Exploring Orcas
Orcas Island Summer Getaway

A towering peak, protected pebble-covered beaches, and a thriving farm-to-table food scene has earned Orcas Island a cult-like following. Visitors and locals alike rave about the horseshoe shaped gem, where the sun is more likely to shine than not and the views abound. While it’s hard to go wrong with any activity, the following showcase some of our favorite things to do on Orcas Island this summer. 

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Nancy McDonnell Spaulding
San Juan Island Artist and Author Nancy McDonnell Spaulding

“One of the things that drives my art is the desire to protect beautiful places,” said Nancy McDonnell Spaulding. An accomplished San Juan Island artist and newly published author, Nancy’s work does so by showcasing simple pleasures — often found tucked among awe-inspiring sights. 

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Emerald Queen Casino de Havilland Otter
Emerald Queen Casino Seaplane

While technically a part of Washington State, San Juan Island feels a bit like a foreign country. Heck, some of its rocky coves are closer to Canada than the American mainland. And traveling from Tacoma to San Juan Island is no small feat — until recently. Reaching the quaint Olympic Rainshadow destination is now as simple as catching a 55-minute scenic flight from Tacoma’s Ruston Way seaplane terminal. 

Located within the Olympic Rainshadow, San Juan Island offers a sun-filled reprieve from the drizzle of T-town. The following outlines the four most common ways to travel from Tacoma to San Juan Island. 

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top things to do in Victoria this summer
Victoria BC summer activities

Renowned for its breathtaking beauty, walkable streets, and preserved historical elegance — this compact urban hub is rife with things to do. While Victoria’s mild climate lends it to year-round exploring, the city shines during the summer — and not just in the picturesque downtown, where floatplanes land in the harbor and whale watching tours depart.

The rich diversity of British Columbia’s capital glows among its neighborhoods, stretching up the coast and into the interior of Vancouver Island. It is a captivating mix of cultures, from Canadian and First Nations to Chinese and European. Castles. Wineries. Totems. Wildlife. Views. There are more than 70 unique and exciting things to do in Victoria this summer (and throughout all of Vancouver Island)! So whether you make it a Victoria day trip, weekend or extended stay, you’re sure to have fun.

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Friday Harbor House Fire Pits
Fire Pits at Friday Harbor House

Island life is slow and beautiful in Friday Harbor. Here, the streets feature roundabouts rather than stoplights and restaurants showcase farm-to-table cuisine. Perched one block above the Friday Harbor Marina, Friday Harbor House is ideally positioned for the ultimate weekend getaway. 

This quaint San Juan Island hotel offers expansive views of seaplanes landing and ferry boats docking. It’s conveniently located within walking distance of the entire downtown core, while still feeling removed enough to give you a sense of solitude. Not to mention, it’s home to one the best restaurants on the island — The Restaurant at Friday Harbor House. 

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Hotel de Haro at Roche Harbor Resort. Photo by Jack Riley
Roche Harbor Resort Hotel de Haro. Photo by Jack Riley

While summer boating roots run deep at Roche Harbor, this historic destination also blooms during the shoulder season. The site — a former lime quarry and manufacturing plant in the late 1800s — is now the pinnacle of luxury on San Juan Island. Modern lodging options (along with more modest historic ones), a host of dining establishments, and a plethora of nearby things to do make Roche Harbor the ultimate destination for families, couples, and gal-pal getaways.

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Sunrise from Mount Constitution by Travel Trend
Mount Rainier at Sunrise from Mount Constitution by Travel Trend

Sunsets in the San Juan Islands are visceral. Visits here seem to draw you to rocky shorelines and towering peaks (we’re looking at you Mount Constitution) to bask in the burst of burnt oranges and bright magentas as they fade into gentle pastels. While no one island in this remote archipelago far surpasses another, Orcas Island sunset locations do include the tallest peak and most convenient ‘town’ access. 

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Family Shoot on the Beach. Photo by Satya Curcio
Family Shoots on the Beach. Photo by Satya Curcio
An insider’s guide to taking the best share-worthy photos in the San Juan Islands. Photo by Satya Curcio.

From family vacations and romantic getaways to the ultimate girls’ trip, the San Juan Islands offer a backdrop for magical moments. While the remnants of such memories can be lovingly preserved in a half-faced selfie, such pictures are rarely worthy of a Christmas card. What’s more, often key players (ahem mom) remain neatly tucked behind the camera. 

For many, booking a professional photo shoot isn’t high on the priority list when planning a vacation. Where to sleep, eat, and play takes center stage. But for those wise souls who slip in a rendezvous with a photog, the result can be much more powerful than just a great Instagram post. 

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British Columbia Parliament Buildings. Victoria BC. by Shawn CCF
BC Parliament Buildings. Victoria BC. by Shawn CCF

Victoria, the charming capital city of British Columbia, Canada, is a picturesque destination known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant cultural scene. Nestled on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the quaint city boasts a unique blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. 

A haven for nature enthusiasts, Victoria is surrounded by lush gardens, including the world-renowned Butchart Gardens. Additionally, the temperate climate allows for year-round outdoor activities that range from exploring scenic parks and hiking trails to enjoying water sports along the coastline. Residents and visitors alike appreciate the city’s commitment to environmental sustainability and its emphasis on maintaining a healthy balance between urban living and natural beauty.

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Hiking on Orcas Island
looking at the view on Orcas Island

Orcas Island has all of the ingredients for a perfect getaway in the Pacific Northwest. There are beautiful lodging options, miles of hiking trails that traverse a rich topography and offer stunning views. You’ll find a plethora of fresh seafood, farm-to-table cuisine, and locally-crafted libations. 

This isn’t the destination for a fast-paced dance club, though you will find several restaurants and bars host live music nights. But the things to do on Orcas Island abound. Artist studios. Golfing. Farmers markets. Clothing optional soaking tubs. The list goes on and on. These are some of our favorites. 

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