Scenic Byway Tour of Orcas Island
Orcas Village greets visitors as they arrive at the ferry landing, which dates back to 1889. Lodging, shops, dining, groceries and restrooms can be found here. Turn left when you leave the ferry (as directed by the ferry personnel) and drive slowly up the hill past the Orcas Hotel (on the right) which was built in 1904 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Keep following Orcas Road north from the ferry landing.
Take the first left hand turn onto Deer Harbor Road and follow it to Deer Harbor. This fifteen-minute drive, with many water views, leads to the quiet hamlet of Deer Harbor which includes lodging, dining, sea kayaking, whale watching and fishing charters. When the first Europeans arrived in Deer Harbor, they found a Lummi Indian encampment along the slough which connects a shallow inner basin with the main harbor. Deer Harbor is home to several historic buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Retrace your route back to Orcas Road and take a left. Traveling past working farms and gardens you'll see the hanging sign for Crow Valley Pottery on your left, nearly across from the golf course. Housed in an historic 1866 log cabin, Crow Valley Pottery was first opened in 1959 and now continues seasonally under the second generation of family ownership. The shop and grounds feature the works of more than seventy artists. Their second gallery is located in downtown Eastsound and is open year round.
Continue north on Orcas Road, which will bring you to a right hand turn onto Main Street which takes you into the village of Eastsound. This is the commercial hub of Orcas Island, filled with lodgings, restaurants, galleries, boutiques and more. The Orcas Island Historical Museum is located in the center of the village, by taking a left on North Beach Road, next to the Village Green, which is home to the seasonal Farmers' Market, music events and more. Six original homestead cabins, built during the 1870s and 1890s, are covered by a modern shell. Each cabin is a space for interpreting island history as told through the life stories and material culture of the First Peoples and early European-American settlers. Don't leave before seeing a replica of a 10,000-year-old bison skull.
Return to Main Street, take a left, and the road becomes Crescent Beach Road heading east out of town. You'll pass two of the three gas stations on Orcas Island on your left. Take a right at the stop sign and drive south on Olga Road. Turn right onto Rosario Road and follow it to historic Moran Mansion at Rosario Resort. Robert Moran, a shipbuilder and former mayor of Seattle, completed the mansion in 1909, which is now the centerpiece of this popular resort and marina. Recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the property still retains a link to its turn-of-the-century origins, as is evident by the artfully restored teak and mahogany mansion, which boasts 6,000 square feet of teak parquet floors and houses the resort′s art gallery, historical museum and famed music room featuring Tiffany chandeliers, a Steinway grand piano and a renowned Aeolian pipe organ.
Return to Olga Road, take a right, and continue to Moran State Park & Mt. Constitution. Donated by Robert Moran, the park now includes 5,252 acres, five freshwater lakes, over 30 miles of hiking trails, waterfalls and campsites.
The highest point in the San Juan Islands is 2,409-foot-high Mt. Constitution, offering panoramic views of surrounding islands and the Cascade Mountains. Mt. Constitution is a must-see "side trip" off of the scenic byway. The Friends of Moran run the Summit Learning Center with kids activities, naturalist lectures, trail maps and information about natural and human history, open Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Return to Olga Road, turn left, and continue south to Orcas Island Artworks, Café Olga, and James Hardman Gallery. This artist cooperative and gallery is housed in a 1936 strawberry packing plant in the hamlet of Olga. The Cafe Olga, a delightful restaurant featuring Pacific Northwest cuisine, is a favorite destination for islanders and visitors alike.
Take a left turn out of the parking lot onto Point Lawrence Road and continue another ten minutes to Doe Bay Resort and Retreat. A rustic Northwest icon, Doe Bay offers lodging, massage, yoga, sea kayaking, hot tubs and relaxing Adirondack chairs overlooking the spectacular water view. The Doe Bay Café draws on the abundance of Orcas Island farms and fishermen for fresh ingredients.
Retrace your route back to Orcas Village and catch a Washington State Ferry back to Anacortes. Or stay and play longer on Orcas Island!