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lisabees Sep 7th, 2004 02:18 PM

San Juan Islands or Vancouver Island with young kids?
Anybody know the difference between the islands? Looking for a lodge/inn with family activites, biking, whale watching and great food for all of us. What are the climate differences in the summer? Is one more convenient to travel to - from Philly? Is one more kid friendly?

Thanks. This decision is driving me crazy!


Gardyloo Sep 7th, 2004 07:54 PM

The San Juans IMO are much better suited to adults than to kids. Great for walking, relaxing, good book - that sort of thing. Very few "activities" that would appeal to kids. That said, how old are we talking? 18 months? 5-7?

Vancouver Island, being bigger and more diverse, probably offers more variety, plus there's a wider range of accommodation including motels, nice hotels, resorts, that sort of thing, while the San Juans tend to the smaller end of accommodation - B&Bs, yachty places...

I would look at a couple of areas on Vancouver Island - Victoria, obviously, and the Tofino area (which are a couple-three hours apart.)

Neither the San Juans nor Vancouver Island are terribly quick to get to, with the edge going to Victoria, where you can fly to easily from Vancouver or Seattle. Ferry connections from Vancouver or Seattle are relatively easy, but nothing is quick.

Prices, adjusted for currency exchange (but don't overlook the taxes) tend to be more favorable in Canada as far as accommodation goes.

The San Juans tend to be slightly warmer and drier in summer than Victoria and the west coast of Vancouver Island. Not a lot of difference, though.

Let me just pose an off-the-wall idea, though. For the sake of accommodation, kid-friendly environment, cost, and convenience, you might look at a cruise from Vancouver or Seattle up the inside passage to Alaska. When you look at the all-in costs, you might be surprised vs. "lodge" accommodations + food + activities + ferries + car on shore.

Robert2533 Oct 20th, 2004 09:39 PM

Actually, visiting the San Juan's, or Vancouver Island, all depends on what time of the year you're planning on visiting the area. If you are only going to be in the area for a few days, then either place will do when it comes to bicycling, whale watching, etc., but you can basically forget about experiencing the cuisine outside of great salmon. My own choice is always Vancouver. The San Juan Islands are very rural and rather limited in what you can experience unless you are strictly interested in outdoor activities. Vancouver Island on the other hand, principally the city of Vancouver, is much more cosmopolitan. Vancouver Island is several times larger than the San Juan Islands and offers a greater variety for both you and your children.

The weather is very similar and you should have no problem flying into Vancouver from Seattle. To make it a bit more of an adventure, you might want to fly up to Vancouver from Seattle on a float Plane (about 1 hour). You can catch a flight from Lake Union or Lake Washington.


repete Oct 21st, 2004 07:13 PM

There are more things to do in Vancouver, which to clarify an earlier post, isn't that far from Vancouver Island.

If you want a quiet time with beach combing, hiking and hanging out, the San Juans can be wonderful. If you want a lot of activity -- zoos, aquarium and urban activities -- then you want Vanouver, not Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island is bigger -- you don't get as much of an island feel as you do in the San Juans -- and parts of the island feel like burbs of Vancouver. Still you can find plenty of rural activities there, too.

It's not all B&B's or yachty places in the San Juans. When we lived in Seattle, we'd flee the winter gllom for impromptu trips to Friday Harbor and beyond.

Travelling the ferries between all the islands was something our son absolutely loved. The waterways and tight channels between islands are gorgeous -- and that's a plus for the San Juans. And he learned to swim in the indoor pool at the Inn in Friday Harbor.

jojo7 Feb 5th, 2005 10:28 PM

This question is for lisabees. Did you decide which island to go to, Vancouver Island or the San Juan Islands? The reason I ask is because the decision is driving me crazy too and I just cannot make up my mind. I have everything book at Lakedale Resort in San Juan Island but after reading about all the things Vancouver Island has to offer, I am now second guessing myself and wondering if I should make a change of reservations before it's too late. Was curious what you decided. Sounded like you were going this summer.
Confused Too!!

Orcas Feb 5th, 2005 11:07 PM


Vancouver Island and the San Juans Islands are on totally different scales and not really comparable. What are you looking for?

Vancouver Island is huge compared to the San Juans. Victoria, the capitol of British Columbia, is located on it. It has other small cities as well, rural areas, forests, beaches, small towns.

The San Juans are small rural islands. Friday Harbor is the biggest town, and is located on San Juan Island. It's a lovely little town with great shops and a whale museum. It has a movie theater. There's a Shakespeare play every summer in a theater in a field in the middle of the island. There are historic sites. It's a laid back kind of place. The other San Juan Islands are even more laid back.

The Canadian equivalent of the San Juan Islands are the Gulf Islands. These are an easy ferry ride from Vancouver Island or the City of Vancouver, itself, which is on the mainland.

jojo7 Feb 6th, 2005 09:10 AM

I am looking for a fun place with two children 5 and 12. I would like to do the water activities, swimming, paddleboats, boat tours, some relaxing if possible. I just hope all the nature activities doesn't get old real quick with my kids. I thought staying near Friday Harbor would be a good choice since they have some standard fun like the movie theater and bowling alley if they do start to get board. The thing that caught my eye about Vancouver Island is that staying in one of the resorts would really give us plenty to do for both adults and children. The beach on Tighnamara Resort looked really nice and I was told the water is not too cold. Although Vancouver Island and San Juan island being different, living outside Seattle it's just another option for vacation without getting on a plane (YUK). I have to admit I am not too familiar with Vancouver Island since I just found out it even exsists just a few days ago (originally from the eastcoast) and not knowing too much about it makes me hesitate to make any changes which is why I am on this forum. Looking for advise from more knowledgeable people that have lived on the westcoast a lot longer than myself. There is still a little time left to make a change so hoepfully I can make a decision rather quickly. Any suggestions is appreciated! Thanks.

Orcas Feb 6th, 2005 10:49 AM

Why not post this on the Canada board? People there are really helpful, as they are on this board.

If I had more than a few days, I'd head for Canada. I looked at the website for the Tighnamara resort and it sounds wonderful. It's in the NW Best Places Book, which is an endorsement, also. There are probably other wonderful choices on Vancouver Island as well. People rave about the Sooke area, and Tofino, too.

Orcas Feb 6th, 2005 10:53 AM

Run a search on the Canada Board for British Columbia for the resort written like this:


There's lots of information.

jojo7 Feb 6th, 2005 05:07 PM

Thanks so much for your reply. I will do some further research on the web on your suggestions.

christy1 Feb 9th, 2005 03:07 PM

A slightly biased report here, but our family started going to the San Juans when we were kids, and getting bored was never an issue. Between playing on the beach, swimming in Cascade Lake on Orcas Island, riding bikes, walking in the woods, really, just low key kids playing outside stuff, we never even considered movies or bowling.

jojo7 Feb 9th, 2005 04:35 PM

I am glad you shared that with me. I was actually thinking of splitting my week in half and visiting Vancouver Island for a couple of days but now thinking maybe I should just stay in the San Juan Islands and do Vancouver Island another time. I do have a question I would really appreciate if you could answer. Are there long lines to go from say San Juan Island to Orcas island on the inter-island ferry with a vehicle. If I can easily visit the other islands, I think there will plenty to keep us busy especially if we can go to Orcas for the day and do different things there. Any info on that would be great! Thanks!

ojoy Feb 21st, 2005 10:26 PM

I love both, but the one thing Vancouver Island has that I haven't found in the San Juans is warm water to wade or swim in on the East coast up from Victoria. The tide goes way out and the kids can play in the tide flats for hours and run and splash and swim in very shallow, warm water as the tide comes back in. It's great for younger children.

sunbum1944 Feb 22nd, 2005 02:10 PM

dont think you can go wrong with either choice- Victoria is a fabulous city -
and there would be lots for kids and adults to do - I think it would be more convenient flying to the San Juans coming from Philly- and you could always take a day trip over to Victoria via the ferry system - or fly over for the day on a float plane- lands right in Victoria Harbor .

christy1 Feb 22nd, 2005 05:32 PM

Re; long lines: They always reserve a certain number of spots for interisland traffic, but I'd call the ferry info people (or maybe ask at the dock when you are there) to see how early you should line up. I imagine if you are coming in August or any summer weekend there could be lines.

jojo7 Feb 22nd, 2005 10:58 PM

Thanks for your reply. I kind of figured there would be waiting in the summer even for the inter-island ferries. We could probably walk on without a car if we want to see Orcas Island which might be easier than getting on the ferry with the car. I am sure we could wing it for the day without a car and use a shuttle. I will definitely ask at the dock. It would be a shame not to see Orcas Island. I have heard it is beautiful!

christy1 Feb 24th, 2005 10:36 AM

Orcas IS the most beautiful. I don't know what kind of shuttle services are available, but I'd say that waiting in line is worth it for Orcas. If you are only planning on spending a day there, I'd get up early (early ferry lines aren't usually bad) and take the car.A car means you can go at your own pace to Moran St. Park, up to the top of Mt. Constitution, to Eastsound for lunch, etc. For the return trip, you can park your car in the ferry line and walk around the dock area-there are little places to get ice cream, beer, (as well as full service restaurants) and there is a little grassy park that the kids can run around in.

jojo7 Feb 24th, 2005 07:35 PM

Thank you for all your tips and suggestions. I will be sure to catch that early ferry for Orcas!

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