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I read The Girl Who Wrote in Silk a few months ago, encouraging me to plan a day trip from Seattle to Orcas Island in Washington. Sometimes reading can inspire you to the point that you want to start planning your trip before finishing the book. I waited until the end of the story before I started planning, but oh my goodness, was it hard to be patient!
The book’s setting sounds magical, and with every page, you want to be on the next flight out to explore the quiet forests and dreamlike location. True events inspire this book, taking place in the San Juan Islands. It’s an emotional tale of two women, and before I give away any spoilers, I will encourage you to pick up a copy for yourself.
Since I planned to revisit the Pacific Northwest, I added a day trip from Seattle to Orcas Island, Washington, to my existing itinerary. As it turns out, the day trip to Orcas Island was one of the top highlights of the trip! I cannot sing its praises enough!
Here is everything you need to know to plan your day trip from Seattle to Orcas Island, Washington.
Orcas Island Washington
Orcas Island is one of the San Juan Islands located in the Pacific Northwest. The San Juan Islands are an archipelago in Washington known for its beautiful landscapes and wildlife. Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands in the northwestern corner of San Juan County, Washington.
Orcas Island offers 57 square miles of rural and hilly terrain, it’s a cyclist’s paradise, and there are a ton of bicycles on the road. If you enjoy hiking, you will also enjoy Mount Constitution, which offers over 38 miles of hiking trails. No matter where you are headed on the island, expect a scenic drive with winding roads through barns, fields, and forests.
Orcas Island in Washington is seriously so beautiful!
The Best Time to Visit Orcas Island in Washington
Orcas Island is a tremendously popular destination for summer vacation, especially in July and August. The summer months are the best time to visit Orcas Island in Washington. Summer also provides the warmest temperatures, sunshine, and the least rain.
However, with a place as beautiful as this, you can’t go wrong visiting year-round if you have the proper temperature attire. My travel companion, Todd, and I visited in late August and thought it was a perfect time.
Pro tip: If you plan to go whale watching, you will want to visit sometime from May to September, as you’ll have the greatest chance of seeing Free Willy in the wild. (90’s kid over here!)
How to Get to Orcas Island: Seattle to Anacortes
The easiest way to get to Orcas Island from Seattle is by car. You will drive from Seattle to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, 80 miles northwest of Seattle. From Seattle, drive on I-5 North, exit 230, then follow Highway 20 West to Anacortes. Once you arrive in Anacortes, follow the signs for the ferry terminal and ticketing booths.
All in all, it’s about a two-and-half-hour voyage. An hour-and-a-half drive from Seattle to the ferry and an additional one-hour ferry ride to Orcas Island.
Pro tip: Make sure to reserve your ferry tickets in advance so you can reserve a spot to drive your vehicle onto the Washington State Ferry. Spaces fill up quickly, and if you are going for a day trip, having a reservation is a must to keep your itinerary on track. You can make reservations on the WSDOT website.
Where to Stay on Orcas Island
We made a day trip from Seattle to Orcas Island, but if you decide to stay overnight, I overheard other travelers mention the following properties:
Things to Do on Orcas Island
There are many outdoor activities, attractions, and excursions to check out when visiting Orcas Island. Here are some of my favorites:
- Eat at Rosario Resort
The Mansion Restaurant at Rosario Resort and Spa is one of the best places, in my opinion, to eat on the island. The dining room has window views overlooking Cascade Bay, and it was one of the most relaxing breakfast experiences I’ve had. I ordered the biscuits and gravy, which was delicious, and an Earl Grey tea with honey. Todd ordered the simple breakfast with a drip coffee and loved both. They use a local roaster from Bellingham, Washington, so the drip coffee was fantastic!
- Take a whale-watching tour
We booked a whale-watching tour with Orcas Island Eclipse Charters in hopes of seeing Orcas in the wild, and yes, we saw them! It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen! This company offers daily tours in the summer, which are about three to four hours long. In terms of wildlife, we also saw sea lions, an eagle, and many different types of sea birds.
- Visit Eastsound
Eastsound is the largest population center on Orcas Island. This area is a fifteen-minute drive from the ferry station and is a walkable downtown. It’s filled with galleries, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. We visited Eastsound after our whale-watching tour. Todd grabbed coffee, and I grabbed an Earl Grey tea from Brown Bear Baking.
- Visit Moran State Park
Before leaving Orcas Island, you must visit Moran State Park, where Mount Constitution is located. You can hike, cycle, or drive to the summit for expansive views of the San Juan archipelago. We didn’t have time to swim in the freshwater lakes, but that is also a fun option for your visit. If you like to collect souvenirs, then be sure to stop by the gift shop on your way out. I’m glad we saved this last because the breathtaking views were the perfect way to end our day trip on Orcas.
Taking a day trip from Seattle to Orcas Island in Washington is something I will never forget. The San Juan Islands are a remote and unique place I never expected to visit. It might be the most relaxing destination I have been to.
It’s crazy how reading The Girl Who Wrote in Silk inspired this entire excursion to take a day trip from Seattle to Orcas Island in Washington. After completing the trip, I can confidently say it was worth it and should be high on your bucket list.
Please let this post, and my entire website for that matter, serve as a reminder that whether you have weeks to spend or a short period of time, epic experiences are always possible!
Leave a comment and let me know if you have been to the San Juan Islands before, plan to go, or have any other questions about my experience.