The San Juan Islands in Washington are an archipelago of hundreds of islands, and one of them is the tiny Posey Island, accessible only by boat. Camping on this remote island, with the sounds of the ocean surrounding you, is a pretty incredible experience, and this guide will tell you how to kayak camp on Posey Island – how to get there, where to park your car, and everything you need to know!
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Table of Contents
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What is Kayak Camping?
First things first – what’s kayak camping?
It’s pretty much what it sounds like! You take a kayak to your destination, and set up camp there. It’s like backpacking, minus the part where you have to carry everything on your back!
About Posey Island, Washington
Posey Island is just one acre of land! It has 1,000 feet of shoreline, two campsites, and a small but beautiful landscape of meadow grasses, juniper trees, and wildflowers. Sometimes, you might even be able to see harbor seals resting on the rock formations!
It’s located between Pearl Island and San Juan Island, and accessible only by boat. During the day, the island is open for day use – but at night, you can only stay if you’ve reserved one of the campsites, and if you’ve arrived by non-motorized boat.
There are two campsites on the island, and each one has a fire pit, and a picnic table. There’s also a composting toilet (it’s closer to Site 1, but all campers can use it), but otherwise, everything else you need will have to be packed in!
You definitely don’t need to have experience kayak camping or even kayaking to visit Posey Island – it’s a really easy to get to spot!
Leave No Trace on Posey Island
Anytime you’re outdoors, whether you’re a beginner hiker or an experienced adventurer, it’s essential that you practice Leave No Trace (LNT). LNT is a set of seven principles that help us understand our impact on the outdoors – because while we usually have good intentions, the environment is more fragile than we think, and one snap-second decision can cause damage to the landscape that will take the earth years, even decades to repair.
Leave No Trace means enjoying the outdoors without disrupting nature. Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and how they apply when you camp on Posey Island!
- Plan ahead and prepare – read this guide, make sure you have more water than you need, and know the rules for visiting Posey Island! For example, groups are limited to 8 people.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces – you can climb and explore rocks and boulders, but don’t trample plant life or walk off the established paths!
- Dispose of waste properly – don’t leave trash, or anything else, behind. There are no trash cans, so pack it out!
- Leave what you find – I know it can be tempting to take a cool rock or shell, but leave these things where they belong! Animals often use these, and if everyone takes one, the island won’t be as pretty.
- Minimize campfire impacts – campfires are allowed on Posey Island, but only in the designated firepits.
- Respect wildlife – sometimes you might catch a glimpse of a seal or even an otter. Keep your distance, and remember – you’re in their home! Dogs are allowed on Posey Island, but make sure they stay at your campsite.
- Be considerate of other visitors – there are two campsites close to each other, so keep noise to a minimum and be respectful!
The Best Time to Kayak Camp on Posey Island
The campsites on Posey Island are open year round! May 15 through September 30th, reservations are required, because this is the most popular time to go. The rest of the year is first come first serve, so while that can be nice, it also means that you’re out of luck if both campsites are occupied.
It gets chilly in the off season, but day time temperatures usually don’t dip below the 40s in the winter, and it’s rarely freezing. But, though it doesn’t get too cold, the San Juan Islands can have some pretty gloom weather and lots of rain, so summer weather is definitely the best for kayak camping on Posey Island!
How to Kayak Camp on Posey Island, Washington
Posey Island Camping Reservations
To camp at Posey Island between May 15 and September 30th, you will need to reserve a campsite in advance. Any other time of year, they are first come first serve, so this means that if they’re occupied when you get there, you’ll have to find another place to sleep! When reservations are required, you can only reserve a maximum of one night on Friday or Saturday nights, and a maximum of two nights every other day of the week.
Reservations can be made online! There are two campsites available on Posey Island – they’re simply named Site 1 & Site 2. Site 2 is a little bit more scenic, but both are beautiful. Once you make your reservation, you’re set for your trip! The reservation costs $12, and you can have a maximum of 8 people.
You’ll need a kayak to get to Posey Island! If you don’t have one of your own, you can rent one for your trip. We rented from Sea Quest Kayaks – the option for an overnight rental wasn’t available on their website, but after sending an email they were very accommodating and gave us everything we needed for an overnight trip to Posey Island.
Where to Park
You’ll need somewhere to park your car once you head out to Posey Island in your kayak. Luckily, the Roche Harbor Resort has overnight parking for just $10. You’ll park near the marina, then go inside to pay at the front desk. They’ll give you a parking permit to put on your dashboard, and you can leave your can there overnight.
How to Get to Posey Island
To kayak to Posey Island, you’ll start on San Juan Island. To get to San Juan Island, you’ll take the ferry from Anacortes on the mainland of Washington. This will get you to Friday Harbor on the east side San Juan Island.
It’s possible to take off and kayak to Posey Island from Friday Harbor, but this trip is 10 miles (16km) long, so it’s not recommended for people who don’t have a lot of kayaking experience. The (much) easier route is to drive north to Roche Harbor, park at the resort, then kayak to Posey Island from there. This route is only 0.8 miles (1.3) km long.
Start at the Roche Harbor boat launch, then go around Pearl Island (either direction works) and you’ll see little Posey Island!
What You Need to Kayak Camp on Posey Island
Of course, you’ll need a kayak to kayak camp on Posey Island! You can rent one on San Juan Island, or bring your own. If you’re taking the short route to Posey Island, a regular kayak, like the Joyride 10 (also available at REI, though Backcountry is usually cheaper) is absolutely fine – the water is calm and easy to paddle in. But if you’re taking the longer route, or adding more stops to your trip, a sea kayak – like the Eddyline Sitka – is recommended. Sea kayaks are more efficient, and less likely to capsize. For two people, you can get a tandem kayak!
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Roof Rack & Kayak Carrier
When you Kayak camp at Posey Island, it’s also important to have a way to transport your kayak until you get in the water. The Thule Kayak Carrier is a good option, but of course, you’ll also need a roof rack to attach it to.
Kayaks typically have some covered storage space, but if you have anything stored under the bungee cords or at your feet, it’s pretty much guaranteed that it’ll get slashed. Even things in the covered storage space can get a little bit wet, so for things that need to stay dry, a dry bag is a must.
When you’re kayak camping, you’ll need a place to sleep! I have the Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent, which is amazing and weighs less than 2 pounds. The Stoic Madrone Tent is a more budget friendly, but heavier option.
When you choose a sleeping bag, you’ll need to make sure it’s warm enough for your trip.
I use an ALPS down sleeping bag, which is really affordable compared to most down sleeping bags, but it’s light enough for me, and has kept me warm! The Marmot Ultra Elite 20 is a great synthetic bag that’s lightweight.
If you really want to keep your pack weight low, the Big Agnes Torchlight weighs less than 2 pounds!
A sleeping pad is a necessity for comfy nights!
I have the Sea to Summit UltraLight Sleeping Pad, which packs up small and weighs less than a pound.
The NEMO equipment Switchback Sleeping Pad folds up small and is also great for backpacking, and if you’re going to be camping in colder weather, the NEMO Insulated Sleeping Pad helps with staying warm.
Having a camping stove allows you to have hot meals, and hot coffee!
The Jetboil MiniMo Stove is probably the lightest option there is, and it’s really popular with backpackers. I use the MSR Pocket Rocket stove, which packs up nice and small! You’ll also need some cooking utensils, and I recommend the GSI Outdoors Cook Set.
Pro tip: don’t forget to bring the gas canister like I did! It turned out okay though, because we cooked our tortellini dinner over the fire :).
When you’re camping, it can get chilly at night, so bring some layers! The Marmot Minimalist Jacket is a great lightweight, waterproof option, perfect if there’s rain in the forecast. For the cold, I love my Columbia puffy jacket – it’s lightweight, but keeps me warm! For added warmth and layering, a Patagonia fleece is always a good addition.
There’s no way to get water on Posey Island, so you’ll need to bring enough for your whole trip.
The CamelBak water reservoirs are convenient and easy – they can fit in your hiking backpack for water on the go. Nalgene water bottles are great for day to day, and if you want an insulated water bottle to keep your water cold and refreshing, Hydro Flasks are the best!
Planning to Explore Posey Island?
If you have any questions about kayak camping on Posey Island or you have your own recommendations, let me know in a comment below!
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