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Winter Activities for the Whole Family in the San Juan Islands


The San Juan Islands in Washington are truly some of the most beautiful areas in the Pacific Northwest. With a wide variety of winter activities for families to enjoy, the islands are growing in popularity as a seasonal destination and gorgeous place to call home all year. If you’re considering investing in San Juan Islands real estate, you already know that the area is highly sought-after, thanks to its impressive scenery and endless recreation spots. 

If you have your heart set on this stunning area, read on to discover a few of the top ways to spend time with your family during the winter months.

Head out for a whale-watching adventure

One of the most popular winter activities in the San Juan Islands is whale watching. During the winter months, gray whales migrate through the waters surrounding the islands, providing a unique opportunity for families to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. 

Many local tour companies offer fun-filled whale-watching excursions, which typically last around three hours and include a naturalist guide who can provide information about the whales and their behavior.

Explore a museum

If your family loved the tour, check out the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The museum is filled with information about local whale species and other amazing marine life that call the San Juan Islands home. The museum also offers a variety of educational programs for children and families, including hands-on programs, guided tours, and lectures by experts in the field. Visitors can take a walk on the nearby beach to observe live sea stars and anemones and interact with the touch tank. Overall, the Whale Museum is a great way for families to learn about the local marine life and gain a deeper appreciation for the natural beauty of the San Juan Islands.

Take a hiking trip

Wintertime hiking in the San Juan Islands can be a truly magical experience for the whole family, with average daytime temperatures that rarely dip below 40°F. Many of the popular hiking trails on the islands are well-maintained and offer a variety of difficulty levels, making them suitable for hikers of all ages and abilities. 

A few of the most popular trails include the Young Hill Trail and the Lime Kiln Point State Park. Both promise picture-perfect views of the water and are prime places for spotting whales during the migration season. 

When hiking in the winter, it is essential to come prepared with the proper gear and clothing, as the weather can change quickly when the sun begins to set. Despite the challenges, winter hiking in the San Juan Islands is a great way for families to experience the area’s natural beauty while staying fit and active.

Marvel at the birds

Another outdoor wintertime activity that families can enjoy on the San Juan Islands is birdwatching. The islands are home to a wide variety of bird species, including bald eagles, harlequin ducks, and western bluebirds. Many local companies offer guided birdwatching tours, which can be a great way to learn about the various species found on the islands and their habitats. During the cooler months, many wintering and year-round species can be seen, including the osprey, trumpeter swan, and snowy owl.

Explore San Juan Island Historical Park

Locals know that the best part of owning San Juan Islands real estate is its astounding location right next to some of Washington’s most beautiful parks, and the San Juan Island Historical Park sits at the top of the list. 

With over 2,100 magnificent acres, the park has a range of woodland, beach, and prairie ecosystems to explore. First-time guests can take a guided tour to visit the park’s historical sites and learn more about the island's history. The park is also home to the Mount Finlayson Museum and the quaint Cattle Point Lighthouse. 

Wander through the art galleries

For indoor entertainment, families can visit one of the San Juan Islands’ many art galleries for a bit of fun and inspiration. The Island Studios Gallery is one you don’t want to miss, featuring paintings, sculptures, and printmaking galore. 

The San Juan Islands Museum of Art showcases the work of local and regional artists and hosts regular exhibitions and events.. 

Enjoy winter festivals and events

The San Juan Islands also offer a variety of winter festivals and events. The Friday Harbor Winterfest, held annually in December, is a popular event full of live music, food and craft vendors, and a parade. Don’t miss the Old Fashioned Christmas Market at Brickworks, where locals can ring in the holiday season with all the classic festivities. Locals can also take part in the Eastsound Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting and the Eastsound Artisan’s Fair.

Catch a show at San Juan Community Theatre

Finally, nothing beats a holiday show at the San Juan Community Theatre. Well-known shows and locally-produced work take center stage here, alongside streamed events and film screenings. The theatre is within walking distance of downtown Friday Harbor, with two beautiful performance areas inside. Whether you attend a show at the larger, 275-seat Whittier Theatre or the more intimate Gubelman Theatre, you’ve found your way to one of the sweetest gems on the island.

Call the San Juan Islands home

The San Juan Islands promise endless excitement year-round. From whale-watching and hiking to visiting the islands’ art galleries and historical parks, there is something for everyone in the family on the San Juan Islands. 

If you’re hoping to invest in San Juan Islands real estate, work with a real estate broker who understands the unique nature of island living. With a client-centered mentality and a passion for the Puget Sound Islands, Mike Konopik is an invaluable source of knowledge when it comes to owning a home here. To make sure your home-buying journey is a breeze, get in touch with Mike Konopik today.

*Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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