Sometimes you need to get away from Seattle and go to a place where you are shut off from the world. In this day and age where the verizon network guys and wireless internet follow you everywhere you go, it can be hard to shut your devices off and get a place where you can safely be alone, away from work and distraction, to absorb some peace and quiet.
This past weekend my wife and I decided the time had come that we needed a break from our normal grind to get away and simply be alone for a while. We were able to cash in a gift certificate we’ve been saving to the Doe Bay Resort and Retreat on Orcas Island and on fairly short notice, were able to reserve a simple rustic cabin with a view for two nights (on a weekend in June!).
A beauty in taking a trip to the San Juans is that part of the joy of going there is in the actual trip. Door to door the trip to Orcas Island is about 3 hours from Seattle. The first hour and a half is spent driving to the Anacortes ferry terminal, and then the next hour or so doesn’t feel like a commute at all. A ferry ride to the San Juans, as most ferry rides on the sound, is a treat for the senses. The San Juan Islands and the Pudget Sounds are geographical characteristics that set us apart from the rest of the country and it is truly a sight to behold that doesn’t get old. As you make your way across the sound you’ll be able to spot some wildlife (we saw seals, and jellyfish), as well as many of the other islands including Shaw and Lopez Island.
SMALL TOWN CHARM
Aside from the unbeatable natural setting, Orcas Island is a charming place with a few small towns packed full of mom and pop stores and restaurants. You’ll find plenty of local art, crafts, and even an abundance of locally farmed shell fish. As you drive to anywhere on the island, be sure to have your camera handy because Orcas Island is simply ripe with breathtaking natural scenery, as well as the charm that small island towns bring. The one town we stopped and spent the most time in during our trip was the small one stop waterfront town of East Sound. While there, we went for a very lovely walk where it being low tide, we were able to walk out into the cove and see an assortment of clams, crabs, and take in the tidal sea life. We did some picture taking and window shopping in the towns handful of shops selling local arts crafts, and driftwood furniture. If you have a car on Orcas Island, you can spend a nice afternoon driving around it. Since there’s only one main road, you wont really even need a map. Aside from East Sound we could tell that the other small dock downs of Deer Harbor, and West Sound would have a lot to offer as well. We decided to keep moving and to tuck these places away for next time.
Vern’s Bayside Restaurant
While in Eastsound, we at at a lovely place called Vern’s Bayside Restaurant. This was actually our second time eating there, and we have found that Vern’s offers incredibly generous portions, delicious breakfasts, sandwhiches, accompanied by one of our favorite views on the island. From the inside, there’s window side seating that looks out at a protective cove with a small island, and will likely be a couple boats anchored out in the bay. The restaurant has a bar in its lower level as well as patio seating aside the cove. I highly recommend splurging a little more than the $10 fare at the restaurant and opt for either the crab omelet, or crab club sandwich for $7 more. Not only are they generous with the portions of crab they include, but it is incredibly fresh. If you’re not too hungry and are there with someone else, I’d advise maybe splitting a single meal because of its size. Vern’s is a down home slice of island version Americana with a friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere.
DOE BAY RESORT & RETREAT
On the Southeast corner of Orcas Island lies a tucked away resort and retreat known as Doe Bay. This place is simply breathtaking. On bulletin board on the resort, the owners included this quote in a newsletter written for their guests.
“I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own” ~ Andy Warhol
This quote basically sums up Doe Bay in a nutshell. Like so many destinations in the Northwest, Doe Bay is a spectacular place on its own. The Doe Bay Resort & Retreat exists to allow people to be in its space without getting in the way of the bay’s visual beauty, or disrupting it locations environmentally. The Resort is 40 or so acres of pristine waterfront property that overlooks Doe Bay and the Rosario Straight of the San Juan Islands. The staff are incredibly friendly and the main aspect I enjoyed is that I truly felt like the place can serve as a resort, or a true retreat. We chose the latter, and spent 2 days in absolute quiet. I must give credit to the staff and the resort layout itself as I felt like we were simply left alone to let time stand still for a while. The one resort type aspect we did take advantage of was the hot tubs and sauna. In the middle of the woods overlooking the bay is a beautiful sauna with a trio of hot tubs and cold plunge in what looks like a Japanese pagoda style building open to the woods around it. On the Friday of our stay, we were able to enjoy the hot tubs on our own. An amazing treat that got our trip started right. On the Saturday morning however, the hot tubs were not only a bit crowded, but also clothing optional. We didn’t mind the clothing optional aspect of it so much as we felt like the odd folks out as we were the only ones who chose the option to wear swim suits. We reminded ourselves that next time we’d come on a weekday and hopefully luck out on getting to enjoy the hot tubs on our own, or at least with fewer folks. Should we have decided to indulge in more of the resort aspects of place, there were many options to take advantage of that included, massages in one of the many “massage cabins”, daily yoga classes, and daily kayaking tours. There is also a critically acclaimed cafe and restaurant on the property that prides itself on growing much of the ingredients and produce used in the restaurant in the resorts very own organic garden. Our budget didn’t allow us to eat at the restaurant, as we were opting for a bag of chips and cheep beer, but the beauty of that as well as the places we weren’t able to see is that it leaves us something to look forward to for our next trip to Orcas Island.
The accommodations at Doe Bay vary from cabins of different sizes, to hostels, Yurts, or simple camp sights. We opted for a small cabin called “Naga” and like all of the accommodations there, it was very simple and rustic. This is not the kind of place you’re going to want to stay if you’re looking for room service and plasma screen TV’s. Its a real cabin with the bare essentials and for us, it was perfect. Our Cabin was one room with a small kitchen, queen sized bed, bathroom, and a lovely deck that wrapped around the front
Yurt at Doe Bay
overlooking a prairie leading down to aspen groves and the water. Deer seemed to be everywhere and watching them made for a nice way to take a break from my crossword puzzles and occasional naps.
If you plan on going there, you’ll notice when making your reservation that some of the cabins, and all of the yurts, don’t have electricity and/or running water. There are a couple communal buildings with bathrooms and multiple shower rooms. Some of the more beautiful camping spots are a bit of a walk (maybe 100 yards or so) from these facilities, so you’ll need to weigh out whether you want to be close to convenience or in a more beautiful location as the more remote camp spots and yurts are closer to the water, and have some of the more wonderful views. Walking around the grounds, we happened upon the aspen groves pictured below. The trail leads to the camp spots and yurts with the best views, but maybe not the most space. We’ll be back in August and will be opting for the Yurt to get a different experience. We’ll also be venturing to different parts of Orcas Island as well so we’ll see you then for Orcas Island Part two