Category Archives: Ferries and Other Boats

Any post having to do with watercraft

The Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a night (hosted) at this luxury hotel. From my window I had a beautiful view of the harbor where the cruise ships dock. In fact the hotel even has an underground walkway that connects to the Cruise Ship Terminal. The room spelled comfort and caring from top to bottom.

I later learned that a recent $12 million renovation resulted in the hotel’s fresh, contemporary look. Besides going the extra mile to create 368 guestrooms fit for royalty, their eatery and lounge also benefitted from those dollars. Their buffet breakfast offers every item you’ve ever thought of eating in the morning. Look for honey and herbs that come from right on the property.

Vancouver’s Mayor, Gregor Robertson, is on a quest to make his city the “greenest” by the year 2020. The Fairmont Waterfront already has a head start with their organic rooftop herb garden and apiaries. The honey makes its way into chocolate desserts and cocktails. A Bee Butler provides complimentary tours of the bee activity and the gardens everyday. The hotel’s chef, Dana Hauser, shares a passion for sustainable culinary practices and has developed close relationships with local farmers and purveyors who support her views.

One of my all time favorites, Dungeness crab plays a signature role at the ARC restaurant. Hormone-free meat, artisan cheeses and free range eggs also appear on the menu. Kids five and under eat free, while those six to 12 are half price.

For a great central location and a pampered experience I highly recommend the Fairmont Waterfront.

My Favorite Trips of 2013

My friend and fellow travel writer, Sue Frause, wrote a summary of where she went in 2013 and what she recommended for the Examiner.com. I thought it was such a good idea that I’m doing it, too. All these trips came about because of writing assignments so most of my lodging and meals were complimentary, but that has not influenced my opinion. Here are some of the places I visited this year:

Alderbrook Resort & Spa (www.alderbrookresort.com)
Union, Washington

As I sat in the lobby by the blazing fire, I couldn’t help but think “what a great place to set a murder mystery.” Probably because I have read ones that have similar scenes. The setting in Union, Washington, is rural, yet serene. The lodge snuggles up against Hood Canal and the experience was almost surreal, it was so pleasant.

An Oregon reporter called Alderbrook the best lodge on the west side of Puget Sound. It’s outfitted with a wonderful spa, a gourmet restaurant and even has its own boat. If you want to rent a cottage, you can. They also have pet-friendly rooms. Whatever you choose to do, I hope you’ll have as memorable a time as I did.

White Pass
Washington

White Pass is one of our smaller places to engage in snow sports, but still beautiful with that crisp, clear mountain air and lots of snow. I attended the White Pass Winter Carnival with two other travel writers and wrote about it here for Northwest Travel Magazine. This event has been going on for years and even though I’m a native Washingtonian, I’d never heard of it before. The centerpiece of the event is a life-sized snow castle you can tour. At night a torchlight parade and fireworks light up the sky.

I also got to snowshoe for the first time on this trip. That’s now my new favorite snow sport. I’m not a skier or a snowboarder, but I do love just being in the mountains.

Sun Valley
Idaho

I had no idea what I’d been missing until this first visit. Sun Valley encompasses all my favorites in a compact little bundle – Lots of boutiques, many of which fall into the thrift category like the Gold Mine; all kinds of restaurants, snow and a Film Festival. Most of it is walkable, but if you’re tired or your destination seems a little far, the bus service is all free. Benches line the streets so you can sit and rest whenever you like.

I got to stay in the beautiful boutique hotel, Knob Hill Inn, a great location just on the edge of town. I woke up each morning to a panoramic view of the mountains. It was also next door to a cemetery, but Ernest Hemingway was buried there making that parcel of land another highlight of the trip.
Vancouver Island
British Columbia

Oh my gosh, I had no idea how gorgeous this locale could be. I’d only set foot in Victoria, the capitol, previously. This time, an individual press trip for a couple of stories I’d been assigned for Northwest Travel, had me taking the B.C. Ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo. Those vessels don’t have far to go to become cruise-ship size. They even have a gift shop onboard.

The first night I had the rare and unique pleasure of staying in one of the Free Spirit Spheres in Qualicum Beach. These spheres, suspended between trees, literally give you a taste of heaven because you’re right up there next to it. The next day I fell in love with the small seaside town of Cowichan Bay and returned there two more times on this trip.

On my last night I got to sleep in a very well furnished yurt at Merridale Ciderworks. It had a large clawfoot tub not that far from the bed. And the restaurant at Merridale had fantastic food and of course, very tasty cider. I’d return in a heartbeat.

More on my 2013 trips next time.

Floating on a Fall Foliage Cruise

Every once in awhile I venture outside Washington’s boundaries to see what’s going on in our neighboring states. In Post Falls, Idaho, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from Spokane, Washington, I discovered the Red Lion River Queen, an authentic paddle-wheel boat that cruises up and down the Spokane River.

The Red Lion River Queen docked at the Templin Marina.

I love to sit on the upper deck of a boat, watch the shores for wildlife and feel the warmth of the sun caress me. Sipping a drink, while doing so, makes the experience just about perfect. This cruise does that and more.

In order to enjoy one of these excursions, you’ll have to act fast because the last one of the season leaves the dock on September 25, 2011. I highly recommend these narrated tours.

From the water side you can see the $7 million home that Amway built. Nobody lives there now – the complex is just used for events. Besides the mega mansions situated on the river’s shores, you might see osprey and you’ll definitely see fall emerging in a symphony of colors.

The house built by a gentleman who worked within the Amway Corporation.

 

The River Queen holds 100 people (60 on the enclosed lower deck) , has a full bar on board and it’s easy to move about the cabin or step outside to the upper deck (holds 40 people) for an even better view.

The Wine Down at Sundown cruises, offer appetizers and wine tasting from Coeur d’Alene Wine Cellars. Sign up soon because the last departs on the evening of September 16, 2011.

 All aboard!

Take a Jaunt to Jetty Island: Last Chance This Season

I’ve heard about Jetty Island in Everett, Washington, but never had the chance to wiggle my toes in the warm sand, relax on the beach or participate in an educational trail walk. And it blew me away.

 

You have to take a ferry or a private boat to get there and I love ferries so it already enticed me. This ferry is free, one of the smaller Argosy boats, and the ride takes only three minutes.

On a sunny day, which we enjoyed, the 80-passenger ferry reaches capacity on every crossing until the Ranger on Jetty Island declares too many people have landed on the island and the ferry takes a break until some people depart.

Ranger Kraig Hansen, Chief Naturalist for the City of Everett, describes the island's fauna to a group of hikers.

Who would want to leave when the kids are kept busy digging in the sand or wading in the water and parents can relax without distractions. When everyone needs a change of activities, nature trails beckon and guided walks geared towards children are offered. Ranger Kraig leads the walks and is a fountain of knowledge and quite funny. He might even ask you to taste Pickleweed.

Jetty Island measures two miles long, has one floating restroom, and no running water or electricity. So bring whatever you need because you won’t find vendors on the island selling hot dogs and soda. Unplug and unravel for as long as you like. Just don’t miss the last ferry of the day back to Everett or you might have to pay a private boater to shuttle you in.

Although there is no charge to go to Jetty Island donations are welcome and make it possible for the ferry to transport more than 40,000 visitors annually.

The season officially ends on Labor Day, September 5 this year.

View of Everett from Jetty Island

A Ride-Along We’ll Not Soon Forget

About two weeks ago, my husband, grandson and I had the opportunity to take a ride with the Seattle Police Harbor Patrol Unit. This came about through a purchase I made at a fundraising auction. I’ve always loved seeing how the police work and have ridden along before, but always in patrol cars. This was a first and now my favorite ride along of all.

The sun gods offered us one of the most beautiful days so far this summer, so being on a boat on Lake Union made the time even more perfect.

The two officers who took us out shared all kinds of information about the Harbor Unit and it boggles the mind all the different events they have to be prepared for. Almost every officer in the unit dives, their boats have firefighting capabilities so the officers are also trained in firefighting and of course, they have to be skilled in boating. This is all in addition to their regular police training.

Lake Union houseboat owners should feel secure knowing this kind of firefighting power is so close to them.

The Harbor Unit patrols both Lake Union and Lake Washington with a fleet of seven boats. Our Seafair celebration on Lake Washington this coming weekend is their busiest time of year.

During our tour, we responded to a call of a small oil spill from a docked boat. Nothing too dangerous, but a frequent occurrence for the Unit.

If you get a chance to ride with a police officer, in any jurisdiction, I highly recommend doing so. It truly is eye-opening.

The houseboat from the movie "Sleepless in Seattle."

Posting Everyday in May – A Big Challenge

Today I’m starting participation in a Blogathon, which means I’ve been challenged to post every day for the month of May. I’m doing this for many reasons – to post more regularly, to learn about blogging, to meet other bloggers and to gain new readers. I have one guest poster scheduled and hope to get more, on Fridays I’m going with a list theme (for example, my favorite farmers’ markets in Washington) and there will be various other themes fit in.

To write a post everyday will be difficult, that’s a given. But you can help me out. If you read something you like or find interesting, please share it with your Facebook friends and your Twitter followers or whatever social media group you engage in. Thank you very much.

Taking a Waterways Cruise    

Today’s post is about the Easter brunch cruise we thoroughly enjoyed. This one is a bit different than the Argosy Cruises that depart from the waterfront in downtown Seattle.

They are called Waterways Cruises and either tour Lake Washington or Lake Union. The boats are smaller yachts. Waterways offers a wide variety of cruises from lunches to brunches to sunset dinners and from skirting the shores of Lake Washington so you can see where some of our resident billionaires, like Bill Gates, live, to exploring the houseboat communities on Lake Union (think, “Sleepless in Seattle”).

Even though we had “silver” clouds the day we boarded the “Olympic Star, the view from the water was still gorgeous and so very different from what you can see from the roads. The waterfront side of most of the homes is their claim to fame, and their most picturesque angle. It is what you would find in a home and garden magazine.

The food was very tasty – especially Chef Udo’s Smokey Thick Cut Bacon, the Poached Eggs on Brioche and the Banana Coffee Cake. When you pair the brunch with a Mimosa, you experience a taste of paradise.

My husband kept commenting, “This would be a great activity to share with out of town visitors.”     

Captain Ron and I after the brunch cruise

Since boat rides place very high on my list of “favorite things,” I plan to take another, Waterways narrated tour to learn more about the homes of the rich and famous or maybe play Bingo or hear the history of Seattle. The choices are endless.

Ferry Around the Islands

From one ferry you see another, courtesy of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

I love riding on a ferry. One of my past e-mail addresses was ferryprincess. I even have a collection of ferry boat memorabilia. My husband and I even got married on a Washington State Ferry.

This all stems from my childhood. When we went to visit my grandparents in Port Angeles, we took two different ferries because the Hood Canal Bridge hadn’t been built yet, so I associate those big vessels with the wonderful times grandparents show their grandchildren.

This past week-end we attended a Ukulele Fest on Vashon Island and I had the pleasure of riding the ferry from Pt. Defiance to Tahlequah. Although it was only a 15-minute crossing those fond memories quickly came back. My grandfather always had black licorice for me and Nehi soda.

Should you want to take advantage of one of the largest ferry systems in the world, here are some ideas of where you can go in Washington State.

With no traffic to worry about, visitors can leave their stress at the ferry dock, relax, enjoy a cup of coffee and scan the waterways for marine life during the length of the vessel’s cruise.

Although only 12 miles long, Vashon offers a wide variety of scenic countryside and outdoor activities like squid jigging (a method used to catch squid), clamming and beachcombing.

Also accessible by car-ferry from Vashon Island is Port Orchard, a city that celebrates the Kitsap Harbor Festival and a Seagull-Calling Festival.

Situated north of Vashon and just a short ferry crossing from Seattle is Bainbridge Island.  Anchored by Winslow, a quaint town filled with boutique gift shops and restaurants, this island also features 17-acre Fay Bainbridge State Park, a park ideal for camping and picnicking and the Bloedel Reserve, a beautiful 150-acre nature preserve and garden.

Two highways, 20 and 525, serve as the main roads on Whidbey Island. Rural historic areas rule most of Whidbey, with Oak Harbor offering more of a city feel. Langley, on the southern end of the island, captures spectacular views of Saratoga Passage and bountiful shopping opportunities. Coupeville lies in the north central portion and exudes small-town charm.

The Keystone ferry (reservations suggested) on Whidbey sails to Port Townsend, one of only three registered Victorian seaports. The town’s film festival held in September warrants a visit and who wouldn’t want to see where “An Officer and a Gentleman” was filmed.

Last, but definitely not least, the San Juan Islands are Washington’s northernmost islands and reachable by a ferry from the town of Anacortes. Travelers can also start their island journey here and work their way south. Filled with shops and galleries offering art made by locals, Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is known for its whale watching.

Just a short ferry hop from Friday Harbor is Orcas Island, a picturesque framework for Mount Constitution, the highest peak in the islands. While driving up the mountain, vistas include the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, the rest of the islands and the recreational opportunities below like kayaking, hiking and photography.

For Washington State Ferry information, visit:  www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries