The San Juan Islands have always seemed so Pacific Northwest: low, foggy clouds, lush green islands peeking through dark blue waters, and the Cascades looming in the background. When I decided to plan a trip to celebrate some of my favorite Gemini's birthdays, I knew that Orcas Island would be a great place to start with my exploration into the San Juans.
Left with the internet and a Lonely Planet guide book, I researched camp grounds, cabin rentals, and activities on Orcas Island. I finally settled on reserving a site at Doe Bay, mainly because the price was right and it seemed conducive to any type of fun we wanted to have - hike, kayak, eat, hot tub, and more.
You never know what you're going to get when planning a trip somewhere you've never been and basing it all on other people's opinions can be risky. The Lonely Planet description of "an artist retreat cum hippie comune cum New Age center" sounded like an awesome gamble.
Meet all your friends in Anacortes to catch the ferry to Orcas Island. Ferries are expensive. So be prepared. It cost us $70 for one car and 3 passengers (we then smuggled our 2 other friends on board later). It's also a good idea to get there early (2 hours early). Especially if you're leaving on a sunny Saturday morning. Everybody else also has your idea to go camping on Orcas over the weekend too. The ferry ride is beautiful and takes about an hour to an hour and a half.
[caption id="attachment_130" align="aligncenter" width="490"] Waiting for the Ferry in Anacortes[/caption]
Once you're off the ferry, you'll want to stop in the little town of Eastsound to stock up on supplies. There is a decent sized grocery store where you can get anything you need (ice, Miller Lites, flank steak...). You might also want to stop at Passionate for Pies and get the most amazing ice cream sandwich you'll ever eat in your life (oh, the pie is delicious too). It was about a 30 minute drive from where the ferry dropped us to Doe Bay. Winding roads took us through rolling farm land and Moran State Park.
Doe Bay Resort:
Doe Bay Resort is like this little compound of heaven. Nestled right on the waterfront, it's facilities include a mix of campsites, cabins, yurts and lodges. It is charming and cute and makes you feel happy. I checked us in and made a dinner reservation right away for their organic and locally sourced cafe.
Grouse Grove Campsite:
The hardest part about planning this trip was choosing which campsite to reserve at Doe Bay. I searched relentlessly for "Best Campsite Doe Bay" online and couldn't find any insight. So here it is. The best campsite at Doe Bay is Grouse Grove. Luckily, I chose correctly.
Grouse Gove is the best because it has the best location. It's perched right on this bluff that overlooks the water. You need to walk into this site (about 5 minutes) and it is the farthest site from parking. We didn't prepare for that and it took us a few trips to haul in all our gear. You're not allowed to have personal camp fires, but it's okay because the view is so breathtaking you don't miss it. Grouse Grove has space for 2 -3 smaller tents and then has room to set up your stove and chairs overlooking the water. It cost us about $60 for this site (yes, expensive, but worth it).
Doe Bay Hotsprings:
When researching Doe Bay online, you'll hear a lot about the "clothing-optional" hot springs. People should start describing it better - "mostly nude" would be more accurate. That being said, my maturity level only allowed me to hang out there for about 10 minutes. However, if it's your thing, the hot springs are clean and beautiful and feature 3 small pools in varying degrees of temperature.
Doe Bay Cafe:
The Doe Bay Cafe is seriously underrated. We heard that it was an organic, local restaurant and I figured it'd be okay and probably a bit overpriced. It was amazing. Our server started us off right by telling us the philosophy and aspirations for the restaurant. Their seasonal menus are based off the produce they can use from the vast Doe Bay Gardens and other locally sourced goods. Whatever they can't get from Orcas Island, they import from Seattle. We pretty much had a two hour feasting extravaganza that included salad with vanilla bean vinaigrette, homemade artisan pizza, local cod and halibut cheek, tons of fresh greens, and goat cheesecake. And a couple bottles of wine. It was devine. We pretty much rolled ourselves back to the campsite.
We will now be coming back to Doe Bay Resort every year. Where else can you camp in a beautiful setting and treat yourself to a foodie's dream dinner? Next year we'll be staying two nights instead of one.