Tag Archives: kayaking

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

Serenity on Orcas Island

Shopping in Eastsound, courtesy San Juan Island Visitor's Bureau

Orcas is one of the most scenic islands in the San Juans and my personal favorite. With an abundance of sunshine and mild temperatures, typical island activities run the gamut from hiking to biking to kayaking. I longed to try something a little off the beaten path that ran on engine power, not leg or arm exertion. A Scenic Biplane Flight with Rod Magner fit the bill. The 35-minute ride, narrated and orchestrated like a graceful ballet, helped solve the geographical quandary of where I was in relation to the other 700 islands in the San Juan archipelago. Seriously consider taking a biplane ride while visiting Orcas; Magner says he’s never had an unhappy passenger (www.magicair.com).

Where to shop: In the village of Eastsound, Crow Valley Pottery (www.crowvalleypottery.com) stocks items for everyone’s budget with prices ranging from $1 to $10,000. The owners constantly change their displays of pottery, garden art, jewelry and paintings, so no two visits to Crow Valley will ever be the same.

What to see: The view from the top of Mount Constitution, at 2,409 feet, promises the most stunning seascape of the Salish Sea you’ll ever see anywhere.

Where to stay: Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night, trekked to the bathroom and experienced a heated floor instead of ice cold tile? You will find that and much more at The Inn on Orcas Island (www.theinnonorcasisland.com). Guests have penned their thoughts in journals left on the room’s nightstands since the Inn’s opening in 2002 and each entry was more complimentary than the one before. From the homemade chocolate chip cookies at turndown to the cabinet filled with videos to the warmth and comfort of the conservatory, no detail has been left unattended. The indulgent breakfast comes with an enchanting view of the water and a chance to watch eagles, hawks, loons, herons and deer.

Where to eat: I began my culinary adventure at the New Leaf Café (www.outlookinn.com) in Eastsound with a palette-pleasing cup of squash soup garnished with candied nuts, followed by a selection of fresh seafood blanketed in puff pastry and capped with a smooth, yet crisp Crème Brulee. The chef prefers to use local organic ingredients whenever possible and that makes a dramatic difference in the freshness and taste.

For more information, visit www.VisitSanJuans.com.

Visiting Snoqualmie Falls

One and a half million people visit Snoqualmie Falls each year

The first tourists to ever visit Snoqualmie Falls arrived in horse-drawn carriages, said Jeff Carter, our tour guide from Evergreen Escapes. In contrast, our group traveled in a luxuriously comfortable Mercedes van.

Located about 30 minutes from Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls cascades down a full 270 feet – ten stories higher than Niagara Falls. The adjacent park was developed many years ago by Puget Sound Energy (PSE), one of our local power companies in the Seattle-Tacoma area. In 2009 PSE undertook a major park renovation and enhancement that won’t be completed until 2013. You can still visit the park, view the falls, picnic and browse the gift shop, but it’s hard to get a photo without a giant crane in the background and the trail to the bottom of the falls, which my husband calls a goat trail, has been closed.

When the work has been completed, PSE promises a riverside boardwalk, interpretive center, improved river access for whitewater enthusiasts, expanded parking and a hillside trail connecting the upper and lower parks.

Besides being beautiful, Snoqualmie Falls generates power. When work on that is completed, also in 2013, the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Project will have the capacity to generate enough electrical power for 40,000 homes.

The nearby town of Snoqualmie offers lots of activities for a day trip. See the Falls from an antique train that leaves from the Northwest Railway Museum. Shop for local art, historic memorabilia, specialty books or one-of-a-kind toys. Visit the Snoqalmie Indian Tribe’s casino, www.snocasino.com and place a wager or two. Outdoor sports include golfing, hiking, biking, fishing and kayaking.

On our tour we stopped at Rattlesnake Lake before driving on to the Falls. It’s a 117-acre, man-made lake. Not sure where it got its name, but I can assure you we don’t have any rattlesnakes in Western Washington unless they are in a cage in the zoo. That’s one of the reasons I live here. The lake was beautiful, ideal for picnics and the water dogs loved retrieving objects from the lake.

I highly recommend Evergreen Escapes, www.evergreenescapes.com, and they offer a wide variety of tours in the Pacific Northwest.