Orcas Island

An oasis of raw beauty and outdoor fun

Posted

Towering over the San Juan archipelago, Orcas Island is the most mountainous of the San Juan Islands and a world-class destination for camping and outdoor recreation. The island’s two mountainous lobes wrap around the long, narrow bay of East Sound, creating 125 miles of convoluted coastline. Ashore, hidden valleys, sparkling lakes and evergreen forests cover the hilly island.

Orcas Island’s topography and ample public lands make it a prime destination for hikers, mountain bikers and paddlers. Moran State Park is the first stop for outdoor adventure. Pass the park’s welcome arch on winding Olga Road and enter 5,252-acres of forest and lakes, with 38 miles of hiking trails and 151 campsites.

Mt. Constitution, inside the state park, rises 2,409 feet straight out of the Salish Sea. It’s accessible by road or by a 6.7-mile loop trail starting at Mountain Lake. At the top, a swirl of green islands dot the sea on all sides and snow-capped mountains loom on the horizon. Moran State Park’s trails are popular with hikers year-round and have more recently become an off-season mountain bike destination.

Mountain Lake and Cascade Lake are the biggest bodies of water in the park (and on the island) and can keep visitors busy exploring by boat or by trail. Vendors offer boat rentals at both lakes. Take a walk around either lake and you’re bound to stumble on a secluded swimming hole.

Elsewhere on Orcas, outdoor recreation options include fishing, golfing, whale watching and skateboarding. Bicycle and boat rentals are available at several locations. Deer Harbor Marina, on the island’s west side, has 110 visitor slips and a grocery store and restaurant. The historic Rosario Resort and Spa offers another 30 slips with access to a restaurant and other amenities.

The village of Eastsound is the cultural hub at the island’s midpoint. Although small, it has a lively mix of shops. A grocery store stocked with just about anything you may have left on the mainland anchors downtown, and bookstores, cafes, restaurants, art galleries and shops of all kinds surround it. Craft beer lovers should head about a mile out of town to sample the island’s own microbrews at Island Hoppin’ Brewery. A few farther-flung restaurants and inns at Olga, Deer Harbor and Doe Bay are well worth the trip.

From May to October, the weekly farmers market features produce grown in the island’s fertile soil and an abundance of other local goods, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday in Eastsound. For offbeat island entertainment, check out The Exchange, a combination of recycling center and thrift store, overflowing with treasures, trinkets and cast-off valuables. If food and agriculture interest you, take a tour at one of several island farms.

For more information, visit orcasislandchamber.com.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment