Mountain Lake on Orcas Island. Credit: B Gallatin/Flickr CC
Orcas Island for families on a budget
The largest of the San Juan Islands, Orcas is about 60 square miles, but you can cover the main roads by car in just a few hours. That is, unless you pull over every time you see a sign that says “berries” or “pottery.”
This pastoral island is patchworked with swatches of farmland, pockets of forest and small island villages. Orcas Island falls short on public beach access, though this con is made up for by a very big pro: massive Moran State Park with its two freshwater lakes and very own mountain. Hike (or drive) to the top of Mount Constitution to get a view of the surrounding straits you have to see to believe.
What to do on Orcas Island
Ramble up a lush forested hill at Turtleback Mountain, or circle Mountain Lake at Moran State Park (a Discover Pass is required to park). Much of the island is made up of small family-run farms, and you’ll find many of them are open (with alpacas ready to pet) on weekends selling eggs, fruit and pottery (see the list of local farms).
The Orcas Island Farmers Market convenes all these farms together on summer Saturdays, May–Sept. The Funhouse Commons (30 Pea Patch Lane) is an activity center for kids and families; check the website for current programs.
Where to stay on Orcas Island
A long-time favorite is Doe Bay Resort on the island’s far eastern shore. No longer the hippie haven it once was, Doe Bay still has plenty of counter-culture vibe and organic charm (yes, those famous clothing-optional hot tubs). Accommodations include cabins with kitchenettes, off-the-grid yurts and campsites. The food served up by the onsite Doe Bay Café is tasty.
After the acquisition of a neighboring inn, Rosario Resort & Spa has more affordable accommodations than it used to, with harborside rooms and kitchen suites with spacious decks located right on the shores of Cascade Bay. Outlook Inn is in downtown Eastsound and offers a variety of choices for families, from suites with harbor views to European-style rooms with shared baths.
Nearby Moran State Park boasts the cheapest sleeps on Orcas: lakefront campsites just steps from a swimming beach and hiking trails.
Where to eat on Orcas Island
You'll find a small selection of restaurants in Eastsound with options to suit all families. We love the New Leaf Café in the Outlook Inn for a French-inspired breakfast and the perfect cup of coffee before a morning of browsing Darvill’s Bookstore and its wonderful collection of children’s books across the street.
Next stop: San Juan
Image credit: B Gallatin/Flickr CC