Before we moved to Orcas Island, one of the first things we Googled was summer activities for kids. We found a few websites but wished we could find a one-stop site that listed everything.
Since moving here six years ago, our kids have done some of the most interesting camps you could ever dream up. Many were short-lived gems only offered a summer or two before disappearing into history – a gymnastics and nature camp held on a woman’s fantasy-like property, rocket camp, large-format painting camp (think huge canvasses), storytelling camp, cooking camp, songwriting camp, multimedia art camp, among others. Others have been running every year, so I hope I haven’t left anything out…
Orcas Park and Rec Classes
Orcas Park and Rec puts out a schedule of classes each season. During the summer, kids can sign up for skateboarding camp, volleyball camp, basketball camp, British or Brazilian soccer camp, various dance classes, and tennis clinics.
Camp Orkila Camps
Camp Orkila has a plethora of camp options. It is a YMCA camp immersed in some of the island’s most beautiful nature, and kids come from all over the country and even the world to experience it. Its most noticeable immediate feature is the zip-line tower. Local kids can zip-line for free on certain designated days.
One of the most enchanting camps we found the first time we searched was Farm Camp. We knew that our kids just had to do that one day. It is one of the many varied camps offered during the summer by Salmonberry School, and our boys have now done many in addition to Farm Camp, some of which are no longer in the mix. In the past they offered Ukulele camp, Pioneer camp, Medieval Camp, among others, and today they offer Circus Arts, Fun with Math, Adelante Espanol, and Earthways Nature Education Camp, among others. There’s something very special, beautiful, and intentionally peaceful about Salmonberry School’s grounds. You just don’t want to leave.
The Funhouse is a staple of island life for so many parents and kids. Not only is it a place for kids to go after school during the year, it is also a place for them to go for one week of summer or the entire summer. Each week of day camp from 9:00-1:00 has a different theme, then the kids can stay for supervised free play until 5:00. The cost is $125 per week.
From 10:00-3:00 every Saturday from May to September, the market takes place at the Village Green in the middle of town and has food, hand crafts, vegetables, jewelry, you name it. We love wandering through it each week even though we’ve done it for years.
Vacation Bible School
Orcas Island Community Church hosts a week-long VBS each summer in July from 9:00 -12:00. It is a fun, fast-moving daily rotation that includes games, crafts, snacks, bible stories, missionary stories, and singing and dancing. All children are welcome and it is free.
Library Summer Reading Program and Afternoons at the Movies
We love that the library has a reading program during the summer. It’s not easy to stay inside and read during the only season that has guaranteed sun in the Northwest, but the library isn’t too demanding of kids. For every day that a child reads for 20 minutes, he or she gets one library buck. For every 5 library bucks earned, the child gets to pick a free book from the summer reading shelf. Very cool. Thank you, library. And if the kids need a break from all that lake swimming and skin frying, Afternoons at the Movies are on Wednesdays at 1:30 for younger kids and Fridays at 1:30 for middle and high schoolers. Movies are announced on flyers inside the library.
BMX Biking at the Camp Orkila Track
Dan and Vicki from Wildlife Cycles in Eastsound have been organizing Tuesday night BMX biking at the Camp Orkila track for years now. It’s 6:30-8:00 PM, is free, and they provide bikes and helmets for everyone. Even parents! Just make sure to wear long sleeves and long pants.
Junior Sailing Weekly Camps
Coming from Santa Barbara, sailing camp was always something we viewed as impossibly expensive. Where we came from, the weekly cost was exorbitant and you had to have your own boat. Here, a 4-day camp for 3 hours per day costs $120 and everything is provided. Kids can start as young as 6 years old! It’s fabulous.
Island Aerial Acrobatics is getting quite popular on the island these days. Check their website for current workshops.
There is beautiful, peaceful, varied hiking for any fitness level. A good place to start is on the trails in Moran State Park.
Swimming in the Lakes
The lakes on Orcas Island – namely Cascade Lake and Mountain Lake – are refreshing and clean. My recent favorite thing to do is swim across them any chance I get.
photo by Tricia Cunningham
Exploring Eastsound Beach and Indian Island at Low Tide
This has got to be one of the most beautiful vistas in the world, as well as one of the most interesting places to find wild and wacky creatures.
Ponds abound on the island, and every pond-sifting adventure is a biological treat of some kind or another.
Nature won’t let you down here. We’ve seen something new almost every time we’ve been out exploring. Simply growing a garden is pretty illuminating around here.
Grazing from Fruit Trees
Cherries, thimbleberries, plums, pears, and blackberries are a ball to pick right off the branch!
And Good Ol’ Building Stuff from Scratch
If you don’t have odds and ends at home, stop into The Exchange for parts and pieces.