Alan & Teri's Travels travel blog

Matt on Orcas Island

Natasha on Orcas Island

Orcas Island Sunset

Start Odometer: 43,157 End Odometer: 43,393

It’s time for the next leg of our journey. We drove 236 miles from Ellensburg to the Ferry.

Ronnie (Alan’s Dad’s second wife, turned 90 this year and we wanted to visit her to celebrate. She now lives on Orcas Island with daughter Ginny and son-in-law Bob.

A insisted that he did not want to take the camper on the ferry between Anacortes and Orcas Island so we rented a housekeeping cabin for four nights at North Beach Inn. The drive from Ellensburg to Anacortes takes about three hours. The ferry takes about 90 minutes which does not include waiting time. We started out at 7:30 am and finally reached Orcas around 1 pm. Since our high-top conversion van is oversize, the ferry ride cost us $93.00.

The Washington State Ferries are wonderful, though. They are clean, comfortable, and spacious with a snack bar and all the amenities. We always find the ferry ride out to the San Juan Islands pleasant and relaxing. The scenery is beautiful.

First ‘discovered’ and named by Spanish explorers in the early 1780's, Orcas Island was home to native First Peoples for thousands of years before white settled here in the late 1850's. The Native First Peoples lived in cedar houses on beaches, fishing, digging for clams, hunting deer and harvesting fruit and berries.

Raids from Northern Indians made life here very dangerous for early European settlers. Families lived mostly on small farms and survived by fishing hunting, or working at one of the lime kilns that were the island’s first commercial businesses.

In the mid 1880's settlers on Orcas discovered that it had a perfect climate for growing fruits and vegetables. By 1895, Orcas Island was shipping more than 195,000 boxes of apples to ports and railroads on the mainland, and diners at fancy hotels in New York City were paying up to $5.00 apiece for Orcas Island pears. When the fruit business declined, the island turned to tourism as it’s main source of revenue.

Our first stop was the Orcas Saturday market where we met up with Bob who was manning his and Ginny’s pottery booth. They make some beautiful handmade items. After chatting for a while, we picked up produce and smoked salmon then headed to the cabin.

Amy, Matt & Natasha shared the three bedroom cabin with us. When we initially found the driveway to the Inn, we had some misgivings. It was narrow, unpaved, rutted and had many “no trespassing” signs along the way. When we finally reached the office, we were awed by the stunning view of Salish Channel and the mountains in the distance.

Our cabin was set on a rocky beach with huge pieces of driftwood along the shore and far enough in the woods to be very private. The accommodations were not fancy but extremely comfortable. We loved it! The kids (and adults, too) loved the beach. We walked, collected rocks, the children waded. We watched stunning sunsets and on two evenings were visited by night herons fishing in the shallows. We saw a seal one day who was playfully examining the boats in the area. We found a tidal pool to explore. And, in the evenings, we had fires on the beach and the children made (you guessed it) S’mores.

At night, from our beach we saw the lights of the British Columbia ferries, Tsawwassen, BC and Bellingham, WA. In the daytime, we had views of Waldron Island, Sucia Island and Matia Island

We would definitely stay here again. The tranquility was wonderful!

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