Showing posts with label Washington State Ferries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington State Ferries. Show all posts

Saturday, March 30, 2013

WAWeekend: Anacortes ~ More than a ferry stop

“You went where?!” asked a friend, obviously thinking she’d misunderstood me.

Anacortes. . .we spent the night in Anacortes. It’s an adorable little town. . .really!” 

Although this seafront town, with a population of just under 16,000, on Fidalgo Island got its start more than a century ago, until last month we’d been like the other two million visitors who pass through it each year en route to board a Washington State ferry headed to the San Juan islands or Victoria, B.C.

After making it our destination a couple weeks ago, we’ve put it high on our close-to-home WAWeekend  getaway recommended list because:

JebirthdaySquirrely 025

There’s more than 12 miles of shoreline and some 60 miles of trails to be explored.

JebirthdaySquirrely 048

Thanks to artist Bill Mitchell’s talents, the town sports some 100 murals. (Mural route maps can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center). This is one of my favorites.

JebirthdaySquirrely 020

Pedestrian-friendly streets are lined with picture perfect 20th Century – and earlier – homes.  The homes above framed our walking route to the Guemes Island ferry terminal and were within a few blocks of the Anacortes Museum, housed in a Carnegie Library building built between 1909 and 1911.

Speaking of museums, just across town the Maritime Heritage Center proudly displays the W.T. Preston Snagboat, a sternwheeler once used for clearing debris from Puget Sound. The Snagboat and Carnegie Library are both on the National Register of Historic Places.

Public art is everywhere from statues to ‘Sidewalk Salmon Cans’ (beautifully camouflaged  garbage cans throughout the historic district), a tribute to the once flourishing local salmon and fish canning industry. Canneries have been replaced with fish processing plants in this bustling town mid-way between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

JebirthdaySquirrely 024
The first fish cannery in Anacortes was founded in 1893 and by 1915 there were 11 canneries stretched along Guemes Channel (pictured here).

In 1913 fishing boats delivered 39 million salmon that were canned into 800,000 cases of fish.

For those who require shopping therapy as a part of any trip and for those who also seek the finest in culinary offerings, we can assure you that Anacortes has plenty of both.

JebirthdaySquirrely 012

You’ll find some great one-of-a-kind apparel, antiques, decorator and gift stores, but one of our favorites was the independent Watermark Book Co. A sign on its door reminded us of the fragility of such businesses: “Find it here, Buy it here, Keep us here.”

JebirthdaySquirrely 018

JebirthdaySquirrely 017We cast aside diets for a brief moment at the Gere-a-Deli, a popular breakfast and lunch spot, also on Commercial Avenue.

It’s housed in another historic building, this one once was a bank.
JebirthdaySquirrely 009
Another popular eatery is the A-Town Bistro, a half block away at 418 Commercial Avenue.  The place was packed on the Tuesday night we visited.

As I told you in an earlier report, we spent a night at  The Majestic Inn and Spa celebrating The Scout’s birthday during our impromptu end-of-February road trip, however there are many hotels and bed-and-breakfasts from which to choose here.

If you’ve not spent time in Anacortes, you should give it a try – we are certainly glad we did.

If You Go:

Map picture

For visitor information:
Anacortes Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information Center,819 Commercial Ave.,, 360-293-7911.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

WA Weekend: Lookin’ for Luxury? Try Langley

We weren’t exactly looking for luxury when we arrived on a late Wednesday afternoon without reservations at the Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island.  

But Luxury, with a capital “L” is what we got at this popular getaway, just an hour or so north of Seattle. “L” for Lucky as well, because February’s winter weather coupled with the mid-week arrival spelled: availability.

JEBdayWA2013 069Opened in 1989 -- and still operated -- by former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell and his wife, Pam, the Inn a Langley has garnered dozens of awards, among them being listed as one of the ‘Top 500 Hotels in the World’ by Travel and Leisure Magazine.

With inviting leather couches positioned to catch the warmth of the fireplace, the candle-scented lobby was a teaser of what was to be a top of the line experience at this Inn situated on a waterfront bank.

JEBdayWA2013 075

A Room With A View

JEBdayWA2013 070

If you love being near bodies of water as we do, then you can imagine our delight when not only did our room have a porch-sized deck but also offered 180-views of Saratoga Passage.

Had it been a wee bit warmer, we may never have left those chairs because this was our view north. . .and south was much the same.

JEBdayWA2013 073

When chilled we simply moved in to those cushioned window seats and later, wrapped in robes they provided, sat in chairs by the fireplace where we sipped a final glass of wine  before retiring for the evening.
JEBdayWA2013 064 

When the time came to snuggle under that down-filled duvet. . .let me tell you, one night really wasn’t enough. 

JEBdayWA2013 066

That opaque window on the bed’s right side, slides open to reveal the bathroom’s oversized-jetted tub  that also has a water view and opens to the guestroom as well.  Large enough for two. . .

Award-winning Dining

The only drawback to our mid-week stay was that we couldn’t try the Inn’s award-winning Chef Matt Costello’s culinary talents. He’s known for using the best of locally produced and sourced products and creating out-of-this-world, multi-course meals – on weekends.  At it was, we had an excellent meal at Primo Bistro, a French-inspired Northwest bistro, an easy walk from the Inn.

JEBdayWA2013 071

Breakfast (included in the room rate) was delivered to our room by none-other than the owners, Paul and Pam Schell (another low-season perk, I suspect).  Let me take you around this tray clockwise:  orange juice, home-made granola, yogurt, fresh fruit bowl, Brie cheese and crackers, coffee, fresh pastries and hard-boiled eggs.

If You Go:

Map picture

JEBdayWA2013 076Whidbey Island can be accessed on its north end by crossing Washington’s Deception Pass.  Or from the south, the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry is a 30-minute crossing with Langley less than five miles north of Clinton.

Inn at Langley, with 28 guestrooms, cottages and master suites (and a spa at beach level) is at 400 First Street, 360-221-3033,   We paid $175 for the room (with breakfast pictured above). In July it would be $290. 

The Inn just announced the return of the Gray Whales to Saratoga Passage (what a sight that would be from one of those decks!) 

And here’s one of their off-season deals you might want to consider:

“Sneak Away Sunday”

You get a Sunday overnight stay at the Inn and six-course dinner for two featuring Chef Costello’s Whidbey Island’s freshest seasonal fare. $325 includes dinner for two and a waterfront guestroom for one night.Offer valid March 24 through June 1, 2013 for Sunday nights only. Based on availability, does not include wine, tax or gratuity.

Thanks for stopping by today. Come back next week when we will take you to another Travel Classic, and have more tips and tales for you.  You’ll find even more on our Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Travel Classics: Hotel de Haro ~ San Juan Island

Taking a slight jog from the Middle East, I am posting an article that appears in my drafts folder, that I had once published 'way back when' we took the trip. We used this post to introducing our then new Travel Classics feature on TravelnWrite .  Its focus continues to be historic hotels and other treasures we find along the way. . .
We couldn’t think of a better place to begin than at the iconic Hotel de Haro on Washington State’s San Juan Island. . .

VeniceSanJuanIsl 278
VeniceSanJuanIsl 318
The hotel, overlooking Roche (roe-shhh) Harbor, was constructed around an existing Hudson’s Bay Post log bunkhouse in 1887.  You can still see portions of those old logs at the hotel’s narrow stairway that leads from the lobby to the guestrooms.

It is definitely a place built of both logs and legends. Like so many historic structures, we wish the walls could whisper bedtime stories to bring its history to life.  On that particular trip, I'd have wanted to hear more about guestroom 2A because that is where United States President Theodore Roosevelt stayed in 1906 while visiting his friend, John S. McMillin. 

McMillin, in 1887, founded the Roche Harbor Lime and Cement Company. This hotel was built to house customers while they were buying lime.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 274

Today Room 2A is known as the Presidential Suite. It was in that room, with its sloping and creaking floors, that we spent two brisk autumn nights. Can’t you just imagine President Roosevelt sitting here more than a century ago?

VeniceSanJuanIsl 272Our three-room suite, included an en suite bathroom behind the door on the left. There are two suites, each with their own en suites; other guest rooms share a bathroom. 

VeniceSanJuanIsl 319And even that common bathroom has history!

As the story goes, that famous Western movie actor, John Wayne, also stayed here and they say he bought the over-sized claw-footed tub (now found in the ladies bathroom) because that ‘cowboy’ was so large he didn't fit the tubs provided so bought the place a had a man-sized tub. 

(And the McMillin kids learned to swim in it. . .as the story continues. . .)

VeniceSanJuanIsl 285
Hotel de Haro – once the only public accommodation on Roche Harbor-- is now nestled amid luxury (modern) suites, and even town homes (pictured in back).  All would be great choices for an island getaway, but when we return, it will likely be to that creaky, somewhat drafty Presidential Suite where we can wrap ourselves in the warmth of history again.

If You Go:

Map picture
Washington State Ferries from Anacortes are an easy way to reach San Juan Island.  Anacortes is just over an hour’s drive north of Seattle.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 337Roche Harbor is on the north end of the island and a few miles from the ferry landing. Public transportation is available. It’s also great for cyclists.

Hotel de Haro is not open during winter months.  We were there in November and our room was chilly even with the heat turned up and the fireplace going.  What is nice about the hotel is that it has never undergone major renovation to its interior. . .that means you give up some creature comforts (like temperature control) for one incredible step back into time.  However, our room was Wi-fi equipped. We paid 150 a night, plus tax.  Other accommodations at Roche Harbor are open year-round as is its Marina.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 286For information:  Roche Harbor Resort and Marina, 800-451-8910,,
Tip:  Be sure to eat at McMillin’s Dining Room Restaurant (it’s housed in the building pictured).  This is another historic building – the McMillin’s former home. Four luxury suites  above the restaurant can also be rented.

Do you stay in historic hotels or do you prefer sleek, modern edifices? Have a Travel Classic to recommend? 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

WAWeekend: An Autumn ‘Ferry’ Tale

We’d been back from Italy for a bit more than a week, the sun was shining, the air crisp and leaves were falling. On this picture-perfect Thursday morning, we said, “Carpe Diem!” and seized the day:  We were off to the ‘San Juans’  before morning’s end.

Map picture

The San Juan islands are located between mainland Washington State and Canada’s Vancouver Island.
It’s been several years since we’ve visited any of them  – even though they are a mere 1.5 hour drive to Anacortes, the departure point for state ferries that serve those islands.  Then, less than a couple of hours of sailing to reach them.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 337

We’d decided a night in Roche Harbor on the northwest side of San Juan Island wouldn’t be enough after we got there and quickly extended our stay for a second night. We couldn’t have been as spontaneous during the high season summer months. One advantage of off-season travel, in addition to lower room rates, is last-minute availability.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 339

Friday Harbor, the gateway to the island for ferry passengers (either by car or on foot), is the only incorporated town in the entire San Juan County.  This town of 2,000+ residents is the county seat. Accommodations here range from a Best Western to mom-and-pop bed and breakfast operations.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 333

Ferries usually zig-zag between the islands, but we lucked out and caught the one which sailed directly to Friday Harbor in an hour’s time.  It was a bone-chilling cold wind that blew us northward to this 55-square-mile island that lies closer to Canada than the United States. 

VeniceSanJuanIsl 266

It was a 20 minute drive from the ferry dock to our  destination, the historic Hotel Haro built on the site of what was once the largest lime-manufacturing operation west of the Mississippi.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 285

By giving ourselves and extra night we had time to explore this island quilted with local, state and federal parks.  It’s a biker, hiker, kayak-er paradise.  I’ll take you on a tour in  future posts as well as show you our room in this wonderfully creaky history-book of a hotel.

If You Go:
Off season is a good time to get reduced hotel rates.  Be sure to ask if amenities like on-site restaurants, bars and spas are open on the dates you plan to be there.  Find out how close the nearest eateries and watering holes are if not.

Washington State Ferries, schedule and fares, can be found at:

Roche Harbor information:

San Juan Island information can be found on the Chamber of Commerce site; click the “Visitors” link at:

For those of you waiting for the next dispatch from Italy, you’ll find it here Tuesday!  In the meantime, where would you go if you could shout, “Carpe Diem!” and set off on a spontaneous journey?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

TPThursday: A one-day island get-away

One of the best things about living in Washington State’s Puget Sound area is the ability to escape to an island, if even for a day. 

VashonIsland 2012 001On Sunday two friends and I did just that. We drove aboard a Washington State ferry at 9:30 a.m. and 15 minutes later arrived at Vashon-Maury Island, in south Puget Sound.
Detailed map of Vashon-Maury Island, Washington
Encompassing 37 square miles (an area bigger than Manhattan) but with about 10,000 residents, the island is made up of small acreages, stunning beach front mansions, farms, fields and forests. It also boasts more than 20 Bed and Breakfast accommodations and some wonderful restaurants.  It is accessed only by boat.

Geographically the island is made up of what once was two islands: Vashon and Maury.  An isthmus built in the early 20th Century by the Army Corp of Engineers connected the two.

We  took a wrong turn en route to a garden tour and found ourselves heading  to the Point Robinson Lighthouse on the eastern side of Maury Island.

VashonIsland 2012 009
The lighthouse  began as a fog signal in 1885 and a light was added two years later. It is built on 90 pilings, with walls a foot thick. The Fresnel lens traveled from Paris to Vashon in 1915.  Lighthouse tours take place from noon to 4 p.m. every Sunday from mid-May to mid-September.

VashonIsland 2012 012
Two Keepers’ Quarters, built in 1911 have been beautifully restored and are now vacation rentals.

VashonIsland 2012 011

The sound of the water, the driftwood lined beach, the salt-sea smell in the air, water birds and the views over the Puget Sound shipping lane made us think perhaps a longer stay on the island was in the future.

VashonIsland 2012 017

On the west side of Maury Island we made a stop at Dockton Park (we knew we’d get to that garden tour eventually).   This 23-acre park with dock and boat launch was once the island’s industrial center; home to sawmills, ship yards, brick yards and processing plants.  We didn’t have time to follow the Dockton Historic Interpretive Trail and walk through the area’s history – but we will certainly do so next time.

VashonIsland 2012 008
This summer the island’s favorite festival, the Vashon Strawberry Festival (now in its 103rd year) gets underway July 20, 21, 22nd.  It is funny because Vashon no longer has commercial strawberry fields but back in 1909 records show they shipped 120,000 crates of berries from here.

VashonIsland 2012 007

The festival includes a parade and street festival, music and art. But some places like Snapdragon, a wonderful bakery and cafĂ© on the Vashon Highway (the main north south road) was celebrating strawberries on Sunday morning.  (Yes, we also stopped here en route to that garden tour.)

And just in case you were wondering, we did make it to the garden tour and it was spectacular! A fabulous island getaway and I had left at 8 a.m. and was back home at 5 p.m.

VashonIsland 2012 029

For information on accommodations, eateries, Strawberry festival, garden tours, events and other reasons to visit Vashon visit the Vashon Chamber website. For information on renting the Keepers’ Quarters, write or phone 206-463-9602.

It’s Travel Photo Thursday so be sure to stop by Budget Travelers Sandbox. And for those following our road trip, I have lots to tell you so check back this weekend. Our travels today were spectacular. And if you haven't been following, click back through this week's post to see where we've been and where we are headed.  (The map is copyright free, and taken from Wikipedia.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Washington Wednesday: Fall’s a “Ferry” Good Time

0911800-R1-007-2Seattle’s waterfront is a must-go destination any time of year but when the sun finally comes out, as it has this fall, there really is no better place to be.  And while you are there don’t miss a ride on a Washington State ferry.

We have to be honest:  they are no where near as nice as the cruise-ship like Greek ferries we’ve been on, but these little work horses – on a nice day – will have you up topside snapping photos like crazy.
washington wednesdays 047
One of the quickest ferry rides will take you from Seattle to nearby Bainbridge Island, where the town of Winslow is an easy walk away from the ferry dock.  Have lunch there and do some shopping, and hop the ferry back to continue explorations along the waterfront.

washington wednesdays 046While simply walking along the Seattle waterfront offers some spectacular views and provides cheap entertainment in itself, (Click to enlarge the photo to the left you will see Mt. Rainier in the background.) we do recommend you visit:

1) The Seattle Aquarium, 1483 Alaskan Way, 206-386-4300, where you’ll come face-to-face with all sorts of underwater creatures.  Check their website for hours and admission prices, by clicking the link.

2) The Olympic Sculpture Garden, 2901 Western Ave., 98121, 206-654-3100, where you are free to stroll among the pieces of art in this outdoor garden setting where – as an added benefit – you have spectacular views of Puget Sound. No admission charge.

3) Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, currently located at 1001 Alaskan Way, 98104, 206-628-5844, is an icon of the Seattle waterfront.  It opened in 1899 as a museum of natural wonders and today is a showplace for weird curios and oddities like shrunken heads. . .and of course, is a great place to get odd souvenirs.

4) Ivar’s Seafood Bar, or Ivar’s Acres of Clams restaurant at Pier 54, 206-467-8063, is the place to get a bowl of steaming clam chowder.  Another Seattle landmark , Ivar’s has been around since 1938.

5) The Edgewater Hotel, yes, Baby Boomers, it is where the Beatles and the Monkees stayed during their visits to Seattle. Recently upgraded with a Pacific Northwest lodge interior, stop by the photo exhibit off the lobby and then head to the bar where you can sip a cold one while watching boat traffic on Elliott Bay. The AAA 4-Diamond rated hotel is at 2411 Alaskan Way, 206-728-7000.  In fact, if you want to stay on the waterfront, the waterfront rooms here also have spectacular views.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Time Travel through Seattle

If you've never visited Seattle and you find yourself in the Emerald City on a sunny day (yes, there are sunny days here!) you will want to head to the to the top of the Space Needle, icon of the 1962 World's Fair, or hop aboard one of the ubiquitous Washington State Ferries  - not as luxurious as those cruise-ship-like Greek ferries, but they provide unobstructed views of Puget Sound's expansiveness and beauty.

Seattle's  better-publicized rainy days encourage leisurely explorations of the Seattle Art Museum or the waterfront Aquarium.

Those looking for something a bit different should try the free, self-guided trip I wrote about in today's The Seattle TimesTime Travel through Seattle  I did it on a sunny day and again on a rainy day; either works.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...