Orcas Island is the largest island of the San Juan Island Chain in the Puget Sound waters between the United States and Canada.
With a land area of 57.3 square miles and a population of 4,453, Orcas Island is slightly larger, but less populous, than neighboring San Juan Island. Orcas is shaped like a pair of saddlebags, separated by fjord-like Eastsound, 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.
Other, smaller towns - or hamlets - on the island include Orcas (where the inter-island/mainland ferry lands), West Sound (technically part of Eastsound), Deer Harbor, Rosario (technically part of Eastsound), Olga and Doe Bay.
Orcas Island is accessible by air via Eastsound Airport or water landings by seaplane as well as by water via the Washington State Ferry system or private watercraft. During the summer season, there is an island shuttle that runs from the ferry landing to Eastsound and other points.
Arrive early or stay late in Anacortes, here are somethings to do in Anacortes
The Washington Ferry Terminal is on the south end of Orcas Island. There are a few hotels, gift shops and restaurants within walking distance that you can check out on arrival after the 90min ferry sailing from Anacortes or after stagging in the ferry departure lanes on your departure. Ferry wait times can range from 1 to 3 hours on busy weekend afternoons.
Deer Harbor located 25min west of Orcas on the southwest corner of Orcas Islands is main hub for water activities such as kayaking, fishing and whale watching excursions. The town wraps around a small cove and rise up on the hill. Unless you plan on booking an activity, arriving on a personal boat or staying in a resort the limited public parking and lack of shops or waterfront access won't hold your visit for more than 20min of looking at large private yachts parked in the marina.
At the center of the island, at the top of a beautiful fjord, Eastsound is a walker’s village. It definitely has that small town feel with its narrow roads, one way streets and limited street parking. There are art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores within walking distance of the shoreline. However with only 5 parking spots your best bet is to park in the Island Market's parking lot and go explore on foot.
Orcas Island is an ISLAND with locals on ISLAND TIME. Do your best to pack everything you need for your trip especially photo equipment. If you live in a metropolitan area you might need to understand that ISLAND TIME works a bit differently. Shops open late in the morning and close early. Some are closed Sunday and Monday others Tuesday Wednesday. And since getting inventory to an island 90min away on a ferry, the store items are limited.
If you have a special diet, taking meds make sure to bring extra along for your visit.
My favorite spots in Eastsound are the Emmanuel Episcopal Parish with its Labyrinth and the Off-Leash Dog Park.
Beach access on the west and north sides of Orcas Island are mostly located on Forestry Lands or owned by private people. There is limited beach access to north limited to just under 50 yards between two houses. If you use google maps or a gps unit to find roads and green areas you might find out that they are part of private resort clubs or private do not trespass roads.
If you need to stretch out your legs and arms from the travel getting to Orcas Island, park your car in Eastsound and spend an hour walking through town, then head east to Moran State Park for its lakes, trails and 2400ft high Mount Constitution scenic overlook.
Moran State Park
Moran State Park is a 5,252-acre camping park with five freshwater lakes and over 30 miles of hiking trails, scenic overlooks, waterfalls and wildlife spotting opportunities. Atop the 2,409-foot-high Mt. Constitution, the highest point on the San Juan Islands, there stands a stone observation tower built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936. The tower offers panoramic views of the surrounding islands, the Cascade Mountains and a variety of Canadian and American cities.
San Juan Artwork Gallery