Our Annual Visit to Olga Village on Orcas Island.
We have been going to the tiny village of Olga on Orcas Island for over thirty years. It has not changed much, and in many ways our annual visit is like taking a trip back in time to a more simple, safer, calmer era. No crowds, no rushing about, no noise, and no hassle. Its nice to be reminded what all the San Juan Islands once were like.
The tiny village is located on Orcas Island, a short distance north of Obstruction Pass and a short distance south of Rosario Resort. From the hill above the community dock, Spencer Spit Marine Park on Lopez Island is visible in the distance.
Buck Bay is close by, but its far to shallow for anchoring and its also the location of the Buck Bay Shellfish Farm. There are numerous buoys that have proliferated in the last 10 years and they fill the anchorage area but most are never occupied by boats.
The Olga Community Dock provides dockage for 4-6 boats (depending upon size) at 5o cents per foot per night, three nights maximum. Few visitors stay overnight and very few ever stay for the maximum time. That’s because there is very little to do in Olga and that’s what makes it such a perfect place to relax and enjoy the ambiance and serenity. There is a small beach with public access, there is great crabbing outside of Buck Bay, and if you have a bike, you can ride to the shellfish farm, to Doe Bay Resort and Retreat, to Cascade Lake in Moran State Park, or to Obstruction Pass State Park. If you don’t have a bicycle, then walking is a nice alternative but allow several hours.
The Orca Island Artworks Cooperative Gallery is a very short walk away and has reopened after a devastating fire a couple years ago. Beautiful creations by local artists are available and the small restaurant has re-opened for breakfast and lunch. A two hour free stay at the Community Dock provides ample time to visit the Gallery and enjoy the food.
The Dock is managed by volunteers and kept in good shape for visiting boats. Fresh water is available but there is no power. Payment is by the honor system, with a small payment box and envelopes provided. To make room for others, its best to tie with the bow to the south (and the occasional wind and waves) extending beyond the end of the float, keeping space between boats as small as is safe.
The tiny Village is mostly unchanged from the 1980’s except that homes have been remodeled and upgraded. The Olga Store is closed again and for sale again. It has been for sale off and on many times since the 1980’s. Perhaps we will be able to purchase ice cream, coffee, post cards and supplies again but unfortunately the Store is gradually slipping into perpetual disrepair and sadness.
The bike ride to Cascade Lake is a moderate ride uphill for about 3 miles but the scenery and ice cream (and swimming if you want) makes it worth the effort. The downhill ride back is a lot of fun.
Don’t go to Olga if you want to buy trinkets, T-shirts, caps, groceries or supplies or if you are addicted to island hustle and bustle. Your cell phone won’t get good reception (or any reception most of the time) and you can’t buy fuel or plug in to shore power. But if you want to relax, kick back, enjoy a good book and a peaceful walk and some excellent food, then this just might be a place to visit. We think its great.