The resort at Rosario on Orcas Island’s East Sound is one of them.
Deborah and I decided to fix that oversight on our shakedown cruise of Meridian.
I am not sure why Rosario hasn’t been on our itinerary before. Maybe it seemed too hard to get a slip there, or maybe I figured the word “resort” meant that it would be prohibitively expensive or stuffy.
Neither of those issue turned out to be true. And having spent two wonderful days hunkered down there while the winds blew and rain fell, we plan to make Rosario a regular stop.
Where else can you enjoy long hikes in one of the best state parks, an entertaining pipe organ concert and historical talk in a slightly spooky old mansion, restaurants, a unique slice of Northwest history, charming boating facilities and an incredibly beautiful natural setting all at the same place?
It’s a wonder it took us so long to discover Rosario.
It was an abundant amount of caution that provided us the opportunity. We decided it was wise to stick fairly close to home on our first cruise aboard the 1985 Passport 40 we bought in April (and have been working on since). So instead of visiting the West Coast of Vancouver Island like we did last year, or heading up to Desolation Sound like I had hoped to do, we aimed our bow for the San Juan Islands.
Because we would be cruising in fairly familiar waters, we wanted to visit some places we hadn’t been before.
With the weather forecast calling for rain, lightening and high winds, instead of the sunny and warm days that we should be enjoying in July — and with our newly installed hydronic heater not working properly — we broke out the guidebook and iPads and looked for a suitable marina to wait out the cruddy weather.
We settled on Rosario fairly quickly. I pulled up the Rosario website and was pleasantly surprised to find that you could reserve a slip online. Within a few minutes, we had a place at the marina and a confirmation email in my inbox.
Motoring north on East Sound, it was easy to spot Rosario from a distance. The white Moran Mansion at the heart of the resort is a perfect landmark. And visiting it would turn out to be one of the high points of our stay.
By the time we had cleared the resort’s breakwater, the wind had started to pipe up, making what was already a challenging landing even more difficult.
The marina is small and tidy, with a single main wooden pier sporting slips on both sides. At low tide there is not a lot of room to maneuver a boat. But the dockhands at Rosario were waiting at our slip to offer assistance, which turned out to be very useful as we struggled to get our bow turned into the wind and avoid being blown off the dock.
After settling in, we toured the grounds of the resort and were impressed. Our moorage fee gave us access to two outdoor pools (one for adults only), free showers, sauna, whirlpool, workout room and all the other amenities you would expect at a higher-end resort.
I loved the thoughtful touches aimed at boaters, including having water hoses available, providing trash and recycling pickup on the dock and the fire pit (and firewood) available for an evening gam with fellow boaters.
Living up to our website’s name, we decided to hit the happy hour at the mansion’s lounge, a great way to take in the ambiance without shelling out a lot of dough.
But it was the next day that really highlighted what makes this destination worth visiting. The resort is just a half mile away from the 5,200-acre Moran State Park, which has more than 30 miles of hiking trails and five freshwater lakes.
We could have chosen to hike all the way up to the 2,400-foot summit of Mount Constitution, but wiser minds prevailed. Instead we put on our hiking shoes and walked the 2.7-mile path around Cascade Lake, enjoying the beautiful woods and shoreline.
Back at the boat, we had just enough time to shower, change and attend what was billed as an organ concert in the mansion’s music room. Deborah, who grew up playing organ, was excited. Me, not so much.
But that reticence disappeared as soon as I saw the towering organ pipes that framed the incredible music room. Better still, rather than a non-stop organ jam, the organist and longtime resort employee, Christopher Peacock, entertained the crowded room between songs with stories of the mansion’s colorful past.
He even played the score to the Phantom of the Opera while a condensed version of the 1925 silent movie classic was projected onto a screen at the front of the room.
The organ concert takes place at 4 p.m. every day except Sunday, and is free.
Afterwards, we took a self-guided tour of the mansion, which was built between 1906 and 1909 by shipbuilder and former mayor of Seattle Robert Moran. The second floor, which includes the music room, has been turned into a museum featuring much of the original furniture and books owned by Moran. It was a great snapshot into how the wealthy lived during the early days of Washington state.
There are two restaurants at the resort, including the lower-key outdoor grill just above the marina. Deborah and I grabbed a beer as the sun finally started picking through the clouds and the wind eased. We discussed staying one more night, thoroughly charmed by the place and its setting below the towering, tree-covered slopes that frame the bay.
But we had other places to explore in the islands. And so we bid Rosario a reluctant goodbye the next morning and headed toward our next destination.