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If you haven't visited the San Juan Islands before, you're in for a treat. We thought we'd just tell you about a few of the activities available if you're able to stay for a bit.
The Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce website has excellent information about all kinds of activities from golf to shopping to gallery hopping to flight seeing. We've listed a few of our favorite island activities below.
People are often disappointed by the lack of public beaches on Orcas Island. Washington State, to its eternal damnation, decided to sell off the tidelands (i.e. beaches) to raise money many years ago...too late the state realized what a bad idea that was for public access. We can take some solace in the fact that the waters of the San Juans are too cold for all but the seals anyway...maxxing out in the 50s!!! (BRRRRRR!) even in the summer. BUT if you want a day relaxing on a lovely gravel driftwood strewn beach you're in luck because...we have our own. YAY!
If you want to spend a day at our beach property relaxing and tide pooling just ask us for directions.
Shearwater Kayaks is a company run by friends of ours who have 3 hour guided trips 2 or 3 times each day from several locations on the island. They use very stable double kayaks and include an "all you need to know" brief instruction before each trip. Ask about kids since I think they have an age cutoff. You're likely to see seals, bald eagles, perhaps river otters (unfortunately no sea otters in the San Juans) or porpoises, and lots of other creatures..and if you're exceedingly lucky a pod of orcas may come by. A great way to really experience the beauty of our islands.
Body Boat Blade is a kayak instruction company run by some of the friends who introduced us. Big YAY!! Great folks! If you're going to be here for a few days and are interested in learning to kayak in single boats, you should look into one of their classes. We couldn't recommend them more highly! For a small challenging change of pace, 2 of the owner/instructors Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme, spent a summer paddling around Iceland...yes the whole thing! Yes they're amazing folks, and best of all they can make even a rank beginner feel as if they're born to kayak.
ORCAS OUTDOORS - leads kayak tours from the dock beside the Orcas ferry landing.
All the whale watching and nature trips have very knowledgeable naturalists on board. They won't absolutely guarantee you'll see the orcas, but the chances are usually excellent that you will. We have mixed feelings about the swarms of boats encircling the orcas all summer...it's hard to think the boats don't have a negative impact on the animals. That being said, one of Diane's most amazing experiences in nature was being on a 40 ft. sailboat and having a pod of orcas overtake it then begin breaching. Awesome creatures!
If seeing the orcas makes you more of an environmentalist/conservationist and impresses upon you the value of protecting these creatures and the places where they live, then the downsides of disturbing them for a bit may be worth it...Okay off my soapbox.
Deer Harbor Charters runs usually twice daily whale watching trips out of Deer Harbor on Orcas.
Eclipse Charters also runs twice daily trips out of the dock by the Orcas ferry landing
BICYCLING - Beware not for the faint of heart or leg...Orcas has very hilly, narrow roads but all beautifully scenic.
Cycles in downtown Eastsound rents mountain and road bikes and is owned
by 2 great couples who are all very knowledgeable about biking on Orcas.
In addition to their rental bikes they have maps of bike routes on the
island and, for mountain bikers, in Moran State Park. Their website
also has lots of helpful information about biking on Orcas.
DOLPHIN BAY CYCLES (360-376-4157) located by the ferry landing rents road, hybrid and mountain bikes.
DEER HARBOR MARINA BICYCLE RENTALS - (360.376-3037) Rents mountain bikes by the hour and day from the marina in Deer Harbor.
Orcas has lots of great hiking . We're very fortunate to have 6000 acre Moran State Park replete with old growth trees, 5 lakes for swimming and non-power boating, miles of lovely hiking trails and Mt. Constitution at 2407 ft., the tallest peak in the San Juan archipelago with see-forever views. The view from the just-renovated CCC era tower just above the parking lot on the top of the mountain is not to be missed. One of our favorite places.
Other favorite hikes are:
1)Obstruction Pass State Park - a short hike to a lovely beach. Great to do with kids.
2)To the top of Mt. Entrance (ask us for directions)
3)To Killebrew Lake State Park through trails on our own and our neighbors' property.
BOATING AND SAILING
North Shore charters - runs charter power boat tours around the islands
Orcas Boat Rentals - rents power and sail boats by the half and full day out of Deer Harbor on Orcas.
SCUBA DIVING -
The waters of the San Juans hold amazing life under the waves - colorful starfish and anemones, rockfish, wolf eels, and giant Pacific octopus...BUT the water is cold(40s-50s) year round and visibility is not as good in the summertime.
AND FOR LAZIER DAYS.......
ART AND POTTERY GALLERY HOPPING
The Orcas Island Artworks is a wonderful artists cooperative featuring island artists of all stripes who work in glass, wood, prints, photography, and textiles. The building is an old strawberry barn and includes a little cafe with delicious food, The Olga Cafe, in the back. Check out the prints and cards with an island theme by our multi-talented friend, Shawna Franklin, who is also one of the owners/instructors at Body Boat Blade kayaking. The Artworks is located just a few miles from Eastsound on the "other side" of Moran State Park.
is an island institution started in 1959 which has a wonderful eclectic collection of outdoor sculpture, glass, pottery and other artwork. On the main road between the ferry landing and Eastsound just on the ferry side of the golf course.
Orcas Pottery is another wonderful island institution in a spectacular setting on a gladed bluff overlooking the water on the west side of the island. The pottery is displayed around the grounds outdoors and inside two quaint log cottages. Worth a visit just for the ambience. We personally love their pottery and have never left there without buying something. Their website has excellent maps since they're a little off the old beaten trail. Definitely worth a visit!
HOWE ART GALLERY - Is a wonderful gallery of larger than life moving metal sculptures. You can't miss the 3 or 4 pieces dancing in the wind hanging from trees just before you drive in to Eastsound from the ferry. Fascinating and worth a visit even if you're not in the market for "big art."
THE LAMBIEL MUSEUM - A unique private museum set in a lovely house built for the art which overlooks the waters of Eastsound. The museum is the dream come to life of a very interesting islander, Leo Lambiel. His unusual collection features artists of the San Juan Islands of all varieties but also includes beautiful oriental rugs and hard to categorize sculpture. It's hard to describe but definitely worth a visit if you have the time. The museum is somewhat unusual in that visits are private tours guided by Leo himself by appointment only. The $20 admission fee and 2 hour time allotment may seem excessive, but it's well worth every penny.
THE ORCAS ISLAND HISTORICAL MUSEUM - A surprisingly interesting and informative collection housed in the log cabins by the totem pole in downtown Eastsound that tells the history of Orcas Island from the Lummi people who used it for summer food gathering to the white pioneers to whom the arable inland land was the most valuable. Interesting stuff and worth a stroll through as you meander around our charming little Eastsound.
DAY SPAS AND MASSAGE
SALON MIROIR TOI - (360-376-7667) Located in downtown Eastsound offers massage, manicures, and pedicures.
Avanyu Spa at Rosario Resort has a full range of spa options from facials to massage.
THE HEALING ARTS CENTER (360-376-4002) - Also located in downtown Eastsound has a number of excellent massage therapists.
This site was last updated 01/07/06