Island Life: A Guide to Some of the Pacific Northwest's Most Alluring Isles

  • Traveling by ferry is often a wonderful adventure in itself

    Island Time

    There's no better way to see the Pacific Northwest than through its brilliant waterways. Simply hop on a ferry (with your car or bike in tow–or on foot) to visit myriad islands paradises, ranging from Anderson and Blake to Whidbey, Camano and the magical San Juans. Also consider traversing international waters to soak in British Columbia's magnificent Vancouver Island, where highlights range from charming yet vibrant Victoria to sensational Tofino on the western coast. To get to Victoria, Clipper Vacations’ ferries depart from Pier 69 on Seattle’s waterfront, the Black Ball Ferry Line and Victoria Express travel between Port Angeles and Victoria, and Washington State Ferries leave from Anacortes. It's time to slow it down to island time!

    Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

  • Thanks to the region's dazzling beauty, the ferry ride proves an adventure in itself

    Ferry Rides

    Washington State Ferries operates the largest ferry system in the country, consisting of 22 ferries (and about 1,800 dedicated employees). Spanning from Tacoma, Washington, to Sidney, British Columbia, these vessels frequently cross the stunning Puget Sound and its inland waterways between 20 different ports of call–a marine highway of sorts for 22 million passengers (commercial users, tourists and daily commuters). Whether you enjoy the ferries' indoor cafes or lounges (some even leave out puzzles for in-transit fun) or the benches on the sun-kissed deck, the ride in itself always proves a grand adventure. 

    Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

  • Fort Ebey State Park proves one of Whidbey Island's many gems

    Whidbey Island

    Sometimes coined the longest island in the continental U.S., Whidbey Island offers countless ways to savor natural beauty from Fort Ebey State Park to a variety of campgrounds and the island's four lakes. About 30 miles north of Seattle, Whidbey lies between the Olympic Peninsula and the I-5 corridor of Western Washington. Ferry passengers arrive in Clinton, a cute town with welcoming cafes and shops. Island highlights include frequent festivals and arts events, Deception Pass State Park, the historic town of Coupeville, Spoiled Dog Winery, Lavender Wind Farm, Admiralty Head Lighthouse, Whidbey Island Vineyards and Winery and so much more. Nearby, Camano Island offers unspoiled hills, an uncrowded Puget Sound shoreline (with bald eagles and blue herons often hanging out along the beach) and abundant wildlife in stately evergreen forests. 
    Whidbey and Camano islands are in the heart of Puget Sound and an easy trip from the Seattle-Tacoma area or Vancouver, British Columbia.

    Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

  • The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie is a favorite local hangout

    Vashon Island

    A short ferry ride from West Seattle (or Tacoma), a little slice of island paradise exists on Vashon Island. With an artsy, hippie vibe and a mellow pace, this popular day trip or weekend destination draws folks to its beautiful beaches, lovely accommodations, eclectic restaurants, quaint shops and Saturday morning farmers market. Some highlights include the bustling Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie, its attached health-conscious, locally-sourced market, Palouse Winery, Vashon Theatre, May Kitchen + Bar and Snapdragon Bakery and Cafe, known for its tasty vegetarian fare and live music events that seem to unite the entire community.

    Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

  • The enchanting San Juan Islands should be on every visitor's "must-see" itinerary

    San Juan Islands

    Each of the San Juan Islands–Lopez, Orcas, San Juan and Shaw–offers its own distinctive personality and unique experience. Think azure waters, deep green forests, awesome wildlife displays and a sprawling playground ideal for those with an adventurous spirit and an eye for beauty. Just a scenic ferry ride or a short flight from the Northwest Washington mainland, these island paradises draw visitors year-round, but especially during the sun-kissed summer months. (So book ahead!) One of the biggest draws–Doe Bay Resort & Retreat on Orcas Island–earns labels like "magical" on a regular basis. It's easy to see why, since this waterfront oasis sits on 38 acres of exquisite land and offers accommodations from cabins to yurts, plus decadent spa services and raved-about fare at The Doe Bay Cafe and the Doe Bay Garden. The 8th Annual Doe Bay Festival brings beautiful music to the site's shores from August 6 through 10, 2015; life doesn't get much better than this. 

    Photo courtesy of Shelley Campbell Boegart/GreenRubino

  • Gourmet glamping at Lakedale Resort is a bucket list "must"

    San Juan Island

    Just a few of the varied highlights on San Juan Island, the most populated of the San Juans, include: "an alpaca ranch, a sweeping valley dotted with cows and sheep, the terraces of a lavender farm, vineyards with a tasting room in a historic schoolhouse, deep forest giving way to shining sea, a pod of orca whales and two iconic lighthouses."  Looking for an excuse to explore gourmet glamping while here? Look no further than Lakedale Resort, where visitors can relish the great outdoors with a little extra luxe. Lakedale offers canvas cabins (no bathrooms) and a canvas cottage (electricity and bathroom amenities), complete with Toasty Toes’ turndown service. All glamping accommodations also feature outdoor grills, and they overlook one of the three sparkling lakes on the property. An enticing culinary series features local chefs pairing regional fare and wine on July 18, August 22 and September 19, 2015. Mid-week stays here prove a perfect option, especially in the high season (summertime). 

    Photo courtesy of Shelley Campbell Boegart/GreenRubino

  • "Save A Spot" vehicle reservations help plan ferry rides in advance

    Save A Spot

    Planning to travel by ferry this summer? For specific routes, "Save A Spot" vehicle reservations can now help guarantee that journeys involve only smooth sailing. (Reservations for the upcoming season are available now through September 19, 2015; call 1-888-808-7977 or 206-464-6400 if out-of state.) For example, from Anacortes, book your summer travels to Lopez Island, coined “The Friendly Isle." This 15-mile-long destination features 63 miles of shoreline and 2,500 year-round residents; the landscape blends forests and rolling farmlands, quiet bays and driftwood-strewn beaches that offer distant glimpses of snow-tipped Mount Baker. Bon voyage!

    Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

  • Bainbridge Island proves an ideal day trip option from Seattle

    Bainbridge Island

    When heading to Bainbridge Island–an ideal day trip option that's only a 35-minute ride from Seattle–the view of the skyline en route makes the journey worthwhile in itself. Accessible by foot, Bainbridge boasts charming art galleries, boutiques, coffeehouses and cafes in historic Winslow, and those with cars can venture to farther-away gems like the Bloedel Reserve–a 150-acre forest garden, Fort Ward State Park, Bainbridge Island Brewing, Island Vintners and more. Passengers drive, walk or bike aboard the Washington State Ferry that leaves from Pier 52 on Seattle’s waterfront.

    Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

  • Guemes Island proves a relaxing retreat not far from charming Anacortes

    Guemes Island

    For a relaxing getaway or unplugged weekend retreat, folks head to teeny-tiny, lesser-known islands like Guemes, located in Western Skagit County (north of Fidalgo Island and the town of Anacortes). After taking a brief, blink-and-you'll-miss-it ferry ride, visitors  stock up on goods at Anderson's General Store before dipping into activities like boating, hiking, fishing, crabbing, biking and camping. The mellow pace of this intimate destination perfectly lends itself to simply wandering the island's two parks and mile-long beach or cozying up in a waterside cabin.

    Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

  • Alderbrook Resort & Spa offers an alluring getaway on the shores of the Hood Canal

    Hood Canal

    Sometimes a ferry adventure can be enjoyed–while still landing you at a mainland destination. Such is the case wtih the Hood Canal, a popular getaway for Seattle-area residents and visitors. Located between the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains in Mason County, Washington, Hood Canal draws loyal fans for activities from SCUBA and skydiving to a thriving culinary scene and an active social calendar that's filled with live music performances and community events. One popular destination, Alderbrook Resort & Spa, only requires a one-hour Bremerton ferry from Seattle and then an hour drive. Alderbrook offers a luxurious getaway you won't soon forget, thanks to its decadent guestrooms with daybeds and soaking tubs, a cozy lobby with a massive stone fireplace, waterfront pool, full-service spa, neighboring PGA-class golf course, nearby marina plus enticing local fare that shows off fresh regional seafood and world-class wines. We'll cheers to that!

    Photo courtesy of Alderbrook Resort & Spa

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