Leave the boys at home. This one’s for the girls. Because sometimes we gals need a testosterone-free, comfy jeans filled, cocktail toasting, spa dipping girls’ weekend getaway. And Orcas Island is the perfect destination.
Whether it’s you and your bestie or you and your whole crew, this Orcas Island adventure is loaded with fun activities, tasty dinners, and leisurely trips to the spa.
3:00 PM Settling In
Catch the afternoon flight to Orcas. It’s just 45 minutes from downtown Seattle. You’ll arrive with plenty of time to immerse yourselves in the classic ‘island time’ culture – where rushing is sacrosanct and strolling is encouraged. As you make your way to one of the island’s fabulous bed and breakfasts, inns or resorts, take a moment to get and know a bit of the island’s history. Pop into the Orcas Island Historical Museum (open until 4:00 PM on Fridays). It features original homestead cabins from the first settlers, a selection of Native American artifacts, and several of the oral histories that have been recorded in recent years.
5:30 PM James Beard Nominee Dinner
This isn’t a time to watch your calories. (Comfy jeans were recommended for a reason.) James Beard nominee and 2017 Food & Wine Best New Chef, Jay Blackinton isn’t messing around.
His farm-to-table cuisine is worth the trip – if only to sample a slice of wood oven pie adorned with garden fresh zucchini slivers and Myers goat cheese. In an untraditional move, Blackinton operates two restaurants from one location - Hogstone’s Wood Oven (his casual pizzeria) and Aelder (his upscale multi-course restaurant).
You can’t go wrong with either choice and reservations are strongly recommended for both. Blackinton didn’t take the expected ‘mediocre’ approach. (He was nominated for a James Beard award after all.) And the results are telling, as the dining room and back backyard are packed on a nightly basis.
P.S. Hogstone and Aelder sometimes close for the winter season. Don’t worry. They’ll both be open again soon.
8:30 AM Fortify
Lovers of creamy egg yolk rejoice. From baked eggs to poached eggs, the breakfast menu at Roses Bakery Café won’t disappoint. There are poached eggs on crispy polenta and poached eggs with fresh seasonal greens. There are baked eggs with Gruyere and baked eggs with ham. This is a leisurely breakfast joint, the kind where produce is locally sourced and pastries are fresh from the oven – including the sunflower seed bread, a house specialty.
10:30 AM Hike. Enjoy a View
Home to the tallest peak in the San Juan Islands, Orcas Island’s Mount Constitution offers a 360-degree view of Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Vancouver Island and beyond. At a towering 2,409 feet, hiking to the top a trek. Luckily, hiking it is not the only option. There’s a paved road all the way up. Stop part way up for a leisurely 3-mile stroll around Mountain Lake and then continue onto the summit.
12:30 PM: Lunch and a Dip
For some, a girls’ getaway weekend is all about the food. For others, it’s all about the spa dates. At Doe Bay Resort, it’s all about both. In keeping with the farm-to-table cuisine from Friday night’s dinner, Doe Bay’s acclaimed chef, Jon Chappelle, spends his mornings tending garden and his days creating inventive, seasonal menus.
Here, brunch and lunch are one in the same thing – with selections changing regularly. But one thing’s for certain – if clams are on the menu get them. Anything with a fried or soft-boiled egg is exquisite. If bloody mary’s are your thing, they make a good one. And if you love a good fry bread, ask about the eggplant starter.
But by all means, make sure you ladies remember the spa. Located just a short walk from the café, you don’t even need a bathing suit. (The outdoor soaking tubs are clothing optional.) Offering breathtaking views of the bay, the spa is tucked privately into the hillside and protected by towering evergreens. (Drop-ins $15.)
5:00 PM It’s 5 o’Clock Right Here
It would be wrong not to mention The Barnacle. This tiny one-room bar in Eastsound isn’t much bigger than its namesake. However, it’s inventive cocktail selection is crafted with housemade juices, bitters, infusions, and shrubs. The bartenders are lively. The service is superb. And, the tiny joint tends to feel like a scene from Hernando’s Hideaway as the sun goes down.
6:30 PM Dining Views
Take a leisurely stroll to the southern edge of Eastsound, where New Leaf Café offers stunning waterfront views and a seafood-focused menu. With a focus on unpretentious, flavor-forward cuisine, Chef Steve Debaste draws on his French heritage and the island’s bounty. The meals are slow. The portions are designed to satisfy. And the setting is something out of a storybook.
9:00 AM Savory & Sweet
The lines at Brown Bear Baking can sometimes be longer than you’d expect on an island with a resident population of approximately 5,000. But the locally owned and operated bakery typically sells out before their 4:00 PM closing.
Daily selections range from orange scented morning buns and peach croissants to smoked salmon quiche and caramelized banana bread. Brewing Victrola coffee and offering a selection of decadent teas, it’s hard to go wrong.
Of particular note is their signature sticky pecan bans - nearly the size of a dinner plate, the nut-crusted top, caramel top gives way to a soft, decadent interior.
10:30 AM Reset
Eastsound, the island’s major town, is just a few square blocks. But the quaint downtown drag is home to a collection of novelty gift shops that seem to be designed for a girl’s date. You and your gal pals can pick up the next book read club at Darvill’s, compare funky coasters at Nest, and find the softest graphic T’s you never knew you had to have at Printshop.
And before you’re done, show your body some love. Drop into Orcas Mandala, Eastsound’s yoga studio. Classes regularly focus on deep breathing and long gentle stretches, the perfect combination for a final reset before you return to ‘normal’ life.
Additional Orcas Island Tips
A car waiting for you wherever you need it, with the keys on the floor mat and the front door unlocked.
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With its craftsman style exterior and 1,972 pipe organ, Rosario Resort has often been praised for its old-world elegance. But since 2016, Raymond Southern took over the kitchen and the buzz surrounding this historic site has been a bit more edible.