Situated directly between Vancouver Island and Washington State, Orcas Island is the largest island in the San Juans and, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful. With a size of just over 148 square kilometers, the island serves just the right amount of civilization while still providing a remote escape. Like many islands along the Pacific Northwest, Orcas has a completely laid back vibe, so be prepared to relax and take it slow (the highest speed limit on the island is 60 kilometers per hour).
There are several modes of transportation to get you to Orcas Island including plane, boat and car/ferry. We recommend taking the ferry over with either your own car or a rental so you can explore all the nooks and crannies of the island. If you are coming from Vancouver Island, you can take a short ferry over from Victoria. The alternate route is to go through Anacortes in Washington State, which is the route we opted for and about a 30-40 minute ride. Be sure to book well in advance online and to arrive with plenty of spare time.
Mount Baker Farm
After only opening up a year ago, Mount Baker Farm is both a campground as well as a site to see. The place is more targeted towards families with kids, but Maria and I still had a great stay here. The property features a combination of large group sites, small sites targeted towards adults only and even glamping tents! The facilities offer WiFi, hot showers, drinking water and a small store where you can buy any essential camping supplies and treats. There are also several free activities available for guests, including a full sized train ride around the farm, a petting zoo and outdoor games. This is the perfect spot if you feel like camping but you don't want to rough it too much.
This is the largest village on the island with a variety of restaurants and stores. Everything you need can be found in Eastsound, and it is a great place to walk around and interact with the locals. In the summer, there is a Farmers Market every Saturday from 10-3pm in the Eastsound Village Green. If you're lucky, you'll be in town for the Annual Eastsound Mayoral Election, where islanders elect one of several local pet candidates for charity. This year's winner was Tinker the bunny.
Moran State Park
This was definitely one of the highlights for us on the trip. The park has countless kilometers of hiking trails, 4 glacial lakes (great for swimming) and over 4 waterfalls. The highest point on the island also resides within the park boundaries atop Mount Constitution. The road will take you directly to the top where you can climb even further on foot up the stone observation tower inspired by Portuguese medieval castles. A State Park Pass is required if you plan to stay anywhere in the park, but the fee is well worth the experience. Not to mention you get access to Obstruction Pass State Park as well!
Obstruction Pass State Park
Located on the southeastern tip of the island, this park offers the largest beach on Orcas. The park is walk in only and accessed via a gravel trailhead access road. A brisk 20 minute hike brings you to the peaceful shores with spectacular views of the west side of the island. The beach also includes several primitive campsites and toilets for those looking to stay the night after a day of paddling out on the ocean.
Turtleback Mountain Preserve
This is a great alternative for anyone with a thirst for more mountain trails on the island or for those of you who don't want to spend the money on a State Park Pass. Turtleback Mountain provides over 12 kilometers of primitive trail systems with several lookout points. Be sure to start at the north trail head if you are interested in mountain biking or horse back riding.
This local pizzeria is in the center of Deer Harbor, with great views of the inlet. Prices are a little on the expensive side but it is well worth it and the 20 minute trip from Eastsound via the Scenic Byway is breathtaking.
Island Hoppin' Brewery
Located on the outskirts of Eastsound, IHB offers a wide variety of rotating in-house beers. Every brew is made with local island ingredients, try them all with the $15 flight of 7 while enjoying a light snack and playing one of the many provided board games.
Brown Bear Baking
Expensive but some of the most delicious baked goods on Orcas Island. Brown Bear Baking is located in the heart of Eastsound and also offers a variety of lunch options include soups and sandwiches.
Clever Cow Creamery
There is no shortage of tasty treats throughout Orcas Island and Eastsound. If you have a craving for a delicious hand mixed milkshake or local ice cream with a homemade waffle cone, be sure to check out Clever Cow Creamery.
Situated in a cute little bookstore in Eastsound, this tiny coffee shop serves coffee from Olympia, Washington and is some of the best coffee I have ever had. Grab a cup with a book and enjoy a nice relaxing read by the ocean.
The Madrona offers both a Bar & Grill on the main floor and an elegant dining experience on the second floor above. Located in a little hidden alley off Main Street in Eastsound, both floors provide oceanfront seating, a full bar and great food.
Located in the heart of Orcas Village, this is a perfect spot to enjoy a meal and take in the harbor views while waiting for your ferry.
These are just some of the highlights from our stay on Orcas Island. Time really does slow down here and we could easily see ourselves spending much more time here. The island offers something for everyone. If you have been before, we would love to hear your experiences. If you are looking to squeeze one more little escape in this summer, look no further than Orcas Island.