Trip Report – Orcas Island
Unlike my trip to Lopez Island last year, my venture to Orcas Island was a quick trip on a long weekend. I would say four days is probably one day too short to make it worth the time to go up to the San Juan Islands from the Bay Area, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
It takes one day of travel time to get there. First flight out from San Francisco to Seattle. A 2-hour drive to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Then a one-hour ferry to the islands.
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If you are staying several days and have rented a cabin or home like we did, I recommend stopping at a large grocery store in the Seattle area to do your food shopping as I find you have better choices and healthier options than on the islands. If you do that, count an extra hour on your journey.
You also need to account for the wait at the ferry terminal. You always need to be there between 1-2 hours ahead of time, as it is first-come, first-served, and only so many cars can fit on the ferry. But for the fourth of July weekend, you have to double that. So in the end with the flight, the drive, and the wait, it is an all-day affair. But one that takes place in such a lovely, green, lush environment that it is hard to get stressed out.
So, Mr. Misadventures and I did all of the above and at 5:00 PM (after starting our day at 5:00 AM) we landed on Orcas Island and proceeded to Laughing Moon Farms to find the cabin/house we had rented for the weekend.
We were somewhat leery after our slightly odd experience with the place we rented last year, but we needn't have worried.
All fears subsided once we arrived and saw Trout House, our little slice of heaven. Laughing Moon Farms is a sheep farm on fifteen acres. The very friendly owner, Ralph, and his wife built three cabins (really houses) on the property with gorgeous views of the water.
It is a beautiful wood cabin with a full kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and living areas. It was perfect and we had a wonderful stay. Having bought our own food we enjoyed all our meals (except for one) out on the terrace taking in the gorgeous scenery around us. That first night we arrived we had dinner outside and retired early.
Saturday we set out exploring. There are two parts to the island, east, and west. We were staying in the eastern part of the island near the island's biggest town, Eastsound. We stopped in to check out the town and look for an espresso.
The town is like any other on the islands – small, quaint. There are a few stores and restaurants, a couple of hotels and that's about it. We picked up an espresso which turned out to be awful and then continued our exploration. Our ultimate destination was Mt. Constitution.
But before that, I needed to stop at Rosario Resort which I visited twenty-four years earlier as part of an all-girls sailing trip that cruised throughout the San Juan Islands. We drove through and only stayed a moment as it was quite crowded.
Plus the best view of the resort is from the water, approaching by boat and I knew we weren't really going to be able to re-capture my memories from so long ago.
We continued on our route and into Moran State Park which surrounded one of the two peaks on the island, Mt. Constitution. Unfortunately, it was really overcast so when we reached mid-summit as well as the top there was not much to see.
We took a few photos and started back down. We wanted to make one more stop at Doe Bay, then we were going to head back for lunch with hopes that the sun would be out in the afternoon.
Doe Bay is actually a little resort, kind of a commune. There are a dozen little houses available for rent, some with kitchens and bathrooms and some without. They have a little store and restaurant on the property and the views are amazing.
The restaurant serves 100% organic and local with everything being sourced within the islands. My husband and I stopped for an amazing soy latte and enjoyed the ambiance before heading back for lunch.
While we were enjoying a lovely meal on the terrace the sun came out! So afterward we drove back to Mt. Constitution where we were rewarded with absolutely stunning views of the island and surrounding islands, including Vancouver. We stopped many times on the way up and on the way down to take pictures of trees, water, little lakes, everything. It was so green and vibrant, and most of all, peaceful.
The nights were deliciously quiet and Sunday we woke up and spent a leisurely morning enjoying our house. My parents were arriving on the 11:00 ferry to spend the day with us. We drove down and walked around the little ferry area and took in the morning sun.
When my parents arrived we showed them the Trout House and went into Eastsound for lunch. We stopped at a pub for burgers (salmon and beef) and fish ‘n chips with beer. Afterward, we decided to check out the western part of the island.
This part of the island has a different feel from the eastern side. There are more farms, more homes and more areas less accessible by car. We thought we could drive up to Mt. Turtleback, but we could only get so far by car and would have to hike the rest. Since this trip was quick, we had not planned on hiking so unfortunately there was not much for us to do on this part of the island.
We know the next time we come we will definitely be checking out several trails on both the eastern and western sides of the islands. There are many lakes and mountain areas that we want to explore.
We decided to take my parents up Mt. Constitution so they could see the view we had seen the day before. But it was overcast and the cloud cover was very low, there was nothing to see. I showed them my photos from Saturday, but it's not the same thing! Having struck out twice we decided to go back to our cabin to visit until it was time to drop them back off at the ferry.
Monday morning we got up at 5:00 AM (again!) to be at the ferry terminal for the first ferry out at 7:30 AM. The ferry ride back was peaceful as well as the ride back towards Seattle. We stopped for lunch and had a wonderful lamb stew. It was quite a large serving and I found myself in a food coma as we headed back to the airport.
After an uneventful flight, we arrived home at 7:00 PM that night tired but pleased that we had passed such a lovely and peaceful weekend in a truly magnificent location. I am already thinking about my next trip back!
I fell in love with the San Juan Islands as a teen. I sailed around and through 2 years in a row with a group of girls as part of a sailing club and feel like it is one of the best ways to experience the islands! All the islands are beautiful and worth exploring. Check out this San Juan Islands travel guide that includes a sailing itinerary, I highly recommend visiting them by boat!
If you get to San Juan island, check out the Pelindaba Lavender Field and Farm which is one of the 5 most beautiful lavender farms in the US!
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Wow, what a beautiful weekend getaway!!! Despite the amount of time it takes to get there and return, I have no doubt it was worth it.
Did you make ferry reservations? With or without, delays happen as with any mode of travel.
Not sure when you traveled to Orcas but they have a reservation system now. Also, save that hour by shopping at the Island Market and the Orcas Homegrown Market in Eastsound, they have everything you’ll need for a fantastic stay! Get your coffee at Darvill’s next time and don’t forget to stop by Island Hoppin’ brewery!
@Dave, it has been awhile, thank you so much for the updated info and the recommendations! I will update my post!
@Andi Fisher, Meaning? When did you visit?
@R. Ryder, it has been quite a few years, at the time we did not make reservations and showed up super early. I do have a friend that lives on the island who let me know you can do reservations now. I will be working on updating my post 😉
You really could save yourself so much travel time if you just made a reservation for the ferry instead of using the system on a first come first served basis. Download the WA DOT app to make reservations. Also, would love to know where this awful espresso was had?
@Mia, thanks for sharing and I will be incorporating the info into my post. At the time I visited the reservation system didn’t exist or it wasn’t well advertised!