Photo © Craigdarroch Marketing
by Nickolas Neely
B.C. Circuit: Seattle-Victoria-Vancouver
This journey takes you to British Columbia, first to Victoria by sea, and then to Vancouver by air. Clipper Vacations (clippervacations.com) offers inclusive packages from Seattle that include both the trip and your stay in Victoria. As an alternative, begin your trip in Port Angeles on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and take the M.V Coho (cohoferry.com) across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria.
Regardless of your starting point, you’ll find yourself docking in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Take a short walk to the Magnolia Hotel & Spa (magnoliahotel.com), a centrally located boutique hotel. More than just an ideal locale for R&R during the first leg of the B.C. Circuit, the Magnolia offers a variety of self-guided tours, each hand-crafted by locals who work at the hotel. The routes give you an insider’s view of the city that’s not typically part of a Victoria excursion.
Looking to satisfy an appetite? The Magnolia’s Tapas Trail begins next door to the hotel and guides you through a 40-minute (2.4 miles) loop to nine separate restaurants. Each stop offers their own miniature culinary creations, ranging from Catalano’s Venetian-styled cicchetti to Northern Quarter Bar’s meat and cheese boards.
You can borrow a bicycle at the Magnolia for the longer trails. For the perfect Victorian picnic, take the Art Gallery, Craigdarroch Castle & Beacon Bike Trail. Starting with various cheeses and charcuterie, you’ll eventually bike to a wide variety of ideal picnic locations simply begging for you to roll out the blanket.
Once you’ve hunted the hidden treasures of Victoria, head to the Inner Harbour to the Heliport. With several scheduled flights a day, you’ll have no trouble finding a convenient time to schedule a helicopter ride to Vancouver on Helijet (helijet.com). The summer fare is $199 (CAD), depending on availability, subject to change.
Landing at the Vancouver Harbour gives you a fantastic view of the city you’ll be exploring on the second half of your adventure. After taking in the skyline panorama, cross over the tracks via the Waterfront Bus Station and find yourself directly in the center of Vancouver’s vibrant downtown.
Nearby, historic Gastown prides itself as an up-and-coming neighborhood, and for good reason. Trek southeast from the station and you’ll soon find the classic brick buildings and European architecture that marks Gastown. Everything is within easy walking distance, be it hotel, dining or entertainment. Put your feet up at the neighborhood’s Victorian Hotel (victorianhotel.ca) for convenience and a great price.
When it’s time to draw your Vancouver adventure to a close, the Amtrak Cascade line (amtrakcascades.com) provides an affordable and scenic journey that follows the coast back into Seattle.
Island Itinerary: Seattle-San Juan Island-Orcas Island
Entirely surrounded by water with no bridge access, the San Juan Islands make themselves an obvious choice for a trip sans automobile. From your launch point in Seattle, take Kenmore Air to Orcas Island’s Eastsound.
One of the islands’ major hubs, Eastsound contains all the galleries, spas and cafés needed for an immersive island experience. Many of your Orcas Island activities will depend on when you travel. In summer, check out the island’s farmer’s market, and, in August, enjoy the Chamber Music Festival.
While you walk the streets of Eastsound, be sure to stop in at the New Leaf Café for some of the town’s best fare. If you feel up to a 20-minute walk, head north and reward your trek with local brews from the appropriately-named Island Hoppin’ Brewery. Stay at Outlook Inn (outlookinn.com), right on Main Street.
To continue on to San Juan Island, you’ll have to cheat a little. The distance between Eastsound and the Orcas ferry landing requires wheels, and, while you can bike it, most will prefer to take some form of taxi or shuttle.
Washington State Ferries (wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) ships you right into San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor. With food, beds, entertainment and a flight to Seattle all in one place, you’ll find everything you need for the rest of your adventure. Friday Harbor was made to be walked, offering wide sidewalks and tight clusters of great drop-in shops.
As soon as you step off the ferry, The Place Restaurant & Bar will stand at your immediate right. The Place is praised by many as serving “the best fish they’ve ever had.” You can also head directly across the street to Cask & Schooner Public House & Restaurant, an equally popular establishment. For fine dining, savor fresh island ingredients at the intimate Coho Restaurant.
Let your fancy take you through the never-ending line of small local shops and eventually back to the waterfront where you’ll find multiple lodging choices within close proximity of the docks, such as the contemporary trappings of Island Inn at 123 West or the homey ambiance and gourmet breakfasts at Tucker House Inn.
From the harbor or the airport, you can take Kenmore Air (kenmoreair.com) back to Seattle, completing your island itinerary. Fares vary; check airline for fares.
To plan your trip to the San Juan Islands, go to visitsanjuans.com.
Leavenworth Loop: Seattle-Leavenworth
Your adventure starts far before you step onto Leavenworth’s sidewalks. The two-hour train trip from Seattle or Everett upholds Amtrak’s Empire Builder’s reputation for beautiful routes demanding window seats. The Empire Builder (amtrak.com/empire-builder-
When scouting for meals, your dining choice should match the town’s European aesthetic. To accomplish this, head to Mozart’s Restaurant, where both the fondue platters and the schnitzels will never disappoint. For an outdoor beer garden atmosphere, check out München Haus for German sausages and beer.
To find out more about a stay in Leavenworth, go to leavenworth.org.