I had the special opportunity to spend a long weekend camping on Orcas Island with two of my closest friends. We chose to camp in Moran State Park and had a marvelous experience. I’ll share our itinerary, campground basics, and some must-know tips below.
3 Days Camping on Orcas Island Itinerary
- Depart Seattle around 7 am. Drive from Seattle to Anacortes to take the 10:20 ferry to Orcas Island. Arrive at 11:25 am!
- Grab a coffee or chai at Enzos’s Caffe (don’t miss this place, it had fantastic coffee and chai) and then grab lunch at a restaurant in East Sound. We chose Mijitas Mexican.
- Head directly to Turtleback Mountain for an afternoon hike!
- Return to campground, check in, set up camp, and cook dinner.
- Drive up to Mount Constitution for sunset views, and stop along the drive back down for more views!
- Morning breakfast and coffee, and then head to hike Mountain Lake. Arrive by 9, and finish hike by 11:30, taking it at a relaxed pace.
- Prepare a quick lunch at the day use area by Mountain Lake.
- Drive to a sailing lesson and spend the afternoon on the water.
- Relax in the campground and have a camp fire.
- Break camp early while making breakfast to squeeze in a final hike before taking the ferry home.
- Head to and hike Twin Lakes trail and start hiking by 8:30 am.
- Drive to terminal to catch the 12:25 pm ferry. Head home!
Overall, this itinerary worked very well for us. We felt like we were able to really maximize our time on Orcas Island with these activities. I might suggest a couple of possible alternatives that could also be great. One: you should try to do a water activity, but there are many to pick from. There’s kayaking and whale watching, too. We elected to do sailing because we wanted an experience that was just us on the water (our private tour), but the other options looked great, too. We had a fantastic time on the sailing trip, though, and would definitely recommend it! Two: hike Mount Constitution if you can! I’d probably do Mount Constitution instead of Twin Lakes (you pass by Twin Lakes on the trail anyhow!). Just make sure you’re mindful of timing when considering you are supposed to arrive 30-45 minutes prior to your ferry departure time. Three: there are beaches that you can visit. For example, we swung by West Beach to see if it would be a nice place to watch sunset, but weren’t particularly taken by it, so we left. But it was pretty cloudy, so the beach situation would probably be nicer on a sunny afternoon or evening.
Moran State Park Campground Basics
- The campground has 124 sites, and you will need to reserve (likely months) in advance to snag one, at least in the late spring and summer. We reserved our campsite for an early June weekend on January 5th.
- You have to actually check in when you arrive; the ranger station is on the right near the white arch entrance, slightly hidden. The ranger will give you a tag for your car.
- There are flush toilets and coin-operated showers in the campground. If you want to shower, you’ll need quarters. I forgot to bring some but was able to ask to exchange cash for coins at a gas station right up the road.
- There is potable water in the campground – strangely, this information was not on the park website, so we ended up bringing many gallons of water which we didn’t ultimately need.
- Depending on your site, it’s pretty easy to walk to Cascade Lake directly from the campground. While we didn’t choose to spend time here, there were boat rentals and snack shacks open for visitors.
Tips for Camping in Moran State Park
- Be sure to book your car ferry reservation in advance. 1/3 of the tickets are released at each of the following intervals: 2 months, 2 weeks, and 2 days before the sail. You will need a reservation both to and from Orcas Island – don’t forget to get your return ticket! When we bought ours 2 days before for our return ticket, the website traffic was crazy and we weren’t even able to get the time we wanted. So if you can, try the farther out options! You can find more information here.
- Make sure you have an excellent rain-proof tent. It poured the final night of our trip! Thankfully, our tent was fantastic and we woke up entirely dry.
- If you’re interested in a water activity, I’d also recommend booking in advance. Here’s a kayak tour, here’s a whale watching tour, and here’s the sailing lesson we took.
- Since the area is fairly flat, biking could be a good option for an additional activity.
- The island isn’t very big; it’s easy to drive, and you can basically see most of it on a short trip. I think one more night would have been ideal (we had two), but 3-4 nights is ideal for campers who prefer a more action-packed itinerary.
Have you camped on Orcas Island in Moran State Park? What are your favorite activities?