IT’S A POPULAR ORCAS ISLAND GETAWAY.
THE WEATHER IS WARM AND the breeze minimal, a perfect day with calm seas. Our destination is the very popular — for good reason — Deer Harbor Marina on Orcas Island, in the San Juan Islands. The hamlet of Deer Harbor was originally inhabited by Lummi Indians and was settled by European-Americans in the 1880s. They established a school and a post office, orchards and farms, and fishing and timber industries. But today, Deer Harbor is known for its marina and Deer Harbor Inn Restaurant.
Deer Harbor’s easiest access, and our approach, is from the east via Pole Pass between Crane and Orcas islands.
The narrow 50-yard-wide pass looks more formidable than it really is, but you do need to pay attention. It’s deep, well marked and frequently used. It’s also a no-wake zone. Refer to Chart 18423A.
The marina 1 is a popular stop for summer cruisers. Call harbormaster Marc Broman and his staff on VHF Channel 78A for your moorage assignment as you approach the marina; reservations are recommended. The marina has 110 slips, 55 of which are for guests, and can host boats up to 120 feet. The facilities offer a fuel dock with gas and diesel, a pumpout station and a very helpful staff. Visiting boaters will find a good list of amenities: 30-amp power and a few 50 amps, water, picnic tables in the guest moorage area, showers, restrooms, a laundromat, Wi-Fi, a pumpout, garbage disposal and recycling.
Conveniently located on the pier is the Marina Store and Grill, a small store with groceries, beer and wine, snacks and video rentals, and it doubles as a café with tables outside in the sunshine. The grill serves an assortment of breakfast and lunch items.
A big hit with visiting boating groups is the 16-by-40-foot party barge adorned with f lower boxes, picnic tables, a barbecue and its own head. There is also the Barge Gift Shop and a van for your use if you need to get around the island, play a round of golf or visit a local art studio. On the second morning of our visit, Arlene and I borrowed the van to explore the island attractions.
There are plenty of activities to keep the crew occupied. There are paddleboards and kayaks for a quiet paddle in the harbor. Rent a bicycle and explore the island, or jump aboard Deer Harbor Charters 2 to go whale watching. During the summer months, there is often live music on the dock.
Across the road from the marina is Deer Harbor Resort 3 , a WorldMark timeshare resort, and visiting boaters have free access to the swimming pool and picnic area. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, rent a bicycle from Marina Bike Rental, or take the island public shuttle bus to the island’s business center at Eastsound. It departs from Deer Harbor about every two hours during the summer. The small town offers a variety of shops, galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER?
On this visit, we had reservations for dinner at the historic Deer Harbor Inn 4 , about a half-mile walk north of the marina, or you can call the inn for its stretch Cadillac pickup service. We walked up the winding country road and took the posted shortcut through the trees. The inn and restaurant is the site of Deer Harbor’s first commercial orchard, and century-old apple, pear and plum trees can still be found.
Deer Harbor Inn was built in 1915 and has charming rooms with vistas of the bay. Since 1982, the Carpenter family has owned and operated the inn. In 1998, Craig and Pam’s sons Matt, aka Chef, and Ryan took over the restaurant and catering operations. They purchased the restaurant from Craig and Pam in 2006.
The décor in the restaurant is authentic to the early 1900s, but on summer nights most guests will opt for one of the many outdoor tables. The view of the sunset beyond Deer Harbor and Fawn Island can be spectacular. The fresh air, wonderful vista and delicious food are an unbeatable combination.