Much has been written about Orcas Island, perhaps the most beautiful of the San Juan Islands. From Seattle, a trip to Orcas is as easy as driving to Anacortes and hopping a ferry. And once you arrive in this rustic, moss-cloaked wonderland, you too will know why it is a destination unsurpassed in PNW-island appeal.
Every Easter since my family moved to Seattle, we have taken a long weekend to explore a new area of the Pacific Northwest. We made a previous trip to Lopez Island, so I was familiar with Orcas. But, my curiosity and desire to visit the island were piqued after my husband completed a 50K there earlier this year with Rainshadow Running. During the one night and day he was there, he fell in love with the island, so it made my must-see list and was a natural choice for our upcoming getaway.
Good to Know:
You should take advantage of the ability to RESERVE your ferry spot to Orcas Island. During a busy time, this can make your journey more enjoyable and predictable. There is no fee to reserve. Take the time to do this. You’re welcome.
You will want to take your car. The island is full of wonderful activities, from dining to shopping to hiking. You will need to drive to take it all in.
Bring your binoculars. The island is full of impressive flora and fauna. Be sure to look for bald eagles, blacktail deer, otters and MUCH MORE. (Depending on time of year, you can see Orca whales, sea lions, or even puffins.)
(Though we did not bring our bikes or camp, these are both IDEAL options for your visit to Orcas. If you love to bike and/or camp, incorporate these activities into your visit if possible.)
Orcas Island has so much to offer. The views alone are worth the trip. However, since man cannot live on views alone, you will be thrilled to hear that Orcas is a foodie heaven, a hiker’s dream and a shopper’s delight. There is art and culture; there is first-rate hiking; there is provincial charm oozing from every deer and chicken loving hamlet.
We stayed at Rosario Resort and Spa. The resort is located right at the cusp of Moran State Park, and includes 40 acres of waterfront property on which to roam, frolic and take in the history of this great estate. We secured a wonderful rate for our stay, which sealed the deal for us.
Good to Know:
We would say, yes, Rosario is kid friendly.
Don’t skip the piano/history program if you are staying on a Saturday night.
The mansion itself has no guest rooms but is impressive (spa, indoor pool!), but in all truth, the building we stayed in was past its glory day (as is most of the resort). However, overall, we were very happy with our choice. The grounds are gorgeous, and there is plenty at Rosario to love and explore (shuffleboard on the lawn, water features, nature, views!). We also fell in love with the Moran Lounge, where the atmosphere is oh-so inviting, toasty and snug. Adults and kids alike can be filled with contentment thanks to incredible food, enticing drinks, a roaring fire and old school games like chess and checkers. Perfect.
Hiking on Orcas Island:
We loved exploring Moran State Park. The park is over 5,000 acres and has more than 38 miles of trails. You can find challenging hikes, or, if you are like us and have kids in tow, you can find plenty of gentle loops and trails. We recommend driving (if you are with the kids) up to Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans. There is a stone tower there to climb up and stunning views. Don’t skip seeing this.
Two hikes we recommend with kids in Moran State Park are the Cascade Falls Trail (less than a mile) and the Cascade Lake Loop (less than 3 miles). Both are full of natural wonder and keep the kids motivated. You can visit no less than 4 waterfalls in Moran, all close enough to pack into one waterfall-wonderful hike.
No matter what hiking level you and your family are at, you will find a trail here to love.
Be sure to pick up a trail map and guide to Moran State Park (located at several locations throughout the park).
Food on Orcas Island:
Food here is hyper local and delicious. I love to dig into foodie spots when I travel, but this is not always ideal with kids. However, foodie spots on the island are laid back and generally accessible for kids (yay!). That being said, here are our recommendations for eating while on Orcas:
On the go: (The sun is out! The mountain is calling!) stop at Orcas Food Co-op. Organic, local, quaint and exactly what you want to fuel up for a day on the trails. Grab and go, go, go!
Breakfast: New Leaf Café (at Outlook Inn). The food and atmosphere are delightful. We recommend the Belgian waffles and the house-made maple coconut granola. The smoothies are health in a glass, so for a guilt free experience, get your smoothie on!
Dinner: Doe Bay Café It is gourmet “seed-to-table” cuisine that is relaxed enough for kids. For burgers, steaks, seafood and a more traditional food encounter, we loved The Madrona Bar & Grill. The views were great here too. (We also enjoyed the food at Rosario. See above.)
Lunch: Catkin Café (Olga) The mussels were to die for (that broth!). They also have house-made pastries and sweets. The attached gallery is wonderful, but not kid friendly. My husband and I took turns checking it out before our meal.
Ice Cream: Clever Cow Creamery: Ice Cream Parlor Local, small-batch ice cream at its best, and almost everything from cones to toppings is homemade. Yummy.
(Stop at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm for the freshest oysters and clams on the island. You can eat them right there overlooking the bay! Sadly, it was not the season for this when we visited, but we stopped to say hello and check it out. A must for our next visit!)
Shopping on Orcas Island:
You will be so caught up in the view and nature that you may not want to shop, but this would be a mistake. There are so many fabulous little shops in Eastsound. Here are a few of my favorite:
Darvill’s Bookstore: Independent, on the waterfront and full of not only the best books but unique gifts and delish coffee. Sold
Nest: A swoon-worthy floral boutique. Plants, flowers, and gifts in the most divine little shop. Just take a peek!
Jillery: Gifts, acessorries and whimsy. So fun.
Ray’s General Store & Pharmacy: Little bit of everything. Seek and you will find.
Orcas Island is a destination of supreme beauty. On the island there is something for everyone. Make it your own. Start with these recommendations and discover for yourself why Orcas Island should be on your list.