Deer Harbor on Orcas Island

Deer Harbor, WA
San Juan Islands

Article by Linda Kissam
Photos by Allan Kissam

Deer harborDeer Harbor is one of the most picturesque marinas on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. It is a destination and way point for boaters & travelers coming in via ferry or water taxi.  It has a reputation for being on the “sunny side” of beautiful Orcas Island.


IMG_7198[1]_600Orcas Island is the largest Island in the San Juan’s, showcasing the destinations of Deer Harbor, West Sound and East Sound.



A 1-2 day stay will allow you to see most nearby sites.  Orcas Island is huge, you’ll need IMG_7124[1]_600additional time to move on and explore the East and West Sound areas.  Deer Harbor is a quaint stop as one of three main destinations. It’s an easy, relaxed point of interest on your overall San Juan Itinerary. Cell phone and Internet is spotty.

Most boaters anchor out in the bay and dingy in to the dock area.  Basically tourists can IMG_7169[1]expect a one wharf marina with modern dock facilities, side ties up to 120’, Guest overnight docking, electricity and potable water, high speed Internet access, fuel dock, laundry & showers, beach and pool access. The dock store stocks  groceries, espresso, ice cream, burgers, fish and chips, beer & wine, soft drinks, ice, bait, boat stove fuel, daily newspaper, t-shirts and some produce.  The variety of boats tied up and anchored out is quite a sight. The crisp morning air graced with  a touch of fog is memorable.

FREE shuttle access to ferry & shopping to other parts of the island is a plus.

IMG_7123[1]A romp on the lovely sand beach next to the wharf is an added bonus. At the north end of the beach is a tiny park. Water temps are in the 50’s, but don’t forget your sunscreen.


One of the best and most iconic restaurants is the Deer Harbor Inn Restaurant. It is about a IMG_7128[1]_600half mile from the wharf.   Choose to dine with a local menu on the patio overlooking serene Deer Harbor.  Enjoy the stunning views of the Olympic Mountains. Great for special ocassion celebrations.  Their complimentary soups and salads with every entree are a bonus.  Daily specials and local favorites makes this the perfect stop for singes, couples and families.  Definitely call ahead for reservations and the owners will send a funky courtesy limo to fetch you. All part of the fun. Also check out their diverse lodging options.  Something for every budget.

The best part of vacationing in the San Juan Islands is the abundance of outdoor activities and unique photo ops. IMG_7132[1]_600So get your adventure attitude on and go for it. From Deer Harbor you can rent bikes, arrange a guided hike,  and reserve a Day Charter on the Classic Wooden Sloop, ‘Aura’, a Northwest treasure. The Aura sails from Deer Harbor. Steer and pull lines as much as you want or not. Or you can just walk around the country roads or shoreline and take one-of-a-kind photos.  Deer harbor is not a flashy place.  It’s a simple pleasure for the heart and soul.

More info here:

How to get there

By Car: Travel North on I-5 from Seattle (approx. 2 hours), and Take Exit 230 (Burlington/Anacortes). Go West on Highway dreamstime_xs_6329686420 into Anacortes and Follow signs to the ferry terminal. Washington State Ferry Information Online Ferry Schedule. Recorded Ferry Schedule 1-800-84-Ferry (WA) or 1-206-464-6400 Orcas Island Ferry Terminal 360-376-6253

By Plane: Daily flights to and from Orcas Sea Plane dreamstime_xs_32801371Island and other San Juan Islands are available from Seattle. Consult your travel agent for flight arrangements. Flying off the water with Kenmore Air Seaplanes directly to Deer Harbor is fast, fun and scenic. Daily scheduled flights from downtown Seattle straight to Deer Harbor. Once again, check with your travel agent. Facilities are also available for private planes. For more information, contact East Sound Airport, operated by the Orcas Island Port Commission: 360-376-4176.

By Bus or Passenger Ferry: A number of Sept20DFerryBoatcommercial transportation companies operate tours in the San Juan Islands. For service from SeaTac airport and other predetermined pickup locations including Bellingham, Marysville and the Washington State Ferry terminal in Anacortes, contact Airporter Shuttle 866-235-5247.


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