October 7, 2014
It’s a typical autumn day on Seattle’s Lake Union. Sailboats tack on favourable winds, pleasure craft cruise the lake en route to the Ship Canal or Montlake Cut, crews skull in more or less straight lines and, right in the middle of this aquatic intersection, de Havilland Canada “Beaver” seaplanes somehow locate unoccupied water to land and takeoff. Here are five of our favourite Seattle float plane getaways, to inspire your next trip out of town.
Seattle to Victoria remains the most iconic of all the regional Seattle float plane getaways. Bop above Puget Sound, clip off the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula and land like a canvasback duck at the mouth of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. The Inner Harbour is graced by two of western Canada’s grandest structures, the provincial parliament buildings and the Fairmont Empress Hotel. Long considered a teacake-sized slice of Britannia, Victoria’s culinary star has risen mightily in recent years from fresh takes on tea at Silk Road Teas, dining in Cooks Street Village to Canada’s best gin from Victoria Spirits.
Impressive artists spill oils and bend metal and wood throughout Salt Spring Island, including resident Robert Bateman, considered by many to be the finest wildlife realist in the world. Musicians congregate at the Tree House Cafe, which offers live music every weekend night. Not just a harbour for the bohemian Canuck, Salt Spring Island is also home to Hastings House, commonly regarded as one of the best Inns in Canada/North America. Hastings House spreads out above the Ganges Harbor, an easy stroll from town.
We find plenty of traditional dockside dining featuring Dungeness crab and oysters grilled to order in Friday Harbor. But at Friday Harbor House the menu is elevated to haut coastal cuisine with “flash fried kelp & calamari” featuring locally harvested bull kelp. Numerous ice cream shops serve Lopez Island Ice Cream, sweetening our moods toward mellow island life. The gently sloped streets lead into boutiques and galleries. Located four miles outside of Friday Harbor, Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes provides every type of rustic lodging imaginable from lodge rooms, log cabins, platform tents and campsites to the newest addition, a 1978 Excella Airstream trailer.
Stehekin, located at the western end of Lake Chelan and abutting North Cascades National Park, contains 82 inhabitants, one phone (out-calls only), a handful of lodges and more character than most cities. The Valley winds along the Stehekin River, before climbing into Glacier Peak Wilderness with access to the Pacific Crest Trail. You can’t help but channel Thoreau when you settle into a cabin at Stehekin Valley Ranch, especially when every night, like the famous Walden transcendentalist, one dines upon freshly baked pies from the Stehekin Pastry Company. (Ralph Waldo Emerson’s daughter delivered Henry David’s daily desserts.) Make sure you saddle up and climb through ponderosa pines to Coon Lake and don’t forget to work in a hike through Agnes Gorge.
Witnessing 200 bald eagles feast on the hake rise requires a 15-minute boat transport from Sonora, but there remains plenty of theatre from the Relais & Chateau Sonora Resort. The upper deck hovers beside executive chef Terry Pichor’s kitchen and wine cellar. Less than fifty yards away, the harbour seals utilize the formidable flow spilling from Dent Rapids to capture fish slowed by the strong head currents. A fleet of Grady White cruiser-style fishing boats lines the dock, awaiting voyage to find resident Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Chinook salmon. Guests can catch over 1,000 pounds during the week, each fish cleaned and filleted at dockside cleaning tables. This afternoon ritual isn’t lost on the seal and eagle neighbours, who arrive to indulge in a happy hour menu comprised of fish heads and tails.
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Have you taken a trip on a Seattle float plane? Where did you go? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Written by Crai Bower