An oasis of raw beauty and outdoor fun

Orcas Island

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.

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Suggested Itinerary

This three-day, two-night adventure to Orcas Island will let you escape into the slow pace of island living. On Friday, catch an early evening ferry in Anacortes to Orcas Island. The ferry ride takes between an hour and hour and 30 minutes depending on the number of stops.

Once on Orcas, Doe Bay Resort & Retreat is about a 35-minute drive. This resort has a rich history. Once called a “hippie haven,” Doe Bay now offers over 26 cabins, yurts and campsites to its visitors, along with a café, store, and outdoor soaking tubs (clothing optional) and sauna.

There are trails, beaches, and places to just relax. For dinner, either dine in at the Doe Bay Café or order food to go and enjoy and evening picnic. The island is beautiful at sunset, so take a walk around the resort and head back to town for a beer at Madrona Bar and Grill. Just before bed, grab a towel and head for Doe Bay’s outdoor soaking tubs and sauna and just relax and enjoy.

The next day, wake up bright and early and enjoy breakfast at Roses Bakery Café, and then head off to Moran State Park for a hike up Mount Constitution. There are several trails to choose from ranging from 2.4 miles to 9.6 miles.

After the hike, freshen up at the resort and drive into East Sound for some lunch and delightful afternoon shopping. Grab some lunch at the Wild Island. They serve wholesome farm-to-table foods with many vegetarian and vegan options.

Enjoy the many galleries filled with art by Northwest and island artists, gift shops, bookstores, and the Orcas Island Historical Museum in the heart of East Sound.

Dinner at The Barnacle Restaurant provides an intimate nautical atmosphere coupled with the farm-to-table food makes for a wonderful dining experience. The drinks are hand-crafted by master mixologists.

Orcas Island usually has something going on Saturday nights, just ask some of the locals or enjoy a quiet evening at a camp fire site at Doe Bay Resort. Enjoy the fire and then take a soak in the outdoor tubs.

Sunday morning you can sleep in or enjoy some of the trails at the resort. The onsite restaurant,  Doe Bay Café, is known for their Sunday brunches. After breakfast, enjoy a nice drive over to lovely Rosario Resort & Spa. The Moran Mansion Museum is in the center of the resort and can be toured by the public. Robert Moran, shipbuilder and former Seattle mayor from the early 1900s, designed the massive home and much of the furniture. The lights, doors, and fixture are made of ship materials. After the tour, enjoy a snack or lunch at either their restaurant or lounge.

After lunch, experience a stroll around the grounds and marina. Orcas Island is a beautiful place for your next get away. It’s time to pack up, go the ferry and have wonderful weekend.

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