Top Things to do on Orcas Island

Orcas Island has all of the ingredients for a perfect getaway in the Pacific Northwest. There are miles of hiking trails that traverse a rich topography and offer stunning views. You’ll find a plethora of fresh seafood, farm-to-table cuisine, and locally-crafted libations. 

looking at the view on Orcas Island

This isn’t the destination for a fast-paced dance club, though you will find several restaurants and bars host live music nights. But the things to do on Orcas Island abound. Artist studios. Golfing. Farmers markets. Clothing optional soaking tubs. The list goes on and on. These are some of our favorites. 

26 Things to Do On Orcas Island

1. Hike at Turtleback Mountain Preserve

Located on the west side of Orcas Island, Turtleback Mountain is one of the most popular hiking places. It spans 1,578 acres and features roughly nine miles of trails.

The two primo parking areas are located at the south and north trailheads, offering easy access to a sprawling network of pathways. While there’s something to be said for a view from the summit, the best lookout is arguably found along the Ship Peak Loop. A three-mile jaunt with roughly 850 feet of elevation gain, it offers a stunning outlook of the water and shoreline. 

2. Orcas Island Historical Museums

The Orcas Island Historical Museums are comprised of six historic lo cabins that date back to the late 19th century, along with the 1888 Crow Valley School Museum. Both the buildings and the artifacts they house are considered historical artifacts, preserving many of the stories and life of both the island’s Native Americans and the early European-American settlers.

Jessie Morrow

3. Discover Hand-Pounded Jewelry at Material Wit

Originally a farmer, minimalist jewelry artist Jessie Morrow began envisioning earrings and necklaces among the carrots and peas. Over the years, those visions turned into physical, wearable items that she now sells from her Orcas Island jewelry shop located in Eastsound. 

While her main studio is at home, Jessie also has a small workspace in her shop. Depending on the day, you may be able to watch as she creates new pieces. 

4. Visit the Summit of Mount Constitution

The Mount Constitution summit is a must-visit, especially on a clear day. Cresting at 2,410 feet above sea level, it is the highest peak in the San Juan Islands. For those looking to test their physical fitness, the 6.6-mile loop trail to the top features 1,500 feet in elevation gain and stunning views of the surrounding area. This is the most challenging hike on the island.

But those who aren’t ready to pound dirt are also in luck. Unlike many mountaintops that can only be accessed by foot, visitors can also bike and drive to the summit!  

5. Shop for Hand-Made Souvenirs at Orcas Island Pottery

Located on the west side of the island, visiting Orcas Island pottery is an event in and of itself. The small compound is comprised of several buildings — not the least of which is a large tree fort! From its backyard lawn, there are peekaboo views of the water, along with a plethora of outdoor pottery for sale. 

And inside, you’ll find not only a large selection of handcrafted pots, plates, and cups but often the artists themselves. The pottery studio is tucked within the showroom where artists can often be seen throwing pots and glazing finished pieces. 

6. Explore Obstruction Pass State Park

Located at the southern tip of Orcas’ eastside, Obstruction Pass State Park is a 76-acre shoreline park that offers exceptional views, hiking trails, and picnic spots. It’s generally accessed by passing through Moran State Park and offers unique camping experiences. Just be warned, campsites are on a first-come, first-served basis, so don’t assume you will score one. 

7. Play a Round at Orcas Island Golf

A public golf course, Orcas Island Golf is located just outside of Eastsound. It features three different types of water hazards throughout the course, including a lake, three ponds, and a stream. Despite being a nine-hole golf course, it can feel like an 18-hole course thanks to the additional sets of tees found at each hole. 

8. Savor the View at Judd Cove Preserve

Despite being one of the few public waterfront beaches on Orcas Island, Judd Cove Preserve is coveted by locals as a bit of a ‘hidden’ gem. The 12-acre easement features 1,250 feet of saltwater shoreline — making it an idyllic spot to explore tide pools, picnic, and savor the views. 

9. Discover Local Artists at Orcas Island Artworks

Orcas Island Artworks is located in Olga on the east side of the island. The quaint town was named after the island’s first postmaster and was originally formed to support the island’s booming strawberry industry. 

The gallery gift shop is housed within a 1938 strawberry barreling plant that has been lovely restored as a historic landmark. The collection of prints, paintings, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, glass, wood, fiber, and wearable arts are all made on Orcas Island. 

10. Orcas Island Farmers Market

The Orcas Island Farmers Market is a seasonal farmers market that runs from May through September. It’s held on the Village Green in the heart of Eastsound and features a wide array of local artists, farmers, and food purveyors.

Buck Bay Shellfish Farm by Lisette Wolter McKinley
Buck Bay Shellfish Farm by Lisette Wolter McKinley

11. Learn to Shuck Oysters at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm

If you like seafood, Buck Bay Shellfish Farm is a can’t miss. Located in Olga, this small oyster shack is just a stone’s throw from the water where the beauties are being harvested. They also carry a large selection of locally caught crab, prawns, salmon, halibut, and seasonal seafood. 

Swing by, pick out your fresh catch, and grab a picnic table. If you don’t know how to shuck an oyster, one of the helpful staff will teach you! 

12. Sample Local Brews at Island Hoppin’ Brewery

Orcas Island’s first and only microbrewery, Island Hoppin’ Brewery was founded in 2012. The small brewhouse and tasting room is located just minutes from the Orcas Island Airport and offers a wide selection of full-flavored beers. For those who want a bite with their brew, there’s a small menu of nibbles. And for those who want to bring their four-legged companions, it’s dog friendly!

13. Watch the Ferry Unload at Boathouse Cider Works

Located just above the Orcas Island Ferry Landing, Boathouse Cider Works has been crafting craft hard ciders and specialty wines since 2017. (They also have some interesting and delicious non-alcoholic offerings for those looking for a libation-free toast.) The generously sized patio offers views of the Washington State Ferry as it slowly docks and unloads. 

14. Sip Wine at Orcas Island Winery

A boutique family vineyard and winery, Orcas Island Winery was established in 2011. The first and only winery on Orcas Island, its tasting room is a rustic barn-like structure that feels as though it was plucked from a novel. Dog- and family-friendly, it’s located near Turtlehead Mountain Preserve, making it a great place to rest and refuel after a hike. 

15. Explore the Sea on a Kayak Adventure 

While exploring on land is amazing, getting out on the water offers an entirely new perspective. It allows you to see shoreline you wouldn’t see otherwise see. There are several different guided kayak tours on Orcas, which allow you to go with an experienced guide who can tell you about the unique habitat. 

16. Go Whale Watching

Planning an adventure to go whale watching in Seattle is typically an all-day trek aboard a whale watching boat departing from Elliot Bay. But when you’re looking for fun things to do on Orcas Island, you can fit in whale watching and additional activities because you’re already right by the Salish Sea. 

In addition to Orcas, gray whales, humpback whales, and mike whales, you may see seals, sealines, porpoises, bald eagles, and more! 

17. Take a Fishing Charter

Fishermen tend to be protective of their favorite spots, which is what makes a fishing charter so unique. Fishing charter captains share their favorite places to catch crabs, spot prawns, salmon, halibut, long cod, and other bottom fish.

18. Explore the Outer Islands by Water Taxi

Private boats, ferries, and planes aren’t the only way to island-hop. The San Juan Islands Water Taxi ferries walk-on passengers throughout the three main islands –  Orcas, San Juan, Lopez – and the smaller destinations – Sucia Island, Patos and Matia Island.

19. Visit Cascade Falls

Beneath a canopy of Douglas fir, a fresh-water creek tumbles through a sun-dappled first grove, cascading down a 40-foot rock cliff. ‘Trekking’ to this beautiful sight is far from an all-day endeavor (unless you choose to make it such). You can reach Cascade Falls in as little as a half-mile round trip! 

20. Go for a Bike Ride

Biking on Orcas Island isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, it can be a rather thigh-burning challenge, thanks to the geographically diverse terrain. Luckily, an e-bike can turn any grueling excursion into a relatively leisurely adventure. And with so many stunning sights to see on two wheels, renting a bike and spending the day touring at your own pace is a can’t-miss opportunity. 

21. Soak in a Private Hot Tub with a View

Located just outside of Olga on Orcas Island, Doe Bay Resort & Retreat is a secluded getaway located on the east end of the island. The lodging accommodations are on the rustic side, often including shared bathrooms that require a fresh air walk. But the views are exquisite, especially when savored from a private hot tub.

Those staying at Doe Bay are given first priority for the soaking tubs, but off-site guests can be accommodated as the schedule allows. If you want to pass the time while you wait, Doe Bay’s seed-to-table restaurant makes scrumptious, seasonal food. 

22. Cascade Lake 

Cascade Lake is the most popular mountain lake on Orcas Island – thanks to the campground located right on its shoreline. There are kayak, paddleboard, and canoe rentals available. 

23. Mountain Lake 

Though equally beautiful, Mountain Lake is slightly more remote. Rentals are available on this lake too. And it’s the location of the Mt. Constitution trailhead if you want to make the full trek to the top.

24. Take a Trail Ride with Orcas Island Trail Rides

While there are a wide variety of ways to explore Orcas Island, sitting astride a horse may well be one of the best. Trail rides with Orcas Island Trail Rides allow you to see hidden gems throughout the island. 

25. Meet Farm Animals

Do you and your family love animals? The Once In a Blue Moon Farm and Lodging offers an idyllic way to meet pigs, ducks, goats, and more!

26. Discover Hidden Gems with Salish Seacrets Adventures

Do you love the idea of an intimate, personalized tour of the San Juan Islands? Salish Seacrets Adventures was founded by two locals who share their expertise of the islands and let you get a taste for what island life is really like.