Any time of the year is an amazing time to observe the majestic whales and stunning wildlife on San Juan Island. Humpbacks have made a huge comeback in recent years. We also see Greys and Minkes, who look to the untrained eyes like mini Orcas. There are sea lions, seals, otters and over 200 species of migratory seabirds to explore and of course, the famous Orcas themselves. The mammal-eating Biggs Killer Whales are having lots of healthy, fat babies, thanks to a surplus of harbor seals. Our endangered Resident Killer Whales are struggling. Their diet consists mostly of Chinook (King) Salmon and there is not enough of it. Visit the Friday Harbor Whale Museum, three blocks from the ferry landing, to learn about their history, habitat and challenges, then get out there and see for yourself!
1) From Land
Lime Kiln State Park, also known as the Whale Watch Park on the westside of San Juan Island, is one of the best spots to observe whales from land on earth. The 42-acre-park features the historic Lime Kiln Lighthouse, which turned 100 years this June and doubles as an interpretive center. There are shaded, ADA-accessible trails to the whale watching platforms, picnic tables with the most amazing views, a food truck with ice cream and sandwiches and a rebuilt lime kiln to explore.
2) By Kayak
Silently gliding through the crystal clear Salish Sea on a guided kayak tour is a profound experience. Our friends at San Juan Outfitters in Roche Harbor offer 3 & 5 hour tours, tours especially dedicated to searching for Orcas and the very special Bioluminescent tours during the New Moon, when reactive plankton creates the most phosphorescent glow. All ages and experience levels are welcome. Give them a ring and find out which tour is best for you and yours.
3) By Boat
Your best chance to see whales and other wildlife are from a professional and extremely responsible whale watch tour provider. The fun San Juan Safaris offer multiple tours per day out of Friday Harbor, always have at least one, if not two naturalists on board and all their vessels have “heads” - that’s “boat” for “bathroom”. For families with small kids or on a day with cooler weather, chose a trip on the Sea Lion with heated cabin and 360 degree viewing deck and make memories of a lifetime.