Grandma's Cove

Trail down to Grandma\'s Cove, a sandy beach. It\'s sunny and the water is blue
The recently rehabilitated trail down to Grandma's Cove, a sandy beach.


Quick Facts

Beach/Water Access, Scenic View/Photo Spot

Grandma’s Cove is near the Salmon Banks, a shallow shelf that extends a half of a mile offshore. It attracts massive runs of migrating salmon and halibut which Native American people have harvested since time immemorial. This made the cove a great location for preserving the fish caught nearby.  

This site is said to be named after one of three matriarchs in the area: Eliza Jakle, Anna Pike, or Tilly Rosler. It's still in dispute which of these women earned the title and hence named the beach Grandma's Cove. 

Alternatively, some call this beach Granny’s Cove because of a matriarch killer whale who frequented the area. The leader of her pod, Granny (J2) lived a long life: an estimated 65-80 years! Though Granny the orca is no longer with us, she could be seen from the cove for decades. 

Grandma’s Cove is a great place to go for a swim! The water is shallow and protected, making it safer and warmer than other beaches on the island. However, you might want to wear water shoes as the shore is quite rocky and covered in driftwood. The massive amount of driftwood comes over from the Olympic Peninsula.

While exploring the shoreline, you might see anemones, tide pool sculpin, mussels, shore crabs, barnacles, and a variety of seaweeds in the tidepools. Visitors often find sea glass too!

If you’re interested in a hike, the mile long round trip to the cove is of moderate difficulty. Along the way you can see the remains of Robert’s Redoubt. You might also spot bald eagles, foxes, or rabbits.  

To get to Grandma’s Cove, you should park at the American Camp Visitor Center. Take the westernmost trail (west is toward the ocean) to the Parade Ground and shortly after leaving the parking lot a marked trail to Grandma’s Cove will be on your right. From there you will walk 5-10 minutes downhill on a grassy trail with expansive ocean views and then you’ll reach the beach!

San Juan Island National Historical Park

Last updated: May 22, 2023