Cozy Lodgings on Woodlands at Washington’s San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are a 172-island archipelago near Washington’s northern coast, an area known for its shoreline parks and abundant wildlife. Its largest island, Orcas Island, feels like an enchanting storybook destination with verdant hillsides, old-growth forests, and glittering bays frequented by orca whales. It’s here, tucked amid 11 peaceful, wooded acres on a bluff overlooking Deer Harbor Marina, that you’ll find the Resort at Deer Harbor, which pairs the island’s intimate seclusion with homey comforts.
Each of the resort’s secluded cottages and suites features a private deck with a hot tub, and some look out onto the harbor or the surrounding evergreens. The roomy waterfront suite’s A-frame cottage resembles a log cabin with wooden walls and exposed wooden beams. On brisk nights, you can rent a DVD from the resort’s library and warm up next to an in-room fireplace (in most cabins).
In the morning, enjoy a complimentary breakfast with hard-boiled eggs, bagels, maple bars, and cinnamon rolls topped with homemade icing. The innkeeper can also add gluten-free items on request. After breakfast, you can take a dip in the seasonal outdoor pool or walk down to the marina to arrange sea kayak treks or hop on whale-watching tours to catch a glimpse of native orca whales.
Orcas Island, Washington: Whale Watching and Scuba Diving near Artsy Hamlets
The largest of Washington's San Juan Islands is Orcas Island, nicknamed the "emerald isle" for its douglas firs, rolling hills, and waterfalls. While scuba diving in the island's bays, you might spot sea anemones, eel, and sunflower starfish—massive starfish that can have more than 20 arms. Between the months of March and October, you can take whale-watching tours to see native birds, seals, and pods of resident orca whales rehearsing the musical version of Moby-Dick.
It's worth it to take a scenic 20-minute drive east to the island's artsy Eastsound village. There’s no official mayor of this cozy hamlet, although cows, sheep, and dogs have all held honorable mayoral office here in the past. The village is home to a number of art galleries and studios, and in the summer, local artists often display their pottery, paintings, and eclectic crafts outside, and musicians play live music at the weekly farmers' market. You can also visit the Orcas Island Historical Museum, a cluster of 19th-century cabins that house photos and artifacts chronicling the island's rich past.
Even farther east, at Moran Park, you can hike, bike, or ride horseback along 30 miles of wooded trails. To reach the archipelago’s highest point, climb Mount Constitution, known for postcard-worthy views of the surrounding islands and landmarks as far away as Mount Rainier.
Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.