Orcas Island has a lot to offer its visitors. Great food, a colorful farmers market, affordable rental homes, beaches, boats, and great scooter riding too. What made this place so memorable to me was its natural beauty and history.
Sitting among hundreds of islands made me think about the Pacific Northwest region and how it has evolved over millions of years. The South American people made this place their home before the English reign. It’s the largest island in the San Juan Islands and was not always known as Orcas, but was originally Horcasitas. It was shortened in the late 1840s to Orcas by Henry Kellett.
As I sat on a driftwood log and watched a beautiful wooden boat bob in the water, I felt as if I’d been whisked away to another time. I daydreamed about what it must have been like for the first travelers who navigated through this region in tall ships.
Orcas is shaped like a pair of saddlebags, separated by fjord-like East Sound, with Massacre Bay on the south side, and tiny Skull Island just off the coast. At the northern end of the island is the village of Eastsound, the largest population center on Orcas and the second largest in San Juan County. wp
One of the best things I did while on the island was to take a flight with Magic Air Tours
in an authentic 1929 TravelAir, one of only 40 biplanes of its kind left in the world. The open cockpit was a scream and I really enjoyed the views of the mountains, islands, and ocean surrounding us. Owner and pilot Rod Magner made this experience one of a kind as he shared his home with me by pointing out several points of interest complete with mini story.
Nothing could ever beat our flight with Rod, but amazing views of the region can also be seen from the highest point on the Island, Mount Constitution, located inside Moran State Park. This park is easy to get to and full of beauty and wildlife.
Mount Constitution (elevation 2409 feet – 734 meters) is the highest point in the San Juan islands. The mountain is part of Moran State Park, the largest public recreation area in the San Juan Islands. Moran State Park encompasses over 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) of woodland and has several lakes and numerous waterfalls. wp
The days we spent on this little island were filled with fun. The roads were great for riding scoots, but we had to watch for gravel on most. At the farmers market, I picked up fresh produce and a few locally made crafts to give as gifts for friends back home. But one place I wouldn’t want you to miss is Madrona Bar & Grill
on the water in Eastsound just down the street from the farmers market.
I still have dreams about their fresh and classic Caesar salad loaded with locally caught Dungeness crab! It was on the pricy side, but if you want to eat cheap seafood with a view of the sound, get the frozen store bought kind and stay home. The salad was so good I insisted on getting one on our way home so that I could have one last taste before leaving the island.
The ferry ride to and from this island is a great way to arrive and leave because you really get to see the landscapes as the boat cruises through the San Juan Islands all the way back to Seattle, WA.