Thursday, August 13, 2009

Orcas Island | West Beach Resort

Last weekend, Mike and I headed once again to our all-time favorite camping spot that we discovered last year - West Beach Resort on Orcas Island.

If I've said it again, I'll say it 1,000 times over - this is one of the best places we've ever camped! How can you beat a private campground that offers private docks, beaches, tables and chairs that overlook the water and sunset, kayaking, crabbing, fishing, a community hot tub, a little store with homemade waffle cones, ice cream and espresso, games to rent, clean facilities, etc. Plus, all on the charming little artistic island of Orcas! The experience is fabulously relaxing and romantic. Every time we come back, we feel like our relationship has been rejuvenated.

Mike took a half day on Friday, so we could head across the ferry a little early. It's a trek to get to the ferry from Seattle! (All the up to exit 230 on I-5, which is nearly to Bellingham) So, leaving during rush hour is not an option unless you want to get into the campground past 11 p.m. We were able to take the 5:30 ferry without missing it. Ferry rides in Washington, no matter how many times you've done them, are always a treat!

We landed on Orcas Island around 7 o'clock (The ferry ride is 50 minutes), and drove to the west side of the island and our campground, West Beach Resort.

When you enter the resort, there's a little sign that will greet you:

I love this because it's SO true! It's time to slow down when you're on Orcas Island - time to relax, shut off your phone and just enjoy the scenery and each others' company!

Of course, the minute we got there, Mike put his crab pot into the water. One of Mike's favorite part about Orcas Island and camping at West Beach is the ability to crab! Just be sure to pay attention to the times you can crab - I believe it's not allowed Sunday-Wednesday. Mike bought a crab pot last year, so it was quick and easy to drop it in before we set up our campsite and made dinner!

Before we left on our trip, I threw some chicken skewers from Safeway (only $6) in a bag of a quick marinade I made up - 1/4 cup of olive oil, splash of water, tablespoon of crushed garlic from a jar and some generous sprinkles of lemon pepper. It's quick, easy and a tasty alternative to plain camping dinners like hot dogs or hamburgers!

The next day, we started with none other than a breakfast of BACON. (No camp trip of ours is complete with it).

We knew we wanted to head into the town of Eastsound for the farmer's market. Turns out, we were on Orcas for the Library Festival and Storyfest - so there were tons of booths with arts, crafts, produce, yummy food and even entertainment! We shopped through the festival and town a little bit before sharing a loaded baked potato, probably some of the best barbecue I've had, and a piece of blueberry-peach pie ala mode! We went into a neat little shop called Aesthetica where I bought a little jar of chile pepper verde-infused sugar from Orcas Alchemy. The shop owner let us taste it and said it was great on salmon, so I bought it right away! I can't wait to try it!

After exploring town, we headed to a little wine tasting spot called Country Corner Wine Tasting where we were able to taste some of the wines made on Lopez Island - another island in the San Juans. I, of course, bought a bottle to take home with us for a special occasion. Then we were back to the campsite to head out on a bike ride! Orcas Island is known as a great spot for bike riding. Personally, Mike and I think it's a bit hilly... it'd kill us to ride around the whole island. Perhaps we're amateurs. But that's okay. We managed a small one-hour bike ride and stumbled across the island cemetery! It was morbidly interesting to look through the tombstones as we played the game, "Find the oldest gravestone." Perhaps this is why we're great for each other?

We finished up the day with a dip in the hot tub and some crab for dinner that Mike caught! A guy was nice enough to take Mike out in his homemade wood kayak, so he could drop his pots off somewhere other than the dock. (We've had problems with our crab pots being raided on the dock). It was a gourmet crab feast!

While Mike was out checking his crab pots in the kayak, I was able to catch the most beautiful sunset in the entire world! Seriously...there's something about a sunset that just makes you glad to be alive!

In the morning, we had to check out of the campsite at 11 a.m., and we wanted to go to Rosario Resort since we missed it last time we went to Orcas. The ferry was leaving at 1:30 or 4:30, so we went to see if we'd miss the 1:30 ferry. Turns out the ferry traffic isn't any better than Labor Day weekend. They said we'd have to get in line for the 4:30 at noon or we'd miss it! But the ferry guy said the 7 p.m. ferry is never full. We decided to scrap waiting in the ferry line for four hours, and chose to kill seven hours exploring the island a little more. After all, it cost us $55 to take the ferry over there! We made a pact-we'd stop at every little kitschy place there was to look at local art, and we'd try to head back to Moran State Park for a bit and Rosario Resort. Turns out it was the best idea!

There is a super great little house on the left hand side of the road away from the ferry terminal. I believe it's the first you run across, advertising homemade pottery. But it's a huge collection of art from artists all over the island and more than worth stopping to look at!

Next we drove to Rosario Resort and stopped at Cascade Bay Grill in the marina for some fish n' chips that were extremely fabulous! Some of the best fish n' chips I've had in a long time... the batter for the fish was just right!

We decided against touring Rosario Resort because of the $5 fee (we're not cheap, we had just spent SO much money on the weekend by then), headed to Moran State Park to stretch out on a blanket so I could read and Mike could fish, and wrapped our weekend up with a homemade waffle cone packed with yummy ice cream from West Beach Resort.

Final Verdict: Most definitely go back! We already have! Orcas Island is such a welcome little break from the fast-pace of city life. You can't help but to sit back and relax, enjoying the sites and tastes of the island. If you don't make it to West Beach Resort, there are tons of little B&Bs, hotels or other camping spots to check out. The easiest and largest is Moran State Park. But leave with lots of time, the trek and ferry ride makes it worthy of at least a three-day weekend!
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