Nestled within the majestic San Juan Islands lies Orcas Island. A trip to the San Juan Islands is sought after by many thanks to its beautiful landscape. But, due to its unique terrain, getting around it for a day trip can be a little difficult sometimes. This is why so many are excited about the Orcas Island Shuttle Service.
OrcaShuttle.com is a new service from the team behind OrcasCars.com – the premier car rental company in the San Juan Islands. The 22 passenger shuttle (which is cleverly designed as an Orca whale) runs daily from April to September and has designated stops around the island.
While the shuttle is free for OrcasCars.com renters (and veterans!), everyone else benefits from the flat-rate structure that eliminates ballooning fares. For parties of 1-3, it’s $18.50 per passenger per ride. Parties of 4+ receive 20% off.
Day Trip To Orcas Island
We’re often asked if it’s possible, and yes, you can make a day trip to Orcas Island from Seattle. It’ll be a long day, but it’s doable! While the quickest way to get here is to fly Kenmore Air and land at one of the several marinas or the Orcas Island Airport, the most popular transportation option is Washington State Ferries. The ferry to Orcas Island departs from Anacortes, which is about an hour and a half north of Seattle. Many people assume there is a ferry directly from Seattle to Orcas Island, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to be at the ferry terminal at a specific time if you want to catch a ride. For those who already have a vehicle reservation, you’ll need to be there around 30 minutes before it leaves. For those who are walking onto the ferry, you’ll need to arrive a bit early, too.
Once you arrive at Orcas Island, we highly recommend hopping on the Orcas Island shuttle to get around. It makes many routine stops around the island, including the ferry, so getting back for your boat won’t be an issue.
What To Do On Orcas Island
There is plenty to do and see on this pristine island. Here are some activities and destinations to consider.
Stop By Orcas Island Pottery
As the oldest pottery studio in the region, Orcas Island Pottery is a great place for art lovers to visit. When you first arrive, you’ll be greeted by ancient pine trees that hide the workshop and neat treehouse structure. Peruse the multiple buildings filled with handmade pieces, and don’t foget to climb up into the treehouse!
Enjoy Seafood at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm
Orcas Island is famous for its seafood. At Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, you can not only learn more about this mouthwatering specialty but enjoy the most local seafood you’ll ever find.
Hike Turtleback Mountain
Turtleback Mountain (named for its turtle shell appearance) spans 1,718 acres and is one of the largest natural zones on the island. It has various trails you can hike or bike down, most of which will take no longer than 1-2 hours to finish. Along the way, you’ll get stunning panoramic views of West Sound and might even catch a glimpse of golden eagles or Steller’s jays flying nearby.
Explore Mount Constitution
As the highest point in the San Juan Islands, Mount Constitution is a grand natural landmark within Moran State Park. The mountain not only has gorgeous scenery but historic landmarks. One is a stone tower that the Civilian Conservation Corps assembled in the 1930s. You can climb to the top where you’ll get views of the North Cascades and Lopez Island.
Go On a Whale Watching Tour
One of the most in-demand activities on Orcas Island is whale watching. You’ll find many tours available around the island, including at Rosario Resort’s marina and Deer Harbor. After hopping on a boat, your captain will carefully navigate through the nearby waterways so you can spot one of the area most celebrated inhabitants – the orca whale. While you can view them almost anytime during the year, the best months are from April to October.
Photograph Moran State Park’s Waterfalls
Moran State Park covers over 5,000 acres that feature meadows, woodlands, and bogs. In addition to this, you’ll find a few waterfalls hidden inside. One of note is Cascade Falls. The waterfall measures a mesmerizing 690-feet high.
Other waterfalls to keep an eye out for are Rustic Falls, Cavern Falls, and Hidden Falls. The park contains numerous trailheads to safely direct you to them.
Venture to Eastsound, WA
As one of the most populated sections in the San Juan Islands, Eastsound is a historic village that showcases cozy homes, trendy grocery stores, and open-air restaurants. You’ll also find a handful of museums that dive into the history and culture of the island.
After spending some time in the village, you can stroll down its sidewalks for coastal views or to smell the fragrant gardens that border them.
Visit an Orchard or Fruit Stand
For those who enjoy agritourism, a quick stop at a local orchard or fruit stand is a great treat. Orcas Island is known for its luscious fruit that ranges from Italian plums to lapin cherries. During the warmer months, you’ll come across an abundance of fruit stands lining the park in Eastound. You can stop by to taste some of its offerings and learn about local sustainability practices.
Orcas Island History
Before settlers arrived on this Pacific Northwest island, the land was first inhabited by Coast Salish tribes. Their longhouses were scattered throughout the island and sheltered them as they hunted for salmon and elk.
In the late 1700s, Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza discovered the island during an expedition. After this, more European settlers, like George Vancouver and Charles Wilkes, started to tour and claim parts of it. Eventually, thousands of hunters flooded the area when the Hudson’s Bay Company started opening offices there.
During this time, the Coast Salish population started to die out due to diseases brought by the explorers. Many were also brutally pushed out of their tribal homes to make way for new infrastructure.
In the 1900s, Orcas Island became a coveted destination for tourists. To fit demands, resorts and camps were built. While these fun trips started to dwindle after the Great Depression struck, tourism quickly rebounded in later years.
Today, Orcas Island remains a popular vacation spot and secluded haven for the rich and famous but is also home to an impressive population that tirelessly works to preserve its history, culture, and distinctive cultivation methods for generations to come.