When it comes to summer adventures, it’s a toss up between boating and camping for your family. This summer, why not combine the two and maximize your adventure quotient? Scroll down for nine superb spots to take your crew boat camping. Sleeping bags, buoys and boats at the ready!

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

San Juan Islands

Head north for boat camping that ranges from primitive island campsites to luxe dockside accommodations, complete with restaurants and shops.

Clark Island State Park
Beach side camping is what this small marine park island between Orcas and Lummi Islands in the San Juans has to offer. It’s remote and accessible only by boat. And even then, there’s no dock, just moorage bouys on the east and west sides that are first come, first served. If a bouy is open, tie up your ride and raft over to the expansive pebble beaches, where kids will find plenty of space to beach comb and throw rocks while you prepare the evening meal. There are 15 campsites in total on the island, and they can accommodate anywhere between four and eight campers, depending on the site. It’s a great spot to enjoy views, watch for whales and generally unwind from the hustle and bustle of the city.

photo: Steve S. via Yelp

Jones Island State Park
Set sail for Jones Island State Park, a marine park on Orcas Island where you’ll find fruit tree orchards and wildlife abound. It’s hard to beat the view from the park’s cliffside campsites, so arrive early to claim one of these coveted first-come-first-serve spots. Or take a chance on one of the other 24 campsites. They don’t have quite the same view, but they’re still a great place to start out for a round the island hike. If sleeping on the boat is on the docket, try a mooring buoy in one of the island’s coves. There’s nothing quite like being rocked to sleep by Puget Sound.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Odlin County Park 
This county park on Lopez Island is a great spot to pull up a mooring buoy (there are 5 available for overnighting) and stay a while. If you’re lucky, you can get one of the 10 beach front camp sites (prime camping real estate!), but if not there are 21 others to choose from. It’s a great spot to launch kayaks or canoes from, and there is plenty of beach to roam and comb to keep the kids occupied while you set up camp before you explore. Making a reservation for campsites ahead of time is recommended, especially during the busy summer weekends.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Deer Harbor Marina
More of a boat glamping experience, Deer Harbor Marina has all the amenities you need to make sleeping on the boat a cush experience with the kids. The store and café on the main dock are well stocked and can keep you in ice cream and freshly cooked food for as many days as you need it. Plus, a few walkable options mean you can get off the water and sit down in style if you want to change up your summer boat lifestyle. This is a busy destination for boaters from around the area all summer long, and the wooden boat shows, salmon derby and summer fireworks displays don’t make getting reservations any easier. So once you’ve got your dates picked for this trip, reserve a dock spot online ASAP.

photo: pixabay

Puget Sound

Close to home options are great for first timers and tots. Consider them the dry run for next year’s longer boat camping adventure!

Blake Island
Sure, you can spot Blake Island from the ferry out of Elliot Bay. Maybe you’ve even taken Argosy Cruise’s Tillicum Excursion to the island for a salmon dinner. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be an easy boat camping destination this summer too. It’s a quick bay crossing and you’re worlds away from the city with plenty to do. The kids will find plenty of sandy shores to explore and the playground is always a hit with the toddler crew. Exploring beyond the known becomes the mission on this trip, and the elusive west side, where you’ll find the tent camping sites, has Olympic Mountain views that are hard to find anywhere else. Our advice is to get there early, especially on the weekends, as campsites fill up fast and they’re all first come, first served.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Fort Flagler
Add a bit of military history to your boat camping experience when you tie up at Marrowstone Island’s Fort Flagler and camp at one of their 59 spots. One of three former military-bases-turned-state-parks, Fort Flagler puts a different twist on the typical marine adventure. Here, you can explore the park’s military museum and gift shop just as easily as you can the beach, and the gun emplacements can be explored on your own or through a guided tour (during the summer months). Bring your scooters, so the kids can explore the area without getting tired, and a crab pot if you’ve got one. It’s a boating experience they won’t soon forget!

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

South Sound

Head south for cozy campsites with easy dock access. Don’t forget your crab pot!

Jarrell Cove
If remote is what you’re looking for, but you’re not sure your crew is ready for primitive camping, head to Jarrell Cove. The bursting-with-amenities campsite is just up the ramp from the out-of-the-way dock on Harstine Island. It’s a hot spot for lawn games and short hikes where you might find snakes and salamanders. The cove itself is protected enough to paddle board or kayak around without having to worry about wakes and currents making things tough on little kids. The campsites fill up quickly on summer weekends, so reserve a spot early. Then, load up the lawn games alongside the tent and sleeping bags on your boat. There’s plenty of room to play!

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Joemma Beach
If you consider boat camping an excuse to crab, then Joemma’s the spot for you. Campers hang crab pots right off the dock and pull them up for dinner. Meanwhile, clammers are busy digging up appetizers on the expansive beach. When the sun’s out, there’s no better place to dig in for the day than this rocky shoreline. Bring a sunshade and float toys if you’ve got them, as families often float between their boat and the shore in these mildly protected waters. Be sure to reserve one of the 19 tent camping sites before you head down to the Key Peninsula to enjoy this special state park.

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Penrose Point
Another Key Peninsula find, Penrose is a clam and oyster digger’s dream spot, so bring a bucket and your appetite to this boat camping destination. It’s especially exciting to dig for your dinner here because of the other marine wonders your kids will find in the process—moon snails, sea stars and hermit crabs abound. And it’s hard to beat the protected inlet, just off the camping area, that turns into a perfect trial zone for kids to take out kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards when the tide is out. You can find a few miles of hiking trails just off the grassy picnic area (psst…one leads to a secret lagoon) that are tame enough for little feet, but long enough to give you something to do for the afternoon, and a special marked mushroom trail that keep the sun off your back as you go from sign to sign. As for camping, you’ll find plenty of sites, even a few set aside for groups, so grab your boating pals and make a reservation soon!

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Good to Know

1. Remember your Discover Pass if you’re camping in a state park.

2. Most moorage is first come, first served, but many camp sites can be reserved. Save a spot in advance whenever you can to make planning easy!

3. If catching dinner is on your to-do list, have your fish and wildlife license with you.

—Allison Sutcliffe


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