September 7, 1997

Sound Advice Seen Seattle? Next Time, Chart A Course For These Prime West Side Destinations

Stanton H. Patty Special To Travel
 

Draw a circle around Seattle. Sketch in mountains and waterfalls, saltwater ferry journeys and elegant lodges.

Then plan at least three days for a drive-yourself vacation that samples some of the Puget Sound area’s choice attractions.

Suggested destinations:

The Snoqualmie Valley, about 25 miles east of Seattle. Highlights - Snoqualmie Falls, almost 100 feet higher than Niagara. Cozy towns. And the top-of-the-waterfall hotel from the “Twin Peaks” television series.

Whidbey Island, a holiday island anchored in Puget Sound. Only 90 minutes or so from Seattle by freeway and ferry. Historic seaports. Uncrowded beaches. Superb seafood.

The Olympic Peninsula. Linked by ferries to Seattle and Whidbey Island. Wild scenery sweeping from seascapes to the snow-crowned peaks of the Olympic Mountains. Victorian mansions of old Port Townsend, the mellow town that a century ago dreamed of being the “New York of the West.” Port Ludlow, where sailboats with names like “Silver Shadow” and “Traveler” catch Northwest breezes.

It begins like this….

You are checked in at Salish Lodge, by Snoqualmie Falls. The falls thunder by your balcony, then drop 270 feet into a pool swirling with rainbow mist.

They called Salish Lodge the Great Northern Hotel in “Twin Peaks.” The offbeat series was canceled in 1991, but still has almost a cult following. Visitors from Japan, Australia and Canada show up regularly to tour sites such as Salish Lodge and the Mar-T Cafe (the fictional Double RR Diner).

The 91-room lodge has the Northwest’s largest spa. There’s time for a sea-algae body wrap or a stress-reducing aromatherapy massage.

Then walk or drive into Snoqualmie (“snow-QUAL-me”) town, just a mile or so down the road.

Stop in at NorthWest Cellars on Railroad Avenue, the main street, for a sip of Pacific Northwest wines.

Scott Williams, the owner, introduces visitors to more than 100 regional wines and 40 microbrews.

“Did you know that Washington is the No. 2 wine-producing state, after California?” he asks.

Williams recommends a Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Soos Creek Wine Cellars (about $10). The winemaker helps build Boeing jets when he isn’t bottling wine.

They don’t call it Railroad Avenue for nothing.

Old steam locomotives, cabooses, Pullman cars, boxcars, even a rail snowplow, are strewn beside the street like a scene from a “Great Train Wreck” movie. It’s enough to make a rail buff’s heart miss a beat.

The antiques belong to the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, and there are plans to restore them. Meanwhile, the museum group operates summertime rail excursions between Snoqualmie and neighboring North Bend.

Sadly, another of the valley’s top attractions - the Herbfarm restaurant, in Fall City - was lost in a recent fire. They used to serve four-and-a-half-hour, nine-course dinners there.

The restaurant will be rebuilt, and should be open next spring, says Ron Zimmerman, a co-owner.

Now it is evening at Salish Lodge. Floodlights beam on Snoqualmie Falls, just out the windows of the hotel dining room.

Swirl a glass of Merlot and browse the menu as Snoqualmie’s snow-fed torrents dive into dark space.

Perhaps the North Pacific halibut, served with flying-fish caviar on the rim of the plate.

“An excellent choice,” says Michael, the dining-room captain.

Next day: Whidbey Island.

The short route from the Snoqualmie Valley is a ferry crossing from Mukilteo (about 26 miles north of downtown Seattle) to Clinton, on the southern end of Whidbey Island.

A better idea - drive north on Interstate 5 to Mount Vernon (about 63 miles from Seattle), turn westerly there and follow signs to Washington Highway 20 and the Deception Pass Bridge to board Whidbey from the north.

The northerly route adds time and miles, but places visitors in smashing scenery.

Stop at one of Puget Sound’s oldest towns (1852), and stroll streets decked with Victorian homes built by early day sea captains.

Then drive south for about five miles from Coupeville to find Fort Casey State Park. There’s an old lighthouse there worth climbing - and for the kids, there are spooky ramparts with long-silenced coast-artillery guns.

The big guns never were fired in combat. But one day during a drill a round missed a target - and hit the ship towing the target. It’s history.

Overnight stop: Langley, a charming seaside town (pop. 1,000) near the southern tip of Whidbey Island. It’s home for some of the Northwest’s foremost artists.

Lodging choice: The Inn at Langley, a stylish hideaway with an Asian flair. There are only 24 rooms. All have fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and decks with saltwater views.

Some guests show up with sea kayaks, and launch them right from the inn’s beach.

A Langley favorite is a sculpture at First Street Park titled “The Boy and the Dog.” A bronze youth seems to be gazing across Puget Sound. At his feet is a bronze dog with a ball in its mouth.

Visitors pose for photos with the boy - and that’s not all.

“When cold weather arrives, motherly types have added a scarf and hat to prevent a cold with a runny nose,” says Sue Frause, a staff writer with The Whidbey Record.

Dinner choice: Cafe Langley, 113 Front St. Try the linguine with Whidbey Island’s own Penn Cove mussels ($15.50).

Next day: the Olympic Peninsula.

Catch a ferry from Whidbey Island’s Keystone Harbor to Port Townsend. Crossing time is 30 minutes.

Port Townsend - there’s a story there.

Back in the 1890s, boomers were expecting their town to become the terminus for a railroad from Portland. They erected grand buildings of brick and stone along Water Street and laid 25 miles of track to connect with the new rail line.

“City of Destiny.” That’s how Port Townsend billed itself.

Well, the railroad never arrived. The big business buildings still are here. So are the fancy mansions of early day merchants and seafarers. Now most of the Victorians are popular bed-and-breakfast inns.

Stroll awhile among the broken dreams of old Port Townsend (pop. 7,000), then have lunch at the Belmont Restaurant and Saloon, 925 Water St. The waterfront eatery dates to 1885.

Suggestion: Dungeness crab sandwich baked with artichokes, onions and cheese ($6.95).

No hurry.

The next overnight stop - the Inn at Port Ludlow - is only 17 miles southwest of Port Townsend.

The 37-room inn is snugged into a pretty bay framed by a yacht marina, golf course, condominiums and tufts of golden sea grass. It may remind travelers of a small resort in Maine or Nova Scotia.

Upscale, but friendly. Dogs are welcome, along with refundable damage deposits. But, of course, Rover wouldn’t misbehave.

Stay awhile. The Emerald City is just a ferry ride away.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

IF YOU GO:

Getting to Snoqualmie Falls: Take Interstate 90 west to the Snoqualmie Falls exit, then follow well-marked country roads to the falls. Salish Lodge is just beyond the town of Snoqualmie. Turn left to enter the lodge’s parking lot.

Getting to Whidbey Island: From Snoqualmie Falls, either return to the Seattle area by way of Interstate 90, or drive a series of country roads westerly from the falls until intersecting Interstate 5 north of Seattle. Turn south on I-5 to reach the Mukilteo ferry landing for the crossing to the southern end of Whidbey Island. Or turn north on I-5 to Mount Vernon and follow signs westerly from Mount Vernon to Deception Pass and the north end of Whidbey Island.

Getting to the Olympic Peninsula from Whidbey Island: Catch a ferry for Port Townsend at Whidbey Island’s Keystone Harbor. Crossing time is 30 minutes. Fare for car and driver, $5.90. (Note: The assembly area for vehicles at Keystone Harbor involves an awkward turnaround procedure).

Getting to Seattle from the Olympic Peninsula: Drive south to the Hood Canal Bridge, then, on Bainbridge Island, follow signs to the ferry landing for Seattle. Crossing time to downtown Seattle is 35 minutes. Fare, $5.90.

Lodging:

Salish Lodge, at Snoqualmie Falls. High-season (June 1 through October) rates range from $180 to $245 a night double. Midweek rates in low season (Nov. 1 through May) begin at $165. Reservations, (800) 826-6124.

The Inn at Langley, in Langley, Whidbey Island. Rates from $179, single or double. Reservations, (360) 221-3033.

The Inn at Ludlow Bay, at Port Ludlow, on the Olympic Peninsula. Rates begin at $165 single or double in summer; $135 off season. Reservations: (360) 437-0411.

Additional information:

Seattle-King County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 520 Pike St., Suite 1325, Seattle, WA 98101. Phone (206) 461-5840.

Washington State Tourism, P.O. Box 42500, Olympia, WA 98504. Phone (800) 890-5493 to request travel packets; (360) 586-2088 to speak to a travel counselor.

This sidebar appeared with the story: IF YOU GO: Getting to Snoqualmie Falls: Take Interstate 90 west to the Snoqualmie Falls exit, then follow well-marked country roads to the falls. Salish Lodge is just beyond the town of Snoqualmie. Turn left to enter the lodge’s parking lot. Getting to Whidbey Island: From Snoqualmie Falls, either return to the Seattle area by way of Interstate 90, or drive a series of country roads westerly from the falls until intersecting Interstate 5 north of Seattle. Turn south on I-5 to reach the Mukilteo ferry landing for the crossing to the southern end of Whidbey Island. Or turn north on I-5 to Mount Vernon and follow signs westerly from Mount Vernon to Deception Pass and the north end of Whidbey Island. Getting to the Olympic Peninsula from Whidbey Island: Catch a ferry for Port Townsend at Whidbey Island’s Keystone Harbor. Crossing time is 30 minutes. Fare for car and driver, $5.90. (Note: The assembly area for vehicles at Keystone Harbor involves an awkward turnaround procedure). Getting to Seattle from the Olympic Peninsula: Drive south to the Hood Canal Bridge, then, on Bainbridge Island, follow signs to the ferry landing for Seattle. Crossing time to downtown Seattle is 35 minutes. Fare, $5.90.

Lodging: Salish Lodge, at Snoqualmie Falls. High-season (June 1 through October) rates range from $180 to $245 a night double. Midweek rates in low season (Nov. 1 through May) begin at $165. Reservations, (800) 826-6124. The Inn at Langley, in Langley, Whidbey Island. Rates from $179, single or double. Reservations, (360) 221-3033. The Inn at Ludlow Bay, at Port Ludlow, on the Olympic Peninsula. Rates begin at $165 single or double in summer; $135 off season. Reservations: (360) 437-0411.

Additional information: Seattle-King County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 520 Pike St., Suite 1325, Seattle, WA 98101. Phone (206) 461-5840. Washington State Tourism, P.O. Box 42500, Olympia, WA 98504. Phone (800) 890-5493 to request travel packets; (360) 586-2088 to speak to a travel counselor.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email