Sleep Like a Log in Washington’s Orcas Island Treehouse

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Waters of Rosario Strait seen from Doe Bay Resort. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Waters of Rosario Strait seen from Doe Bay Resort. Photo by Claudia Carbone

It is still daylight when we park in the upper field at Doe Bay Resort on the southeast side of Orcas Island in Washington state’s San Juan Island chain. But we can barely see our home for the night shrouded by trees and sitting up high. As we walk closer, there it is! A real storybook treehouse wrapped around old growth trees. As we scramble up the stairs to the front porch, I can’t stop giggling. We are kids again!

The Treehouse at Doe Bay Resort. Photo by Claudia Carbone
The Treehouse at Doe Bay Resort. Photo by Claudia Carbone
In the trees. Photo by Claudia Carbone
In the trees. Photo by Claudia Carbone

This sign greets us at the top of the stairs.

We know! Photo by Claudia Carbone
We know! Photo by Claudia Carbone

Inside the Treehouse

Inside is like a rustic cabin with wood floor, lots of roll-open windows, and an intricately designed ladder to a loft. We turn on the gas heater to abate the evening chill coming on in early October, stock beer in the mini fridge and survey our digs for the night. A nice futon couch, a chest of drawers, three lamps and a tree “table” will do just fine on the first level. A coffee pot, cups and two wine glasses are the “kitchen” on top of the fridge. WiFi is free, but service is spotty. (Give it up; you’re in a treehouse now!)

The living room. Photo by Claudia Carbone
The living room. Photo by Claudia Carbone

As dusk, we turn on the lights for a cozy, sexy atmosphere.

Chest with drawers. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Chest with drawers. Photo by Claudia Carbone

The ladder to the loft bedroom is sturdy and well designed with handholds just where we need them. Tip: wear shoes ‘cuz the rungs are hard on the soles of the feet.

Ladder to the bedroom. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Ladder to the bedroom. Photo by Claudia Carbone

The bedroom is like an attic, cute but tight. Larry at 6’4″ has to stoop at the tall end, but I could stand. The roof slopes menacingly close to our heads at the pillow end, but it’s cozy for sleeping like a log. It’s the same feeling you get when sleeping in a tent. More giggling! Two lamps hang over storage boxes as nightstands on both sides of the bed. Luckily, neither of us ever bump our head.

Queen bed upstairs. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Queen bed upstairs. Photo by Claudia Carbone

The treetops outside the windows never let us forget we are sleeping in a treehouse!

Waking up in a treehouse. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Waking up in a treehouse. Photo by Claudia Carbone

Yes, there is a bathroom! It’s built around a large tree encased in a sort of plexiglass see-through material that lets you contemplate nature during morning constitution. Soap and towels are provided but no shower.

Half-bath on first level. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Half-bath on first level. Photo by Claudia Carbone

Outside the Treehouse

This huge deck starts by the staircase and wraps around the treehouse with two-door access.

Porch of the treehouse. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Porch of the treehouse. Photo by Claudia Carbone

It looks out onto the upper field of the resort and the blue water of the gorgeous Rosario Strait far beyond. Morning Joe, anyone?

On the deck. Photo by Claudia Carbone
On the deck. Photo by Claudia Carbone

After seeing the intricate design of this place, I must give credit to the team that built it: Jake, “B’fer” and Javier of The Treehouse Guys TV show. They constructed it to be featured on the DIY Network recently. You can search google for their other projects in other places.

Down a path and hidden among trees next to a rushing stream is the spa area of Doe Bay, perhaps the best part of the resort. A sauna, outdoor shower and three small soaking tubs overlook peaceful Otter Cove. But I must warn you: the tubs are clothing-optional, so you will share them with other naked people (why I cropped my photo!), even during the day (family hours are 11 a.m.-6 pm.) Best bet for privacy is prior to closing at 10 p.m. Tubs are free to overnight guests; day passes are $15 per person, and people come from all around the island for a sauna and a soak. Massage is offered in several small buildings close to the spa area, and yoga is practiced in a spacious waterfront studio.

Spa at Doe Bay Resort. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Spa at Doe Bay Resort. Photo by Claudia Carbone

There’s also a shower and sinks in a bathhouse that serves all overnight guests, as well as a guest kitchen and a dishwashing station. Next to the main office there’s a general store for supplies (think coffee) and a really nice cafe featuring “seed-to-table” food grown in their organic garden and sourced from local purveyors. Check the website for operating hours and days. Sadly, it was closed for our visit.

Doe Bay Cafe. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Doe Bay Cafe. Photo by Claudia Carbone

Besides the one treehouse ($178 off-season; $272 July/August), the 38-acre resort offers lodging in large and small cabins, yurts, domes and a variety of walk-in or drive-to campgrounds. The setting is stunning and serene. The resort, which was settled by homesteaders in the mid-1800s, has had various incarnations over the years. It was a trading post, a ferry landing, a fishing port of call, an artist colony and New Age commune. It still has that “hippie” vibe, and we like it just the way it is!

Orcas Island

Horse-shoe shaped Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands in the northwest corner of Washington state but less populated than San Juan Island, the second largest. We drive our rental car right onto the ferry at the landing in the little town of Anacortes, WA. About an hour later we dock at Orcas Village. Since Doe Bay is on the other side of the horseshoe, we get a nice lay of the land on our drive there. We pass through Eastsound, a charming little town on the island which we visit several more times. There we have a killer breakfast at Roses Bakery, go through six early settlers’ cabins at the history museum, pop in and out of various boutiques and art galleries, and enjoy a fantastic sunset dinner at Inn at Ship Bay.

{A note about driving: with no predators roaming the archipelago, Black-tail deer, a species of small deer native to the islands, are everywhere! They forage on the sides of the road and often dart in front of the car. Hence the names: Doe Bay, Buck Bay and Deer Harbor. The state is well aware and is grappling with the issue.}

Ship Bay on Orcas Island. Photo by Claudia Carbone
Ship Bay on Orcas Island. Photo by Claudia Carbone

We drive to the summit of Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park and hike to Cascade Falls, part of a 30-mile trail system. Because our visit is short, we leave behind kayaking, fishing, biking, boating and more exploring in and out of the water. We’ll be back to our house in the trees!

Next time we’ll book a tour with Salish Sea Tour Co., where long-time locals can give us insiders’ experiences of Orcas Island life.

Doe Bay Resort & Retreat, 107 Doe Bay Road, Olga, WA 98279; 360-376-2291; www.DoeBay.com

Claudia Carbone is an award-winning travel writer based in Denver. Read about other hotels she’s visited in Sleepin’ Around.