Lime Kiln Point State Park is located on the southwestern side of San Juan Island and is one of the most visited spots on the island. Everyone knows it is the #1 place to watch for whales from the shore. The park borders on the Haro Strait, and from the shore you can watch barges, pleasure craft, kayakers, and sometimes see orca or humpback whales swimming by. For people making a day trip out of San Juan Island, they usually stop at American Camp, Lime Kiln Point State Park, English Camp, Roche Harbor, and then Friday Harbor until their ferry comes in.
Fortunately we have more than one day on the island so we see things at a more leisurely pace. We have been to Lime Kiln Point State Park several times, hiking the lovely trails and watching for whales. Parking costs $10 per visit at Lime Kiln Point State Park, so we bought a Washington State Parks Discover Pass for $35. With this pass we can visit this park and other Washington State Parks for the next year without a charge.
Lime Kiln Point State Park is so named because it housed some of the early lime kilns on the island. The British Marines from English Camp built the first lime kiln in 1860 so they could whitewash their buildings, but their kiln was closer to Roche Harbor. The Point has a beautiful little lighthouse built in 1919. The lighthouse is currently undergoing some renovation.
The park is small, only 40 acres, with several hiking trails. But most people don’t go to hike, they go to see whales. The whales do not keep to a schedule so people often go away disappointed. When they do see whales, however, it can be spectacular. The shoreline is very steep and the whales often come within a few feet of the shore. Sea lions and porpoises play in the kelp beds. Gray whales and minke whales are frequently spotted. People bring their binoculars and sit at the picnic tables for hours keeping a watchful eye.
Lime Kiln Point State Park is a great place to visit when you are on San Juan Island. You might (or might not) see whales. But you will certainly have a great view over the Haro Strait Vancouver Island the distance.