A day trip from Seattle, Washington, and Victoria or Vancouver, B.C., the San Juan Islands’ leisurely pace and adventurous activities offer the perfect travel destination in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Of the archipelago’s 172 islands, horseshoe-shaped Orcas Island has the most varied terrain. Hike and boat in the large state park, shop and visit museums in small villages or partake of ocean-going activities from whale watching and sea kayaking to beachcombing and fishing.
Orcas Village & Eastsound for Lodging, Whale Watching, Funhouse
Ferries arrive daily at picturesque Orcas Village from Anacortes, Washington (north of Seattle) and Sidney, B.C. (north of Victoria). Quaint streets are lined with art galleries, shops and seaside restaurants. The Orcas Hotel shows its Victorian charm in its cafe, bistro and surrounding English gardens. Eclipse Charters (of Free Willy II fame) offers family-friendly, naturalist-guided whale-watching tours near the ferry landing. Rent a moped or bicycle from Orcas Moped Rentals or kayaks and boats near the dock.
Eastsound, 9 miles from Orcas Village, is the center of island life for shopping, dining and lodging. Kids of all ages enjoy Eastsound’s Funhouse. Hands-on, interactive science, sports, geography, music and history exhibits as well as a climbing wall, pitching cage and art studio engage children and teens while parents surf the net or check their e-mail. The Orcas Island Historical Museum gives visitors a glimpse into island life of the past.
Moran State & Obstruction Parks’ Lakes, Trails, Beaches
Four miles east of Eastsound, Moran State Park’s 5,252 acres offer plenty of hiking trails, waterfalls and five lakes for boating and fishing. Mt. Constitution, at 2,049 feet, affords views of British Columbia and Mt. Rainier. At the summit stands a stone tower reminiscent of a castle’s watchtower.
Cascade Lake, near the entrance to Moran State Park, is a great place to picnic, swim and boat, with rentals available. Hike the easy trail from Cascade Lake’s picnic area through fir and cedar trees to view the island’s largest waterfall, Cascade Falls.
Obstruction Pass Park, 5 miles from Moran State Park, is an 80-acre forest with a half-mile trail to the beach. Multi-colored pebbles and driftwood strewn along the beach are found here, along with incredible views of the smaller San Juan Islands, passing boats and, occasionally, whale pods.
Rosario Resort’s Museum
On the ocean side of Moran State Park lays the Rosario Resort and Spa. The historic mansion was built in 1909 by Robert Moran, former mayor of Seattle and shipbuilder. The 35,000-square-foot, 54-room mansion took more than four years to construct and boasts solid Honduran mahogany doors.
Visitors can tour the turn-of-the-century mansion turned resort—with an indoor pool, bowling alley and mosaic floors on the lower level. The upper three floors feature a music room, with a European stained-glass window and huge 1913 Aeolian pipe organ. The resort’s museum tells its history, with original furnishings and nautical artifacts displayed. Tour the surrounding gardens and marina for sweeping views.
Oracs Island’s natural beauty of ocean, mountains and villages offer adventures for families in a relaxed Pacific Northwest atmosphere. Excursions of whale watching, sea kayaking, boating, hiking and biking make for an interesting day trip or extended vacation.