San Juan Islands, Washington State

I thought I’d kick off our new Destinations series with a place that’s close to home for me. The San Juan Islands! Located in the Strait of Juan de Fuca where the Pacific Ocean starts to make its way down to Seattle, the San Juans are filled with awesome airports. Located within walking or biking distance there are tons of great places to stay and neat things to see.

I’ll mention two airports in the island chain. If you’re thinking about trying a different one, just drop us a line and we’ll tell you more.

Name and type of Destination: Friday Harbor on San Juan island and East Sound on Orcas Island

For scenic getaways and quiet weekends, both of these islands have plenty to offer in terms of natural beauty. Both are also havens for artists and have galleries featuring some excellent pottery, paintings, and even metal craft. There’s a pod of killer whales that call this area home during part of the year and a number of boat tour companies who will take you out to see them.

Airport IDs: KFHR (Friday Harbor) and KORS (East Sound)

A little about it: Friday Harbor is one of the biggest towns on the islands, weighing in at a little over 2,000 residents. Hotels, B&B’s, and restaurants are all within walking distance of the airport (about 10 or 15 minutes on foot). Cab companies will gladly come pick you up as well. You can rent bicycles or mopeds to tour the island which is only about 10 miles across at the longest. Open country and small forests abound on San Juan Island with scenic views of the ocean from just about everywhere. Roche Harbor, on the north tip of the island, has a private (and interesting) airstrip and marina that is a favorite for people from all over the world. You can have a look at the island here.

East Sound on Orcas Island is also within walking distance of the airport and has shops and hotels enough to stay occupied in the town for a day. Once you’ve seen what there is to see there, rent a car and drive out to one of the hidden pottery or glass places which features local artists’ work or go see the Howe motion art display. Mr. Howe creates what he calls kinetic art – large metal sculptures designed to move in the wind. If you feel like going a little more rustic, Doe Bay offers a series of cabins and yurts for rent that are shorter on the amenities but a little closer to nature. Drive up to the top of the mountain for one of the best scenic overlooks in the islands. Here’s where East Sound and Orcas Island are located.

Precautions and notes: Both islands are close enough to land that you could keep your over water exposure to virtually nil if you wished, but otherwise you’d only be over water for a very short time. There’s a class C airspace just to the south on Whidbey Island and they’ll give you traffic advisories all the way to your destination in the San Juans. There aren’t a lot of ILS approaches up here so if there’s weather, expect to be shooting a GPS approach. The runways are all in good condition and of a reasonable length, but keep your eye out for traffic if you’re going on a nice weekend in the summer – these are VERY popular places!

Safe flying!

John Fiscus
Chief Pilot, The Flight Academy