Summer 2018: Orcas Island, Washington State

At the end of August and beginning of September, 2018, we spent a long weekend on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound. This was in fact our second trip to the San Juan Islands, the first time being three years ago to San Juan Island.

(Click on each image to see the high-resolution version)

This time, our trip started from Anacortes as we boarded a ferry by Washington State Ferries. From the pier, I could already see a few nesting Pelagic Cormorants.

Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant

As the ferry pulled away from Anacortes and entered the waters of the San Juan Islands, the sky also cleared up, promising a nice few days ahead (a promise that was fulfilled).

San Juan Islands

The first afternoon, we settlted into our bed and breakfast, then drove around the western end of Orcas Island, ending up at West Beach, where we watched the sunset.

Sunset at West Beach

We spent much of the second day, the first of September, exploring Moran State Park. We first hiked to Cascade Falls, then around Cascade Lake. It was a wonderful hike on a glorious day.

Cascade Falls

Cascade Lake

At this season, wildlife was rather scarce, this Eight-spotted Skimmer dragonfly was the only highlight.

Eight-spotted Skimmer

Next, we drove to Mount Constitution, at 2,399 feet, the highest peak in the San Juan Islands. There is a watchtower at the peak, which offers panoramic views. Although the air was not the clearest, at least it was not completely blocked by smoke from the wild fires in British Columbia.

Mount Constitution



We ended this day at the beach in Obstruction Pass State Park.

Obstruction Pass

The place we stayed at on Orcas Island was Otters Pond Bed and Breakfast (see my Tripadvisor review here), which is a clean and cozy place by a lily-covered pond. The owners are nature lovers too and put up multiple bird feeders and a bird bath. In the morning, birds, including the tireless Anna's Hummingbirds, come to feed. At this season, bird diversity was low, and none of these birds were new to me, but I enjoyed watching them nonetheless.

Otters Pond

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Anna's Hummingbird

Spotted Towhee

Dark-eyed Junco

White-crowned Sparrow

Black-tailed Deer

This was our third day (after two nights at the B&B), and we had to check out. But we still had plenty of time before our ferry ride back, so we went to Moran State Park again. This time, we hiked around Mountain Lake. I saw a little bit more wildlife on this hike, including several active Douglas Squirrels and an interesting bird -- it appears to be a hybrid between Red-breasted and Red-naped Sapsuckers.

Maintain Lake

Maintain Lake

Douglas Squirrels

Douglas Squirrel


We made one last stop at Little Summit, at just over 2000 feet, it is lower than Mount Constitution. Some noisy Red-breasted Nuthatches greeted us from the tree branches.

Little Summit

Red-breasted Nuthatch

We went back to "town" for lunch -- town is Eastsound, the largest population center on the island (with nearly 4000 residents!). Several stores and mesuems have animal-themed sculptures in front, which are obviously quite tourist-oriented, but quite interesting nonetheless.

Crab Sculpture (outside a co-op grocery store)

Bird Sculpture (outside Orcas Island Historical Museum)

Cocoa the Hippo

Orca Sculpture (outside an orca-watching tour office)

We had more time to make one last visit, to Orcas Island Pottery. With the colorful potteries spread in the bright sun on a bluff overlooking the sound, this place is quite picturesque, making our last stop totally worthwhile.

Orcas Island Pottery


Pottery Crab

We then boarded the WSF ferry back to the mainland. As the left the island, Mount Baker came into view in the beautiful late afternoon light, putting a lovely finishing touch to our short excursion to the island.

Mount Baker

Mount Baker

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