One need only look at a piece of jewelry created by designer Cathy Waterman to understand the role that nature plays in her designs. From the color palette of her stones—cool blues and calming greens are predominant—to her use of botanical themes like thorns and wildflowers, the natural world is never far from her mind. And with good reason.

“I live a 5-minute walk from the Pacific Ocean. I can smell, hear, and see the waves from my bed when my head hits the pillow. It’s a big part of my calm and my equilibrium, and it certainly influences my work by allowing me access wherever it is that my art and creativity come from,” she tells us as we discuss one of her latest major wildness outings: a two week vacation with her husband, three children, and two of her children’s partners, to Orcas Island off the northwest coast of Washington state.

“My family and I love the Pacific Northwest, and we try to do at least one road trip to the area every year, whether it’s Washington, Oregon, or the islands off Vancouver,” she says. This year, it was Orcas Island, a rural, 57-square-mile getaway that’s been dubbed the gem of the San Juan Islands thanks to its stunning shorelines, charming towns, and verdant hillsides. “It was the kind of vacation I love—beautiful, comfortable, and I got to do the things I love. There were some extraordinary experiences.”

After renting a car in Seattle, an afternoon’s drive brought Waterman and a part of her clan to the ferry, which ultimately brought them to the island for their two weeks of relaxation. For a closer look at what they got up to, scroll on to see some of their family snapshots.


“On our way to the Island on the Washington State Ferry.”

On getting to Orcas Island, Waterman says, “Anytime you’re getting on a ferry, people know that they’re really in for a journey. Part of any journey is the relaxing into it, the acceptance of it—whether that means eating sandwiches, playing cards, reading the paper, working—you’ve got this time on the water. And it’s magical. So for me, the journey to get to the island was fabulous.”

“When in doubt, always go up!”

“Resting after fording streams via moss covered logs.”

“The speed limit on the whole island is 25 miles per hour, and you find yourself wanting to drive 25 miles per hour because the pace is just different,” she says. “Normally you’re focused on getting somewhere, but the whole island operates on vacation pace.”

“Forests everywhere!”

“It’s so clean and unpopulated, and there’s lots of water,” Cathy Tells us. “I love the Pacific Ocean, but there are also incredible lakes with redwood trees growing right down to the shore.”

“Setting sail, we found ourselves among three pods of playing—and mating—orcas.The island lives up to its name!”

“One of the three pods of orcas.”

“You’re so far away from the world when you’re out there with the whales. You just find yourself in the midst of them and they’re frolicking, playing, and jumping in and out of the water.”

“The sunsets looked like this every night—no kidding.”

“And each day began with a foggy morning.”

“While the barnacles look pretty, they do mean that you need aqua socks for the beach. No toes in the sand this trip.”

Waterman spends a quiet moment with a newfound friend on the island. 

“On a few of the days we were there, my younger daughter and I just got in the car and started driving with no map. We made it our goal to drive around the island and, ultimately, to drive on every single road there. We’d drive down these long unpaved roads, where you’d eventually get to a point where it’d just say, ‘Private—turn around here.’ We ended up covering maybe 70% of the roads, but we discovered beautiful apple orchards and wild blackberry bushes. Anywhere we went, you could just stop the car and pick half a pint of blackberries. You’re going about your journey and you feel welcomed because everywhere you go, there’s just food—you know that you’ve got a snack right there anytime you want it!”

“Water everywhere meant that there was always an adventure to be had.”

“For my husband, a road trip is a very different undertaking—he has a destination. He’ll have the route planned out with all the best stops along the way—gardens, historical sites, and everything—but he wants to get there. I just want to get lost along the way. I want to get off the highway and see something that nobody’s written about, nobody knows anything about—I want to discover it for myself.”

“This is part of the shellfish farm at Buck Bay.”

“What better way to end a day than with a campfire?”

“You’ll find an incredible farmstead in Warm Orchard Valley, but only on Thursdays. They had the best grapes and tiny fraises du bois.”

“We all like to cook and eat, so every day we went out to forage,” Waterman tells us. “There are lots of farmstands all over the island that are, incredibly, run on the honor system. There’s no one attending them, just a sign—like a cooler with, ‘Duck Eggs, Suggested $6’— and a box for your money. It truly feels magical.”

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