fun attractions like a movie theater, great food, toy stores and a bowling alley. Here are the details on the activities (and read my Whale Museum review here):

Pod Nods at the Whale Museum, San Juan Island, Washington State

If your kids are between the ages of 6-10 and you’d like a fun (yet separate) escape for the whole family, try sending the kids off to the Whale Museum’s Pod Nod. Pod Nods are pajama-party sleepovers – during which kids learn about whales, the environment, try out science labs and get a flashlight tour of the Whale Museum. Pod Nods start at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8:30 a.m., and include a bedtime snack and light breakfast.

Which means you and your S.O. can go out for a romantic Friday Harbor dinner and cozy up overnight at a bed and breakfast, then pick up the kids for a day of San Juan Island exploration.

The cost? A reasonable $49 per child per night, or $39 for members’ kids.

Remaining dates are July 17, 21, 31 and August 6.

For more information or  to register a child (required) in a Pod Nod, read more at the Whale Museum site, or call The Whale Museum at (360)  378-4710 extension 23 or email cindy AT

Whale Museum wildlife tour on San Juan Island

OK, maybe you’re craving more family togetherness than a sleepaway on the island. The Whale Museum is also providing Saturday land-based tours, led by a trained and certified naturalist. These three-hour tours (better for older kids) whisk you the San Juan Island’s western shores to look for killer whales, learn about other marine life (seals, porpoises, sea lions) and perhaps visit a tidepool or two.

The staff provides snacks and water, you bring your cameras, binoculars, hiking boots and a light jacket, in case it rains.

These tours are FREE, thanks to National Oceans and Atmospheric (NOAA) underwriting.  You must make reservations though (like, right now) before seats are gone for these Saturday afternoon tours.

Contact The Whale Museum at 360 378-4710 ext. 23 or stop in to register. Find more information on this flier from the Whale Museum.

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.