Downriggers on San Juan Island

Tamed, just enough to be welcoming, San Juan Island is rugged and rural in all the best ways. Thanks to its remote location, chefs aren’t just inclined to source locally, they need to. As a result, San Juan Island is one of the best foodie destinations in the Pacific Northwest. 

Want to maximize your time noshing? Catch a quick and easy flight from Seattle to Friday Harbor Airport, where you can start exploring immediately. 

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False Bay. San Juan Islands. Colleen Michaels

Fall in the San Juan Islands is particularly unique. The weather is still sunny (thanks to the 247 average days with sunshine), while the summer crowds have begun to thin. Farm tours and festivals abound (thanks to Savor the San Juans). And, the foliage is bursting with color. In short, there are a plethora of fun things to do in the San Juan Islands this fall. 

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Whitney Page and Melanie Trygg of Smörgåsbord

Fashion has a tendency to come with waste. New styles encourage new production and the inevitable casting off of yesterday’s trends — whether they be a wardrobe update or a home decor refresh. It’s only natural to feel the conflicting juxtaposition between discovering a new sweater or prized vase and protecting Mother Nature. At Orcas Island’s Smörgåsbord, located in the heart of Eastsound, two moms challenge this status quo. 

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Friday Harbor Whale Museum

Few things are more thrilling than seeing an orca in the wild — except, perhaps, protecting them. Protection comes in all forms at Friday Harbor’s Whale Museum. Visitors are introduced to orcas, invited to learn about their habitat, and encouraged to participate in the preservation of these gentle giants. 

Founded in 1979, the museum is located on First Street. It’s just one block above the Friday Harbor Marina in downtown Friday Harbor. This year-round activity is housed in the historic Odd Fellows Hall. Constructed in 1982, the two-story wood structure served as a hub for the community’s social life.

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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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