A favorite family resort in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington is being transformed.
Island getaways don’t need to be tropical: consider, for example, pretty little Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands off the Washington coast. Not far from Seattle, it is in the sunnier “Banana Belt.” Orcas has deer, whales, eagles, and forest trails, plus a resort built around a historic mansion, complete with ghost.
Built in 1911 as the grand home of rags-to-riches millionaire shipbuilder Robert Moran, Rosario Resort & Spa (360/376-2222) is located on 30 acres of waterfront on Orcas Island. A resort since the 1960s, it had a new life a few years back, thanks to a US$2 million upgrade by the RockResorts group. Since then the Rosario has re-opened under new ownership that remain committed to its founder’s “Arts and Crafts ideals” – time spent with family, a respect for nature, and a return to quality handcraftsmanship lost in the industrial revolution. San Juan County has approved a Resort Master Planned Redevelopment, still in its planning stages, which will preserve Moran’s legacy and renew the resort as a mix of public facilities and timeshare lodging units.
Because of the resort’s past popularity, guest benefits will continue to include a serious emphasis on cuisine (with local salmon, oysters, and chÃªvre) and services for families. Rosario’s main attraction has always been the Great Outdoors; the resort has sea-kayaks, hiking trails, and sailboats for rent at the marina within its coastal eight acres.
As for the Moran Mansion itself, it has become a museum that features an extensive collection of ships built by Moran’s company. It also contains a music room with Tiffany stained glass, a pipe organ that cost $16,000 in 1913, and an unusual interior balcony from which the wife of Rosario’s second owner fell to her death to become Rosario’s in-house ghost.
Guests at the Rosario can no longer stay in the Moran Mansion, but can stay in any of the sixteen bayside rooms and suites, located a short walk from the mansion and marina.
Visiting Orcas Island
Boasting a plethora of outdoor activities, Orcas Island itself is very much worth a visit. To reach Orcas from Seattle, drive 80 miles north to Anacortes, then take the car-ferry; or take a seaplane right to the resort. Bring a warm jacket in winter, but you won’t find snow; sea sports continue if weather permits. And more good news: the sun shines on 247 days of the year.
From May to September, whale-watching tours depart daily directly from the Rosario Marina to find Orca whales — think Free Willy — as well as eagles, seals, and sea lions. Kids especially enjoy hand-feeding the resort’s tame deer; families can also play lawn games such as croquet and badminton. In summer, a heated outdoor pool is located near the marina.
The local town of Eastsound has an indoor Funhouse and the Orcas Island Library for rainy days, as well as famous Teezer’s bakery. In Moran State Park, there’s a roped-off swimming hole in Cascade Lake and hiking trails from which you can spot bald eagles.
For your visit, also consider the picturesque and equally historic 12-room Orcas Hotel (888/672-2792), located on the waterfront at 8 Orcas Hill Road, P.O. Box 369, Orcas WA 98280.
Resort Report Card
|Name:||Rosario Resort & Spa|
|Address:||1400 Rosario Road
|Seasonal Rates:||$$ – $$$|
|Choice of Activities:||B+|
|Quality of Amenities:||B+|
|Bonus:||A classic property imbued with mod-cons keeps its dignity.|
|Note:||An effort to transform units into timeshares promises to maintain the mansion.|
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