Semiahmoo is an incredibly beautiful marina, but even its staunchest advocates occasionally get lured onto the high seas for a weekend adventure. Most of us head out to Sucia when that urge arises, but just a couple of miles further south is a plethora of island beauty. I’m talking of course, about Orcas Island, known as the Emerald Isle in the center of the San Juan Islands, and world-renowned for its natural scenic beauty. Arriving in your own boat, you have two primary harbors, Rosario Resort to the south or Deer Harbor on the west side. Bring bicycles, because there’s plenty to do and see on this big island!
Back in the mid-nineteenth century. The San Juan Islands were at one time caught in a land struggle in a power grab between the United States and Great Britain, it was known as the Pig War, but thankfully no one was hurt, and we can enjoy this magnificent place alongside our northern neighbors. The San Juan islands are now part of Washington State and are sandwiched between the coastal United States and British Columbia, Canada. Orcas itself holds a population of approximately 5,000 people and is comprised of approximately 57 square miles.
Deer Harbor, as are most villages in the San Juan’s, a seafood lovers paradise. It’s home to Dungeness crab as well as various species of shrimp, all of which are eagerly collected by locals and tourists alike. Deer Harbor Marina, one of two ports mentioned earlier, offers opportunities for whale watching, kayaking, and other sea excursions.
Rosario Resort, our second port opportunity, was once the private enclave of Seattle Mayor and shipbuilder Robert Moran, centered around the Moran mansion, it is a tranquil waterfront resort that offers a recently renovated marina, restaurant, lounge, museum and guest accommodations, along with easy access to the miles of trails at the nearby Moran State Park.
One of the most visible and popular geographic formations on Orcas, located in the center of Moran State Park is Mt Constitution. Mt Constitution is the highest point in the San Juan’s at 3,399 feet. In fact, it’s the second-highest peak on an island in the entire contiguous United States. The 360-degree view from its summit is unparalleled. Moran State park also boasts many waterfalls and several lakes.
Doe Bay, Olga, West Sound are a few of the island communities’ worth exploring. Potters, photographers, and other local artists proudly display their creations at Orcas Island Artworks, a former strawberry processing facility in Olga, on the east side of the island.
Speak of east, East Sound is the micro-urban hub of Orcas Island life. Several restaurants, art shops and a sprinkling of B&Bs round out the community just a couple of cycling miles west of Rosario. The Orcas Island Historical Museum is also located in East Sound.
Conservation is a prominent feature of all activities on the island. Island websites detail the region’s dedication to biological sensitive habitat areas. Their efforts to combine human interest with natural and safe animal observation has resulted in an award by Trip Advisor for excellence in whale watching tours. A passionate group of residents, gorgeous scenery and eco-friendly activities await all Semiahmoo adventurers to Orcas Island.