Orcas Island, Washington: The serene island escape you didn’t know you needed

Nestled in the Salish Sea, Orcas Island is a picturesque destination in Washington State that is known for its natural beauty, serene landscapes, and abundant wildlife. The island is the largest of the San Juan Islands and offers a wide range of outdoor activities, from hiking and kayaking to whale watching and beachcombing. In this  post, I’ll walk you through what makes Orcas Island a must  for nature lovers looking for a refreshing getaway.

Getting There

Orcas Island is accessible by ferry, private boat, or small plane. The Washington State Ferries depart from Anacortes and offers frequent trips to the island, with a travel time of about one hour. The ferry ride itself is an experience, offering stunning views of the surrounding waters and mountains. We went by ferry on our visit, but my bucket list travel vessel is getting there by sea plane. The planes can fit up to 6 passengers and takes off from South Lake Union in Seattle. You can fly Kenmore Air, San Juan Airlines, or Northwest Seaplanes.

Outdoor Activities

Orcas Island is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The island offers a endless activities, including hiking, biking, kayaking, and beachcombing. The Moran State Park, located at the center of the island, features more than 30 miles of trails, pristine lakes, and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The park is home to Mount Constitution, the highest peak in the San Juan Islands, which offers panoramic views of the islands, Canadian mountains, and the mainland.

The waters surrounding Orcas Island are also a playground for marine wildlife. Whale watching tours are a popular attraction, and visitors can witness the orca whales in their natural habitat! Kayaking is another popular activity, allowing visitors to explore the island’s rugged coastline and the numerous small islands dotting the surrounding waters. The island’s many beaches offer ample opportunities for beachcombing and tide pooling, where visitors can observe an array of marine life, including starfish, anemones, and crabs.

Arts and Culture

Orcas Island is not just about the great outdoors. The island is also home to a vibrant arts and culture scene, with a range of galleries, museums, and boutiques. Not to mention amazing farm to table dining!

Our Recommendations:


  1. Rosario Resort & Spa: This hotel is perfect for couple or  families, and it is worth it to stay here for the pool views alone but the activities across the resort are great. They have two restaurants, one formal and one casual indoor/outdoor on the water. They have sport courts to entertain the kids and a lovely spa for adults. Plus poolside bar service is open for most the day and the drinks are delicious, the bartender actually makes his own syrups from the lavender & herbs that grow on the resort grounds. I’m still not over this property, it was magical.
  2. Camp at Moran State Park: If camping is more your style then there are tons of options on Orcas Island. Moran State Park is a great one because it is right on the lake and there are communal areas setup around for fires, grilling, bathrooms, etc.
  3. Doe Bay Resort: We didn’t stay here but we walked around the property while we were waiting for our dinner reservation and the views are STUNNING! They have options for cabins, yurts, or camping.


The best thing about the restaurants on Orcas Island are most of the ingredients are sourced locally from farms on the island or neighboring islands. You can really taste the difference, all of our meals were incredible.
  1. Kingfish: The restaurant is known for its fresh and sustainably sourced seafood, with a menu that changes daily based on what’s available. This was one of our favorite dinners and I highly recommend this restaurant, however make sure to check the days they are open when planning your reservations, they are only open a few days a week.
  2. The Mansion Restaurant at Rosario Resort & Spa: The Mansion offers fine dining in a historic setting, with a menu that features Pacific Northwest cuisine and fresh seafood. The restaurant is located in the historic Moran Mansion at Rosario Resort, overlooking Cascade Bay.
  3. New Leaf Cafe: Located in the historic Outlook Inn, the New Leaf Cafe offers fine dining with an emphasis on local ingredients and seasonal flavors. The menu changes frequently, but some of the favorites include the grilled halibut, smoked salmon chowder, and the crispy Brussels sprouts. We came here for breakfast and it was lovely.
  4. Olga Rising: This is where you want to go for your morning coffee, trust me. They have breakfast that is amazing too It’s grab and go so you can eat it in their small yard area or take it to the park right across the street.
  5. Inn at Ship Bay
  6. Doe Bay Cafe: We didn’t have the best experience with service here, however the food is amazing.
  7. The Barnacle – fun spot for cocktails!
  8. Brown Bear Baking: The line out the door speaks for itself. If you want a sweet treat, check it out.


  1. Sunset boat cruise
  2. Hiking: Turtleback Mountain or Mount Constitution
  3. Whale watching: It’s common to see whale’s (Orcas, Humpbacks, Grey’s) in the San Juan’s June-September.  We did a half day whale watching boat ride and saw a couple of humpbacks. If you want a unique experience and the chance to get closer to the whale’s you can do a kayaking whale tour.
  4. Shuck your own oysters at Buck Bay Shellfish Farms
    1. We didn’t get a chance to do this but from my research you can harvest your own oysters at West Beach Resort and they provide all the equipment that you need!
  5. Kayak or Paddle Board at Moran State Park: This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. We rented a double Kayak at the lake and spent part of the day exploring coves, swimming, and soaking up the sun on the water.
  6. Shop at local boutiques/galleries in Eastsound
  7. Farmers Market (Village Green, Eastsound): Held every Saturday May-September 10am-3pm
  8. Wineries: Orcas Island Winery, Island Hoppin’ Winery, and Doe Bay Winery
  9. Lavender Farm


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