Pack your bags and head north of Seattle to the Anacortes ferry terminal. Hop (or drive) aboard a Washington State Ferry for the weekend as you explore the beauty of Orcas Island, the largest of the islands in the San Juans.

Savor the sea air as you cruise through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Salish Sea. Keep an eye out for whales and seals; you never know what wild life you may pop up.

Orcas Island view overlooking the water.

As you disembark your vessel drop your bags at your hotel (you are staying longer than a few hours right?!) and head to the nearest beach. Most months of the year you won’t want to shed your clothes and show off your swimsuit here in the Pacific Northwest, but even in the autumn months a light jacket can keep you warm as you skip rocks, look for shells, and check out tide pools along the coast.

Once you are through with a bit of sandy fun, head into Eastsound to explore the labyrinth in the garden of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. If you’re lucky a few flowers may still be in bloom. If not, well, you have the water views and stone path to keep you entertained.

Orcas Island cute town buildings.

Those in search of of higher altitudes can drive over to Moran State Park. Hike through the trails or head to the top of Mount Constitution for spectacular views of the surrounding islands, and on a very clear day Vancouver, BC. To get the best vantage point climb up the stone tower and take a deep breath of crisp, windy air.

Adventure seekers can hop on a whale tour, go on a trail ride, rent mopeds to tour around the island, zip line, kayak, or simply lay back and get a relaxing massage by a local practitioner. Many outdoor activities, particularly whale watching, are seasonal, so be sure to call ahead of time to make sure the company is open and the whales are jumping.

Orcas Island ferry.

Autumn brings a colorful display of trees across the island, and adds to the joy of discovery as you pop in and out of the shops that are still open as tourist seasons winds down. Now is the time to let your taste buds run wild at the local restaurants. While many can be packed in the summer, they are ready to welcome you with open arms as a chill settles into the air. A few favorites include Roses Bakery & Café, Allium, and the New Leaf Café, all in the town of Eastsound.

Orcas Island beach.

Consider sleeping at the Outlook Inn over night in Eastsound, a central location for the entire island, or escape the “crowds” and head down to the Deer Harbor Resort. Morning fog will greet you as it lifts through the islands, slowly exposing the natural beauty of this of this much beloved part of Washington. Grab a coffee, pull up a seat on a bench and just watch the world, or a star fish, pass you by; all too soon you will be back on the ferry headed home.

Fall on Orcas Island.

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