Why RVing in the San Juans is so Amazing
While we may not be able to drive our RVs to Hawaii, there are quite a few RV-friendly islands in the contiguous states, including the beautiful San Juan Islands in northwestern Washington. From Anacortes, RVers can take a scenic ferry ride to four of the San Juan Islands for a more remote camping experience.
We mapped out the best route for a San Juan Island camping trip and some of our favorite destinations below. Plan your own travels and find other great points of interest on RV LIFE Trip Wizard and with the RV LIFE App.
Where are the San Juan Islands?
The San Juan Islands are located in northwestern Washington State just across the water from Vancouver Island in Canada. From Seattle, it is about an hour-and-a-half to 2-hour drive via I-5 north to reach Anacortes, where the ferry services the San Juan Islands and a longer ride to Victoria, BC.
Take the ferry from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands
While several islands make up the San Juan Islands, only four islands can be reached via Washington State Ferry: Lopez, Shaw, Orcas, and the largest, San Juan Island.
Ferry reservations are almost always recommended as there is limited space for vehicles on each ferry and there are only so many sailings scheduled throughout the day. You can call ahead and make reservations or do it through their website.
Keep in mind that vehicle and passenger fare is not cheap; it varies depending on your vehicle size. See the current fare prices from WSDOT. Always check the sailing schedule before traveling as well as their alerts for any ferry delays.
Camping on the San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands make a perfect destination for camping between their remote location, breathtaking views, and access to recreational activities both on land and on the water. These are some of the best places to park your RV for a San Juan Island camping trip.
- Spencer Spit State Park: On the eastern shore of Lopez Island is Spencer Spit State Park with 37 standard campsites (no hookups), 7 hiker/biker sites, a dump station, and two restrooms. The park has two miles of hiking trails in addition to water activities such as saltwater fishing and kayaking. The park is located along the Cascadia Marine Trail and offers kayak rentals and moorage.
- Odlin County Park: Just a mile from the Lopez Island ferry landing is Odlin County Park. This large waterfront park spans 80 acres with 30 campsites, beach access, a boat launch, hiking trails, and picnic areas. Some campsites can accommodate RVs up to 30 feet in length. The park is also conveniently located only a few miles from Lopez Village where you can find restaurants, shops, galleries, and more.
The second stop on the ferry ride, Shaw Island, does not have many places available for RV camping. Tent campers or those with vehicles up to 20 feet in length can find smaller campsites at Shaw Island County Park.
- West Beach Resort: Those who prefer hookups will find West Beach Resort very comfortable and accommodating. The resort is located on the west side of Orcas Island with spacious RV sites only a short walk from the beach. They offer 30-amp power and water as well as access to a dump station. A seasonal bathroom is also on-site with coin-op showers and flush toilets. Fully stocked and furnished cabins are available as well, including beachfront, ocean view, and garden cabins.
- Moran State Park: On the eastern side of Orcas Island is the vast Moran State Park with several campgrounds, lakes, and hiking trails. Three campgrounds, on the northern, central, and southern shores of Cascade Lake, can accommodate tent and RV campers. More information can be found on their website.
San Juan Island
- Lakedale Resort: Lakedale Resort has a variety of accommodations on a large 82-acre wooded property. Their lodging includes lodge rooms, cabins, yurts, a lake house, a renovated 1978 Airstream, as well as tent and RV sites. Lakedale is the only campground on the island that offers RV sites with hookups. They have 40 campsites available seasonally from April to the end of September, weather permitting, including some that can fit big rigs up to 40 feet long. About 40 acres of lakes are on-site providing a tranquil place to go fishing, swimming, or kayaking.
- San Juan County Park: This county park on the west side of San Juan Island has select campsites for smaller RVs and camper vans up to 25 feet in length. No hookups are available. The park has picnic tables, a beach, a boat launch, flush toilets, and water.
- Fairground camping: The San Juan County Fairgrounds has 8 RV campsites with water and power hookups in a great location, less than a mile from downtown Friday Harbor. RVers also have access to restrooms and showers.
Activities on the San Juan Islands
There are lots of things to see and do while visiting the San Juan Islands. We recommend:
- Visiting Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of San Juan Island. It is considered one of the best places in the world for whale watching. Orcas, humpback, and minke whales can be spotted from May through September, peak times depending on salmon runs. The park also protects an iconic lighthouse as well as a 19th-century lime kiln.
- Drive to the top of Mount Constitution in Moran State Park for sweeping views from a historic stone tower. It is the highest point in the San Juan Islands with panoramic views of Mount Baker and the North Cascades, Puget Sound, and the other forested islands of the San Juan Island archipelago. There is also a unique Airstream that occasionally sells ice cream from the top of the mountain. Read more about it here.
- Browse the many local shops, restaurants, and galleries in Friday Harbor.
- Head out on the water sea kayaking or on a whale-watching tour.
- Go on a scenic bike ride or hike one of the many trails.
- Taste beer and wine in the local wineries, breweries, cideries, and tasting rooms. Friday Harbor Chocolates Tasting Room combines gourmet chocolates with dessert wines, champagne, Prosecco, sparkling wines, and local Washington State wines.
Start planning your San Juan Island camping trip
Keep in mind that many of the parks are currently operating at 50% capacity (or may be closed) due to the pandemic. Make reservations for campsites and the ferry ahead of time to make your trip go much easier. Plan your trip and find more great destinations with RV LIFE Trip Wizard and the RV LIFE App With RV-Safe GPS.