As the biggest island in the San Juan archipelago, Orcas Island has no shortage of activities to keep you occupied. This 57.3-square-mile oasis offers everything from outdoor recreation to shopping, spas, and delicious farm-to-table food. Best of all, Orcas Island is easily accessible via ferry from Anacortes– so if you haven’t explored the San Juans yet, why wait any longer?
Stuck on what to try next? Our suggestions might help round out your Orcas itinerary– and yes, we have one for practically every hour of the day.
The main attraction on Orcas Island is the great outdoors, so if you’re an early riser, try kicking off your day with a hike. Cascade Falls in Moran State Park is a quick and easy 1-mile loop, and– as its name would imply– you get up-close-and-personal views of a stunning waterfall. For something a little longer, try Ship Peak, a 2.7-mile loop located in Turtleback Mountain Preserve. It’s a popular trek, but getting there early guarantees less crowds.
Breakfast time! Head over to Eastsound, a charming town that boasts the largest population center on Orcas Island. Arrive right at 8 a.m. to beat the line at Brown Bear Baking, because you don’t want to go home without sampling at least one of their pastries– just trust us on that one. If you’d prefer a slightly heartier bite, head to Island Skillet for pancakes or an omelet.
Orcas Island is beautiful on land, but we’d argue that it’s even more magnificent when admired from the water. See for yourself by renting a kayak from Outer Island Excursions, or take a guided tour with Shearwater Kayak Tours. Not the kayaking sort? Why not charter a boat instead! Orcas Boat Rentals offers half-day and full-day rentals (along with crab pots, fishing poles, and/or paddleboards if you so choose).
Summer is prime farmers market season in the PNW, and Orcas Island is no exception. Head to the Orcas Island Farmers Market on the Village Green in Eastsound for island-grown bounty, handmade goods, and plenty of other offerings. While you’re there, make sure to pick up a preserve or shrub sampler from Girl Meets Dirt– they make perfect gifts for loved ones on the mainland.
Photo Courtesy of OrcaSong Farm
After the farmers market, why not take things a step further by paying a visit to an actual farm? OrcaSong Farm has everything from U-Pick lavender to a line of handmade CBD products, whereas Once in a Blue Moon Farm is the destination for animal lovers. Children (and grown-ups) can make friends with the farm’s resident pigs, alpacas, goats, and numerous flocks of feathered friends.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, Wild Island Restaurant + Juice Bar has a menu that’s both filling and nourishing. Their ingredients are fresh and organic, and many dishes are also vegan and/or gluten-free. In a hurry to explore more? Skip the restaurants, put together a picnic lunch at the Orcas Food Co-Op, and choose somewhere scenic to savor it.
For an adventurous afternoon, hike the 7.9-mile loop trail to the summit of Mount Constitution in Moran State Park. (You can also drive up– it’s the same view, just without the switchbacks.) While there, stop into the new Summit Visitor’s Center for unique gifts and a deeper look at the park’s history. The summit is also the perfect place to enjoy a snack or picnic lunch if you brought one.
Go on a whale watching tour to meet the orcas that inspired the island’s name. There’s no shortage of charters to choose from, including Deer Harbor Charters and Orcas Island Eclipse Charters. If you don’t quite have your sea legs, try exploring the land on horseback instead: Orcas Island Trail Ride will guide you into the island’s backcountry, through an old growth forest, and (depending on your timeline) all the way to the top of Mount Pickett.
Beat the afternoon heat with a dip in one (or more) of Orcas Island’s numerous lakes. Cascade Lake is the most popular pick in Moran State Park, featuring a designated swimming area, an ice cream stand, picnic tables, and boat rentals. As relaxing as that sounds, daredevils are also required to try the rope swing at nearby Mountain Lake at least once!
Head back to Eastsound for some late-afternoon shopping. Siren Boutique, Olga’s, and Faraways Boutique are all prime choices for clothing, whereas the leather kits at Orcas Island Leather Goods are a DIY lover’s dream. Eastsound is also home to a wide variety of art galleries, and Darvill’s Bookstore is a can’t-miss stop for bookworms.
Wind down from your day of adventure with a treatment from A Massage by the Sea. In addition to solo and couples massages, they offer specialty techniques such as acupuncture, sound therapy, and even Balinese foot baths. The Rosario Resort and Spa also offers a variety of relaxing spa treatments (plus an indoor therapeutic pool!) along with their luxury accommodations and dining.
Orcas Island might feel a world apart, but it’s still in the Pacific Northwest– so yes, of course it has a brewery. Stop by Island Hoppin’ Brewery for snacks, a freshly-poured pint (or glass of local wine from Doe Bay Wine Company), and a patio that’s perfect for basking in the early evening sunlight.
Visiting Doe Bay is worth it for the scenery alone, but dinner at Doe Bay Cafe makes the trek all the more tempting. Many of the restaurant’s ingredients are grown in an on-site garden, making their food “seed-to-table” in the truest sense of the term. If you’d prefer to stick closer to town, Hogstone in Eastsound also uses hyper-local ingredients for their wood-fired pizzas, seafood, and veggies. No matter which eatery you choose, make sure to also stop by Clever Cow Creamery for a post-dinner sugar fix.
Escape to the beach for an evening stroll and, as the hour draws to a close, pick a cozy spot for sunset-watching. North Beach has excellent views of the sunset as well as the surrounding islands, and you can even catch a glimpse of Mount Baker if the tide is low.
Once the sun has slipped below the horizon, grab a nightcap at The Barnacle in Eastsound. This quirky hidden gem is the place to go for craft cocktails on Orcas Island, and they also offer a well-curated food menu if you’re feeling peckish.
Summer is the season for bioluminescence, so if conditions are right, pay a visit to Crescent Beach. If you’ve never seen bioluminescence before, you’re in for a treat: Just glide your hand through the water and watch as the ripples are illuminated by otherworldly sparks. For an even closer look, bring a paddleboard or book an after-dark kayak tour.
After an action-packed day, you’re probably ready to crawl in bed for a good night’s sleep. Luckily Orcas Island has a wealth of options for lodging, from resorts (such as Doe Bay Resort and Retreat) to luxury inns (Water’s Edge Suites), B&BS (Blue Heron Bed and Breakfast), private rentals, working farms, and campsites. Whatever tomorrow brings, it’s important to be well-rested for your next adventure.
Tip: Summer is the uncontested high season when it comes to island tourism, but if you’d prefer your getaway sans crowds, spring and fall are also excellent times of year for a trip. For more information on how to make the most of your stay on Orcas Island, head to visitsanjuans.com.