Log-Cabin Cottages and Century-Old Restaurant Along Deer Harbor
For more than a century, people have stayed at The Deer Harbor Inn for small-town hospitality on Washington’s Orcas Island. The property started in 1891 as an apple orchard that attracted Seattle teachers on summer vacation. In the early 20th century, its owners transformed the orchard's modest cabins into a full-fledged resort, with home-cooked meals at the onsite restaurant—still in operation today—and unparalleled views of Deer Harbor and the Olympic Mountains. You can still find the same down-home hospitality and tranquil scenery at Deer Harbor Inn, which welcomes those visiting to watch the whales in the spring, hike through the forests, or ride horseback to the waterfalls in Moran State Park.
The inn's cabin-like cottages are scattered throughout 5 wooded acres where you might see rabbits, deer, and bald eagles. The Log Cabin Lodge feels like an upscale cabin, with a wooden exterior and propane fireplace plus a communal six-person hot tub. You’ll also find private, four-person hot tubs on the back decks of the two homey Orchard cottages, which are surrounded by apple trees in a nod to the property’s history as an orchard. Inside, quilted bedcovers top comfy handmade beds. The two-bedroom Pond cottage, accommodating six, is the best fit for large families.
Each morning, wake up with a complimentary breakfast basket. The Deer Harbor Inn Restaurant has been around for nearly a century and serves entrees made with fresh seafood and seasonal produce. The inn also has an onsite spa, located inside a tiny cottage, where you can receive an organic facial or a couples massage.
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. The island's bays are filled with 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.
Take a scenic 20-minute drive east to the island's artsy Eastsound Village. There’s no official mayor of this hamlet, although cows, sheep, and dogs have all held honorary mayoral office here in the past. The village is home to a number of art galleries and studios. 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 State 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.