Orcas Island Explorations – 5 “Western Arm” Gems
Believe it or not we’re only a few days away from leaving Orcas Island. Our 3 weeks here have sped by and soon our Island-hopping days will be over. The end of summer is near, cooler weather is nipping at our heels and the southward chapter of our RV travels is starting.
My oh my how life flies by.
But rather than sound like an old codger bemoaning the loss of my youth, I’m going to throw off the reminiscing and take you on an exploration of the Western Side of Orcas Island. A few posts back I revealed some hidden secrets on the Eastern Side, and to be honest that’s where we’ve spent the majority of our time here. But the “Western Arm”, albeit a little sleepier and perhaps less glamorous than the East hides some excellent gems which deserve a post of their very own. Here it goes….
Hopping Eastsound Village
Technically Eastsound is really in the smack middle of Orcas right between the two dangling arms of the Island. You literally can’t miss driving through here and it’s much, much more than just a passing stop. Eastsound is the beating heart of “town” life on the Island. This is where you find the cool organic stores (The Food Co-op is a wonderful store, as is the local IGA), the farmers market (a very vibrant market each Sat AM), the art stores, the restaurants (over 15 of them!), the bakeries and just about every other activity known to man. I could do an entire post just on all the little gems in this town and we’ve certainly spent more than our fair share of time hanging there, but instead I’ll give you just a few of our favorite stops:
- Best Bakery – Hands down the best bakery in town is also its most popular, Brown Bear Bakery and with 60 yelp reviews, all 5-star I know I’m not the only one that thinks so. There’s a few, select gluten-free options here and the Mocha’s are pretty darn good too. Just be prepared to wait in line. It’s worth it.
- Best Breakfast – In my mind, the most laid-back breakfast place in town is The Island Skillet. Big, tasty portions with plenty of gluten-free options too.
- Best “Fast Food” – The Kitchen is the local go-to place for easy, Asian food. They actually call themselves “fast enough” Asian and really do take their time to cook everything to order. Very fresh concoctions for very reasonable prices.
- Best Museum – Well OK I admit it, the Pioneer Museum is the ONLY museum in town, but it’s really worth the mention. A fabulous museum with detailed info on early Orcas settlers, historical finds, displays and more. For a mere $5 this is a “must do”.
- Best Dinner with a View – The Madrona Bar & Grill has by far and away the best view in town IMHO. Decent food (not great, but decent) with the waves lapping right at your feet. Get an outdoor table and try their fish and chips.
And of course you can just wander around and enjoy. Eastsound typically always has something going on with open galleries and (often) live music on the grassy lawn in the center of town. No trip to Orcas would be complete without a stop here, so make sure you put aside a few hours to munch some local nosh and take it all in.
Note/ Several of the Eastsound restaurants have outdoor seating areas open to dogs including Brown Bear Bakery, The Island Skillet and The Kitchen. The Museum is not dog-friendly, but the weekly farmers market is.
Cool Island Pottteries
Pottery on Orcas is actually quite a particular thing. The Island boasts the oldest active potteries in the northwest, spanning back 150-years of continuous art in clay. Even if you have NO practical use whatsoever for pottery (say, you live in a bleedin’ RV for example), it’s totally worth the trip just to gawk at the local art and admire the creations.
Orcas Pottery is the oldest on the Island and is located in a gorgeous spot atop a 100-foot ocean bluff right near West Beach. A forested 1-lane road takes you to an enchanted paradise with tables of beautiful pottery, a gorgeous garden and a super-cool tree-house (seriously!).
Crow Valley is in an 1866 log cabin on the main road to the ferry and is more of a combined gallery of art (painting, glass, jewelry etc.) rather than a pure pottery, but also has an excellent collection of items. I was blown away by the artistry at both these spots and had a blast of a time just visiting the stores. Honestly, don’t miss this!
Note/ No doggies allowed in the potteries. Kind of makes sense, but wanted to point it out anyway.
The west side may not have much in terms of actual towns, but it’s got its own little set of sleepy harbors with pretty enough views for a pleasant day-trip.
Deer Harbor is about as far west as you can get on the Island and has a little store & marina, plus the two guys that own the place are a hoot. When I asked them who they were they promptly informed me they “owned the Island”. With a little more prompting it turns out one of the two was an avid RVer with a 40-foot rig parked in Anacortes (go figure).
West Beach Resort is a cute cove with a very nice beach as well as the one and only real RV park on the Island. If you’re anything bigger than a truck camper this is your best bet, period. It’s not much more than a large grassy parking area with limited hookups, but some of the sites do have slice-views and you could fit a beast-sized rig in here with some maneuvering.
More Butt-Busting Trails
Although not nearly as “famous” as Mount Constitution, the west side of the Island has her own little mountain in the form of Turtleback Mountain Preserve. There’s a good 8-miles of trails here rising up to ~1,500 feet, mostly empty with some great views from the top. So, if the one mountain isn’t enough for you, well…you’ve got two.
Note/ Turtleback Preserve is entirely dog-friendly, so feel free to bring pooch along for the hike.
And A Brewery….
What????? An Island brewery??? Yup, believe it or not there is a local, on-island brewery right next to the airport on the northwest side of the Island. Island Hoppin’ Brewery is a cute, little spot which offers some very decent brews, all local and perfect for a post-hike drink. They’re still young and developing their craft, but they’ve already got a steady local clientele. A partially-covered outdoor area is open to kids & dogs, and if you buy into the “mug club” you get your own mug (that you can store on-site) and a regular discount on the beer.
Now all this place needs is a local winery….Oh wait, they already have one!!
That about closes my Island walk-about for you. I’ll probably write one more post to wrap-up our time here with my general thoughts on living & RVing the Islands. Plus I DO need to let you know how/if we make it down the mountain (oh yeah, it’ll be another adventure for sure). Still can’t believe this time is almost over, but there you go. The seasons march on and so do we. Next stop…Oregon!
P.S. Thanks to all who commented on the whole extrovert/hermit thing in my last post. It’s nice to hear I’m not the only one with this weird dual personality split. Outgoing hermits unite!
Useful Links & Info:
- Orcas Island – Download visitor map HERE
- Orcas Potteries – Link to Orcas Pottery HERE and Crow Valley HERE
- Turtleback Mountain Preserve – Hiking trail map HERE
- Island Hopping Brewery – Link to the brewery HERE
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