A Must-Do Day Full of History on San Juan Island 2


While preparing for our recent trip to San Juan Island, it was a thrill for my husband to receive a book from his Mom, that they’d read together when he was a kid. Together as a family we read through the “Pig War” and got super excited to visit some of the historical spots on our trip. Did you know that San Juan Island is not only gorgeous, but oozing with fascinating history? It’s the perfect spot for an educational day trip or vacation!

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Plan a day full of beauty and history with your family and be sure to read this first (click on the photo to grab the book off Amazon!).

When you plan your day, be sure to include visiting both English Camp and American  Camp historical parks. Here’s an awesome English Camp History Brochure to print before your outing.

English Camp is part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park (SJINHP). The National Park maintains a network of scenic trails through land that commemorates the British presence during the Pig War of 1859 through 1872. The Park recently acquired the adjoining Mitchell Hill property from the DNR and additional acreage along Westcott Bay to the north. The associated network of trails is a welcome addition to the park.

English Camp offers trails to the open Parade Ground, through the woods, and up to the Cemetery and breathtaking views to Canada from the top of Mt. Young. Connector trails lead to Roche Harbor Highlands and the newly acquired Mitchell Hill property. And a new trail links the Westcott Bay addition. Read more here….

If you’re anything like me and you love old homes with lots of charm, you’ll be in complete awe over the buildings on these sites. Truly, I couldn’t get over them and these HUGE trees! Apparently they are big leaf maples and one of them is said to be 350 years old. I’ve never seen anything so big! Below you’ll see the incredible garden areas. This park is filled with trails and wonderful picnic spots so be sure to bring lunch and stay awhile! 

After spending time at the English Camp, we drove to the American Camp. Again, completely beautiful and so interesting for all 5 of us!

At the south end of the island lie the prairie and forest of American Camp, home to U.S. soldiers during the U.S./British occupation in the mid-1800s.

The visitor center offers a good selection of books and guides to island history and wildlife, and ranger-led nature and history walks take place on weekends from June through August. Here you’ll find some historic points of interest, including an earthen fortress/lookout called the Redoubt, a small artifact museum, and historic buildings.

Several miles of trails take you through grassy prairies scattered with rocky outcrops, and down to South Beach, the longest public beach in the islands, with views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Olympic Mountains. Other trails lead up 285-foot Mount Finlayson with views of Cattle Point Lighthouse, and down to Jakle’s Lagoon and 4th of July Beach.

A seasonal residence of more than 200 species of migratory birds, American Camp is home to a nesting pair of bald eagles, an abundance of red foxes, orcas and other marine mammals that are frequent visitors to the waters off South Beach. The park is located about a 15-minute drive south of Friday Harbor. Read more here….

The outside of the laundress quarters….

The inside! Check out that fireplace!

What an incredible little building.

Pictured here are the Officers Quarters, with a kiosk describing their way of life.   You’ll need to see this place in person to understand how large the picket-fenced in area is. The photos show how both camps used to come together here for huge 4th of July parties, complete with yard games, picnics, horse races and many other events.

A few books to read before your outing: 

When we visited a few weeks ago, the hillsides were just beginning to fill with wildflowers. Plan your trip soon to enjoy them! Here’s a post about where we stayed in Roche Harbor and a also a short hike we really enjoyed.

 Be sure to pin this for later! 

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About Angela Strand

Angela is a wife, mama to three little ones and a lifelong Washington State resident. Besides facilitating the NW Healthy Mama website, she loves being involved in her kids’ school, hiking with her girlfriends, growing all the things, writing, reading and taking photos.


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