Camping on San Juan Island
San Juan County Park Campground is perched on the edge of the Puget Sound on the west side of San Juan Island. The campground overlooks Haro Strait with views to the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. During the day, we watched ferries, looked for orcas, and gazed at the Olympic Mountains. At night we could see the lights of Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
Things To Do on San Juan Island
Pros of San Juan County Park Campground
- The view! The campground is on a small bluff above the Sound. There is a small beach for hanging out.
- Some tidepools.
- Small campground size.
- Junior Ranger program.
- Small Pox Bay (yes, that is the name) is ideal for launching kayaks or boats.
- Flush toilets.
- Pretty quiet considering how close you are to your neighbors.
Cons of San Juan County Park Campground
- You need a car, bike, or kayak to get there and you will have to bring one (or more) of those on the ferry.
- Sites are small and on top of each other. There is zero privacy in most sites.
- Many sites are sloped. Point your head uphill in your tent!
- Bathroom and trash can be a little stinky, but we wouldn’t have noticed if we weren’t camped so very close to it.
Whales! You can see whales right from the campground. Even if you don’t catch Orca-views, watching ferries go by, seals bob up from underwater, waves crash, and the sun set, makes this spot one of the best on the island.
While the sites themselves are not amazing, the view and ocean access puts San Juan Campground in the category of best car camping in the U.S.
Should You Go?
Yes. If you are going to camp on San Juan Island, I think this is your best choice. The other campground has more amenities but is bigger and more crowded. It’s probably fine, but it’s more of a resort than a basic campground. San Juan County Park Campground also has the best location—right on the edge of Puget Sound. It had a community feel. We were all up in each other’s business…just like a small town.
For tent camping, try for sites 2-14. I like 3, 4, and 5 the best. 20 or 13 are my second tier choice.
You should also make a vehicle reservation for the ferry. Washington State Ferries accepts reservations. The website and the dates they release vehicle spots are somewhat confusing, but worth wading through. Or just call: 206.464.6400 or (toll free) 1.888.808.7977
Want to expand your trip to other islands? Cross the border and go camping on Vancouver Island.
Wondering what to do on San Juan Island? These books helped us plan our trip.
- Moon San Juan Islands (Moon Handbooks) by Don Pitcher
- Day Hiking the San Juans and Gulf Islands: National Parks, Anacortes, Victoria by Craig Romano
- San Juan Islands Wildlife: A Handbook for Exploring Nature by Evelyn Adams
- Rainshadow World: A Naturalist’s Year in the San Juan Islands by Susan Vernon