The West Coast islands -- of Washington state and the Canadian province BC-- have a mystique all their own: the soul-stirring scenery; the artsy communities; the ferry whistle blows and you leave big-city life behind...
Orcas Island is one such island, in the San Juan group not far from Seattle. Orcas modestly calls itself the "Gem of the Northwest" and it's a beautiful isle, with grassy valleys, blooming fruit trees, and Mount Constitution, the highest peak in the San Juans.
Orcas also has a historic mansion-- now a resort-- called Rosario.
Rosario was built at the turn of the century by ship-building millionaire and two-time Mayor of Seattle, Robert Moran. Moran had arrived penniless in Seattle in 1875, where he'd had to beg a breakfast; by 1904, he was rich, successful, but overworked and worn out. Doctors said he had only six months to live; Moran moved to Orcas Island, and lived thirty-nine years more.
Fortunately, he had plenty of money to lavish on the mansion he named Rosario.
Nothing was too good for Rosario, called the "Showplace of the San Juans", or the "San Simeon of the Northwest." The house's lower level, with a floor made of Italian mosaic tile, had a swimming pool, billiard table, and a bowling alley. On the third floor, the famous music room had-- and still has-- Tiffany stained-glass light fixtures, a huge stained-glass window from Belgium, mahogany doors so heavy they needed special hinges, and the piece de resistance, a pipe organ that cost $16,000 in 1913.
Today, the mansion houses Rosario Resort's restaurants, and the music room and twin libraries are still intact. Guests at the resort stay in rooms or suites in several complexes on Rosario's grounds. Shuttles run constantly between the buildings, though most guests prefer to take a short walk to the mansion's pools, spa, and restaurants.
Rosario has seasonal kids programs, and one of the outdoor pools caters to families. Kids particularly enjoy the resort's tame deer: some deer can even be fed by hand. Whale-watching boat tours (seasonal) leave from a dock right at the resort. Safe hiking trails lead through the woods (--no bears on Orcas).
Be sure to visit with a car, so you can explore Orcas Island!
Find out more about Rosario:
- Visit the Rosario Resort site
- check visitor comments at TripAdvisor.com. Rosario has indisputably got great scenery, setting, and history; check for upkeep and other issues.
This brief profile is meant to introduce this resort to family vacationers; please note that the writer has not visited in person. Always check resort sites for updates.