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A Weekend On Orcas Island

We had three days free so Kirk and I decided to head up to the San Juan Islands here in Washington State. The weather was quite promising  so even better. Did I mention we were kid free? Even more fun!

To get to the San Juan’s you head to the ferry dock in Anacortes, on Fidalgo Island which sits up North. Even in fall on a Friday one best show up early if they want to get out there in due time……

Our goal we decided on (last minute trips with less than 24 hours planning are the best!) was to be Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands.


The ferry ride was nice, the wind was up but never choppy. Definitely cold though. The view of Mt. Baker and the Black Buttes as we left Fidalgo was quite nice…


Me on the ferry, with Baker in the distance:


The clouds did start flittering in slowly as the sun dipped lower:


Off of Lopez Island:


I love fall in the Islands – I lived on an Island for well over a decade. Once you do live on one of these wind swept rocks you can never quite shake it out of yourself. It always feels like home as you pass them.


Pulling into Shaw. Not too many years ago the small ferry dock was run by a convent of nuns. It is something one does miss!


We arrived at Orcas and drove across the Island to the top, to the village of Eastsound. We had chosen to stay at The Kangaroo Inn, a B&B in a 1907 Craftsman home. B&B’s are not for everyone but I found it to be very nice. For one, the 9 and older kid policy meant peace and quiet (hehheh!), it was just out of town and is on a path that runs from Eastsound to North Beach. Leave the car behind and walk! The house itself is cozy warm with an inviting fireplace that Charles, the inn keeper lights if desired. Lots of comfy couches to sit on while sipping hot cocoa. I found our house mates to be all quite interesting and we had lively conversation both nights.


We went out to dinner in Eastsound on Friday night and tried out Lulu’s Pasta Rustica which while it had good food also was the home of “Island Time” when it came to getting the meals out. No loss though, Kirk and I spent the 1 1/2 hours chatting and planning more home remodels ;-P The restaurant did knock nearly half of our bill off, which was a pleasant surprise, I am guessing to make up for us waiting so long to be served.

In the morning we drove to Moran State Park which is on the right side of the Island. The main road goes through the park. We chose though to go to Mt. Constitution, which is the highest point in the San Juan Islands, at well above 2,400 feet (just remember that when the mother of all tsunamis comes….)

Looking out into the burning off haze at the summit, visible is Cascade Lake as well:


The marker for the summit:


Looking across at Vancouver, BC and the Coastal Range:


Mt. Baker and the city of Bellingham below us (with Lummi Island as well) You may or may not be able to see Twin Lakes, which sit in the trees below:


The tower was built by the CCC during the depression and I have to say is pretty cool to walk to the top. It is open all the way to the top and has a lookout area at the top that is windowed in (with a very heavy door). You can get about a 320° view from up there, with a set of trees blocking a full view of Victoria, BC.


From a bald on the mountain, looking towards the Olympic Mountains far across the water. Lying out there is islands like Fidalgo, Guemes and other closer in ones to the mainland. On very clear days Mt. Rainier is also visible.


Below is the inlet that runs up the middle of the island. The sides of the balds are covered in wild roses, something you see often on the islands that are in the rain shadow effect. Ebey’s Landing/Reserve on Whidbey Island is covered in them.


We drove down to Mountain Lake, which has a 4 mile trail around it (and also connects to Twin Lakes, then onto the summit). The park has around 38 miles of trails to enjoy! The tiny Summit Lake is that blend of lake and meadow and you pass it either hiking or driving to the top.

Mountain Lake is an oddity really – it is huge and feels more like you should be at 4,500 feet in the Cascades than on an island on the edge of the Pacific Ocean!


We went walking on the trail, around the lake. There is an island in the lake:


The trees and undergrowth I found fascinating. Lots of Cedars and tiny mosses growing on the ground.


We rambled around the park for much of the day, planning further trips. Good off season hiking, except for at the highest levels. It is on average 7° colder on Constitution than elsewhere in the area and does snow (something that doesn’t happen often in the San Juans!).

The main road follows Cascade Lake, another large and open lake (see the map above for just how big they are).

We drove out to Doe Bay, which is on the main road after leaving the park. Kirk and I agreed that this was our best meal the whole trip, at the tiny cafe they run above a small cove. I had biscuits and gravy with pan roasted potatoes. The gravy was veg friendly full of mushrooms. It was quite good! Kirk had a small pizza topped with smoked salmon and pine nuts….And price wise they were quite pocket friendly. Good food, fast service. I would come back to this tiny pocket. The beach at this “resort” full of eclectic cottages was something I could get down with. The tiny store the resort runs sells all organic foods as well. (The cafe is organic friendly)

We did more strolling and driving on our way back to Eastsound, checking out more places.

When we got back we walked into town on the path. Something to be said for an island with no stop lights!

The view from Main Street in town, of the head of East Sound:


We went out for Thai food at Two Sisters, which is going to close in December after a number of years. Low key and quick they did a good job (not fancy royal style, rather more like street food meaning large portions! It was a good thing Kirk and I split a meal!)

Spent the evening around a fire place sipping cocoa and cider. I didn’t say this was a “hard” trip by any means!

We got up early in the morning and decided to skip the 9 am breakfast so that we could do more before leaving. Charles tucked us in some cold drinks, yogurt and scones for us and we took off. We went down to the beach and enjoyed the blue skies (though very cold temps).

On the way out of Eastsound we stopped in at Sunflower Cafe for lattes and ended up trying one of their breakfast sandwiches to split. That was very good!

We took the back way to the ferry dock, checking out the other side of the island including Kingfish Inn and Turtleback Preserve. The preserve is another area of hiking galore! This side of the island is very pastoral, with a lot of working farms.

At the ferry dock a large Madrona Tree in front of Orcas Hotel:


Pulling away from Orcas:


One of the smaller ferries left, the MV Evergreen State. It was doing inter-island runs which for walk ons are free. Most of the ferries are quite old, the ES was built in 1954…..I grew up riding these ferries, the little ones. Never have been a fan of the bigger ones, with upper side car decks. So seeing the Evergreen’s name on the side of the boat made me smile, she is used as a backup now, staving off being retired. We were on the Yakima, a bigger boat (In the jumbo class, but there are two sizes bigger!).


The skies were clear and Baker was so visible:



3 thoughts on “A Weekend On Orcas Island

  1. Lovely trip! Looks like you had perfect weather, too. We’ve been to the Islands in the fall, and it was wonderful. It’s been many years since I’ve been to Orcas, though. Hmmm, I sense a plan forming in my head. I hope you are nice and relaxed after your kid-free weekend.

  2. Great post ! Glad you loved it there on the Orcas. I was there about 5 years ago, it’s a great romantic getaway! Though, can’t stay there for too long, get bored. Biking is great there, can’t say the same about kayaking.

  3. I see Mt. Baker and those other peaks (that I now know the name for – Black Buttes) every clear day as I drive along Zero Ave in Canada. I wish I could’ve made it to Mt. Baker on Sunday as it was a beautiful clear day. Would’ve been cold though…

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