Postcards From the Road (trip)

These scenic destinations offer something for everyone

By Rob Smith May 11, 2021


This article originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Seattle magazine.

The walls have been closing in for quite some time.

Now that all Washingtonians are eligible for the vaccine, hope is on the horizon. A survey by travel website finds that 49% of Americans say their willingness to receive a vaccine is influenced by their desire to travel. More than half of survey respondents say they haven’t taken any trips during the pandemic, though travel providers note there’s been an uptick in bookings for this year.

About a third of Americans reveal that they’re likely to take a road trip after they get vaccinated and “road trips, by and large, remain the preferred method of travel in the immediate future.” Everyone’s comfort level is different when it comes to travel, but here’s a look at four quick getaways that promise some much-needed respite from the monotony of the pandemic.

To the North: Bellingham

You can go big or small in Bellingham, a 90-minute drive north of Seattle. Big as in the quality of shops, art, restaurants and lodging, but with the hyperlocal flair and easy accessibility found in small towns. Bellingham offers an array of options for foodies, wine lovers, cider folks, beer drinkers, outdoors aficionados and those curious about history and local arts.

The city is a gateway to numerous outdoor adventures, including kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, whale watching, mountain biking, hiking, bike tours, and bird watching. Its downtown is alive with arts districts, galleries, and a plethora of public murals and sculptures. Its working waterfront features four marinas. Check out the Bellingham Farmers Market Saturdays at the Depot. Several gorgeous waterfront hotel properties off er stunning views, and Hotel Bellwether even has Bella, a canine concierge for dog lovers. Other top lodging places include the remodeled, historic Hotel Leo and the Inn at Lynden, a highly personal, charming property near the Canadian border.

The Whatcom Museum’s interactive Native cultural exhibit and the 4.5 million-volt MegaZapper at the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention are particularly cool. Locals often call Bellingham “Brewingham” because of its growing craft beer scene, which boasts 17 breweries.

As for dining, start the morning with a single-source Ethiopian pour over from Camber Coffee or a sweet and spongy Poffertjes muffin from the Lynden Dutch Bakery. Taste Blaine’s Drayton Harbor oysters harvested just minutes before. Take a ferry ride to Lummi Island. Cheese, chocolate and ice cream shops offer decadent delights.

Whatcom County is geographically big, yet feels small. Visit Blaine’s stunning waterfront to the north, or drive the Chuckanut Drive Scenic Byway to the south and hit Taylor Shellfi sh Farms, a working shellfish farm. To the east are berry picking, wine tasting and spectacular views of Mount Baker.

To the Northeast: Lake Chelan

If you’ve never been to Lake Chelan, a four-hour, 200-mile drive northeast of Seattle in the north-central Cascades, the locals will tell you to visit Stehekin. Situated on the northwest end of the 50-mile lake, Stehekin is accessible only by boat, plane, horse or hike.

The remote 90-person town at the lake’s head is known for its hiking and fishing as well as its appeal to those seeking an unusual adventure. Take the Lady of the Lake passenger ferry, relax, and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Or take a helicopter ride and soak up the mountains and glaciers from a unique perspective. If you’re an experienced pilot, there’s even a 3,000-foot grass airstrip.

Stay in one of several cabins. The North Cascades Lodge is adjacent the boat dock and the Stehekin Valley Ranch is nine miles up the valley from the boat landing. Stehekin is particularly appealing to those seeking solitude and peace. Lake Chelan has only 4,000 full-time residents, but the population often swells to 25,000 in popular summer months, at least prior to the pandemic.

During those months, families explore Slidewaters, a popular water park, and enjoy other family-friendly activities such as jet- and waterskiing, bowling, putt-putt golf at “The Green” Putting Course at Don Morse Memorial Park (there are also water sports, boat rentals and a popular snack bar) and two farmers markets: the Chelan Saturday Farmers Market and Evening Farmers Market.

Lake Chelan has also become a popular wine destination for both tourists and locals. More than 30 wineries are nestled along the shores of the crystal-clear lake. Be sure to download Chelan by the Glass, a mobile app that allows users to create their own wine-tasting tour

To the South: Oregon Wine Country

Visitors to the 150-mile-long Willamette Valley in Oregon come for a variety of reasons: world-class wines, topnotch restaurants and outdoor recreation ranging from “under the radar” hiking options to kayaking and paddling on the Willamette Valley Water Trail.

Known for its Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley is home to more than 500 wineries. You can’t go wrong with so many fantastic options, but one of our favorites is Lumos Wine Co., a two-generation winery in Wren, near the Oregon State University campus in bucolic Corvallis. The tasting room is housed in a barn that was a vibrant dude ranch in the 1940s. Also hit Rex Hill in nearby Newberg as well as Willamette Valley Vineyards, which earlier this year constructed heated “wine pods” that seat up to four people.

Restaurants have reimagined dining during the pandemic by opening “streeteries” for outdoor, sidewalk dining. Beer lovers won’t go wanting, either. Check out the Benedictine Brewery at Mount Angel Abbey in Mount Angel, Oregon’s only brewery owned and operated by Benedictine monks. Wild, barrel-aged and farmhouse beers are particularly tasty at Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery in Newberg. Outside Magazine named it the state’s best brewery in 2018.

The region boasts a surprising number of unique lodging options, including those without shared hallways and lobbies such as winery and farm stays. Lumos and Willamette Valley Vineyards are two charming options, as are Abbey Road, Leaping Lamb Farm, The Vintages Trailer Resort and Loloma Lodge.

Outdoor recreation activities include hot-air balloon rides, hiking, running and cycling as well as camping, kayaking and paddling on the Willamette Valley Water Trail, a nationally recognized treasure that flows through forests, parks, meadows and farms.

To the Southwest: The Long Beach Peninsula

The Long Beach Peninsula is home to many simple pleasures. Located in southwest Washington about three hours from Seattle, it’s a perfect place to walk, run, splash, dig for clams in season, fly a kite, build a sand castle and otherwise play on Long Beach, all or any part of its 28-mile span. Head out early on a calm morning to see the wet beach turn blue on an outgoing tide.

Here are a few of our favorite options.

Browse the shops and galleries near the docks at the Port of Ilwaco and in down-town Long Beach. The Long Beach Peninsula has an embarrassment of good places to eat, many with outdoor seating in the better weather months. Top restaurants include The Depot, MyCovio’s, 42nd Street Cafe and Bistro, Pickled Fish, Shelburne, The Cove, Salt Hotel & Pub, and Waterline Pub. Sample local seafood at Willapa Bay oysters, Dungeness crab, razor and butter clams, Columbia River rockfish and salmon as well as albacore tuna.

Slurp oysters while overlooking the bay at Oysterville Sea Farms and take a walking tour to learn about historic preservation. Or, grab a bag of oysters to go and grill them over a fire on the beach. Find more seafood shops at the Port of Ilwaco.

Ride beach cruisers through the dunes to rock outcroppings at Beards Hollow or up and over the headlands to Ilwaco on the 8.5-mile, paved Discovery Trail. Rent fat-tire bikes and ride them on the beach or suit up for a surf lesson.

Hike at Cape Disappointment State Park on the Coastal Forest Loop Trail. Take the walk out to North Head Lighthouse and catch the views north from Bells View Overlook Trail.

Beer lovers can fill a growler with craft ale at North Jetty Brewing or pick up a bottle of Triticale Whiskey, Old Tom Gin or Cranberry Liqueur at Adrift Distillers, adjacent to Adrift Hotel.

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