Camp Nor'wester

Nor'wester is a space for our staff and campers to try new things, show up as their authentic selves, and build new skills.
Unbelievable sunsets, sunrises, and reflection await!
Live the summer close to nature and one another in our small, age-group units and in canvas structures like our tents and tipis.
Ropes course, waterfront, craft shop, garden, outdoor living skills, drama, dance... There's endless activity options to keep busy!
Our indoor/outdoor lodge is a hub for camp meals and activities.
Full and partial summer positions, beautiful views, supportive community and unforgettable adventure!
Comprehensive paid staff training, certification opportunities, and a life-changing experience all at the same time!
Live on the shores beautiful Johns Island for a nature immersion unlike any other!
Join a community of staff of over 100, from around the world!

Community, Outdoor Living, a Unique Summer Experience!

Camp Nor'wester, 89 years young, provides a unique outdoor living experience where campers from ages 9-16 are challenged to develop skills that increase self-confidence and encourage respect, responsibility, and compassion for themselves, their community, and the environment. Deep and meaningful friendships develop when you live, play and work in a Pacific Northwest Paradise!

We are located in the San Juan Islands in Washington State. 70 miles north of Seattle, Johns Island, where camp is located, is a small non-ferry served island, accessible from Roche Harbor.

Jobs in the Spotlight

About Camp Nor'wester

Embark on an unforgettable journey with Camp Nor'wester, where adventure meets personal growth in the breathtaking landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. A program for campers aged 9-16, our overnight camp fosters a nurturing environment where campers develop essential skills and self-awareness in a supportive community.

At Camp Nor'wester, we prioritize instilling values of responsibility, compassion, and environmental stewardship through engaging outdoor-focused programming. Our commitment to safety ensures a secure space for exploration, both physically and emotionally. Here, diversity thrives, and tolerance is celebrated, creating a vibrant tapestry of experiences for every camper and staff.

Through exciting outdoor activities and group living, we cultivate teamwork and interpersonal skills, setting the stage for lifelong friendships and meaningful connections. Join us for an enriching, challenging, and above all, fun-filled adventure at Camp Nor'wester, where memories and connections are made!

The Employee Experience

Program Dates

  • June 7 through Aug 22 - Nurses, Head Cook, Leadership Team, and Ropes Team
  • June 10 through Aug 22 - Supervisors, International Staff and Kitchen Team
  • June 11 through Aug 22 - All other staff, Unit Leaders (Counselors), Program Staff, etc. 

What to Expect

Personally – You will meet people from all over the country and the world who share similar interests and ideals and have a desire to spend quality time with children. As a role model for young people who will look to you for acceptance and understanding, you can have a significant impact on their self-esteem and confidence. You will test your personal limits and be surprised at what you are capable of doing.

Professionally – You will gain experience in the areas of leadership, communication, organization, teamwork, conflict resolution, risk management, and community building. Pre-camp training sessions with various professionals will cover such topics as safety, emergency response, and working effectively with children.

Schedule

In general, the day begins at around 7:00am and ends around 10:00pm. Everyone comes to breakfast at 8:00am and morning activities start at 10:00am. There are two one-hour activity periods in the morning, lunch at 12:30, a rest period from 1:30ish to 2:30, followed by either 3 one-hour, or 2 ninety-minute activity periods. Dinner is at 6:00pm and evening activities begin around 7:30pm.

All campers participate in overnight trips away from their unit each week in our regular sessions – there are three scheduled overnights per four-week session, and our older units get to experience multiple night "trips" away from camp, with focuses like sailing, climbing, service projects, and more. 

Unit Leaders attend daytime activities with their unit, while Department Staff provide instruction to the various units coming to their department. All staff help with supervision at meal times, and evening activities are supervised by a combination of Unit and Department Staff, as assigned by the Head Counselors.

Ideal Candidate

Our staff are essential to our camper experience – they are with campers day in and day out each summer leading activities and guiding them through our program. We value what each of our staff have to offer – different skills and experiences, new perspectives on what our program provides and how we support young people in building their own interpersonal skills, confidence and independence.

You might be a great fit for a summer at Nor'wester if you could say yes to...

  • I remember how great it felt, as a kid, to have an adult listen to what I had to say 
  • I like living in a community and helping others feel welcome.
  • I enjoy meeting people from all over the world.
  • I know how to work hard.
  • I’m looking for new adventures and friendships.
  • I enjoy expansive vistas and natural settings.
  • I can live with and appreciate a break from technology. 
  • I don’t mind getting dirty and living close to nature appeals to me.
  • I’m not afraid to ask questions.
  • I love sleeping out under the stars and waking up to the sun warming my sleeping bag.
  • I’m willing to share my talents and strengths.
  • I can get into singing old sea shanties and folk songs.
  • I can take responsibility and care for other people.

Room and Board

One of the best perks at Nor’wester is getting to live outdoors! All staff will be assigned to live with one of the camper units, and will have supervisory duties to that unit from time to time. Most staff live three or four to a canvas structure (tent or tipi), that do not have heat or electricity. You will have your own bed frame, mattress and mattress cover provided, and you are responsible for your own linens. Most staff use their sleeping bags; some bring a fitted sheet or light blankets to make it a bit more “homey.” We all arrange our belongings differently – some keep everything in their trunks, others build shelves or hang items with hangers or fabric closet organizers. Again, use the pre-summer staff forums for suggestions.

We acknowledge, with full transparency, that tipi structures originated in the Great Plains region of the United Stated and Canada within the Plains Native Culture. Though a structure associated with Camp Nor’wester since 1935, we do not have an authentic connection or tie to this culture, so we are currently in the process of transitioning our living structures from tipis to other canvas structures that still can allow for minimal environmental impact, flexible living, and the experience of being close to nature. 

Other amenities:

  • Laundry facilities are available at camp– there is no charge.
  • Wifi is available to staff in the staff lounge and camp office for use during their personal time. We have a strict no-technology policy for campers, staff are not allowed to use their personal cell phones or electronic devices in front of campers or while on duty
  • Camp owns a staff house (former Bed & Breakfast) in Friday Harbor that is available for use on time off, with hostel style bunks, a full kitchen, and easy access to local restaurants, grocery store, and island transportation. It also boasts comfortable lounging space, hot showers, and flushing toilets to be able to appreciate on your time away from camp. 
  • Meals are provided during your time on-site, and we can accommodate a range of dietary restrictions and allergies to make sure you're well fed during your time at camp. 
  • Shower houses are all-gender, with private showering/changing spaces. Bathrooms around camp are all outhouse/pit or composting toilets. 

Employee Perks

The Nor’wester community is deep and strong – with nearly 90 years of offering camp experiences for children, the alumni network is very rich. Nor’wester connections are made all over the world and can often lead to further employment and enrichment opportunities beyond camp.

We provide coaching and resources for staff on how to describe the work experience you gain at Camp on resumes and cover letters, so you can showcase the skills you built and apply those to your next job. Employers these days are looking for critical thinkers, problem-solvers, and leaders – all skills you will work on at Camp!

Camp also provides one round-trip shuttle ticket to staff for each of their Time-Off periods, useable between Roche Harbor and Friday Harbor. Other perks include pro-deal accounts with certain retailers, including Chaco and Big Agnes, and potential additional stipends for certifications, travel to Camp, referrals, and more.

Getting Here and Getting Around

Whether you’re flying from across the country or driving up from Seattle, all staff are responsible for getting to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal in time to board the designated ferry specified by the camp office on your contract start date. There will likely be other staff (new and returning) on that same ferry, carrying their trunks and luggage with them. We try to help people connect ahead of time to make carpool plans – use the pre-summer staff forums for this.

Once the ferry reaches Friday Harbor, staff drivers will head up to Roche in time to unload, park and meet the barge to camp. Walk-on passengers (who do not have a seat in a vehicle already) will be met by a camp representative at the ferry terminal and will ride in a camp van to Roche. Then we all get on the barge for the 30-minute ride to camp!

Typically less than 30% of staff bring cars to camp. If you do, you’ll be parking your car for the summer at Roche Harbor, on the north end of San Juan Island, since the camp property is only accessible by boat. On time-off, you can use your car to get around San Juan, and everyone is willing to give others a ride to and from town. There is a free parking lot just over a mile walk from Roche Harbor, or staff can pay for parking (arranged directly with Roche Harbor, not through Camp). Nor'wester has historically had a great community of folks who share cards & give rides during time off, there is also a limited bus line that has a stop at the Harbor for you to get into town!

For Fun

Music

Music is an important part of everyday life at Nor’wester. Folk songs and ballads from many countries, reflecting different times and ways of life, are sung after meals in the dining hall, at campfires, in the shower and on the trails.

Music is one of the larger aspects of cross-generational connection amongst our community. Some songs from the original Henderson Camps songbook from the 1930s are still sung in our lodge today. New campers learn lyrics quickly and within the first days of each session the lodge is bursting with songs and excitement.

Waterfront: Kayaking, Canoeing & Sailing

Our waterfront program capitalizes on the camp’s location, the magnificent San Juan Islands of Washington State! Our beach provides a great space for new and exciting challenges on the water. Campers and staff participate as a unit, all canoeing, kayaking or sailing together under the supervision of dedicated and certified staff. Experience expansive vistas, stunning sunsets, cold water, and active wildlife including marine mammals like seals and whales. 

Cultural Connections

Located on a site with clear and longstanding evidence of native occupation, we strive to acknowledge that the property is located on traditional lands of the of all tribes and bands within the Lhaq’temish (Lummi), Samish, Swinomish, Noxwsaag, WSÁNEĆ (Saanich), Songish, T’souk-e (Sooke), Nəxʷsƛayəm, and Semiahmoo Nations. A unique aspect of Nor'wester is the longstanding traditions and relationships with members of the Kwagiutl community, within the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation to the North. Campers and staff focus on educational experiences that focus on Northwest Coastal tribes' culture and art; there is also the opportunity to participate in traditional games, crafts, cooking and storytelling through our longstanding relationships with indigenous educators and artists in residence. 

How to Apply

Make sure we're the right fit! Read through the information here, on our website, and especially on the Staff pages to learn more about the Nor'wester experience. 

Next, follow the link to fill out our online application. From there, we'll contact you for an interview! 


Contact Camp Nor'wester