At Lime Kiln Point State Park, the loud, transient neighbors gear up for a party that runs from spring into fall. Those would be the spouting orcas, fin-slapping Gray whales and splashing porpoises.
Set on a rocky bluff at the west end of San Juan Island, Lime Kiln Point is considered one of the best whale-watching spots on earth. The pods, which also include humpback and minke whales, pass through the area every May through September, with peak times depending on salmon runs. Visitors can see the action from a 1919-vintage lighthouse or from a nearby sea cliff.
After delighting in the migration, whale-watchers can view an array of related exhibits and learn about resident and transient whale pods at the Lime Kiln Interpretive Center. Other adventures include hiking, diving and bird watching. More favorites: touring the historic lighthouse and exploring the 19th-century lime kiln for which the park was named.
This small day-use park, with its rugged beauty and spectacular sea life, is a destination in its own right. It’s a must-do on any San Juan Island vacation.
Lime Kiln Point is a 41-acre day-use park that is easily accessed by car or by bike from Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The location is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from a land-based facility.
Ferry reservations: Washington State Ferries accepts reservations for the San Juan Island routes. Reservation information can be found online.
Interpretive center hours: Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily between May 28 and Sept. 11.
There are 12 picnic sites and one site that is ADA compliant. Sites are scattered along the rocky shoreline and around the lighthouse. All sites are on a first-come, first-served basis.
0.2 miles of ADA hiking trails
1.6 miles of hiking trails
Water activities & features
Other activities & features
The Lime Kiln Point Interpretive Center, converted from an old Coast Guard garage, features orca statues, a replica of an orca dorsal fin, and interactive displays and activities to educate visitors about orcas. The center also offers interpretive features focusing on the mining of lime in the old lime kiln for which the park was named.
A self-guided interpretive trail is available year round with interpreters available for lighthouse tours, guided walks and marine mammal programs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The Lime Kiln Point Interpretive Center and the Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse Interpretive and Special Events Programs are operated by volunteers from the Friends of Lime Kiln Society (FOLKS). Please visit their website for tour schedules and information on volunteering.
Popular diving location, but dangerous due to strong currents.
The park is surrounded by approximately 200-acres of county land that is open to the public.
Whale watching boats and guided kayak trips are available on San Juan Island.
Fishing is excellent off of San Juan Island for bottom fish and salmon, but is difficult from shore due to the presence of kelp beds.
In 1860, a lime producing operation began to operate in what is now part of the park. For 60 years, the area adjacent to the park was quarried for limestone. Kilns were built to fire the limestone to produce lime. Buildings were built, roads were cut and much of the island was logged to feed the fires of the kilns. The U.S. Coast Guard operated the area adjacent to the lime operation as a lighthouse preserve.
In 1919, the Lime Kiln lighthouse and two adjacent lighthouse keepers' quarters were built. When electricity was run to the site in 1960, the need to have lighthouse keepers on site diminished. In 1984, the Coast Guard turned the area over to Washington State Parks and the park was created. The Coast Guard still maintains the lighthouse as an active aid to navigation, but the building is used for orca whale research, interpretation, and lighthouse tours. One of the lime kilns was acquired by State Parks in 1996 and has been renovated and interpreted for the public.