Getting to Orcas Island in the San Juan’s, especially when you have kids in tow, may seem like a game of planes,
trains and automobiles (and, of course, ferries). But once you arrive, you won’t regret making the effort. It’ll be a chance for the whole family to unplug from all the usual distractions.
The Orcas Suites at Rosario is perfect for families who want some creature comforts, such as cable, jet tubs and hairdryers. The property overlooks Cascade Bay and all rooms have a view of the water. There are several types of rooms available from studios to two-bedroom suites, with kitchens. Children under 16 stay free.
West Beach Resort is great if you like a more rustic experience. The resort offers an RV park, campgrounds, tent cabins and several styles of cottages that can accommodate couples or large families/groups. What’s great for families is that you don’t have to leave the resort if you don’t want to. West Beach offers numerous family-friendly activities from beachcombing to fishing off the pier. During the summer, there are daily kids’ activities, including face painting, scavenger hunts and movie night. This is popular destination, so book ahead.
Pebble Cove Farm, which overlooks Massacre Bay, welcomes families. You can dig for clams on the beach or kayak. You also can help yourself to the organic eggs from the chickens and pick berries. There are pet goats that the kids can pet. Likewise, Olga Farmhouse is another charming option to consider. It is surrounded by meadows and woods, and even has a stream that runs past the property. The house is fully equipped and even has a large flat-screen television. When in season, you can pick pears, apples and blackberries with your children.
It goes without saying that watching wildlife is a must on Orcas. While you’re out and about, don’t forget to look up: San Juan County apparently has more nesting pairs of bald eagles than any other county in the country. So you just may see some bald eagles during your visit to the island. Whale watching also is a major pastime on Orcas. You can go on a whale-watching tour through Deer Harbor Charters. Deer Harbor Charters is an eco tour company and uses biodiesel for fuel.
Visit Moran State Park, which offers plenty of trails and five freshwater lakes. You can go to the top of Mt. Constitution, which is the highest point of any of the San Juan Islands. There is a stone observation tower from which you get a 360-degree view of the surrounding islands. It’s especially stunning at sunset. You can camp at Moran State Park, too.
Hang out in Eastsound, which is the largest village on Orcas. There are plenty of shops, including Cherry Ts children’s consignment shop and Leapin’ Lizards toy and clothing store.
Roses Bakery & Café is a must for wonderful breads and baked goods, and simple lunches made from seasonal ingredients. There is a great selection of specialty food items and wines. Owners John and Joni Trumbull are the consummate hosts.
Allium Restaurant is owned by Lisa Nakamura, who had been one of the cooks at The Herbfarm in Woodinville until she opened her own place on Orcas. Allium serves lunch and dinner and features Northwest cuisine. There is deck seating with a view of the water. You can also pick up gourmet sandwiches “to go” for outings around the island. Call first for their hours as they’re not open every day.
Stop by Kathryn Taylor Chocolates for a treat. The café serves desserts, baked goods, coffee and drinking chocolates that the kids are sure to like. The owners named the shop after their daughter, who’s 6 years old and helps to create chocolate flavors.
– Hsiao-Ching Chou
PS: Don’t miss our San Juan Island Travel Guide too!