Corinne Whiting | Special to USA TODAY 10Best
Pacific Northwesterners experienced an unconventionally chilly and wet spring. This means the promise of steamy summer days spent under forest canopies and on glistening lakes and rivers carry even more excitement than usual.
With the grand return of cruise ships this season comes hopeful sustainability news, too, as The Port of Seattle, City and Borough of Juneau, Port of Vancouver, global cruise leaders and experts in decarbonization have launched “an exploratory mission” to discuss the feasibility of a cruise-led green corridor. This would speed up the deployment of zero greenhouse gas emission ships and operations between Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state.
Before heading off on farther-flung wanderings, Seattle cruise passengers might consider staying on the peaceful property of Cedarbrook Lodge, located only a 10-minute complimentary shuttle ride from Sea-Tac, and boasting its own sustainability efforts.
International air travelers this summer will appreciate the arrival of Club SEA, a cushy non-airline-affiliated lounge at Sea-Tac.
Adventurers in Washington can enjoy 100 state parks, encompassing approximately 120,000 acres, whether they reserve a cabin, yurt or pitch their own tent along the Olympic coast or deep among the jagged peaks. Seattle is a prime base from which to explore outdoor splendor (whether you’re here to get pampered or get altitude), and to check out nearby islands from Bainbridge to Vashon.
Vashon’s Nashi Orchards is less than five miles from the island’s north-end ferry (which is a quick 15-minute ride from Seattle). While visiting Nashi’s expanded production space and orchards, enjoy picnic and lawn games, or – in a family-friendly tasting room – sip new releases, including a non-alcoholic sparkling perry made from 100% Korean Giant Asian pear juice.
While aquatic expeditions depart from docks throughout Seattle, Seattle’s Tall Ship takes passengers out on the city’s twinkling waterways (from downtown Pier 66 at Bell Harbor Marina) aboard the Bay Lady, an 85-foot-long traditional, gaff-rigged schooner. The family-friendly ship, that can accommodate up to 87 passengers, offers options from harbor tours to sunset sails.
Oregon residents are enjoying revisiting anticipated events in Portland. For example, August 4 through 7 marks the grand return of Pickathon, a magic-tinged music festival in Happy Valley, nestled into the woods just beyond Portland’s city limits.
This year, Pickathon unveils five new stages and a fresh layout – with interconnected “neighborhoods” that intend to merge festivalgoers with the natural environment and to minimize the event’s footprint. Nestled into cooling tree canopies and meadows dappled with August light, guests not only relish music covering an impressive array of genres, but also access to dance, art, wellness and delicious food and drink provided by local vendors.
For wine connoisseurs, Oregon’s 150-mile-long Willamette Valley offers rolling green spaces in which to sample the region’s most delicious varietals. Stoller Family Estate recently unveiled its new Hilltop Tasting Experience. Inside the estate’s iconic Legacy Room, with a view of the verdant property and tree tire swing, guests get access to unique perks like rarely available wines and seasonal small-plate menus created by Culinary Director and Executive Chef Becca Richards.
Travelers to Canada who arrive on Vancouver Island without a car this summer are happy to learn that a new Harbour Air route between Victoria and Tofino makes it easier to experience the rugged wonder of British Columbia’s west coast.
While in Victoria, cozy into recently refreshed spaces at the Magnolia Hotel or Inn at Laurel Point, both conveniently located next to the harbor and within walking distance of some of the city’s best attractions. For example, visit Beacon Hill Park, a verdant city gem that’s home to the world’s tallest story pole (measuring 127 feet and 7 inches), or spend a memorable morning connecting with First Nations community members through Songhees Tours, enjoyed on foot or by canoe.
Spend some hours inside the brand-new, compact Ritual Nordic Spa, rotating between the Finnish sauna, steam room, cold plunge pool, salt lounge, outdoor patios, rinse station and Nordic bucket shower. At dinnertime, enjoy a memorable meal at Eva Schnitzelhaus, a recent addition to the downtown Victoria scene that brings delectable German-inspired fare to a friendly dining room. Menu items can be adapted for gluten-free and vegetarian diners, thanks to thoughtful variations like eggplant schnitzel.
Those without a rental car should prioritize taking a shuttle or taxi out to the Malahat SkyWalk, an elevated tree walk that leads visitors through a mystical madrone forest, with driftwood artwork by Tanya Bub tucked among the branches en route. Climb the wooden structure’s gently-sloped spiral ramp, accessible to strollers and wheelchairs as well, that culminates with a breathtaking lookout point situated 820 feet above sea level. Drink in views of Finlayson Arm, Saanich Peninsula, Mount Baker and the distant Coast Mountains before making your way down – via the ramp or a twisty slide that can revive just about any visitor’s childlike spirit.
If time allows, pencil in a day trip to the Cowichan Valley, perhaps facilitated by the kind and knowledgeable owner of adventure company Explore Vancouver Island. In Duncan, enjoy wine tasting from the scenic balcony of Blue Grouse Estate Winery, an operation that proudly maintains a sustainability-centric focus that allows the team to feel like true “stewards of the land.”
Farther afield in the Northwest, adventure lovers can make the 90-minute flight from Seattle to Salmon Falls Fishing Resort in Alaska’s Ketchikan (aka “The Salmon Capital of the World”). Propped at the southernmost entrance to Alaska’s Inside Passage, the 51-room waterfront resort holds allure, thanks to its majestic setting amid the Tongass National Forest on Revillagigedo Island, as well as world-class salmon fishing.
Alongside popular guided and self-guided fishing excursions, try new tours that feature eco-kayaking, bear watching, oyster farm touring and floatplane-fishing adventuring done in exquisitely remote spots.
Nature enthusiasts find countless reasons to venture to Big Sky, Montana too – a nourishing haven tucked into the southwest corner of the state (with two nonstop flights traveling between Seattle and Bozeman daily). Whether you savor the expertise and guidance of Montana Women’s Flyfishing School or the delicacies of pastry chef Christine Lugo-Yergensen, who’s mastered the art of high-altitude baking at her new shop Sweet Buns, you’ll find plenty of nourishment and inspiration under crisp blue skies.
Amid the revitalizing mountain air, indulge with luxury accommodations at just-opened Montage Big Sky, or enjoy a wildlife safari inside nearby Yellowstone National Park, currently celebrating 150 years.
With destinations coming back to exciting levels of vibrancy, there’s never been a better time to relish all the Northwest has to offer.