Seeing a killer whale in its natural habitat is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Quick Notes:

  • Seaworld has nothing on Orcas Island.

  • It’s a natural beauty off the coast of Washington State.

  • The island has unbelievably fresh seafood.

For lovers of ocean wildlife, Orcas Island, located in San Juan County in Washington State, offers up a great alternative to the often maligned Sea World. The island is the largest of the San Juan archipelago and has adventures abound for anyone looking to explore their outdoorsy side.

There are plenty of things to do on Orcas Island with activities for families, couples, and even solo travelers, Accessible only by the Orcas Island ferry, this destination is packed full of fun and adventure.

Visit killer whales in their natural habitat

Seeing an orca break the surface of the water with its majestic and beautiful dorsal fin is a sight sure to be remembered. There’s no better place to watch whales swim and jump than in their native habitat. The tour group Orcas Island Eclipse Charters, they offer tours of the seascape surrounding the island that guarantee a run-in with a killer whale.


Tour operators have nine tour boats to choose from including The Orcas Express, a 50-person charter with 60-feet of deck. They also have The Blackfish Express which they call the fastest passenger boat in the San Juan Islands. The tour operators are so confident that you’ll get a glimpse of a pod of orcas that if you don’t, your next tour is on them.

Learn the island’s history at the Orcas Island Historical Museum

For a taste of the island’s rich history, The Orcas Island Historical Museum is a must-visit during your trip. The unique museum is home to approximately 6000 pieces of historical items, artifacts, and documents that were designed to “educate, inspire, and connect” visitors of the island and the community that calls it home.

The museum has a number of different things to check out such as historical homestead cabins, photos, an exhibit dedicated to the police investigation of “The Barefoot Bandit” and even an intact skull and remains of a 14000-year-old Bison. With updating feature exhibits year-round, the museum is a one-stop-shop for all things history when it comes to Orcas Island.

Hike Turtleback Mountain for breathtaking views

Outdoor adventurers may want to visit the Turtleback Mountain Preserve, a scenic natural landscape that has over 8 miles of hiking trails, and 956 feet of shoreline to explore. The hiking trails are fairly moderate but the payoff is well worth it.

The ‘turtle-shaped’ preserve is full of winding trails and, at the location which looks like the turtle’s head, is a breathtaking view of the San Juan Islands. There are several other lookouts for those not willing to venture to the top. Along the way, you can spot wildlife and with low foot traffic.

Eat your weight in oysters at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm

After taking in the sights on Orcas Island, you’re bound to work up quite the appetite. There are a number of well-regarded reataurants throughout Orcas Island that features hearty, innovative fare including a wide range of seafood options. One example of this is The Buck Bay Shellfish Farm comes in.

The Buck Bay Shellfish Farm is a family-owned farm and restaurant that offers up some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever get your hands on such as the obvious oysters, crab, and local fresh-caught fish.

Since opening in 2008, the farm has been serving the area with a great menu and even fresh take-home options. The farm also offers overnight accommodations that have incredible views of the water surrounding Orcas Island, a fully stocked kitchen and bathroom, and a pass to the island’s beautiful state parks.

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