Before booking this hotel, I checked some of the online reviews. After staying here four nights in a row, I am quite satisfied with my stay. There are some warnings that are in order, as it could be that this isn't the place you want to stay. However, for me, this was exactly what I was looking for.
So, first understand that this is one of the cheapest hotels in the San Juan Islands, and thus you can expect there to be somewhat limited resources here. You can't pay $59 a night (which is what I paid - the spring 2013 standard rate) in a place as expensive as Friday Harbor and expect that there would be services that are the same as one of the places that charges $150 a night.
So, expect that the rooms are smaller than what you would expect at an expensive hotel. Expect that the paneling on the walls would be something from the 1970s and not something that is designed to look quaint (these were both complaints about this hotel that I read on the various online reviews).
Next, understand that with limited staffing and limited pricing, certain things may take a while. For example, the hotel is switching to flat screen televisions on stands so that the space is freed up that is occupied by the older, larger televisions. Not all the rooms (including the one I stayed in, in June of 2013) have been converted yet. They offered to switch me to another room when I asked if it was OK if I moved the big television out of the way, but I declined. If you need desk space, let them know and if there is a room available they will probably (as long as it isn't peak season) be able to get you into a room that doesn't have a television taking up the desk space.
Internet access here is another work in progress. I brought a USB plug WiFi booster, and was able to get access in my room reasonably well. However, currently some places get better access than others, and if you get close to the reception desk you should be able to receive WiFi access reasonably well. It's a work in progress, and with limited staff and with limited access to the outside world (there is one computer place in town but it has very limited equipment) you can expect these things to take time. I understood this, and I came properly prepared (the WiFi booster).
So, now for the good things: the price of course is much, much better than you are likely to find anywhere in the San Juan Islands unless you camp somewhere, or are able to find a bed at the hostel (usually, these are not available).
When I saw the walls, I immediately thought that I would be able to hear the neighbors, but in fact I only heard them once, and that was when the couple got into a heated discussion once, and I heard her say once sentence loudly and stop her foot. That was it as far as hearing the people in the other rooms - over a 4 night stay that included a weekend.
Getting around by bike is very popular on the islands, and the hotel includes a decent sized bike rack.
There is no traffic noise. The hotel is difficult to see from the road other than the sign, and for the most part there are buildings between the hotel and the road (which really isn't extremely busy most of the time).
The air conditioning worked well, the refrigerator worked well, and the mattress was in better condition and easier to sleep in than some of the other cheap hotels I have stayed in - at least one of those was actually more expensive per night than the Orca.
I found the hotel to be a 10 minute walk from downtown under normal circumstances, but increased to closer to 20 hauling luggage. Even so, the way between the hotel and downtown is relatively easy, has sidewalks the entire way, and it is possible to find a route that doesn't use the busiest streets in town. The hotel is also close enough to downtown that if you really needed to use a taxi service to get to the hotel it would be possible to do so without it being exceptionally expensive.
How to Get Here:
There are two different ways I suggest to get here, depending on if you are walking or driving a car.
If you are on foot, then you will exit the ferry on the east side of the ferry terminal. Forget trying to cross Front Street, as it will soon be clogged with autos attempting to exit the ferry and trying to cram their way into downtown Friday Harbor. Instead, go uphill from the ferry debarking area and go uphill along the sidewalk that goes along the edge of the auto staging area for those waiting to get on the ferry. Then, go south on A street, west on Nichols or Web Street, south on Argyle Avenue, west on Cannes Street, south on Nash Street, then west on Market Street. On your left you will see a supermarket with no name on it, and on the right there is a house-like structure that has the Friends of the San Juans in it. There is also a Widbey Island Bank branch. Between the no-name supermarket and the Whidbey Island Bank there is a driveway that goes back to the Orca Inn, but it is not signed as such. Using this route gives you access to sidewalks the entire way, while at the same time keeping you on the less busy streets so that you don't have to fight the huge pile of traffic coming off the ferry.
If you drove, then you have no choice but to jump into the ferry traffic and swim along with them. If you follow all the other traffic, it goes 1 block northwest on Front Street, then turns southwest on Spring Street. Follow Spring Street to Mullis Street (several blocks) and turn left, and the hotel is right where the road starts to make an S curve. Note the sign (see photo 4) on the left.
About the Photos:
Photo 1 Here it is: it is a simple parking spot plus a room and bed and bathroom. However, it is cheap and isn't the dingy type of place that cheap hotels are in some parts of the world. It's cheap but still good. The office is located in the far back corner of the hotel.
Photo 2 The room is small, but enough to do what you need in a hotel room: sleep and shower and use the toilet.
Photo 3 My biggest complaint (and it wasn't that big a deal) was the television taking up the entire useful desk space. The hotel is working on replacing these with flat screens on a stand, but this room hasn't got one yet. They offered to move me to a different room. I just used the laptop while leaning against the wall in bed.
Photo 4 Here is the entrance of the hotel on Mullis Street.
I've never actually stayed at the B&B, since I lived less than a mile away. However, the owners are the nicest people you could ever possibly meet and the view from the farmhouse is spectacular. If you really want a vacation, this is the place to go.
Great breakfast, homemade of course. The views of the valley and its wildlife are spectacular. Located close enough to town that you could bike or bring a car, but far enough away to enjoy the quiet of the country.
This inn differed from the Highland Inn. The B&B is an old farmhouse from 1895. The rooms are comfortable but not fancy. The bathrooms for some of the rooms are separate but private.
Both Inns provided sample menus from the local restaurants. The Inn keepers were very friendly and helpful. The breakfasts here were not quite as extensive but just as good. We received fresh fruit and an egg dish made from their chickens.
As a side note they have kitties but they only seem to ever be on the first floor of the house and never in the rooms. Being a kitty lover we enjoyed seeing them.
For those of you who had grandparents that lived in the country. It kinda reminds you of visiting Grandmas house. Many flowers surround the house.
This B&B has two rooms. Each room is has a sliding door that leads out to a back veranda that overlooks the west side of San Juan Island. You can see the Olympic mountains and Victoria. Also if you have good binocs or a spotting scope you can get a good view of Orcas as they swim by. The Inn keeper bakes fresh cookies each afternoon for her guests. You have plenty of birds and hummingbirds visiting your deck.
The breakfasts.... fresh fruit, baked breads and egg/meats. She serves the breakfast in 2 courses and you can eat at a small table in your room.
The room had nothing lacking so if you forgot toothpaste or some other item, it was stocked. Plus there was a mini-frig with drinks that came with the room(no extra charge).
Ok for all these amenities you do pay but if you like your comfiness it is good.
The views, the service, the breakfasts,
We stayed at Wigeon's Rest guesthouse on False Bay. Absolutely magical place, quality quality quality. Cannot WAIT to go back. The proprietor, Suzanne, is just a wonderful host and really tuned into her guests' experience. It was top notch. It has a sister guesthouse on the property, Water's Edge) that is slightly larger -- each is designed to accommodate 2 (W.R.) or 2-3 (W.E.) people.
Two night minimum, Wigeon's Rest is $145 during high season (May to September), $125 during off season (October to April).
I believe Water's Edge is $185 during high season, $145 during off season.
The attention to detail (this guest house is new construction from 1999) was just amazing... the little place was absolutely immaculate. What value for the money! And it's sort of a well kept secret, which makes it kind of nice. (shhhhh!) There is a precious chocolate lab on site, Dolly, that will be your best friend by the time you leave.
Hotel de Haro in Roche Harbour. The rich and the famous have stayed in this stylish turn of the century inn on the waterfront. We stayed in the condo, just down the road.
Charm, creaking wooden floors, excellent cusine.
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