Orcas Island – San Juan Islands part deux

Our second island visit in the San Juans was Orcas island, a much larger and busier island than Lopez. While we were sad to leave our fantastic beachfront campsite on Lopez, we were extremely excited to head to Orcas for one reason: Doe Bay Resort.

Back in February when we were researching and booking this trip I found Doe Bay online. We were taken back by the cost ($62 for a non-hookup site!), but we were drawn to the ideals of an organic, earthy, yoga inspired resort. The advertised soaking pools on a deck overlooking the bay sealed the deal!

We packed up Tequila in the persistent rain and boarded our ferry. Upon arrival to Orcas Village the rain increased in intensity but no mind, we were on an adventure to explore much of the island on our way to the far end, where Doe Bay was located. We enjoyed wandering back roads on our way to Orcas Island Potters, our first stop.

My primary reason for the stop had been to find a birthday gift for our friend, Dana, but once we arrived at this magical place it was tough to draw ourselves away! Orcas Potters is in a gorgeous, country setting, overlooking the water, and used by around 15 local potters. Throughout the acre or so there were endless amazing tables of pottery. Although we weren’t in the market for anything ourselves it was tough to not purchase something from each potter!

As we left the pottery studio and headed into the village of Eastsound the sun started to break through into what turned out into a gorgeous summer day. We had a wonderful lunch at a very small Asian restaurant called The Kitchen, got a small bit of goods at the grocery store, and headed on to the resort, eager to check out what would be our home for the next four nights.

Our first impression of Doe Bay was that it reminded us of a 1950’s resort in the Adirondacks with small cottages covering the area between the parking lot and the bay.

The store and cafe lined the bay before a grassy area with assorted Adirondack chairs taking in the view.

Our second impression, when we arrived at our campsite, was huge disappointment. The site was a muddy mess, not the resorts fault with the recent rain, but nonetheless a big disappointment after leaving our beautiful beach.

The next campsite was extremely close and we had no view except of a view trees and the unappealing cottage on the other side of us.

It was an enormous letdown. We had been looking forward to this part of our vacation for months and the letdown was pretty extreme. Jim said it first “Let’s see how it goes today and tomorrow and we can always leave”. We got camp set up and headed out for a walk of the property. Some of the cabins were quite cute on the outside, although with fairly dated furnishings inside and at prices ranging from $150-280 seemed extremely overpriced. There was a path along the far side of the cliff with walk in tent camping sights that did have beautiful views, the store and restaurant were quite cute and the staff friendly. Perhaps we could make this work.

We were aware that the soaking pool area was clothing optional which didn’t bother us at all. What was a bit off putting that “soaking pools” didn’t mean natural mineral springs but typical hot tubs that were built into the deck. Granted, the view was gorgeous and we’re big hot tub fans but we just felt like it wasn’t quite as advertised. By that evening when we hit the tubs, a variety of other people were there as well. As soon as the families left, all of the remaining hot tubbers got naked. Ok, no problem, but what was bizarre to us is that they kept talking about getting naked. For easily 30 minutes these people, who previously had spent most of their time letting everyone know about their accomplishments, talked about how glad they were the families had left because then they could be naked. It was curious.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny and drinking our coffee while watching the sailboats in the bay certainly improved our outlook.

We spent the day hiking, checking out the rest of the property, hot tubbing and reading. We decided to have dinner at the restaurant, an excellent idea as it was outstanding! Dinner started with a great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and the cheese plate. Jim had the pizza special, amazing! A base of a lemony aioli covered in artichoke hearts, ricotta salata and asiago cheese, it was perhaps one of the top five pizzas we have ever eaten. I had the wild mushroom, caramelized leek and goat cheese galette with a side garden salad. It was all out of this world. The evening also included entertainment by the Portland bluegrass band, The Bottlecap Boys whom we hadn’t heard before but will search out in the future for their energizing, entertaining music.

Although it was a wonderful evening. by the next morning we knew it was time to move on. Although we had gotten a bit more into the vibe we were trying to reach and the staff was great, we just weren’t quite finding what we were looking for. The advertisements were all focused on promoting the natural and organic but what it felt like was that we were just being overcharged and we found that the majority of the guests were not people we were enjoying meeting. The norm seemed to be well off wanta be hippies who liked to talk about themselves. Personally, I think Doe Bay should go in one of two directions, either truly make a natural, organic ashram type setting with lower prices and a more earthy clientele, or go with the relatively expensive lodgings they are offering but spruce them up to fit the prices they’re charging.

With no plan and no Washington State map we decided to head back to Anacortes and go from there. A chance discussion with an employee at the grocery in Orcas Village caused us to decide to head back to Anacortes, drive down Whidby Island, and ferry to Port Townsend, on the Olympic Peninsula and see what we could find. By this point in the week the weather was perfection and even though we missed the ferry we were trying to catch by two minutes, an ice cream and walk on the beach was just the ticket for an enjoyable wait.


Tequila in front followed by her bigger “cousin” Palomino camper in line for the ferry

When we arrived at Port Townsend we headed to Fort Worden State Park and snagged the last campsite available. This park is lovely, set on a wonderful beach with surrounding views of the Washington Cascades and Hurricane Ridge and we were thrilled to to have found a spot after a long day of traveling.

Alas, we couldn’t get a spot the next night and decided to head home but we would love to go back and explore the historical sights of the fort another time.

In spite of our discouraging stay at Doe Bay, overall we had an absolutely relaxing and energizing holiday. Lots of sleep, fresh air and exercise combined with good food and gorgeous scenery really recharged us. If you haven’t been to the San Juans… GO. The locals are friendly, the setting gorgeous, and the pace slow.. a perfect getaway. We had heard dreadful stories of 10 hour waits for ferries, overcrowding, etc and, while our campground at Lopez was full during our stay we experienced no ferry issues and felt like their was plenty of space for everyone. We will absolutely return.

We ended our vacation with a couple of days at home, working on our never ending yard work and enjoying our back deck and palapa, the reason we bought this house. A cold beer, a hammock and a good book…. the perfect finale to a great week.


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