On the Road: Orcas Island

February 21st, 2014 · No Comments · Beer Travels, Washington Breweries

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One of my favorite things about Seattle is how many great weekend trips we have available to us. Whenever a 3-day weekend, like this past Presidents Day weekend, comes around, my wife and I are often found exploring much of what the NW has to offer. Whether you head towards the coast, the mountains, Canada, Oregon or somewhere in between, we aren’t going to run out of travel options anytime soon. And, one of the best parts of travelling in the NW? There is almost always a local brewery or ten you can visit.

So, this past Friday I picked Jeanne up from work right after 5pm, and we fought traffic to head straight up to the San Juan Islands Ferry terminal in Anacortes. We passed up several breweries along the way, including one of my favorites, Anacortes Brewery, but we were in a hurry to get to the ferry terminal as quickly as possible. The first lesson about getting to the San Juans is that leaving after work on a Friday from Seattle probably isn’t the best idea, even in the winter. We showed up around 7pm and were holding out just a bit of hope that we’d make the 7:10pm ferry, or at least the 7:50pm. No such luck. While we waited, we enjoyed a Valentine’s Day meal of a pre-made turkey sandwich from the Cheesecake Cafe, which is located in the ferry terminal. Romantic, huh? We did make it on to the last ferry of the night at 9:05pm, which actually left at more like 9:30pm. Not everyone was so lucky; some cars were certainly turned around at the gate and told to come back the next day.

This was our first trip to Orcas Island, and it’s safe to say it will not be our last. It is the largest of the San Juan Islands, and there is plenty to explore. Eastsound is the main city on Orcas, and there are several options for lodging, eating and drinking. I would imagine during the summer that Orcas is overrun with tourists, but this time of year it was pretty quiet.

Where to Drink & Eat:
Eastsound is a small town, but there are plenty of eating and drinking options. The obvious choice for us was a visit to Island Hoppin’ Brewery, which is located about a 1/2 mile or so outside of the main part of the town. The taproom is small, but they also have a bit of overflow seating in the brewery. They rotate their beers often, and they had 7 offerings when we were there. My favorite of the bunch were the Driftwood Smoked Amber, with just enough smoke to make it interesting, and the Old Madrona, which they describe as a double red ale, but it drinks almost like a barleywine. The do growler fills as well, so you can take some back to drink later. Their beers have also started showing up around the Seattle market more often, so you may be familiar with a few of their beers.

We were lucky that our house rental for the weekend was just a mile or so away from the Doe Bay Resort, which boasts a fantastic (and fairly large) cafe that does breakfast and dinner on the weekends during the winter season. Lots of fresh, local ingredients, and we didn’t even realize until after our first visit that the menu is 100% vegetarian/seafood. We went for breakfast twice over the weekend, and while everything wasn’t perfect and it ain’t cheap, we really enjoyed it both times. I highly suggest the breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, garden greens, black beans, smoked mushrooms, tomatillo sauce, cilantro-avocado cream, salsa and pickled red onions. Yep, it was as good as it sounds; I’m glad my wife shared hers with me. They also had a nice selection of baked goods and several craft beers on tap, including the Old Madrona from Island Hoppin’.

The only other food-related place we stopped was at Rose’s Bakery & Cafe. They have a nice selection of fresh baked bread, cheese, meat and more. We needed a few things for dinner back at the house we were renting, and Rose’s worked out perfectly. The attached cafe looked like it would be a perfect lunch spot, but we did not partake.

What to Do:
Relax and explore. We drove around the island quite a bit, exploring the various corners and just enjoying the scenery. It is the largest of the San Juan Islands, and there is quite a bit of farmland that I’m sure supplies a great farmers market during the summer. The highlight of the island might be Moran State Park, which is the 3rd largest state park in Washington and offers plenty of hiking and camping. We didn’t hike on this trip, but we did drive up to the top of Mt. Constitution and were rewarded with an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and islands in both the US and Canada.

There are also quite a few shops in town that would be worth checking out. We went in a great little bookstore/coffee shop, as well as a couple of art galleries featuring local artists.

We also did a whole lot of nothing on this trip. We sat in front of the fireplace at our house rental, read a lot, watched a movie, and just flat out relaxed. Orcas in the winter (and the weather that goes along with it) is perfect for this.

Where to Stay:
There are several hotels in Eastsound, as well as B&Bs spread throughout the island. But, we opted for a house rental on Airbnb that was perfect. It was affordable and very quiet/secluded, but not too far away from civilization.


On a side note, I’m really hoping to do more of these “On the Road” posts in the future. Thinking about what I really enjoy writing about on this website, my posts that I’ve done about my travels probably stick out as my favorite. I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing up my trips in the past couple of years a bit, and I’d like to get back into it. We’ll see if it happens. These surely aren’t meant to be a comprehensive travel post like you might find in a magazine, but more of a writeup of what we did and enjoyed.


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