Featured image credit: NorthStar Air Tours
San Juan County Commissioner Rick Hughes wanted to take his wife from Friday Harbor, Washington, to Victoria, British Columbia, for a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend a year ago. But to get there in the winter, he realized that it would be a tough journey.
The two cities are only 16 miles apart, but they’re separated by water. Friday Harbor is on San Juan Island, and Victoria is on Vancouver Island. In the winter (January-March), there’s no state ferry service from Friday Harbor to Sidney, BC, the ferry terminal nearest Victoria. To get there, the Hughes must take a ferry from Friday Harbor to Anacortes, Washington, drive across the US-Canada border to Tsawwassen, BC, and hop a BC Ferry across the Strait of Georgia to Victoria. Or they could pay $700 for a charter flight from Friday Harbor to Victoria.
Even in the summer when the shorter ferry routes operated, the schedules often required an overnight stay in Sidney, 16 miles north of Victoria.
It was complicated, but Hughes knew it didn’t have to be. So he decided to do something.
He started by lobbying his friends in local government, and Friday Harbor Town Administrator Duncan Wilson joined the campaign. Months later, they received $30,000 in local lodging tax revenue to renovate an old airport office and add handheld scanners for security screening. In return, the US Office of Customs and Border Protection agreed to staff the office 1.5 hours in the morning and afternoon.
Approval for the flights from the US Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration took longer, but it’s now completed. That clears the way for NorthStar Air Tours to start the 12-minute flight from the San Juan Islands to Victoria on Groundhog Day, Friday, February 2. It’s the shortest international flight in North America.