The San Juan Islands are rich with history, but it is also known for splendid vistas, saltwater shore, quiet woodlands and orca whales. It is here that in 1859 that the United States and Great Britain nearly went to war over a dead pig. Visitors arrive by g=ferry or by plane. Popular activities in the San Juan Islands are hiking, visiting the American and British camps, kayaking/canoeing, tide pooling, whale watching, bird watching and when in season, picking exotic Himalayan blackberries.
My family loved visiting both English Camp and American Camp during a recent visit to San Juan Island. English Camp is located in a beautiful spot on the north of the island, while its larger counterpart is more exposed to the elements on the southern part of the island. Both are a great place to learn about the Pig War and to visit historic buildings. Don't miss the chance for your kids to pick up a booklet and work on getting their Junior Ranger badge! Bring sturdy shoes and enjoy views at both parks- gorgeous views of the mountains and water wait for you around every corner. Recommend!
No wonder the English didn't want to leave...their protected harbor camp is lovely. There are nice hiking trails on-site, and kids can check out the remaining buildings and gardens of the camp. Interpretive programs are available in the summer and on weekends. Be sure to start at the overlook where the officers' homes once stood, then walk down to the shoreline.
We do a boat trip every summer through the San Juan's, and last year we decided to check out English Camp (we didn't get to American Camp, because it is a bit off the beaten path and would have either required a car which we didn't have, or some good walking shoes!).
English Camp Is one half of the National Park. The British occupied this part of the island during the Pig War, in which neither side really fought (in fact, historians say they were quite friendly with one another). The killing of a pig set off a boarder dispute, which was eventually settled by Kaiser Wilhelm I. After that, the camp was abandoned. Some of the original structures remain, and there is a nice little museum set up in one (on a cold day they have the fire place going, which is a nice thing to warm up next to).
There are hiking trails around the site that explain what once stood in each location. There is also a beautiful garden that was originally started by the Officers Wife's (a little piece of England for them, so they weren't quite so homesick).
This National Park has a Jr. Ranger Program, which we found really fun. The Park Rangers were especially nice too.