15 Fun Things to Do on Orcas Island That You Need to Do (2024)

things to do on orcas island
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Washington has many beautiful islands to visit, and Orcas Island has always remained one of my favorites. From scenic hikes to wildlife encounters to magical sunsets, Orcas Island is more than just a destination—it’s an experience. Whether you want to get out and explore nature or relax the entire time, there are tons of things to do on Orcas Island.

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Orcas Island countless times, and I still crave more. I first visited the island when I attended a friend’s wedding in Doe Bay. I was blown away by how beautiful every part of the island was, and I loved the small-town feel, where I could talk to the owner of each store or restaurant.

Since then, my family (dogs included) started going on almost a yearly trip with our friends to camp at Moran State Park, which is a vacation I look forward to every June. We get to relax in the forest, swim in the lake, and head into town if we feel like getting a bite to eat.

Ready to plan your own trip? Get ready to sit back and read this comprehensive guide to what to do on Orcas Island! I’ve packed it with insider tips and recommendations on the top things to do on this Orcas Island based on my experience from my many visits.

Whether you’re looking to explore the rugged trails, soak in the tranquil seascapes, or find that hidden picnic spot, I’ve got you covered. Plus, I’ll spill the beans on how to get there and where to stay—whether you’re all about that camping life, or prefer something a little cozier.

This post was first written in 2017 and last updated in July 2023.

15 Best Things to Do on Orcas Island

Whether you want relaxing Orcas Island activities or are ready to get out and explore, there are plenty of things to do on Orcas Island.

1. Go Camping at Moran State Park

visit orcas island campfire

My favorite thing to do on Orcas Island during the summer is camping. Camping is popular in the Pacific Northwest, so I recommend booking at least six months in advance. You’d be amazed at how fast summer campsites go when it’s still winter.

My favorite place for camping on Orcas Island is Moran State Park. I come here every year because there’s nothing like true Orcas Island camping, where you go to bed with a campfire at night and wake up in nature. There are over 5,000 acres in this state park, and you have a variety of different places to camp at.

Make sure to book your reservation online in advance. What I love about this campsite is you’ll either be on Cascade Lake or Mountain Lake, and there’s boat access to both of them. All the campsites have bathrooms with running water, toilets, and a quarter shower you can pay to use.

dogs camping

There’s a small store open during the day by the north part of the park that has snacks, ice cream, and amenities you might need when camping. However, a gas station is located about 10 minutes north of the park, which has many more options for food, beverages, and even firewood.

Another option for camping is at Doe Bay. You can reserve a campsite with a traditional camp, or you can stay in a yurt if you prefer something between camping and glamping. There are also cabins to rent if you want to stay in a solid building.

2. Book a Whale Watching Tour

whale watching tours seattle

When staying on Orcas Island, I recommend going on a whale-watching tour to see if you can see some real Orca whales. The San Juan Islands are a great place to see them during the spring and summer, as they tend to come up more since this area isn’t as crowded as Puget Sound.

Jump on board a Blackfish fleet ship in Eastsound, and let some super knowledgeable guides show you around some seriously stunning Pacific Northwest scenery. It’s not just about orcas, though. You might spot humpback and gray whales, plus loads of other cool sea life like seals, porpoises, sea lions, and otters.

If you’re planning your trip between April and early September, they guarantee you’ll spot whales. This is one of my favorite things to do on Orcas Island!

Want more whale watching? Check out the Seattle whale-watching tours that are available.

3. Hike Mount Constitution

visit orcas island sunset

If you’re looking for a moderate San Juan Islands hike, you’ll love going through this hike that mainly takes you through the forest. Depending on where you start from, it’s about three miles to the top, but be prepared to be slowed down by switchbacks the last mile of the Mt. Constitution hike.

After grabbing a quick breakfast, head to Mount Constitution in Moran State Park. If you’re up for a three-mile hike during your weekend on Orcas Island, enjoy this moderate climb up to the top for beautiful views.

This is also a great dog-friendly activity, so make sure to bring your pup to get out some of their energy. The first two miles are relatively easy, while the last mile has steeper switchbacks. You can also just drive straight to the top if you’re not up for the challenge. You’ll gain about 1,500 feet in elevation during this hike.

mount constitution dogs

Once you reach the summit, you’ll have 360-degree views of the San Juan Islands and even parts of Canada. There are bathrooms and a store to buy snacks at the top as well. This is one of the most active things to do on Orcas Island and a hike I’ve done over and over because it feels so rewarding to reach the top.

4. Walk Along North Beach

north beach orcas

Up at the northern tip of Orcas Island, you’ll stumble upon a little hideaway known as North Beach. Though less known, this spot is ideal for those seeking serenity and water adventures. If launching kayaks or zipping off on other small watercraft is your kind of thing, North Beach is the place to go.

This isn’t your typical bustling beach—it has an easy-going, laid-back vibe that makes it feel like your private seaside retreat. My favorite part about this place is its lack of crowds; I saw no one the first time I came here, so I had it all to myself.

5. Shop in Downtown Eastsound

lavender shop orcas island

The central part of the island is Eastsound, where you’ll find dozens of different shops and restaurants, and is one of my favorite small towns in Washington StatePelindaba Lavender Farm is one of my favorite stores that I stop at every time I visit Orcas Island. You’ll find organic lavender products of all kinds, including soap, jam, and more.

I also love Darvill’s Bookstore, where you can grab a latte, buy a book, and cozy up by the big bay window overlooking the water. If you want to save money and not eat out for every meal, head to Island Market to stock up on groceries.

They also have an Ace Hardware in Eastsound, where you can get anything you might need for the outdoors, including camping supplies, during your 3 days on Orcas Island. While we’re pretty good at packing for the weekend, there always seems to be something we forget and need to stop here for.

6. Enjoy Beer at Island Hoppin’ Brewery

island hoppin brewery

Island Hoppin’ Brewery is the place to go for local pints, and I stumbled upon this on the day after my friend’s wedding when we were trying to find something to do before the ferry came. I loved how friendly the staff was and how it’s away from the main part of town so not as crowded.

I recommend getting a sampler to try multiple at the same time. Some of my favorites are the K-Pod Kolsch and the Rosario Hopscotch Amber. They also have small snacks to purchase if you get hungry.

Another plus is they’re kid-friendly, and dogs are allowed too, so I always love being able to sit outside on the patio basking in the sun while enjoying our beer.

7. Go Kayaking on Mountain Lake

visit orcas island camping

If you love kayaking, you’re in luck! The island is full of amazing spots to paddle around, whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a newbie looking for some fun.

While you can kayak in the ocean, start in the calmer lakes found on Orcas. Take Mountain Lake in Moran State Park, for instance. Its serene waters are an absolute dream to kayak on, and my friends always bring their kayak so we can all take a turn on the lake when we’re camping.

Even if you don’t own a kayak or couldn’t bring yours along, the island’s got you covered. You’ll find plenty of places on Orcas Island to rent kayaks, complete with lifejackets and all the gear you’ll need.

8. Visit Obstruction Pass State Park

obstruction pass orcas

Looking for a short hike with a rewarding view? You’ll want to check out Obstruction Pass State Park, a gem tucked away on the southwest side of Orcas Island. This park is the perfect blend of woodland trails and beachfront beauty. I stumbled upon this on accident when exploring the island years ago, and now it’s one of my favorite things to do in Orcas Island.

This is a more leisurely hike, as it’s only two miles roundtrip, and you gain about 300 feet of elevation. You’ll walk through a towering forest and come out at the end, a secluded beach that’s often empty.

It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic, dive into a good book, or just soak in the panoramic views.

9. Eat Fresh-Baked Pastries at Brown Bear Baking

visit orcas island bakery

When starting your morning on Orcas Island, there’s one spot that never fails to hit the sweet spot – Brown Bear Baking. Nestled in the heart of the island, this charming bakery is my go-to place for a breakfast that’s absolutely delicious. I will warn you, though – I’ve often seen a line out the door here, so you might want to go early before everything sells out.

They have a variety of giant muffins, cookies, and other pastries, although I always tend to get the pain au chocolat. If you’re ravenous, I recommend getting one of their brunch items, such as the smoked salmon quiche.

There’s also an espresso bar stocked with Victrola coffee, so you can get a latte to go with your meal as well as tea.

10. Sample the Local Wine at Doe Bay Wine Co

doe bay wine co

Ready for some wine tasting? Then be sure to stop by Doe Bay Wine Co. Located in downtown Eastsound, this cozy little wine shop is the perfect stop after a busy morning of exploring the local shops.

I love this store because they have a massive selection of drinks, making it nice when you’re with a group with varying taste preferences. They also double up as a bottle shop, boasting an impressive selection of hundreds of different beers and wines.

11. Explore a Mini Labyrinth

labyrinth eastsound orcas

For one of the more random things to do on Orcas Island, head down to Eastsound towards the water to walk on this labyrinth. It’s a fun activity to do after a day of shopping, and then you can head down to the water to see if you can spot any sea life.

12. Take a Swim in Cascade Lake

dog cascade lake orcas

If you’re getting a bit hot on your trip, you’ll love taking a swim in Cascade Lake, located in Moran State Park. It’s ideal for swimmers of all abilities, whether you’re an experienced swimmer who wants to log several laps or just want to take a dip. I’ve also enjoyed just enjoying the sun by sitting on the shore.

13. Join a Fishing Charter

fishing charter

If you have a passion for fishing, you should consider booking a charter boat. You can choose from half-day to full-day charters that fit your schedule perfectly. You have the chance to catch a variety of fish, such as Halibut, Cod, Dungeness Crab, or even Spot Shrimp. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced fisherman or a beginner; there’s a spot for you here, and it’s one of the best things to do on Orcas Island in the summer.

You can select from a range of boats, from an intimate 18-footer to a grand 56-footer. The best part is that you can savor the delicious taste of your own catch. You can have it prepared by a caterer for a beachside feast, or you can bring home a fillet. There’s nothing like the flavor of freshly caught salmon and crab. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even combine whale watching with fishing.

14. Learn About History at the Orcas Island Historical Museum

orcas island historical musem
Image credit: Orcas Island Historical Museum

If you’ve ever wanted to go back in time and step onto the front porch of a pioneer family’s home on Orcas Island, now’s your chance at the Orcas Island Historical Museum. The museum is located in the heart of Eastsound and continues to share stories from the past.

The cabins that host the museum are over a hundred years old and are not just spaces to showcase historical collections but are historical artifacts themselves. Each cabin tells a unique story about the island’s history, as seen through the lives and artifacts of the area’s Native American and early European-American settlers. With approximately 6,000 artifacts, documents, and photographs, you’ll love spending an hour or so here. The museum is open from Wednesday-Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm.

15. Experience a Wine Tasting Tour

Are you a wine enthusiast? If so, you won’t want to miss The Orcas Project in Eastsound. Here, you can treat yourself to a guided wine and cheese tasting experience featuring a carefully curated selection of wines made in collaboration with local vineyards and artists. Each sip offers a unique and delightful taste of the region. A cheese board that highlights the distinctive notes of each wine complements the wine.

But there’s more to the experience than just tasting. You’ll also learn about the creative partnership behind The Orcas Project and have the opportunity to meet the minds behind the wines and the local artisan project. After the tasting, you can explore Eastsound’s charming boutique shops, bakeries, and more.

If you want someone to pick out the best local wine and pair it with cheese, book a spot on the Orcas Project Wine Tasting tour.

Map of Things to Do on Orcas Island

Here’s a visual to make it easier to see where everything is on Orcas.

How to Get to Orcas Island

orcas island ferry terminal

To get to Orcas Island from Seattle, you can take a ferry or a seaplane. A ferry is the most inexpensive way of transportation and you’ll be able to drive your car on so you’ll have it while you visit Orcas Island. I recommend this way so you have the freedom to explore.

When you visit Orcas Island, you’ll need to book your spot in advance on the WSDOT website. I would recommend doing it at least a few months in advance. The ferry terminal is in Anacortes (which has plenty of great places to visit if you want to extend your trip into a weekend in Anacortes).

The terminal goes to additional islands, such as San Juan Island and Vancouver Island, but a staff member will direct you to the correct lane. The Anacortes ferry ride will take you about an hour and a half to get to Orcas.

Be aware that they usually stop at Shaw Island first to let a few people off, so you’ll likely be getting off on the second stop. While it used to be first come first serve, you now only need to show up about an hour in advance if you have a reservation.

If you want to treat yourself, you can book a Seattle to Orcas Island flight on a seaplane, especially if you’re doing a Portland weekend getaway. This hour-long ride will take you to various parts of the island, including Rosario Resort or Deer Harbor. You’ll love this quick way to start your weekend on Orcas Island.

Where to Stay on Orcas Island

orcas island cascade lake

It may be a smaller island, but there are plenty of places to stay on Orcas Island for the weekend. Here are a few places to stay on Orcas Island that I recommend.

Prefer a vacation rental on Orcas Island? Here are a few suggestions.

  • This three-bedroom cottage has stunning views of Eastsound Bay and Crescent Beach and access to a private beach. (rates start at $333 per night)
  • Need a dog-friendly home? You’ll love this house with a fire pit, deck, and three bathrooms and bedrooms. (rates start at $220 per night)

Where to Eat on Orcas Island

There are so many Orcas Island restaurants to choose from, but here are some of my favorite ones.

Madrona Bar and Grill

They have burgers, steaks, seafood, pasta, and more to choose from. In case you happen to be there before Friday, sit in the bar to enjoy their happy hour specials. After that, take a stroll down by the water to watch the sunset.

Mijitas

If you’re in the mood for Mexican food when it’s lunchtime, head to Mijitas in Eastsound for chips and guacamole, burritos, and more. They have a cute open-air bar to order your margaritas at that’s perfect for the summer months.

White Horse Pub

I love coming to this English pub and getting a pint of Guinness and fish and chips. They also have a shuffleboard table as well as pool tables, but a big draw for me is the giant window that gives you a stunning view of the water. Even though they’re a pub, they are family-friendly, which is a big plus for us on our travels here now.

What Else to Know About Visiting Orcas Island

things to do on orcas island flowers

What is Orcas Island known for?

All the San Juan Islands have their own special charm, but Orcas Island is known for having a good mix of outdoor activities, such as hiking and kayaking, and a variety of restaurants when you want to come into town.

How big is Orcas Island?

At 57.3 square miles, Orcas Island is actually the biggest of all the San Juan Islands. That’s why I recommend spending at least a few days exploring it.

What are things to do on Orcas Island in the winter?

It rarely snows here, so you can still visit Orcas Island in the winter and enjoy activities like hiking Mount Constitution or head indoors to check out the art scene. on the island with places like Orcas Island Artworks.

At this point, you’ve hopefully had a relaxing trip and explored some of the best things to do on Orcas Island. Enjoy the ferry ride home and start planning your next trip here!

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