A spur-of-the-moment trip to the San Juan Islands is not the easiest to plan in the middle of summer (or for that matter, throughout the year). Ferry reservations can be difficult to obtain and accommodations are usually at peak season rates. I wanted to head up to Orcas Island and had a few days to get away and no intention of spending a chunk of it in Seattle traffic or waiting in ferry lines.
I used to ride Kenmore Air back and forth from Seattle to Orcas Island for work, and have always loved my flights with them. When I decided to do a quick trip to Orcas for some down-time, flying with them was a no-brainer. The flights may seem a little expensive but when you consider the time you’re saving by flying, it’s worth it. I figure I save around 7-8 hours by flying with Kenmore instead of driving. Also, consider the ferry fare from Anacortes to Orcas alone (roundtrip) for a party of four can be over $82 for a regular-sized vehicle:
- Driving from Seattle to Anacortes Ferry Terminal (real-time roundtrip): 3.0 hours
- Additional traffic because it’s Seattle (possible additional time): 1.0 hour
- Waiting in ferry lines (roundtrip-if the ferry is on time): 1-2 hours
- Ferry from Anacortes to Orcas (roundtrip): 2.5 hours
Mount Baker Farm
I booked a roundtrip flight departing from Boeing Field in Seattle to the Eastsound Airport on Orcas Island and then went about looking for an affordable option for accommodations. I decided to stay at and explore the Mount Baker Farm - a newer walk-in campground, set on 80 acres of rolling meadows and lush forest. It’s conveniently located less than a mile from the airport, making it easy to walk to.
Each campsite at Mount Baker Farm has at least one tent pad, a picnic table, and an above-ground fire pit. The campsites are nestled in an area of the property that is located under a dreamy canopy of trees. The big seller for me was the ability to rent all your camping equipment from them - meaning I didn’t have to bring anything with me! AND they will set your site up for you ahead of time. I chose to stay in a Lotus Bud tent and all I had to do was check-in and walk to my site.
If you bring your own camping equipment, be prepared to use the complimentary handcarts to walk all your gear to your site. This may seem laborious, but once you get into the camping area you’ll understand why they designed it this way. No cars driving through the campsites means it’s completely safe for kids (and everyone) to roam freely and ride bikes. Parents seemed to be extremely relaxed knowing their kids couldn’t be hit by cars in the camping area.
Mount Baker Farm also is home to a petting farm - complete with rescue goats, donkeys, and chickens. With the supervision of one of the owners or staff members, kids are able to pet and brush the animals. And to top it off, this place has a working train running on it! Weather permitting, the owners offer guests a ride around the property. It’s truly a unique experience.
Orcas Island Without a Car
If you’re worried about not having a car on Orcas...don’t. If you stay near town like I did, everything is walkable. The first night I walked into the main town of Eastsound and ate at Mijitas - a Mexican restaurant with dishes inspired by the chef/owner’s hometown near Mexico City. I chose the fish tacos and a house margarita - both were delicious!
It’s All in the Details
If you really want to eliminate stress and save time, consider connecting with the Isla Vida Group - a concierge team serving the San Juan Islands. You tell them what kinds of things you like to do and they will plan fun things for you. They can schedule transportation to and from the island (ferry reservations, flights on Kenmore), accommodations, dinner reservations, picnics, taxi services, group events, whale watching and tours - basically anything you want to do, they can help you. I wanted to go to Mount Constitution and visit the Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, as well as do some wine tasting at Doe Bay Wine Company.
Owners Sarah and Taryn at Isla Vida Group helped me schedule a tour with the Salish Sea Tour Co. We met our tour guide, Cole Sisson, in Eastsound and our small group hopped into a new Mercedes Sprinter and headed off to the Olga Area where Buck Bay Shellfish Farm is located. We chose our own oysters and clams and sat outside shucking shellfish while sipping on some Pinot Gris. It was a delicious and surreal experience.
Afterwards, we headed up to Mount Constitution to take in the 180-degree views overlooking the San Juans and into Canada.
Our final stop was back into Eastsound for some wine tasting at the charming Doe Bay Wine Company shop. We tried some really beautiful wines from their own line, The Orcas Project, and my particular favorite was their Albariño! We were also served bread and cheese with some delicious Teezers Cookies and preserves from Girl Meets Dirt.
This trip was perfection - and all in 48 hours! Orcas Island is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth and offers a wealth of diverse activities if you know where to look for them. I hope you’re able to experience some of it this summer!