Here in Washington State, we’re blessed with a stunning topography—not the least of which is all that water. Sometimes, a boat ride is the only way to get to a particular place, and those are often the best destinations. Take advantage of our enviable locale for an end-of-season vacation that’s sure to be a splashing good time.
Kayak: Lake Crescent
Brilliantly blue Lake Crescent, carved by glaciers many moons ago, is just begging to be explored via kayak. The Olympic National Park spot is picturesque enough to be mistaken for a movie set, with the deep, amazingly clear waters enveloped by a backdrop of tree-covered mountains and hillsides. While wind can sometimes be a deterrent, it’s worth paddling through. Kayaks can be rented at a number of places in the area, including Lake Crescent Lodge, a rustic resort from 1916 that retains its turn-of-the-century charm. Until 1922 when the highway was finished, guests had to arrive at the lodge via ferry. Photo by Michael Matti.
Ship: Blake Island
From downtown Seattle, depart on an Argosy Cruises tour to Tillicum Village on Blake Island, the birthplace of Chief Seattle. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted with steamed clams and the opportunity to step inside the cedar longhouse, where whole salmon are being prepared for the feast to come. A performance that combines Coast Salish storytelling with traditional dancing is the perfect dessert after the buffet is over. If you’re really feeling adventurous, pack your overnight gear and vie for one of the 51 campsites on the island, where you can hike, bike, collect clams or crabs, beachcomb or bird watch—or return on the ship back to Seattle, completing your four-hour journey.
Ferry: Lummi Island
Although it’s often forgotten in the list of San Juan Islands, Lummi Island is the most convenient to access. The small ferry that shuttles cars and passengers there, known as the Whatcom Chief, leaves from Gooseberry Point west of Bellingham and takes less than 10 minutes to arrive at its quaint destination. This is the kind of place where the shops are inside people’s homes and friendly locals are eager to chat. One big-name attraction is the unassuming Willows Inn, hailed for its prix-fixe dinners. Wunderkind chef Blaine Wetzel, a 20-something who recently nabbed the 2014 James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year Award, works to tell a story about the land with each dish that he prepares.
Houseboat: Lake Roosevelt
Combine the comforts of home and the romance of being adrift with a houseboat rental on Lake Roosevelt. Located in eastern Washington, the 130-mile lake is part of a National Recreation Area teeming with wildlife such as moose and osprey, flowing waterfalls, abundant stargazing opportunities and miles of beaches. Oh, the beaches. Ranger-led tours cover everything from bears and cougars to military history and geology, and houseboat options accommodate any size of group.
Jet Boat: Deception Pass
Want a front-row look at Deception Pass Bridge, a National Historic Landmark and one of the most beautiful bridges in Washington? Grab your camera and hop aboard Deception Pass Tours’ Island Whaler for a fast-moving, hour-long ride. Along the way, you will indeed get gorgeous views of the bridge that connects Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island, and you may even spot bald eagles, seals and porpoises (and, if you’re really lucky, the occasional whale). In addition to those sights, what you’ll also get are some pretty entertaining fun facts, concerning everything from the first female ferry boat captain in Washington to the history of being smuggled into the country via burlap sack. Photo by Michael Matti.