The Ultimate Orcas Island Getaway

Orcas Island View by Eduardo Hueck
48(ish) hours sampling the best things to do on the biggest island in the San Juans.

This quaint destination, tucked within Washington’s gourmet archipelago, is loaded with enough baked treats, fresh seafood, and epic views to keep everybody happy. Residents of Orcas Island unite around the core conviction that they live in a beautiful and relatively untouched place. Here, artists thrive, hikes abound, and sea-to-table cuisine reigns supreme.

The island’s impressive tide-to-table culinary scene focuses on local, seasonal ingredients. It’s a fact that helped it earn a distinguished place among the New York Times’ Top 52 Places to Go in 2019 list. 

48(ish) Hours on Orcas Island

Some call its shape a horseshoe and others a flower blossom, but regardless, Orcas Island’s 56.92 square miles footprint is the largest in the San Juans. Home to the tallest peak, the wide valleys of this fertile land are accented by rolling hills and rocky coastlines.

Friday on Orcas Island

6:30 p.m. Dinner at Rosario Resort’s Mansion Restaurant

Seafood dishes at the Mansion Restaurant
Craft cocktails, indulgent seafood dishes, and epic views make Rosario resort’s Mansion Restaurant a favorite.

This iconic vacation destination is nestled at the edge of a forested peninsula beside Orcas Island’s Cascade Bay. The resort’s main building, the Moran Mansion, was built between 1906 and 1909. Featuring 69 rooms and a 1,972 pipe organ, it’s worth taking a self-guided tour of the mansion’s museum. It preserves the resort’s rich history, including tidbits about its builder, Robert Moran. Inside the Mansion Restaurant, the menu highlights locally sourced ingredients like pan roasted king salmon with bacon-onion relish and a seafood-loaded pasta, including Dungeness crab and bay scallops. 

8:30 p.m. Drinks at Barnacle

Barnacle
This small, tucked-away bar has a swanky ‘in the know’ vibe, where visitors and locals frequently rub elbows and raise a toast.

On the late-night side of things, there’s no better destination than The Barnacle, where craft cocktails are made with house-infused bitters and liquors. The intimate space seats a few dozen patrons at best. But what it lacks in seating, it makes up for in flavor and flair. The ambiance here is like a swanky speakeasy, where tourists and locals rub elbows over garden tonic cocktails. 

Saturday on Orcas Island

8 a.m. Breakfast at Brown Bear Baking

Brown Bear Baking
From savory to sweet, it’s hard to go wrong at Brown Bear Baking.

Taking an age-old advertisement approach, Brown Bear Baking frequently perfumes the southern edge of Eastsound with its buttery kouign-amanns and gooey sticky buns. But the proof is in the treat, and these treats have been delivering since the local shop opened in 2013. Lines are frequently longer than you’d expect on an island and the daily selection is known to quickly dwindle, but as long as there’s something left in the case, it’s hard to go wrong. From the orange-scented morning buns and peach croissants to caramelized banana bread and salmon quiche, you’ll want to come hungry.

9 a.m. Hiking at Moran State Park

Cascade Falls is a stunning 40-foot waterfall located in Moran State Park.

Hiking options abound on the island’s verified terrain, ranging from gentle strolls to serious climbs. Moran State Park offers one of the biggest collections of trails. Cascade Falls is arguably the most prized hike, offering stunning rewards with minimal effort. This ‘trek’ can be completed in as little as a half-mile, though the 3-mile trip starting at Cascade Lake affords a wider breadth of perspectives. 

Venturing deeper into Moran State Park, you’ll discover more strenuous hikes, the Mount Constitution and Mountain Lake hike that spans 6.7 miles with 1,500 feet of elevation gain. At its peak, the hike leads to the top of Mount Constitution. Resting at 2,409 feet, it’s the tallest peak in the San Juans and offers glorious panoramic views. Want to soak in the Cascades, Mount Rainier, and Mount Baker without breaking a sweat? There’s a paved road all the way to the summit, allowing you to easily reach it by car. 

11 a.m. Oysters at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm Bistro

Buck Bay Shellfish Farm
This working shellfish farm welcomes visitors to enjoy the freshest of fresh seafood.

Since the early 1940s, Buck Bay Shellfish Farm has been ‘the’ spot on Orcas for fresh seafood. The three-generation oyster farm operates from a shack on its 20-plus acre upland property. It’s nestled beside 26 acres of tidal land, from which the shellfish farmers gather their harvest. In the early days, visitors were invited to shuck their own at picnic tables nearby. It’s a pastime you can still enjoy, but in 2020 the enclave upped its game with the addition of a bistro. 

Offering a seafood-driven menu, diners can expect classics like raw oysters and fish ‘n chips. Elegant steamed clams are served in a silky white wine and butter sauce. Grilled salmon tacos come topped with a bright chipotle crema. And the indulgent crab mac is topped with crispy breadcrumbs and toasted to bubbly perfection. 

2 p.m. Beachcombing at Obstruction Pass State Park

Obstruction Pass State Park spans 80 acres on the southern tip of the island’s eastern horseshoe. Unlike its larger and more popular neighbor, Moran State Park, this quaint slice of seaside heaven is a bit quieter (aka less crowded). It features the longest stretch of public beach on Orcas and is also one of the most unusual in the San Juans, as the water’s edge is lined by ocean-smoothed, marble-sized pebbles in a rainbow of colors. 

6 p.m. Dinner at Matia

Tuna Crudo at Matia
The dishes at Matia don’t just wow you with flavor, they are works of art. Each night after service, Chef Adams looks over what he can gather from local farmers and fishermen. He then crafts the following day’s menu from the ingredients which look best.
Dinner at Matia
While the menu changes daily, the use of bright, seasonal ingredients remains a staple.

Get your reservation early. Matia has taken center stage on the Orcas Island food scene, thanks to a shoutout from New York Times food columnist J. Kenji López-Alt in June of 2021. “This is the best, most exciting restaurant I’ve been to in at least a decade of longer. I can’t remember being so blown away by the food and wine program… Local food and casual dining at its finest,” posted Kenji on his Instagram account. 

Named after a small island off the coast of Orcas, Matia is known for its use of locally sourced goods. The menu changes daily. Unlike most restaurants that order ingredients based on pre-determined dishes, Chef Avery Adams shapes the menu around what ingredients look best. So while the tuna Crudo with fresh strawberries, nasturtium (an edible flower), and house made buttermilk was a hit — don’t expect to find it on your visit. There will be something equally as intriguing and new that night. 

Sunday on Orcas Island

9:00 a.m. Brunch at Outlook Inn’s New Leaf Cafe

New Leaf Cafe Brunch by Ilias Schneider
Brunch at the New Leaf Cafe by Ilias Schneider

Located at the edge of Eastsound, Orcas Island’s downtown hub, Outlook Inn’s New Leaf Cafe has seen a resurgence to its menu, thanks to the addition of Chef Andrew Martin and his wife, executive pastry chef Amy Nack. Passionate about creating simple food that’s thoughtfully composed, the restaurant offers brunch and dinner Thursday through Monday. 

However, simple may not be the word that comes to mind when you sample the confit pork shank with house mole. Served with fried eggs and pickled onion, this hearty brunch staple is loaded with complex flavors. Equally delightful is the oyster mushroom omelet loaded with Lux Farm goat cheese and fried eggs with wilted greens that comes with house made sambal (chili sauce). 

11 a.m. Discover Locally Made Wares at Orcas Island Pottery

Decorative pieces at Orcas Island Pottery
Bright decorative pieces at Orcas Island Pottery.
The Original Cabin at Orcas Island Pottery
The original cabin at Orcas Island Pottery
Cups at Orcas Island Pottery
Cups at Orcas Island Pottery.

Located on the west side of the island, Orcas Island Pottery opened in 1954. It was originally housed in a log cabin, which still sits on the site today. While it has outgrown its rustic beginnings, the cabin stands as a testament to the studio’s beautiful history. Visitors are welcome to go inside the cabin, where you’ll find a selection of hand-crafted wares on display. 

But that’s not the only display room. The studio spreads throughout the small compound — including its backyard lawn, where you’ll be treated to peekaboo views of the water. Artists can frequently be seen onsite, working in the showroom as sales assistants in between throwing pots, plats, and decorative pieces. 

12 p.m. Wine Tasting at Orcas Island Winery

The first and only winery on Orcas Island, this boutique family vineyard and winery was established in 2011. It sits nestled at the base of Turtleback Mountain, making it an ideal pit stop for those who want to stretch their legs. (Turtleback Mountain Preserve stretches 1,578 screws, including 8.7 miles of hiking trails and 956 feet of protected shoreline.)

Orcas Island Winery is situated on 16 pristine acres. It offers a cozy tasting room, a stunning patio, and a plethora of spots perfect for a picnic. Wines are made from grapes grown in Washington state, some of which are grown on the estate itself. They range from reds and whites to natural sparkling wines and rosés. 

2 p.m. Explore Eastsound 

While many of the island’s artists enjoy working in solitude, some of these talented souls have also set up shop in Eastsound. Among them is Atelier. A lifestyle boutique, it features a large selection of Orcas-inspired graphic teas designed by owner Nicole Kraayeveld. Directly across the street, Material Wit showcases a collection of island-inspired minimalist jewelry. Designed and made on-island by Jessie Morrow, the shop also sells a carefully curated selection of home goods. 

In need of some self-care? Since 1996, Island Thyme has created botanically-based skin and body care products in small batches from the farm and apothecary studio in Olga. Their Eastsound shop opened in 2019, allowing you to peruse their offerings firsthand. 

4:30 p.m. Early Dinner at Roots Orcas Island

Raised on Orcas Island, long-time friends Cole Sisson and Shea Sasan created a sophisticated hometown watering hole when they opened Roots in the summer of 2021. The café’s seed money was crowdfunded on Kickstarter and the community response has been nothing but positive. 

Not only are Cole and Shea natives, they bring with them a vast array of expertise. Cole is a former sommelier at renowned resorts and restaurants like The Bellagio in Las Vegas and RN74 in Seattle. Shea built his career in luxury hospitality and real estate, founding Compass Real Estate in Newport Beach. 

Together they’ve created a space that evokes the comforts of home with a sense of intrigue. In addition to their thoughtful selection of wine, sake, beer, and cider, their evening bites encourage sharing (grilled oysters with lemon-garlic butter) or not (grain bowls with seasonal roasted vegetables and house-made green goddess dressing). 

Things to do on Orcas Island FAQ

How to Get to Orcas Island from Seattle

The only way to reach Orcas Island is by boat or plane. You can catch the Anacortes to Orcas Island ferry. The drive to the Anacortes ferry terminal is roughly two hours from Seattle, and requires you to wait for room aboard a ferry. 

Alternatively, you could take a scenic flight with Kenmore Air. We offer regularly scheduled seaplane flights to Orcas from our Lake Union and Kenmore terminals. Alternatively, you could take a wheeled flight, departing from either our Boeing Field or Paine Field terminals. 

This itinerary is based on our new regularly scheduled flights from Paine Field, which fly you directly to Eastsound Airport in as little as 25-minutes. It is based on a 5:30 p.m. Paine Field departure on Friday and a 6:15 p.m. return on Sunday. 

What’s the Weather Like on Orcas Island?

Because Orcas is located within the Olympic Rainshadow, it enjoys a fabulous mix of sunshine and moderate temperatures. Benefiting from an average of 247 days with sunshine, you’re typically primed to enjoy at last some Vitamin D while visiting — especially during the summer months. 

Orcas Island Car Rental

Tenting a car on Orcas Island is as simple as a quick online booking, though we do recommend booking early as the availability can be limited. With Orcas Cars, you reserve your car, digitally sign your documents, and request the pickup location of your choice.