Travel 

Jewel of a resort on a gem of an island

The narrow roads reminded us of driving through the English countryside. Names like Otters Lair Lane, Prune Alley and Enchanted Forest Road charmed our imagination while in between the tall hedgerows peek-a-boo views revealed hillsides dotted with grazing sheep, clusters of Garry oaks, and picturesque cottages with abundant gardens. But this was far from England. We were on Orcas Island, the largest and one of the most beautiful of the San Juans.

With every turn, our anticipation mounted. We were heading for the Resort at Deer Harbor, a delightful destination that was to become our home away from home. Ranked with three well-deserved smooches‚ in Best Places to Kiss, and promising the best view in the islands‚ by Frommer’s Guide, we couldn’t wait to discover this getaway for ourselves.

Then suddenly, there it was, perched on a quiet beachfront alongside Deer Harbor Marina. Made up of 26 new and historical cottages, the resort is a peaceful haven at the end of a winding road. Each cottage is built for privacy and nearly all have a private deck, hot tub and spacious interiors which include cosy fireplaces, a spa-oriented bathroom, a microwave, coffee maker and romantic touches such as in-rooms books and CDs. The resort was exactly what we had hoped – a place of luxurious tranquillity where we could walk, talk, read and explore at leisure.

The on-site restaurant, the Star Fish Grill, was equally welcoming and a perfect place to plan the our stay. Our only distraction was a great blue heron skimming across the bay; an otter swimming to shore and the golden glow of a sunset before it melted into the darkness.

Covering an area almost twice the size of Manhattan Island, Orcas has much to offer. Within a two mile drive lies a wonderful wildfowl sanctuary where bald eagles, trumpeter swans and various species of dabbling ducks make their home. Further afield is Moran State Park, a spectacular reserve of evergreen virgin forests, shimmering lakes and waterfalls, as well Mount Constitution, the highest peak in the San Juan Islands. You can drive to the top or enjoy any one of the numerous, well maintained trails offering something for all hiking levels, including an easy, five-mile walk around Mountain Lake.

However you get there, standing atop Mount Constitution is nothing short of breathtaking – the San Juans lie at your feet and the vistas stretch to the horizon for as far as you can see. Climb the steps of the stone lookout tower, built in 1936 as a fire lookout and observation area, and you’ll have an uninterrupted 360 degree view of the San Juan Archipelago, Vancouver Island and the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges. Be sure to remember your camera.

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