The Northwest’s Best Waterfront Vacation Rentals

by Jim McCausland | Photo © Seas the Day

A few days on the beach works like a psychological reset button, clearing the mind and reordering priorities. In the Northwest, start your search on the Oregon Coast, the San Juan Islands and Flathead Lake.

Most vacation rentals are marketed through websites (see “Booking a Vacation Home Online” at right). Before you reserve, ask about add-ons: insurance, cleaning and pet fees are common. Also ask if the property takes kids, pets and smokers (even if you’re not one).

Flathead Lake, Montana
Clean and remote, this is the biggest natural lake west of the Mississippi. Glacier National Park is just an hour away and the lake is surrounded by orchards (u-pick starts in late July). It gets hot here in summer, so air conditioning can be a useful amenity.

Nestled in the trees near the south end of the lake, The Most Beautiful House on Flathead Lake (, 214 478-4265) is a fairly new, craftsman-style architectural masterpiece. Two stone fireplaces—one indoors and one outside—keep you warm whether you’re star-watching or studying Skidoo Bay for signs of the Flathead Lake Monster. Floors are hardwood or stone throughout and window walls let in the light and spectacular lake views.

For regional travel information, go to

Oregon Coast
Every glorious foot of Oregon beach is open to the public. And what a shoreline: lighthouses, capes, sea stacks and wildlife abound. The central and northern coast has fastest access to Portland and Seattle, but fabulous rentals are scattered all the way south to the redwood coast.

Look out the window wall at Cove Beach Lodge (, 866 436-0940,) at Arch Cape and you could see, if the earth were flat, all the way to Hokkaido. Inside there are games, flat-screen TV and a fully equipped chef’s kitchen to keep you busy when storms blow in. And when you’re in the mood for village treats, head up the coast to Cannon Beach, just 5 miles away.

For regional travel information, go to

San Juan Islands, Washington
Bracketed by Washington State and Vancouver Island, the San Juan archipelago feels like a world apart. Most vacation rental homes are on three islands, accessible by ferry.
Lopez Island. Called “slow-pez” by the locals, it’s low-key, rural, and flat enough to be favored by bicyclists and walkers. Come here to decompress, not to be entertained, and you’ll love the place.

Orcas Island. Hike or drive to the top of Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park for splendid views of Mt. Baker and British Columbia, then drop down to Eastsound to shop for pottery, art, homesteading tools and more. This is the biggest island.

San Juan Island. Buy supplies, sign up for a whale-watching trip, or rent an electric bicycle in Friday Harbor and toodle around at island speed. Don’t miss San Juan Island National Historic Park, which commemorates a war whose only casualty was a pig, or Lime Kiln Park, where you can picnic and watch the dolphins and orcas that favor the island’s west side.

A house called Seas the Day (800 391-8190) on San Juan Island is perched on a bluff above the sea, where whales often pass. Yet it’s just a 5-minute walk from a private neighborhood beach. Amenities include hot tub, steam shower, sauna, and jetted tub, plus barbecue, decks and full kitchen.

For more about the San Juans, go to For local vacation rentals, visit

Booking a Vacation Home Online?
Airbnb (
Dwellable (
HomeAway ( and its and sites
Flipkey (