de Havilland Beavers in Desolation Sound

Known to some as the Harley Davidson of the sky, the de Havilland Beaver’s squat-nosed appearance has a rugged handsomeness.

With its pug-nosed fuselage and no-nonsense radial engine, this is a go-anywhere machine. In fact, unlike the majority of fixed-wing aircraft, the Beaver can get out of pretty much any situation it can get itself into.

The preferred choice of nearly all bush pilots, Beavers have been flown to small mountain lakes, glaciers, and remote beaches. They’ve carried torpedoes and delivered parts to stranded boats. They’ve been used as crop dusters, passenger caravans, and sightseeing apparatuses. You think of it, a Beaver can probably do it.

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Maggie in Friday Harbor

On the edge of the US and Canadian border, where the ocean flows freely between the two countries – water-locked drops of island oases can be found. With the Olympic Mountains lining the horizon and old-growth forests aplenty, the 250 days of sunshine beckon visitors and delight locals.

Friday Harbor, the largest of the San Juan Islands’ towns, is home to some of the finest restaurants, coffee shops, and artists’ studios and galleries. Here, whale watching enthusiasts enjoy the sights of resident and transitory pods; outdoor adventurists explore a variety of parks and trails; and boaters take full advantage of known and lesser-known coves, marinas, and shorelines.

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Andrew and Emily Youngren

In today’s screen-filled world, the opportunities to flex creative muscles with tangible objects can feel few and far between. But there’s a special magic when we let go of the digital mockup and allow our minds to wonder, ‘What if?’ To experiment with colors and stencils. To make something completely unique.

That’s exactly the kind of experience Andrew and Emily Youngren offer at Printshop Northwest. At their boutique San Juans printing chain (they have locations in both Orcas Island’s Eastsound and San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor) they sell a host of pre-printed and design-your-own clothing.

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Pebble Beach on Orcas Island

Despite being the largest island in the San Juans, Orcas is a tad slim on public waterfront. But for those in the know, Pebble Beach offers 150 yards of crescent-shaped magic just waiting to be explored.

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Beautiful view on San Juan Island by Benjamin Massello

While it’s not the largest island in the San Juans, nor does it have the tallest peaks, San Juan Island is arguably the most popular. Home to the biggest town (downtown Friday Harbor), along with one of the world’s best land-based whale watching destinations (Lime Kiln Lighthouse), this iconic getaway is the perfect place to rest, refresh, and refuel. 

With travel to San Juan Island taking as little as 25 minutes, it’s easy to maximize your time for a quick weekend getaway — a serious boon when there are so many fun things to do. This 48-hour itinerary is a sampling of the best things to do in Friday Harbor and throughout the island. Enjoy.

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Fire Pits at Friday Harbor House

A picturesque refuge, Friday Harbor House is nestled on a bluff just one block above Front Street. The dead-end road offers a sense of quiet in the most populated of the San Juan Island towns, while the elevated perch treats visitors to expansive views of Friday Harbor Marina.

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Girlfriends by the beach

Low-key adventures loaded with scenic views and an internationally acclaimed food and wine scene, make Orcas Island the ideal testosterone-free, comfy jean destination.

Even those born and raised in the Pacific Northwest may not have heard of the San Juan Islands. The remote archipelago sits as close to Canada as it does to the lower 48. Like a marooned captain’s daydream, the roughly 175 forest-covered rocky inlets feature lush farmland, freshwater lakes, and protected coves.

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Victoria Hot Tub Boats in the Inner Harbour

Despite Victoria’s sunny weather, you might think twice about donning your swimsuit for a dip in the B.C. capital’s Inner Harbour. Even during August, the average water temperature is around 52.7°F (11.5°C). But those who want to take a dip (while skipping the cold plunge) can take heart. You can rent a Hot Tub Boat to enjoy a warm, scenic float. 

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Zackarya Leck Orcas Island Artist-Blacksmith

On the western horseshoe of Orcas Island, where the cell service is spotty and the rolling farmland is studded with forest groves and rainwater ponds, Zackarya Leck turns iron to playdough in his 2,000-degree forge. A bespoke blacksmith, his weathered hands coax salvaged junkyard scraps into new forms — some functional, some sculptural, all stunning.

His work can be found as far east as Maine and as high as the Colorado Rockies. However, the bulk of his mastery is scattered throughout Orcas Island among large public art installations and private homes. Most prominent are Zackarya’s 70-foot kelp-inspired sculpture, installed at the Orcas Island Ferry Terminal, and his slide that is part of the Playground-on-the-Green at the heart of Eastsound.

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Gates of Harmonious Interest by Destination BC and Tanya Goehring
Photo by Destination BC and Tanya Goehring

Standing 38 feet tall and spanning a full city street, the Gates of Harmonious Interest is an eye-catching red and gold beauty. Featuring three arches, each of the pedestrian pathways is guarded by a stone lion. It was erected in 1981 and marks the entrance to Victoria, B.C.’s Chinatown. 

However, the historic destination wasn’t always so ornately decorated and lovingly maintained. Chinatown was founded in 1859 by Chinese merchants from San Francisco. They’d come north for the Fraser River Gold Rush, building simple wood shacks that served as homes and businesses. Initially, the new settlers were connected to the city center by three narrow footbridges that spanned the Johnson Street Ravine — a natural waterway that was used for waste disposal. 

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