PNWeirdos on Orcas Island

PNWeirdos on Orcas Island

Washington State has beautiful islands. One of our favorites, is Orcas Island. It is located in the northwest corner of Washington in the Salish Sea. The largest of the San Juan Islands, it has a special place in our hearts. 
Take an 80 mile drive NW of Seattle to Anacortes and a Ferry ride, suddenly you are in a PNW paradise. Visit any time a year. Not all the shops will be open but there will always be something to do. I try to avoid late June – Labor day as there are just too many people for my taste during those sunny summer months.

Outlook Inn in East Sound, is our go to hotel when not camping at Moran State Park.  We always stay as close to the water as possible. It is a great price, has views of the water, and the delicious New Leaf Café is right in the Inn.

Really want to treat yourself? Don’t mind dropping money to do it? Try Rosario Resort and Spa.  Just plan far ahead if you want a room in June-September. They fill up months in advance. Bonus to staying at the Rosaria Resort are the  two electric vehicle charging stations there. On Orcas Island there are four public charging stations for your EV. 

Certainly there are options with VRBO and Airbnb on the island.  When staying with a larger family or a group of friends renting a house would be a smarter chose financially, and there are many beautiful accommodations to choose from.

The views from Mt. Constitution on Orcas Is
View from Mt. Constitution 

What do you do once you are on Orcas island?

How about a hike?

You can either hike the 6.7 mile steep trail or drive to the top of Mount Constitution. Climb the tower for a spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding area including Mount Baker, the North Cascades, and the other islands of the San Juan.

In the 1030's the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed this tower. A stone tower replica of Russian watchtowers constructed during the 12th century.
Tower at Mt Constitution

Looking for an easy family friendly hike in Moran State Park? Check out Cascade Creek Trail, Cascade Falls Trail, Cascade Lake Loop and Mountain Lake loop.

For a bit more challenging of a trek try: Cold Springs Trail (2000 foot elevation gain), Little Summit trail, North Trail, Southeast Boundary Trail to top of Mount Pickett, Sunrise Rock, or West Boundary Trail.

So many hiking choices

Feeling too crowded at Moran State Park? Head over to the other side of the Island to Turtle Back Mountain. Take South Trail up to Ships Peak and enjoy all the amazing views along the way.  Pick up the book: Day Hiking the San Juan and Gulf Islands if you are interested in more hikes in the area. We love this series and have found many great hikes from picking up a book for the area we are exploring. 

Adventures on the water?

Whale Watching tours are money well spent when visiting the Island. There are other tours out of Seattle and Anacortes, but my favorite launch location is from Orcas Island. Outer Island Expeditions has never let me down. The Salish Sea is home to a resident Orcas population of only 75 (at time of this post). They are at risk of extinction due to their main food source disappearing, Chinook Salmon. We also have transient Orcas that feed on marine mammals, think cute little seals. When on a tour you are likely to spot one of these types of Orcas. Crews on these boats are well educated as to what pod and what specific whales you are following. 

Kayaking is a popular activity here and you have choices of where to rent them. Hourly rentals will run between $30-$60 depending on single, double, or triple kayak. Tip: get the kayak with the rudder. It is worth the extra money.

Kayaking on Mountain Lake, Orcas Is
Kayaking on Mountain Lake, Orcas Is

Hungry? Our favorite restaurants on Orcas Is.

Food glorious food. You won’t find a McDonald’s or a Subway here. You will find well thought out menus with fresh ingredients, and an artistic flare. Hogstone Wood Oven is a gem. Try something that you would never order and be prepared to be impressed. Make a reservation for Hogstone, as they are popular for good reason. Mia’s has wonderful breakfast and lunch with an ever changing menu, but if you are looking for something more flapjacks and sausage try The Island Skillet. Thirsty and looking for good some suds, check out the Island Hoppin Brewery.

Mia's Café Orcas Is

The thriving artistic community on the Island doesn’t stop with the chefs. Does the island attract creative people or create them herself? Either way, visit the ingenious artists at Orcas Island Art Works Gallery, Orcas Island Pottery, Howe Art Gallery, and Crow Valley Pottery to name a few. Support them by taking home an original piece of art.

Orcas Island historical museum

My favorite shop is Kathryn Taylor Chocolates.  I always buy a few pieces to treat myself while visiting the island, and if possible stop in again to get more delicacies to take home. They have unique flavors next to the good old standby’s. To date my favorite one is Douglas Fir. Yes, as in a fir tree.

There is so much to do and see here. Something for everyone. My favorite thing to do while visiting?  Sit out on the balcony facing the water with a book and a glass of wine. Letting the stress of daily life dissipate.

Balcony from Outlook Inn

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