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Orcas Island beckons

Quiet season means fewer crowds

The lovely views from Eastsound on Orcas Island. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Quiet season is upon the San Juan Islands, and the summer crowds have faded away. Orcas Island makes a great weekend getaway or a longer stay over the holidays. This jewel of an island is about to explode in popularity now that Oprah has purchased an estate and extensive commercial properties in Eastsound. So visit now while it's a calm break from the rat race.    

When planning your visit, checkout and Both sites can help you plan your visit. The Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce also offers a weekly blast which lets you know what is going on the week you visit, and there is also a dining guide letting you know which restaurants are open. Some businesses close during quiet season so you want to make sure you plan ahead. (Insider Tip: Even though the crowds are less, you still want to make a ferry reservation. Note that you will need to make a westbound and eastbound reservation. Make sure to arrive 30 minutes prior to departure or you will lose your reservation. allows for paying for the ferry online, however, does not make a reservation, that is a separate procedure.)

The Smuggler's Villa Resort is a super family-friendly resort and makes a good base for your stay. The individually-owned townhomes are offered as vacation rentals. Mike Stolmeier, the property manager, is also an owner. He has been welcoming families for over 30 years. Located on the North Shore of the island, the pebble beach affords breathtaking views of the San Juan Islands, Mount Baker and lovely sunsets. Each night, the resort offers an outdoor fire pit overlooking the beach and the sunsets.

The small town of Eastsound is located not far from the resort. A must-stop is the Brown Bear Baking Company for coffee and breakfast treats. Everything is baked fresh daily and oh so yummy. Eastsound is very walkable with shops and restaurants and great waterfront views. Spend some time enjoying the town before heading out on the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway. Orcas Island has a portion of it. This is a great way to explore the island highlights. Allow two to three hours for driving, not including stops. With all the leaves off the trees, the views really open up.

One place you will definitely want to stop is Moran State Park. Drive to the top of Mount Constitution and climb the watchtower for world-class views. On a clear day you can see Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Canada and the San Juan Islands laid out in front of you. If you have more time, you can enjoy over 30 miles of hiking trails either around pristine lakes or forested climbs to waterfalls. The park is much larger than you would expect and is the fourth largest state park in Washington. It's not to be missed.

Make sure to visit the Rosario Resort for lunch in the Mansion Restaurant. Very good food, although on the pricey side, but the view takes the bite out of the cost. The restaurant is on what was originally the veranda of the Moran Mansion, and overlooks a lovely bay. If you happen to be there on a Saturday, you must stay for Christopher Peacock's incredible performance on a 1900 Steinway Grand Piano and a 1914 Aeolian organ with 1972 pipes. His musical concert is paired with historical photos of the Moran Family and the mansion. The grand finale is a showing of the original silent movie, The Phantom of the Opera featuring Lon Cheney. Peacock accompanies the film on the organ and it is so eerie. You definitely feel like the mansion could be haunted while he plays. The performance is free and takes place Saturdays at 4 p.m.

There is definitely plenty to do on the island but make sure to take some time to unwind and disconnect as well. Orcas Island is truly a memorable location. 

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