Where to stay on Orcas Island: a review of Doe Bay Resort and Retreat

Popular Orcas Island, WA can get busy during the summer season, and lodging on this less developed San Juan Islands vacation destination can fill up fast. Families will find they don’t have too many options: only a few established hotel resorts, lots of B&Bs (not all of them kid-friendly), and two campground choices exist. Camping at Moran State Park and Doe Bay Resort fill up as fast as the rest!

doe bay

Doe Bay Resort is located right on Doe Bay, and resort grounds directly overlook the bluff. The whole property has a friendly, communal feel, from the general store selling organic local produce, vegan snacks, and sundries to the small restaurant to the group fire pit surrounded by an eclectic mix of cabins, yurts, and camp sites. In fact, the resort is known locally for their music scene: supposedly, they played host to a number of successful alternative bands in recent years. Most of the cabins and yurts are listed as two-person accommodations, so we chose a drive-in camp site (walk-in sites are also available, and if you don’t have too much stuff to cart, would be worth it: sites sit right on the bluff). If you have young kids, I’d opt for something on lower ground.

doe bay

On resort grounds, families will find a nice grassy area, a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, and friendly lounge with plenty of games, books, and free wifi, a nice playground, views of the bay (we saw a harbor seal enjoying a morning swim) and most interestingly, natural springs soaking tubs and sauna. Note: the latter is clothing-optional, and they mean it. Children are only permitted in the tubs during certain hours (at the time of our visit, it was 11 am to 5 pm) and they should be prepared to see nudity. In fact, every adult enjoying the tubs were in the nude (apart from me, should you be wondering). I felt it was a good travel experience for my kids, but should you feel differently, you’re now aware. There is a beautiful view from the tubs (with deck area) and a lovely waterfall adjacent, next to which our boys loved climbing and playing.

doe bay

doe bay

A word on Doe Bay campsites: Families should be aware that some sites are very small. We were given ‘Antelope’, which was large enough only for a 2-3 person tent, and situated dangerously close to a sharp decline overlooking the common grass area and fire pit. Had we not arrived at the resort after midnight (due to ferry schedules), we would have avoided a very uncomfortable night. Instead, we requested a change in the morning, and were given a far more adequate location for our size party. In general, sites on the right-hand side of the camping loop are larger and flatter, while sites on the left-hand side are smaller and higher up.

 

Rates and reservations:

Get reservations well ahead of time, particularly for summer weekends. At the time of our visit, we paid $45 per night for a tent site. Yes, this is high, but nearby Moran State Park has similar pricing, and is very hard to get into without far advance reservations.

Amenities:

A laundry room is available for a charge, and camp sites are near a full bath house, which has showers, wash rooms, and flushing toilets. A communal kitchen is also available adjacent.

Dining options:

Families can use the communal kitchen to cook meals (individual fire pit are not available and families are not permitted to make fires. We didn’t eat in the Doe Bay cafe, but it is available (and boosts stunning views in a very relaxed setting). The store also offers some necessities.

Directions:

From the ferry terminal, take Orcas Road toward East Sound. From there, take Olga Road through Moran State Park, then Pt. Lawrence Road to Doe Bay. You’ll see a sign for the resort on the right.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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