Trip Coach: April 24, 2007
Sally Farhat Kassab, editor of Best Places Northwest, answered your questions on planning a trip to Seattle and Vancouver.
Sally Farhat Kassab: Hello, this is Sally Farhat Kassab. I'm a Seattle native and am thrilled to answer questions about the Emerald City, as well as that other gorgeous mecca two hours north, Vancouver. Thanks so much for joining me. Let's begin!
Davenport, Iowa: Four 50 year old post college girlfriends are traveling to Vancouver this summer. We like all sorts of things. But we especially like saving money on accomodations. We would rather spend our cash on activities. Any suggestions?
Sally Farhat Kassab: Ladies, stay at the Y! The YWCA Hotel is not some dreary rooming house; it's a comfortable downtown hotel, close to the theaters, sports arenas and library. The no-frills rooms, while tiny, are functional, with minifridges and sinks. Some bathrooms are shared, and there are few amenities (no tissues, clocks, coffee makers). Another bonus? You get free passes to the Y's fitness center if you stay there. (www.ywcahotel.com) Other inexpensive spots I like are the Sylvia Hotel (www.sylviahotel.com) and the Victorian Hotel (www.victorianhotel.com). You'll have plenty of money leftover to shop and play.
Southborough, MA: I'm planning to visit my daughter, who lives in Seattle,August 30 - Sept 4. What would you suggest for a two or three day excursion to the San Juan Islands? We will be leaving from Seattle and would be able to drive to the appropriate port and board a ferry to the islands, if that is the best way to travel. Which islands would you recommend we visit, and where would you recommend we stay (no camping, please)? We would enjoy hiking, but nothing advanced.
Sally Farhat Kassab: I'm thrilled that you're headed to the San Juans. They are one of the gems of our region, and absolutely stunning in summer. That's when rates are highest and it's hardest to find a reservation; book now if you can. Most Seattleites drive about an hour and a half north to Anacortes, then take the ferry to one of the four islands they go to. But beware: because of the islands' popularity, getting your car onto the ferry can mean a three-hour wait. (I always recommend people travel to the San Juans in the off-season, especially since they get half the rainfall of Seattle!) If you can afford it, take Kenmore Air (www.kenmoreair.com), a floatplane to the islands from two Seattle-area locations. The Victoria Clipper (www.victoriaclipper.com), best known for its insanely fast trips to Victoria on Vancouver Island, also travels daily from Seattle to San Juan Island.
It's funny you mention camping and hiking, because the islands are famous for anything outdoorsy. Some of my friends take their bicycles to Lopez Island and just ride around all day, then return home to Seattle. But back to your question: On day one, get an early-morning (trust me!) ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor. Stay at Olympic Lights B & B (www.olympiclights.com) with its gorgeous gardens, or go all out at Roche Harbor Resort (www.rocheharbor.com); Teddy Roosevelt once stayed there.
The next day, take an afternoon ferry to Orcas Island (it's free since you're going east). The only "budget" place I'd recommend here is the Doe Bay Resort & Retreat (www.doebay.com). But I'd head to the Rosario Resort & Spa, where I went every year as a kid (www.rosario.rockresorts.com). If you don't stay there, at least visit. If you're not a resort person, try the lovely Inn on Orcas Island (www.theinnonorcasisland.com).
Make sure and eat at Christina's, a true destination restaurant (www.christinas.net). Mount Constitution in Moran State Park is a great place for hiking. On day three, get an afternoon ferry to Lopez Island and check in at the Mackaye Harbor Inn (www.mackayeharborinn.com). To save money, stay at one of the cottages at Lopez Farm Cottages. Lopez is the quietest of the three islands I'm recommending, and people will wave at you when you drive by. That's the type of place it is. While you're "downtown" in Lopez Village, you must stop at Holly B's Bakery -- her cinnamon rolls are addictive.