Moran State Park (tel. 360/902-8844; www.parks.wa.gov) covers 5,252 acres of the island. This is the largest park in the San Juans and the main destination for most island visitors. If the weather is clear, you'll enjoy great views from the summit of Mount Constitution, which rises 2,409 feet above Puget Sound. Also here are five lakes, 33 miles of hiking trails, and an environmental learning center. Popular park activities include fishing, hiking, boating, mountain biking, and camping (for campsite reservations, contact Washington State Parks at tel. 888/226-7688, or go to www.parks.wa.gov/reserve.asp). The park is off Horseshoe Highway, approximately 13 miles from the ferry landing.
Although Orcas is considered the most challenging of the San Juan Islands for biking, plenty of cyclists pedal the island's roads. Dolphin Bay Bicycles (tel. 360/376-4157 or 360/317-6734; www.rockisland.com/~dolphin), located just to the right as you get off the ferry, has long been my favorite place in the islands to rent a bike. It's so close to the ferry dock that you can come to Orcas without a car, walk up the street to the shop, and hop on a bike. From here you can explore Orcas Island or take a free ferry to Lopez Island or Shaw Island. Bikes rent for $30 per day, $70 for 3 days, and $100 per week.
If you're already on the island and staying up near Eastsound, try Wildlife Cycles, 350 North Beach Rd., Eastsound (tel. 360/376-4708; www.wildlifecycles.com), where bikes rent for $30 to $40 per day.
For an overview of Orcas Island, try a scenic ride in a restored 1929 Travelair. The 30-minute flights with Magic Air Tours (tel. 800/376-1929 or 360/376-2733; www.magicair.com) cost $289 for two people ($212 for one person).
Boat Tours, Rentals & Charters
To explore some of the outer islands, contact North Shore Charters (tel. 360/376-4855; www.sanjuancruises.net), which offers tours as well as a shuttle service to some smaller islands.
If you're interested in heading out on the water aboard a 1940s sloop, contact Captain Ward Fay at Northwest Classic Day Sailing (tel. 360/376-5581; www.classicdaysails.com). Tours are aboard the 1940s vintage sloop Aura, which is skippered by Ward Fay. Three-hour afternoon and evening tours operate out of Deer Harbor and cost $70 for adults and $55 for children 12 and under. The season runs from mid-May through September.
At Lieber Haven Resort you can rent a bareboat or skippered sailboat from Orcas Island Sailing (tel. 360/376-2113; www.orcassailing.com), which starts at $160 for a half-day bareboat rental and $220 to $260 for a full day. You can also rent small sailboats and powerboats at Orcas Boat Rentals & Charters, Deer Harbor Marina, Deer Harbor Road (tel. 360/376-7616; www.orcasboats.com). Boats go for between $200 and $250 for an 8-hour rental.
Golfers can head to the 9-hole Orcas Island Country Golf Club, 2171 Orcas Rd. (tel. 360/376-4400; www.orcasgolf.com) near Eastsound. For 9 holes, it costs $20, and 18 holes cost $30. Golf carts are an additional $20 to $25.
Moran State Park, with its 33 miles of trails, is the best known and most popular place on Orcas to hike. The park offers hikes ranging from short, easy strolls alongside lakes to strenuous, all-day outings. However, the very best hiking destination on the island is in the 1,576-acre Turtleback Mountain Preserve (tel. 360/378-4402; www.co.san-juan.wa.us/land_bank/turtle_back.html), which is on the west side of the island and opened to the public in 2007. A trail runs north and south through the preserve, and the hike up from the southern trail head is the best hike in the entire Puget Sound region. In one hour's strenuous uphill walking, you'll climb nearly 1,000 feet and reach a rocky knoll from which you can look east to the pastures and hedgerows of Crow Valley and west across West Sound to dozens of islands scattered across shimmering waters. In the distance rise the Olympic Mountains and the hazy blue ridges of Canada's Vancouver Island. Come in June and you'll likely see wildflowers on Turtleback Mountain's open slopes. To reach the southern trail head, drive 1 1/4 miles west from the community of West Sound on Deer Harbor Road and turn right on Wild Rose Lane. The parking area is about 100 yards up this gravel road.
Another good hiking spot can be found south of the community of Olga, on the east arm of the island, where you'll find a .5-mile trail through Obstruction Pass State Park. This trail leads to a quiet little cove that has a few walk-in/paddle-in campsites. The park is at the end of Obstruction Pass Road.
You can learn about the natural history and plant life of the islands on guided hikes offered by Gnats Nature Hikes (tel. 360/376-6629; www.orcasislandhikes.com). Half-day hikes ($30) head out on the trails of Moran State Park.
If hiking, biking, and kayaking just aren't you, don't despair. How about a horseback ride through the deep woods? At Orcas Island Trail Rides (tel. 360/376-2134 or 360/622-7074; www.orcastrailrides.com), a 1-hour ride costs $65 and a 2-hour ride is $119.
The best way to see the Orcas Island coast is by sea kayak. My favorite local kayaking company is Shearwater Adventures (tel. 360/376-4699; www.shearwaterkayaks.com), which offers guided 3-hour tours ($59) and all-day tours ($89). These tours go out from several locations around the island, but I think those departing from Deer Harbor are the most scenic.
If you're on the island without a car, it's possible to go out from right at the ferry landing with Orcas Outdoors (tel. 360/391-0169; www.orcasoutdoors.com), which offers guided sea-kayak tours lasting from 1 hour ($30) to overnight ($279) or longer.
Two-hour paddle tours ($30) and brunch tours ($45) are offered by Spring Bay Inn (tel. 360/376-5531; www.springbayinn.com), which is on the east side of the island near the village of Olga. These trips are in an area where bald eagles nest in summer.
If you want to see some of the orca whales for which the San Juans are famous, you can take a whale-watching excursion with Deer Harbor Charters (tel. 800/544-5758 or 360/376-5989; www.deerharborcharters.com), which operates out of both Deer Harbor and Rosario Resort and charges $49 to $65 for adults and $32 to $37 for children; or with Orcas Island Eclipse Charters (tel. 800/376-6566 or 360/376-6566; www.orcasislandwhales.com), which operates out of the Orcas Island ferry dock and charges $62 for adults and $40 for children.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.