San Juan Islands

Families Travel! Corene goes to Orcas Island

Luckily, Seattle-area foodie blogger Corene Caley (, husband Calvin and daughter Arden (age 5 ½) always knows where to eat when arriving on Orcas Island.

The happy family

Caley is more than qualified to dish on Orcas’s culinary delights. “We go to Orcas two or three times in the summer and about every other month in the fall/winter/spring. I’m sure that will change now that Arden is starting elementary but hopefully we’ll fit it in.”

Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands, is located about two hours northwest of Seattle via Anacortes, Washington and the Washington State Ferry system.

Why does your family frequently visit the San Juan Islands?

I was lucky enough to marry a great guy. His family just happens to have a place on the North Shore. Lucky me.  His father built the house himself in the 60’s. We get up there often and have watched the island become a true foodie family destination over the past 10 years.  “Farm to Table” is an understatement – It’s incredible!

Can you tell us about your favorite, kid-friendly Orcas Island restaurants?

Roses Bakery and Roses Bakery Cafe, Eastsound (382 Prune Alley, Eastsound, 360-376-4292) Local produce is the star for breakfast and lunch.  Food is excellent, but our favorite is the bakery attached to the cafe. The bread rivals any I’ve eaten worldwide. Our favorites are the Hearth loaf (available daily, can be sliced for you) and the Tortano (a very large circle of the most delicious bread you’ll ever have) which is only available on Saturdays and sells out quickly. The cold case is filled with a nice selection of cured meats, cheeses and (when available) beautiful house-made pâté.  House made pies, pie dough and meat pies available in the freezer case. Roses is always busy and deserves all the praise it receives from locals and visitors alike.

Allium in Eastsound – We had the pleasure of dining at this 3 month-old restaurant a couple weeks ago. Owner and chef Lisa Nakamura took over the space once occupied by Christina Orchid, who is an island and foodie legend.  Lisa’s resume includes the Herbfarm and French Laundry so needless to say we were excited. The staff was very accommodating to our 5 year old (who of course used her princess manners the whole time).  Beautiful views and even better food.  Favorites were Roasted Vegetables with Caramelized Onion and Herb Dip, Chilled Roasted Baby Beet Soup
Fresh Dill, Toasted Hazelnuts and our chicken and halibut “bigger plates” were excellent.

The Madrona Bar & Grill, Eastsound. This restaurant is another newcomer to the island.  Kids allowed!  We were wowed by the casual fare here.  Fish and chips, best burger I’ve had in a long time and our daughter wolfed down her pasta with pesto cream and perfectly cooked prawns.  Delicious.

Orcas Island kid-friendly restaurant
An Orcas Island restaurant

Vern’s Bayside, Eastsound. Vern’s is a local institution on Orcas.  Big portions, big view and sassy service.  Mostly Americana and Bar fare – but the real treat is breakfast.  The Crab Omelet is embarrassingly full of fresh Dungeness. Plenty to split.  Crab Benedict is also delish.  Definitely kid-friendly – when we walked in the owner gave our daughter a logoed flying disc and made sure we knew they were “the only restaurant in Eastsound to offer a kids menu!”.  Not sure on that one.

The Orcas Hotel, Orcas Ferry dock.  This is the place that makes going home a little easier.  We arrive at the Ferry dock early (which you need to do anyway) and head straight to the hotel for breakfast.  There is a full service dining room but we like order at the counter cafe which is serving up a great breakfast sandwich.  We are not talking low fat here…it’s a freshly baked croissant stacked with always perfectly scrambled egg, sharp cheddar and your choice of bacon or giant sausage patty.  Served with a nice selection of fresh fruit.  Hot chocolate, coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.  Should we get that homemade cinnamon roll too?  Sure, throw it in – we’re still on vacation right?

What does your family like to do on Orcas Island?

Orcas Island Farmers Market (Saturday, Village Green, Eastsound). FOOD FOOD FOOD!  Local artists, jewelry makers, farmers and FOOD. Locally made grilled Italian sausage, ribs, vegetarian goodies, cupcakes… seriously good food abounds.

Orcas Island Pottery. Drive up the country lane, look for the “Faint not…” sign and you’re there. The island pottery and views are lovely but our favorite is the recently added tree house.  Total delight.  Plus they are open every day except Christmas and Easter and encourage picnicking and general lingering.  What’s not to like?

Black Dog Farm, just up the road from our place on the North Shore (short drive or longer walk from Eastsound).  Open Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus they do the Saturday Farmers Market in Eastsound. Produce, meats, eggs and flowers. Family owned by very nice folks.

Howe Art Sculpture Park (items for sale), just outside of Eastsound. You can see a few of the kinetic sculptures from the road but make the trip up the winding hill to this magical sculpture park.  Everyone in our family loves the moving sculpture – truly a special place.

Orcas Island structure
A wood ball at Howe Sculpture Park

What does your daughter like to do on Orcas Island? Any child-friendly favorite activities?

She loves to play on the beach, visit the farms, walk to the “point,” which is a rocky outcrop along Orcas’ North Shore, S’mores, collect shells, visit Howe Art sculpture park, eat Roses Bread, catch crab, take walks in the woods, hike to Cascade Falls (this is a VERY easy hike for kids…it’s more like a walk and it’s only a few minutes for big payoff)

Hiking in Moran State Park
A kid-friendly hike on Orcas Island

We’ve also been to the Funhouse, a very cool kids play and learning space with drop in learning/play. It’s surprisingly fantastic for something on an island. There was a craft ‘yurt’ with tons of supplies which she loved. I would compare it to a more interactive version of the Seattle Children’s Museum – on Orcas Island!

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • josh

    great piece! we LOVE orcas. i too have family there and frequently visit with my wife and 2 kids and have some suggestions for you. first, the new leaf cafe at the outlook inn right in town is awesome. great food, great service, great location/view and totally kid friendly. cascade lake in moran state park – you can swim, fish, picnic, bbq, there’s a concession stand, paddle boat and row boat rentals, walking/hiking trails nearby. blue moon alpaca farm. have fun!

  • Shannon Longcore

    On our way! Thanks for the tips. I think I need a crab omelette. We’ve only been in the summer, so looking forward to seeing it this time of year.