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Family friendly camping trip on Lopez Island

Spend a couple of days on Lopez Island glamping, hiking, biking and more!

Our fifth annual PEPS camping trip was at Spencer Spit on Lopez Island.

It was and wasn’t, your typical camping trip. While we stayed in tents, cooked on our camp stoves, and were pretty grubby by the end of the trip, we also had a few glamping elements. Our group campsite had electricity so we brought a hot water kettle and toaster; we had one meal at a restaurant in town; the grocery store was just a few miles away; and some families in our group rented bikes to get around the island.

Overall, it was another successful camping trip with our group of ten parents and nine kids (ranging from six months to four and a half years old). We’re already looking forward to next summer’s camping trip!

Getting there: Camping on Lopez Island

Getting to Lopez Island requires a 30-minute ferry ride from the Anacortes ferry terminal. Getting tickets for the ferry felt like getting tickets for the Taylor Swift concert. We wanted to make sure we got ferry reservations – after all, there would be no trip if you couldn’t get on the ferry – so most of us were online the moment ferry reservations were first released. Throughout that morning, the webpage kept timing out, and it took several hours for each of us to secure our ferry reservation.

Here’s how it works: Two months before your departure date, 30% of standard vehicle spots are released to be reserved; two weeks before your departure date, 30% of standard vehicle spots are released to be reserved; and two days before your departure date, 30% of standard vehicle spots are released to be reserved. (10% of spots are for emergency and stand-by vehicles).

So even if we hadn’t gotten reservations when they first opened up, there would have been plenty (70%) more spaces for us to try to get before our trip. But waiting until just a few weeks before the trip felt nerve-wracking, so we got a spot as soon as possible!

Getting around:

Whenever we left the campground, we used our car – though with a length of 15 miles and a width of 8 miles, you’re never driving very far to get anywhere on the island.

Some of our group members brought their own bikes or rented them on the island. They biked to a few of our destinations around the island.

You can rent bikes at Village Cycles and Outdoor Adventures, though call in advance of your trip to check availability and make reservations. We considered renting a bike when on the island. When my husband called to get information, Village Cycles had very limited availability for the week that we were visiting Lopez. We also decided that the rental was a bit too pricey ($80/day) based on how much we would be using the bike.

Bikes for kids

Bring your bikes for the kids though. While only one of the kids in our group was able to bike around the island on his own, all of the other kids loved biking at the campground. The kids spent hours on a loop in front of our campground. We’d station a parent at either end of the road in front of our campsite, and the kids could do loops to their hearts’ content.

Exploring the campground and the island: Hiking on Lopez Island

Our trip included hiking, clamming, utilizing the amazing new playground at the campground, and time spent at the beach.

We hiked the approximate one-mile Shark Reef Sanctuary Trail, where we saw seals swimming and sunning. We also saw kelp floating in the ocean. After our family left the camping trip, the remaining group did another hike – a three-mile round-trip hike to Iceberg Point, where they saw a whale!

Clamming, playground and the beach while camping on Lopez Island

We clammed at the campground, which was an activity enjoyed by adults and kids alike. (You can get a license to forage for clams online or at an in-person location).

We spent the whole morning on the beach walking around, playing and having an incredible amount of fun at the beach. We explored both, the campground and at a beach near Lopez Village, wading, kite-flying, and digging around with beach toys and reusable water balloons.

We had many visits to the new playground at the campground too. With its amazing play structure, there was a lot of climbing, sliding and swinging accomplished.

Glamping: Creature comforts

Our trip organizer let the group know that we would have electricity at our campsite, so we coordinated to bring some luxury items, like our water kettle and toaster. We used the water kettle constantly, both for coffee and hot water to wash dishes. The toaster was used to heat buns and make waffles. It was so convenient to have these amenities while camping!

Camping on Lopez Island: Dining out

We also took a one-night break from camp cooking and went into town for a meal at a restaurant. There was live music and a huge crowd of island residents, but we wedged in around a table for some non-camp food and a different (and very lively!) atmosphere. Thankfully some parents brought headphones for their kids. Throughout the trip, people visited the town for coffee, pastries, baked goods and ice cream. (There’s also phone reception in town! One parent had a work call and was able to take it at a coffee shop just a few miles from our campground.)

So while we definitely were camping, I learned that camping on Lopez Island allows for more creature comforts than camping in a more remote location. (This was so different from a recent backpacking trip we took, where all of our food had to stay in a bear can, and we were hours away from any retail establishments).

The perks of group camping:

One of the best things about our annual camping trip is sharing tasks and childcare. Families take turns making meals, people bring items to share, and caregivers take turns watching groups of kids (like the bicycling loop in front of the campsite).

Our family doesn’t own a wagon, but two other families brought theirs to use on trips back and forth to the beach. This came in handy for our family when our daughter hurt her foot and couldn’t walk all the way to the beach and back by herself. She was still able to participate and head down to the beach with a ride in the wagon.

DIY activity center

We set up a big blanket area with shared books, activities, crayons, and Magna Tiles that different families brought. This was a great place for stories, quiet time in the afternoon (for kids that no longer nap), and as a place where one parent could entertain a few kids at a time. A few families brought water coloring books, which our kids were entertained by. When our kids needed a new activity, a parent brought out a special activity book to work on – it was a perfect distraction.

Getting home from Lopez Island:

Make sure to check ferry times when leaving the island, as some ferries have limited vehicle spaces and some ferries are for foot passengers and bicyclists only. If we didn’t catch a ferry in the morning, we would have potentially had to wait all day for the next regular ferry, hoping to get a space on the ferry with limited car space, in the middle of the afternoon.

With this in mind, we packed up quickly and headed to the ferry, nearly two hours before the ferry arrived. We got there so early that we were one of the last cars onto an earlier ferry, and didn’t have to wait in the ferry line at all.

Lopez Island is just plain beautiful, and a great place to explore (and bike) with your family. Lopez Island has a little of everything in a less remote area – simple hikes, beach access, shops and biking. If we were to go again, (which I hope we do!) especially when our kids are older, I’d prioritize getting our bikes to the island and exploring more parks and hikes in the area.

Know before you go:

  • Spencer Spit is located at 521 Bakerview Rd, Lopez Island, WA 98261
  • If you have space, bring your bike
  • Don’t forget your wagon- a wonderful way to go back and forth to the beach
  • Plan on spending some time in town: Have dinner, go shopping, go to the bakery
  • The campsite has electricity so you can bring your toaster and other plug-in appliances

Read more:

No reservations, no problem- check out these campgrounds

Tips for camping with toddlers

More things to do

About the Author

Ellie White

Ellie had the privilege of growing up in our beautiful Pacific Northwest. She currently lives in the Green Lake neighborhood with her husband and twin toddlers.