Great getaways just minutes from mainlandIf you're looking for a special place for that weekend or vacation -- a small town that offers a unique charm and character that makes you feel like you're a million miles from home -- then consider one of the Pacific Northwest's island towns.
Life on an island is, well, different. The clock moves a little slower. It's a different type of person who lives there. The scenery usually is spectacular and the local shops and restaurants have an unusual flavor that is way different that you get at home.
Here are some great choices for your next island town getaway.
Langley, WashingtonThe tiny town of Langley is perched on a bluff on Whidbey Island, overlooking the waters of Saratoga Passage with a panoramic view of the Cascade Mountains.
Langley has a downtown that is perfect for strolling as you explore historic buildings, antique shops, boutiques, book stores and restaurants -- not to mention art galleries, which are always in generous supply when you visit an island town. Wine tasting also is a favorite pastime in Langley for locals and visitors alike.
There are lots of activities in Langley, including charter boat rides through the San Juan Islands and bike-riding groups that take you -- on a bike -- to some of Whidbey Island's scenic treasures.
With just a little research you can find historic inns and cozy bed-and-breakfast inns to enjoy an overnight stay in Langley. The Inn at Langley is one example with its historic feel and earns high internet ratings. The Boatyard Inn is another excellent choice, right on the water, with views and ambience that will make your Langley visit extra-special.
For more information, please visit www.visitlangley.com or phone 360-221-6765.
Eastsound, WashingtonEastsound is a small village of about 5,000 residents that is the population center of Orcas Island. As you may know, Orcas Island is part of the San Juans and has ferry service from the mainland terminal at Anacortes.
Eastsound is actually the second largest population center in the San Juan Islands. There are also some other very small towns scattered around Orcas Island that are also fun to explore.
It's a laid-back lifestyle in Eastsound and you'll find some colorful shops and lots of work by local artisans. In downtown Eastsound you'll find the Oras Island Historical Museum, which has about 6,000 items on display. There's also a local art museum called the Lambiel Museum.
Not far from Eastsound is Moran State Park with Mt. Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans. The camping and hiking here are incredible, although you'll need to plan months in advance to be sure and get a camping spot. Bed-and-breakfast inns are available in many parts of Orcas Island.
For more information on Eastsound and Orcas Island, please visit www.orcasislandchamber.com or phone 360-376-2273.
Winslow, WashingtonWinslow, Washington, the population center of Bainbridge Island, is just a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle, so it really is an easy place for a daytrip. Bainbridge Island is the gateway to the Kitsap Peninsula and Hood Canal.
Uniquely, you can hop on the ferry as a passenger and, when you reach Winslow, everything is within walking distance. You can pick up a walking tour map at the ferry terminal information kiosk and then then follow the signs for the five-minute walk to downtown Winslow.
You might stop at places like the Streamliner Diner or the Blackbird Bakery, or you might pick up some fresh produce for breakfast at the Farmer's Market. Downtown you'll find antiques and collectibles, art galleries, boutiques, cafes and plenty to spend a few hours before taking the ferry back to Seattle.
Fay Bainbridge State Park also is a great place to spend the afternoon, and visitors rave about the beautiful acreage you can explore at the Bloedel Reserve.
For more information, please visit www.visitbainbridge.com or phone 206-842-3700.
Ganges, B.C.The village of Ganges, B.C. is on Salt Spring Island, one of the Gulf Islands. These islands are often referred to as the Canadian San Juans. Ganges is a popular destination for boaters from the Northwest and the good news is that you can hop a ferry near Vancouver B.C. that will take you right to Salt Spring Island. Another great option is to fly Harbour Air from Vancouver.
The first thing you notice is all the marinas at Ganges. Beyond the boats, is a lively community -- especially on Saturday mornings when they have a Farmer's Market where you can meet local artists, crafts people and vegetable growers.
The village has two large grocery stores, three gas stations and eight art galleries -- so you know that artists abound in this colorful island community. There are dozens of other businesses and some restaurants to try out, so it's a great place to explore and then spend the night in a local lodging. There are several charming bed-and-breakfast inns on the island. For more information, please visit www.saltspringisland.org.
Friday Harbor, WashingtonFriday Harbor has to be on the list when we're talking about the best island towns in the Pacific Northwest. The scenery from town is spectacular and there are quite a lot of shops and restaurants to explore.
Friday Harbor is a charming, historic seaport that is quite walkable -- meaning you don't have to take your car on the Washington State Ferry from Anacortes. Just walk on as a passenger. And that will save you money -- dollars you can spend at some of the excellent restaurants in Friday Harbor. Downtown you'll also find the Whale Museum and the San Juan Islands Museum of Art. The San Juan Historical Museum is right downtown as well.
Friday Harbor is located on San Juan Island and if you want to see more of the island -- and you don't have your car -- there are shuttle busses and a trolley that can take you around the island. Historical attractions and million-dollar views await your exploration on San Juan Island.
For more information, please visit www.visitsanjuans.com or phone 888-468-3701.
PHOTOS: View from Boatyard Inn near Langley; Bloedel Reserve; Harbour Air offers float plane service to Ganges; arriving at Friday Harbor by ferry
PHOTO CREDITS: Ganges photo courtesy Harbour Air
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