Whales & Trails: A San Juan Island Adventure With Your Grandchild

On this “whale” of an adventure, explore the waterways and trails of the San Juan Islands afoot and afloat in search of orca whales, and learn all about these intelligent animals!
Rating (4.5)
Program No. 19929RJ
6 days
Starts at
1,799 / ADULT
1,099 / CHILD
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6 days
5 nights
14 meals
5 B 4 L 5 D
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Crowne Plaza Seattle Airport

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration & Orientation: After you have your room assignment, head to the conference room at 5:00 p.m. to register with the Road Scholar program staff, which is also where our Orientation session will take place. You’ll receive a welcome packet with your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, and other important information. If you will arrive later than 8:00 p.m., please ask for your packet when you check in. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Intergenerational program. Grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren. If/when separate age group activities are conducted concurrently, program staff will supervise. Children are never to be left unsupervised. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the Conference Dining Room, we’ll enjoy a catered buffet meal featuring green salad, an entrée, sides, and a choice of dessert, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Our Group Leader will then provide us with a brief program overview. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Hiram Chittenden Locks, Ferry to San Juan Island
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Earthbox Inn & Spa

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach; driving approximately 100 miles total throughout the day; about 3 hours combined, with stops. Walking approx. 1 mile throughout the day; paved paths; standing about 2 hours at Locks. Getting on/off ferry; ride is approx. 20 miles; about 1.5 hours. Short shuttle ride from ferry to Friday Harbor hotel.

Breakfast: You'll receive a breakfast voucher. Breakfast is served in the lobby dining area and the breakfast buffet features an egg dish, breakfast meats and breads, a variety of fresh fruit, yogurt, and hot and cold cereals, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we'll travel via motorcoach to explore the Hiram Chittenden Locks, which opened in 1917 and are nicknamed the "Ballard" Locks. The locks provide an important link for boats between the salt water of Puget Sound and the fresh water of the Ship Canal, which connects eastward to Lake Union and Lake Washington. Led by a docent, we'll enjoy watching the parade of sailboats, motorboats, tugs, barges and yachts passing through, as the locks' water levels are adjusted to allow their safe passage. Then we’ll watch the fish ladder that was built to allow salmon to pass between fresh and salt water, and to navigate the locks. Glass panels below the water line make it possible to watch for fish.

Lunch: At a local favorite restaurant, we’ll choose plated meals from a select menu, with lemonade, coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Next, we'll board our motorcoach and travel northward to Anacortes where we'll board the Washington State ferry bound for San Juan Island. You may wish to enjoy the view of the National Scenic Byway through a tapestry of Islands from the inside passenger cabins or from the outside decks as we take our 1.5 hour journey through the archipelago to Friday Harbor. Upon arrival at the dock in the late afternoon, we’ll make a quick transfer via shuttle check into the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll enjoy a tasty meal (served buffet style) featuring salad, a main entrée, sides, vegetables, and dessert, plus coffee, hot and iced tea, milk, water. You may bring other beverages of your own with you.

Evening: At leisure. You may wish to socialize with new friends, play games, or enjoy the hotel's amenities.

Orca Population, Whale Museum, Coastal Hike at American Camp
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Earthbox Inn & Spa

Activity note: Walking approx. 2.5 miles during group activities throughout the day; more dependent on personal preference. Walking about 1 mile to/from museum; 25 steps with railing; standing up to 1 hour. Hiking approx. 1.5 miles in afternoon; up to 1 hour; well-maintained dirt trail; uneven gravel and driftwood on beach. Driving approx. 15 miles total; 4 segments of less than 1/2 hour each.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we’ll have a breakfast buffet with choices including an egg dish, hot and cold cereals,waffles, breakfast breads and spreads, and a variety of fresh fruits, plus juice, milk, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: Starting off the day in the hotel conference room, we’ll learn from a local expert about how incredible orca pods are. A uniquely social population, we’ll also hear recordings of their communication with one another – their language. Next, we’ll walk to the nearby Whale Museum for a docent-led field trip. The first museum in the country dedicated to the representation of whales living in the wild, we’ll learn about the social intelligence of these amazing creatures, what efforts are being made for orca preservation, and also how each whale is unique. We’ll then return to the hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel, we’ll have a meal (served buffet style) featuring dishes for the young and the young at heart, a soup of the day, salad, and dessert, topped off with coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: Then, after transferring via mini-buses, we’ll go on a naturalist-led hike through San Juan Island’s American Camp National Park where we’ll learn about its historical and archaeological importance while also enjoying multiple opportunities along the way to stop and observe and reflect on the flora and fauna. We’ll end our short hike at South Beach to take a break and enjoy some time exploring the beach.

Dinner: Dinner at hotel conference room.

Evening: A local art instructor will join us at the hotel for a surprise art project. We’ll create our own keepsakes to take home and, please note, this activity is not just for kids!

Wildlife Search Boat Ride, English Camp Hike
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Earthbox Inn & Spa

Activity note: Walking approx. 2 miles total throughout the day: about 1/2 mile to/from boat dock, and up/down ramp when boarding; hiking about 1 mile, approx. 1 hour at a leisurely pace, on a logging road and a well-maintained trail with some exposed tree roots and some rocky footing. Boat ride is approximately 3 hours; onboard restroom available. Driving approx. 20 miles total; 2 rides of about 1/2 hour each.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After walking from hotel, we’ll board a chartered boat through the islands with our Group Leader. While searching for orca whales, bald eagles, porpoises, seals, sea birds and sea lions in their natural environment, we’ll hear fascinating commentary about these critters and their natural habitat. At the end of our ride, we’ll walk back to the hotel.

Lunch: Lunch at hotel conference room.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll transfer to San Juan Island's British Camp National Park where we will learn about its historical importance from a naturalist during a hike through the park. We’ll make some stops to admire native flora and fauna along the way. Returning from our hike in the mid-afternoon, we’ll have some free time to enjoy the pool or other activities of your choice.

Dinner: Dinner at hotel conference room.

Evening: We’ll attend a presentation given by a resident of San Juan Island in the hotel conference room that will be focused on what is like to grow up and live on an island. Are there really no traffic lights or fast food restaurants?

Wildlife Rehab, Limekiln Lighthouse, Orca Adoption Kits
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Earthbox Inn & Spa

Activity note: Walking approx. 1/2 mile during group activities throughout the day; more dependent on personal preference. Some paved terrain, some uneven dirt trails with exposed rocks and tree roots; beach is gravel and driftwood. Driving approx. 20 miles total; 3 rides of about 1/2 hour each.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: A wildlife rehabilitation expert will join us at the hotel for an informative visit, during which we’ll get an up-close look at a raptor rescued by a local rehabilitation organization. We’ll learn about the rehabilitation efforts and techniques of the organization while also learning about the specific characteristics of local species. Then, we're off to the west side of the island via mini-buses for a visit to Limekiln State Park. Limekiln Park offers great wildlife viewing from shore, as well as a lighthouse that currently serves as an Orca research station. Led by our Group Leader, we’ll go in the research station to learn about Orca acoustics and how researchers interpret Orca dialects from the station’s underwater hydrophone.

Lunch: At the nearby beach, we’ll enjoy a tasty catered picnic with a sandwich of your choice, fresh fruit, fresh bakery treats, and bottled water. For your sandwich, choose what you like from an assortment of meats, cheeses, breads, and condiments/accoutrements, including the ever popular peanut butter and jelly!

Afternoon: Afterwards, we’ll spend some time on the beach. You might like to try your hand at building sand castles or beach forts, look for sea critters along the shore or play some games with the group. In the early afternoon, we'll head back to the hotel to continue our Free Time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a tasty meal (served buffet style) for our farewell dinner, with milk, coffee, tea, water. You may bring other beverages of your own with you. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: As part of a farewell program, we’ll gather as a group and the kids will be presented with their own “orca adoption" kits to take home. After learning about the individual whales and species throughout the program, the kids will choose the whale they would like to receive information on. Kits include a personalized adoption certificate with a 3" x 5" photo of your whale, a personal biography of your whale, a genealogy chart, a 16-page informational booklet about the Southern Resident Orcas, an annual subscription to our Cetus newsletter, monthly orca updates delivered via email, 1 "Orca Steward" patch, 1 bumper sticker, and a one-year Whale Museum individual membership. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

Program Concludes
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 7:15 a.m. Ferry transfer to Anacortes, WA, is approx. 20 miles; about 1.5 hours. Driving approx. 100 miles from Anacortes to Seattle; about 2.5 hours. Drop-offs at SeaTac International Airport and the starting hotel will be at approximately 12:30 p.m. and 12:45 p.m., respectively. Scheduling outbound flights after 2:30 p.m. is advised.

Breakfast: Early hotel buffet.

Morning: Once checked-out of the hotel, we’ll depart Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, via the Washington State Ferry. Upon docking in Anacortes, we’ll transfer to a chartered motorcoach and ride to Seattle with drop-offs at SeaTac International Airport and the starting hotel. This concludes our program. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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