Eastsound is the largest city on Orcas Island in the American state of Washington, which itself is the largest of the San Juan islands - an archipelago in northwestern USA known for its vast spans of undisturbed nature and exotic wildlife. Home to pods of resident killer whales, the greatest concentration of bald eagles in the country, minke whales, porpoises, wolves, foxes and more, the San Juan islands are a huge tourist attraction with outdoor recreation and nature watching as its primary draws.
Known as the ‘emerald isle’, Orcas Island is one of the most popular of the San Juans. East-sound, the beating heart of the island, is known as its downtown area and sports boutiques, cafes, restaurants, galleries and museums that depict its long history of human habitation.
Like most places in the United States, Orcas Island is best navigated by rental vehicle. Unlike most other places in the country, though, you aren’t restricted to renting only one type of vehicle - instead of just getting a boring old car, join the local islanders and scoot around Orcas Island on a rental moped or rental bike if your luggage isn’t a problem.
For those who’d prefer not to pilot their own vehicle, though, shuttle and taxi services are also available on the island.
What to see and do
Orcas Island was not named that way for nothing - if you’re in Eastsound, be sure to sign up for a whale-watching or sea-kayaking tour. The best time to see the magnificent orcas - or killer whales - is between May to September, but even on off-peak periods the beautiful, intelligent beasts can sometimes still be spotted frolicking in the sea. Otherwise, minke whales, humpback whales, gray whales, seals and other creatures also frequent the waters just off Orcas Island, so taking a boat out is never a bad idea. Scuba diving at Orcas Island’s Doe Bay is also an excellent way to view the abundant aquatic life just under the surface - explore underwater rocks and crev-ices where invertebrates, fish, sea cucumbers and even octopuses lurk just out of sight.
If you tire of outdoor recreation, take some time out to appreciate the rich history and culture of Eastsound. An area that has seen human inhabitation for centuries, remnants of historic architec-ture still stand in the city today (the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, for example, was built in 1885 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places). You should also visit the Eastbound gal-leries for a look at art, ceramics, sculpture, photography and more produced by the islanders. If you’ve time left to spare, hop over to the bustling Farmers’ Market at the village green on Satur-days for some fresh produce and communal bonding.
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