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A Whale of a Weekend on San Juan Island

As soon as you step off the ferry in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island you are immersed in all things whales. Whale watch and research vessels are bobbing in the harbor. Kayak and whale watch tour offices line the streets together with cafes, restaurants and galleries. Orca flags are flying on the lampposts and the souvenir shops are brimming with Orca related gear. How to best experience Orcas, get a good look, learn about their habitat and challenges, get involved, become a responsible steward and have tons of fun? Here is your comprehensive guide to having a whale of a weekend on San Juan Island.

Cool artifacts at the Orca Survey Outreach and Education Center
Cool artifacts at the Orca Survey Outreach and Education Center

 

First stop: the Orca Survey Outreach and Education Center

The Center for Whale Research operates this informative outreach and education center on the top of the ferry lanes seven days a week. Dedicated to the conservation of the Southern Resident killer whale (orca) population in the Pacific Northwest, they have been studying these majestic giants for 43 years and sharing their findings with the world. The outreach center is packed with cool artifacts, amazing art, informational material, videos and staffed by enthusiastic, knowledgeable volunteers to answer every whale question and educate classrooms, girl and boy scout groups and individual visitors on how to get involved.

Second stop: the Friday Harbor Whale Museum

A few blocks up the street from the research center, you’ll find the one-of-a-kind whale museum--the first in the nation to be dedicated to a species living in the wild. Find exhibitions of real whale skeletons, models and artifacts, the gallery of whales, info about the latest sightings and more. The museum also offers ongoing educational and research programs and an amazing gift shop.

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The lighthouse at the whale watch park

Third stop: the Whale Watch Park

Now that you’re brimming with knowledge, head to San Juan Island’s west side to Lime Kiln State Park. The historic lighthouse doubles as an interpretive center in the Summer and offers lighthouse tours. There are a hydrophone to listen to the underwater world and whale watching platforms with interpretive signs. Bring a picnic lunch and your binoculars, take a walk along the cliffs and keep your eyes out. The water here is exceptionally deep and feeding wildlife comes very close to shore. Observe seals and otters, eagles and deer. Orcas are often seen twice per day during Summer.

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The Kestrel with Mt Baker in the background – photo courtesy of San Juan Safaris

Fourth stop--the Grand finale: Go on a guided Whale Watch Tour

Our friends at San Juan Safaris are one of many whale watch tour operators deeply dedicated to the well-being of our diverse ecosystem and following all federal and Pacific Whale Watch Association regulations. At least two naturalists join every tour to answer questions, explain what you see and keep a keen eye on the sea. San Juan Safaris offer classic whale & wildlife tours on their comfy 49 passenger Sea Lion with heated cabin, wrap around observation deck and modern head (that’s “boat” for “bathroom”). The perfect choice for families with young children, seniors and larger groups.

They also offer three-hour adventure whale & wildlife tours on their super-fast, super fun M/V Kestrel, a ridged, inflatable style vessel. The Kestrel is a 28-passenger, open-air boat equipped with exposure suits to keep you cozy. We here at the Bird Rock would love to book the tour right for you today!

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