Here is some information about the jewel of the San Juan Islands.
Orcas Island has beauty, a constant supply of fresh clean air, and the fact that you have to take a one and a half hour boat ride to get here. It kind of keeps the world on the mainland at bay. I hope this untouched paradise stays that way — no cars when I drive to work; no mad rushes for, well, anything.
Different from all the same faces and different place destinations that you will find elsewhere in the world, Orcas is a hidden treasure surrounded by crystal blue ocean and the evergreens. Orcas Island offers a totally different pace of life, a pace that is slow like a deer walking across the road or seagulls spinning lazy circles in the sky as you walk down to the Obstruction Pass beach.
Orcas is home to Moran State Park and Mt. Constitution, a mountain over 2000 feet high which overlooks the other San Juan Islands. The Park offers over 30 miles of foot trails as well as, fishing, biking, and camping.
If you ask folks how Orcas Island got its name you will get a varied response, all depending on who you ask. Some will say it came from the Viceroy of Mexico, Don Juan Vicente de Guemez, Pacheso de Padilla, Orcazitas y Aguayo, Conde de Revilla Gigedo. He claimed these islands for Spain in 1790. Other folks will say its name came from the Spanish word for toothed whale- “Orca”. Still others will say it was named after the nickname of one of Lt. Eliza’s 1791 survey ships, the “Boca de Orcasitas”. There are even more fascinating and sometimes quite curious stories that the locals may tell you if you don’t lose interest first. I just tend to accept its name and move on with my life.
To visit our island, you will need to take a Washington State Ferry from Anacortes. This experience is part of the reason that Orcas is so special – it is not accessed so easily as any other destination on the mainland. This makes Orcas more private and slightly more secluded…a real treasure and a fabulous getaway.
Planning ahead is an excellent thing to do when you know you will be taking the ferry; especially in the summer season. The large parking area is filled with cars waiting for considerable periods of time to load the ferry so bringing something to do is a wise choice.
Frisbees (which do less damage to cars than footballs or baseballs) are a handy thing to pack along, as are magazines, books, and any other reading material. A pack of cards can be useful as well, and dogs on leashes are always welcome to sniff around on the trails that lead down to the beach. Picnic tables are also available for the ferry-goers’ convenience.
For ferry times I suggest you follow this handy ferry hyperlink. The ferry ride over here is a beautiful experience which surely makes up for any ferry wait. There is food service available during the summer season on the ferries which is reasonably priced. You can expect to pay around 30 dollars for a car and 2 passengers to board the ferry, which is a bargain considering the astounding scenery and the exquisite beauty of your destination.
A really handy link to look up right before you leave for the Anacortes ferry is right HERE. It takes you to a Washington State Ferry page that includes updated ferry information about ferry lines. How updated? Well that is the $10,000 dollar question.
You can find more information about getting to Orcas at visitorcas.info.