Take time to appreciate the area’s natural beauty, whether it’s from a kayak, a whale watching boat, or the observation tower of Moran State Park.

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Located just 100 miles from Seattle, Orcas Island is an ideal getaway for a long weekend. The island is a great destination all year round — but a visit during the summer months means you’ll have the opportunity to fully appreciate the area’s natural beauty, whether it’s from a kayak, a whale watching boat, or the observation tower of Moran State Park. And, after a busy day outside, plan to fortify and treat yourself with a delicious meal cooked from local ingredients.

Kayak tours

Whether you’re trying sea kayaking for the very first time or you’re a total pro, you’ll easily be able to find a tour that leaves right from the Rosario Marina. Shearwater Adventures offers both full- and half-day tours for kayakers of all skill levels.

Shearwater’s most popular offering is its three-hour tour, which caters to people of all ages and ability levels — so it’s an excellent activity for families staying at Rosario Resort & Spa. These half-day trips fit up to eight people, so guests get an intimate experience and plenty of one-on-one instruction and guidance if necessary. Morning and afternoon tours are offered in the spring, and evening tours are added during July and August.

If you have some kayaking experience under your belt and want to spend the entire day on the water, sign up for a full-day trip to Sucia and Jones Islands, two of the most beautiful state parks in Washington.

Regardless of which tour you take, you can expect to see a variety of wildlife including harbor seals, river otters, sea lions, porpoises, sea stars and bald eagles. If you’re really lucky, you may spot a humpback or orca whale during your trip.

All paddling gear is provided, so no need to haul any extra luggage.

Whale watching

If you’re looking for a more low-key (but equally exciting) activity, book a whale watching trip with Deer Harbor Charters, which operates from Rosario Resort.

Deer Harbor Charters’ tours double as an educational experience. In addition to a U.S. Coast Guard-certified captain, each tour has a professional naturalist on board who is trained in biology, mammalogy, and marine ecology. These naturalists educate guests about the social networks of each ecotype. As you cruise the islands and take in stunning marine views, you’ll also learn about the island’s fascinating local history.

Depending on the location of wildlife, tours range from three to four hours. On a typical tour, visitors get to watch marine mammal-eating orca whales (Biggs killer whales), fish-eating orca whales (southern resident orca whales), humpback whales and minke whales.

Hiking in Moran State Park

Located adjacent to Rosario Resort is Moran State Park, which offers multiple hiking and biking trails, horseback riding trails, and areas for non-motorized boating. The park was part of Robert Moran’s estate until 1921, when he offered thousands of acres of the property to Washington state. Moran’s donation was inspired by his association with preservationist John Muir, along with the conservation policies of President Theodore Roosevelt. Today, it’s considered one of Washington’s premier state parks.

The park boasts a wide number of trails, so hikers of all skill levels will easily be able to find the route that best suits their taste and experience level. During your exploration of Moran State Park, make sure you visit the observation tower on Mount Constitution. It’s the highest point on the San Juan Islands and you’ll be treated to gorgeous, panoramic marine views.

Enjoy food from local farms and producers

Tomato and fennel salad. (Rosario Resort & Spa)
Tomato and fennel salad. (Rosario Resort & Spa)

Raymond Southern, executive chef at the The Mansion Restaurant at Rosario Resort, works closely with local farms and producers to curate the restaurant’s ever-evolving menu.

On the current menu you’ll find beets, radishes, and leeks from Ralph’s Greenhouse in Skagit Valley; rapini, microgreens, and lettuce from Maple Rock Farm in Orcas Island; cauliflower and kale from Hedlin Farms in Skagit Valley; rhubarb from Living Rain Farm in Skagit Valley; lamb and goat from Lum Farm in Orcas Island; oysters from Judd Cove Oysters in Orcas Island; and pink shell scallops from Jones Family Farm. Southern also uses a lot of lettuce and microgreens from Rosario’s own greenhouse.

“With all of these great local ingredients I try to page homage in two ways,” Southern says. “First of all to the ingredients themselves, and secondly to preparing them based on several places around the world I have traveled and lived. Using our ingredients here I try to respect as best as possible classic and cultural dishes that I have had the pleasure of cooking or tasting in their original locale and custom.”

Rosario Resort & Spa is located on Orcas Island, 90 miles north of Seattle. Catch the WA state ferry from Anacortes (reservations available online) or fly directly into the Rosario Marina on a float plane via Kenmore Air.