If you could take all the things we love about the Pacific Northwest and condense it down into one small area, Orcas Island would be it. Often called the “gem of the San Juans” with an artisan food culture along with endless outdoor activities, this island has it all! Replete with incredible hiking trails and viewpoints, serene lakes and campsites, idyllic forests and gardens, there is no shortage of things to eat, see, and do in the 57 square miles of beauty Orcas has to offer.
Whether you want to hike in the 38 miles of trails Moran State Park has to offer, kayak in one of the lakes, go fishing or whale watching, cruise through the farmers market, or eat your way through the island, there is something for everyone here. This could easily be a “Top 30 things to do in Orcas” article because there are so many activities and restaurants that we are excited about on this island. But for the sake of readability, we’ve done the hardest part narrowing it down so you don’t have to. Trust me, it wasn’t easy.
Without further ado, here is our team at Maple + Main’s Top 7 picks:
This is a lovely little 1.25 acre island, accessible only by foot in low tide. Fishing Bay, which surrounds Indian Island, supports a wide diversity of marine life, so here you can explore the sandbar and check out tide pools with colorful sea critters like crabs, sea anemones, and starfish. You can enjoy the views of the East sound and bird nests on the shore of the island. Indian Island is one of three Marine Health Observatories in the San Juans, so just remember to leave behind any treasures you find, living and otherwise, for others to enjoy and learn from.
ORCAS ISLAND TRAIL RIDES
A unique and exciting way to explore the backcountry and hidden beauty of Orcas is on horseback! Orcas Island Trail Rides offers guided tours through Moran State Park so you can enjoy everything from lush grassy meadows to idyllic ancient forests to mountain trails with views every step (or trot) of the way. This small business is a charming family-owned operation: just a mom, dad, and their daughters. They guarantee that no matter what your skill level is— from beginners to more seasoned riders, whether you have just an hour or half a day to spare—they can find the right horse and adventure for you!
DISK GOLF AT MT BAKER FARM
For those unfamiliar with the sport, disc golf is an unbelievably fun, all-ages activity that is exactly what you might guess from the title— golfing, but with frisbees, or disks, instead of clubs and balls. Mt Baker Farm is an 80-acre campground that offers this beautiful and secluded course featuring nine baskets, or “holes,” with natural obstacles like trees, stumps, and switchbacks, creating exciting technical challenges to navigate. At only $5 a round or $10 for the day, this is an outdoorsy family or group activity that won’t break the bank, either!
This serene land picturesque lake isn’t just for viewing— indisputably the most popular lake in Moran State Park, this lake has anything you could hope for— a beach, dock, picnic shelters, playground, BBQ pit, snack bar, paddle boats for rent, and even showers. There’s cliff jumping for the more adventurous and a fantastic 2.5 mile loop trail for a moderate hike with stunning views in all directions. You can come for just the day or rent a campsite and stay for a few!
AFTER WE PLAY, WE EAT!
Here, you can find elevated comfort food with an international flair, an accommodating staff, and a warm atmosphere. Locals love to use this quaint cafe as a meeting place and will argue that Mia’s has the best breakfast on the island. Try the lemon blueberry blintzes or a house-made bialy with lox and cream cheese and decide for yourself!
HOGSTONE'S WOOD OVEN
Everything we love in a Pacific Northwest Restaurant—farm to table, local, organic, sustainable, farmer-owned— this relaxed, wood-fired kitchen checks all the boxes. They serve wood-fired pizza, as you would expect, but also seasonal and locally inspired vegetable and seafood dishes. The chef-owner here chooses not only to utilize the bounty of ingredients the island and surrounding Salish sea has to offer but make them the highlight of the food.
Calling themselves an “ambitious” restaurant, they did something very unique by literally splitting the restaurant into two in the same space. Aelder is Hogstone’s upscale sibling restaurant and offers multi-course, experimental chef’s tasting menus. Reservations are recommended for both!
This little cocktail bar in Eastsound may only be around 400 square feet, but what it lacks in space it makes up for in personality and a cozy vibe. Here you can find über creative cocktails made with house-made spirits, bitters, and elixirs, as well as a vast selection of local, Northwest beer and wine. Barnacle also features a small eats menu that goes above and beyond the average bar snack fare as they strive to feature locally sourced ingredients. They also host live performances and events and happen to be one of the few places on the island that are open relatively late, in case being out past 9:00 pm is something you enjoy. What we are trying to say is— this place is a real gem!