Orcas Island Weekend Travel Guide

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How stunning is this view? Picture taken from Doe Bay on Orcas Island. 
When friends ask me what my favorite spot in Washington is outside of Seattle, without a beat, I always enthusiastically answer, “Orcas Island!”. If you’re unfamiliar, Orcas Island is the largest island in the San Juan Islands and is located in northwestern Washington. I liken it to a Northwest version of Hawaii. The island is covered with lush vegetation and evergreen trees, while surrounded by the deep blues of Puget Sound. It has that magical power that makes you feel worlds away, when actually it’s just a short weekend trip from Seattle.

H and I recently made our fifth trip to Orcas Island and it did not disappoint. It’s a special place for us – we’ve celebrated three anniversaries here, hosted both sets of our parents, and witnessed friends being engaged on the island. Since I’m constantly recommending it to friends, I thought I’d share our favorite spots on the island – hopefully it may just encourage you to make a trip. (No, I’m not sponsored by Orcas Island tourism but if you know how I can be, I’m all ears!)

Getting There

As the name implies, Orcas Island is an island so you can only get there by ferry, sea plane, or private boat. We take the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes, which is about an hour and a half drive north of Seattle. The ferry ride itself is one hour and fifteen minutes. Ferry reservations are a must – the spots are released in waves so be sure to make your reservation as soon as it’s available.

 

Island Geography

Orcas Island is shaped like a horseshoe. In the center is Eastsound, the largest village in the island where the majority of shops and restaurants are located. (One reader pointed out Eastsound looks like a Northwest version of Stars Hollow – I wholeheartedly agree!) On the left side of the horseshoe is Turtleback Mountain and Deer Harbor. To the right is Moran State Park and Doe Bay.

Where to Stay

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View from our room at the Rosario Resort and Spa. Spot the sea plane?
  • Rosario Resort and Spa: Just down the road from Eastsound, this sprawling resort offers pools, recreational areas, and a historic mansion.
  • Outlook Inn: If you want to stay closer to the action, this charming inn is located in the center of Eastsound and is walking distance to the main shops and restaurants.

Where to Eat

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I may or may not have eaten here three days in a row. Best bakery in town, hands down.
  • Brown Bear Baking: Excellent breakfast/lunch spot known for delicious pastries and strong coffee.
  • The Kitchen on Orcas Island: This Asian food spot offers great indoor/outdoor seating and reasonably priced meals.
  • Orcas Island Co-Op: Head towards the back of this grocery store where you’ll find the best made-to-order smoothies and sandwiches.
  • New Leaf Cafe: Nestled in the Outlook Inn, this is a great special occasion dinner spot.
  • Doe Bay Cafe: Located on the other side of the Mount Constitution in Olga, this cafe is well worth the drive for wholesome food and stunning views.
  • Island Hoppin’ Brewery: Awesome beers and atmosphere, just down the road from Eastsound’s main drag.
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Copper River salmon from the New Leaf Cafe.  Best salmon of my life!

Things to Do

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Orcas Island Pottery, the most magical little pottery spot you’ll ever find.
  • Orcas Island Pottery: Tucked in a forest, this magical pottery shop emerges through the trees to showcase their handcrafted pottery on picnic benches. The setting cannot be beat.
  • Hiking: This island is made for hiking. Most days, we hike in the morning and spend the rest of the day eating in Eastsound. It’s all about balance, right? Mt. Constitution is the highest point on the island. Turtleback Mountain is a slightly less crowded trail that offers views of both the island and surrounding water. Cascade Lake is a quaint lake where you can swim or paddleboat, as well as hike the outer perimeter.

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Wall of mugs at Orcas Island Pottery.
Of course, there are many more things to do and places to eat on the island but hopefully these highlights give you a starting point. Have you been to Orcas Island? Or have another special vacation spot you love going to time and time again? I’d love to hear!

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