I shall be going on a small trip to Orcas Island for a small wedding..... will update on hotel, food and hiking.
The Lime Kiln Park on San Juan Island is a good place to see whales and dolphins and also shoot the light house. I stay on Lopez Island in a house overlooking the ocean on the west side. I have several good sunset photos from there. Also, early in the mornings on any of the islands you are likely to get close ups of deer. In low light, the ferries are good subjects. Friday Harbor on San Juan island is also photogenic. It is easy to get from island to island on the ferries so don't limit yourself to only one area. If you go to Victoria you will probably have to spend the night because of the ferry schedule (you can look up the schedules on the internet). If you are not tied down to one location to stay the local real estate offices have lots of vacation rental houses at reasonable rates. Have fun.
Inside the Orcas Hotel there are actually two different restaurants. The Café and coffee house, and the actual hotel restaurant. The hotel restaurant seems to be quite a bit more expensive than the café in terms of what you get and what you pay, but I did not actually eat in the Hotel Restaurant so I can't correctly judge this.
You have the option of sitting inside the dining room or outside on the hotel patio. The patio overlooks the harbor and ferry terminal while the inside dining room only has one window, and three tables, that look out that direction.
There is WiFi service available here, and I was able to get it to work with my iPhone with no problem.
Favorite Dish: Grilled 3 cheese sandwich with potato chips for $9
A cranberry juice for $3.25
A bowl of chowder for $6 or so
Including tax but not the tip, the total came to $19.48
This may seem expensive, but keep in mind the items in the actual hotel restaurant are closer to $17 to $32.
The chowder was quite good, and maybe would have sufficed for dinner without the sandwich and chips.
If you are in the mood for something quite a bit less nutritious there are quite a number of very good looking sweets available in the display window.
The ferry terminal at Orcas Village is tiny, and really only serves as a shelter for those selling tickets to vehicle traffic. There is little in the way of a waiting room, and walk-on passengers don't need to pay anything here for going any direction.
The arrangement here is somewhat unusual as the ferry terminal building is actually across the street from the actual ferry boarding and alighting area.
Passengers are boarded using the auto deck, and are given a slight head start before the auto traffic is turned loose upon them.
While there are not many restaurants in Orcas Village, those that are here are all within walking distance of the ferry terminal.
Auto traffic spirals up the hill to a flat area behind the county park, and the hill from this area down to the ferry terminal itself is extremely steep. You may be asked to wait in this steep hill, so make sure the parking break is fully working before leaving your vehicle. No good thing can come from having it roll down this very steep hill should the break let go.
From Seattle, take the ferry from Anacortes to Orcas Island. Here's the link to the Fall 2001 schedule: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/schedules/current/index.cfm?route=ana-sj
It's best to rent a car in Seattle and take it along on the ferry.
Go on a whale watching trip to see orcas in the wild. You should also check out the half day or overnight guided kayak tours. We liked Shearwater Adventures, they're very professional and very competent. Last but certainly not least, drive to the summit of Mount Constitution, the view will take your breath away.
Fondest memory: One night, our guide took us kayaking and told us to look at the water as we paddle. I saw bioluminescence - I called them water firelies. I had so much fun paddling and running my hand through the water.
Favorite thing: Ride a ferry....it is an exceptionally beautiful boat ride. The waters are protected and rarely rough and the islands are generally covered with fir and red-barked madrone trees. Although the ferries seem a little expensive, consider that you're paying for a round-trip unless going between US and Canada. You'll want transportation to get around the island or islands and just about any vehicle you rent will cost more than bringing your own. If you want to island-hop, consider going to Friday Harbor first so that you're always going the 'free' direction from island to island. Ferry information is available by calling (800) 843-3779 or check the Washington state ferry's web page.