Along the western side of San Juan Island, where the rocky shore descends into Haro Strait’s deep channel, rests the Lime Kiln Lighthouse. Built in 1919, this historic landmark still serves as a navigational beacon for sailors. Today, it’s renowned as one of the best land-based whale watching destinations in the world.

Fondly dubbed ‘Whale Watch Park,’ the Lime Kiln State Park’s website reports that you can often see orcas, humpbacks, and minke whales from its rocky bluffs. The gentle giants have even been said to breach as close as 20-feet from shore!

While whales are primarily seen in the area from May through September, wildlife abounds. Seals, sea lions, and otters are frequent visitors. And, bald eagles occasionally cruise by.

Throughout the roughly 40-acre day-use park you’ll also find 1.6 miles of hiking trails. Particularly interesting is the set of steep stairs that leads to an original lime kiln furnace — the park and lighthouse’s namesake. When in operation, the wood-fired kiln was heated to 2,000 degrees in order to cook the naturally occurring limestone.

100 Year Celebration

June 30th, the iconic lighthouse celebrates its 100th anniversary. Friends of Lime Kiln Society (FOLKS) have a variety of festivities planned, including keynote speeches from the Coast Guard and Washington State Parks, a lighthouse cake walk, silent auction, and more! A group photo of all attendees will also be taken. There may even be a few whales in the background!

What to Take to Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Whales don’t arrive on command. Consider bringing a picnic lunch and spending the afternoon at one of the picnic tables on the bluff. You’ll find a large selection of sandwiches, salads, and freshly baked cookies at Market Chef, just two blocks from the Port of Friday Harbor.

How to Get to Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Located nine miles from Friday Harbor, the park is accessible by car, bike or moped. For an unusual ride, stop by Susie’s Mopeds in downtown Friday Harbor, where you can rent mopeds and two-person scoot coupes.

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More Fun Things to do on San Juan Island 

Hiking South Beach Trail

Windswept grasslands and breathtaking views make the southernmost tip of San Juan Island the perfect location for a day hike.

Donuts Worthy of Their Cult Following at Roche Harbor 

Like every small town, Roche Harbor has its own unique traditions that keep the locals stepping in time and the tourists relishing their vacation. The mornings at this water-side village begin with carillons from Our Lady of Good Voyage and hot donuts, freshly made at the Lime Kiln Café.

9 Best Places to Snap a Selfie on San Juan Island

If you're San Juan bound, don't miss your chance to snap a selfie by these epic lookouts, historic sites, and cute creatures! 

*Photo by Jim Maya