1. Aqua by El Gaucho
Even if your back is to the views of Magnolia and Elliott Bay, there’s a wave in sight: the blue-green curves of the 85-foot bar. The menu’s most indulgent offering is the Seafood Bacchanalia, a veritable aquarium of fish dishes: king salmon, lobster tail, diver scallops, prawns, and king crab. Best Table A private dining room occupies the end of the pier—and has some of the best indoor views—but the summer outdoor deck is 4,000 square feet, with the lightest winds on the restaurant’s southern side.
2. The Book Bindery
The restaurant, one of very few on the Ship Canal, has an unapologetically grownup vibe; dishes epitomize the old-fashioned trio of meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Next door is the tasting room of the Almquist boutique winery. Best Table The four tables on the canal side of the greenhouse room get pleasantly breezy when the windows and roof open in warm months.
Of the local chain’s four locations, the Alki outpost is the beachiest, located just across the street from the water. Roll-up garage doors let in sunshine on nice days, illuminating the southwestern fare and electric--bright cocktails. Best Table Try to score a hedge--adjacent table outside near the water’s edge for an unobscured view of the Denny Monument commemorating the “Birthplace of Seattle.”
4. Daniel’s Broiler
Classic. Old standby. Butt of the joke in blockbuster Seattle novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Whatever’s said of the chain, its 32-year-old Leschi location in a converted boathouse has porterhouse and prime rib and Lake Washington views to spare. Best Table Try for the corner table on the patio overlooking the marina, or better yet sail in and a waiter will deliver right to the boat.
5. Elliott’s Oyster House
Since the 75-cents-per--oyster happy hour begins at 3pm, tables fill quickly on Pier 56. A new sidewalk cafe replaces bay views with easy access to varieties of oysters on ice. Best Table The cafe’s deck dining is practically on top of the Argosy docks, but the -outdoor tables belonging to the restaurant offer a more scenic view.
6. Le Grand Bistro Américain
Welcome to yacht central on Kirkland’s northern waterfront at Carillon Point. Not flush enough to have a boat in the marina? The rummy creme brulee is rich enough to make up for it. Best Table While patio tables are closest to the water, the stools and counter table in the bar are a cosmopolitan perch for enjoying oysters and prawns from “Le Raw Bar.”
7. Marination Ma Kai
Watch the sun rise over downtown Seattle before a Hawaiian-themed breakfast. The eatery began as a food truck serving Spam sliders and kimchi quesadillas before opening a brick-and-mortar location next to West Seattle’s water taxi dock; the owners even imported a shave-ice machine from the islands. Best Table If you can’t muscle your way onto one of Marination’s outdoor Adirondack chairs, eat out on the docks in front of the cityscape view.
The best dining on the Alki strip is just as good as it was when founder Hussein Khazaal ran the Lebanese--inspired spot. Though nearly every dish has a Mediterranean bent, the pizza is notable simply for its fire-blistered crust. Best Table The people watching is almost as good as the beach view at every single seat of the long patio bar.
9. Ray’s Boathouse
Envy the bartenders—upstairs at Ray’s Cafe in this Ballard institution, the staffers get a waterfront vista from behind the bar. But downstairs is the more formal dining room, with chairs clad in nautical blue leather and seafood specials written on a glass wall. Best Table Any seat at the renovated 30-foot mahogany bar is dead center to the Shilshole Bay views.
10. Six Seven
Back in 1964, the Beatles went fishing out the window of the Edgewater on Pier 67; these days the hotel’s restaurant will bring ling cod, king salmon, or diver scallops right to your table. Best Table From the leftmost table on the outdoor patio, diners can feast on views of Elliott Bay, including the ferry docks downtown.
WAIT FOR IT
Word is that when Skillet man Joshua Henderson decorates his new north Lake Union restaurant, he’ll look to Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (picture Jacques Cousteau lost in an episode of H.R. Pufnstuf). The fishy eatery and oyster bar not far from Gas Works Park is likely to open in July.
1. Rent Boats
It’s been said that the two best days of boat ownership are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. Skip the stress with by-the-hour water trips, like the sailboats ($50 for 90 minutes) and kayaks and standup paddleboards ($25 for 90 minutes) at Sail Sand Point community center in Magnuson Park. Grab a sustainably caught fish taco before or after scoring a single or double kayak ($15–$20 per hour) at Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle Club on Portage Bay. The Electric Boat Company rents 10-person, 21-foot-long vessels for anyone who wants to play captain on Lake Union, while the Center for Wooden Boats has keelboat sloops and Beetle Cat sailboats (for the experienced) and row and pedal boats (for the rest of us) on South Lake Union—you can even captain a model sailboat on the 100-foot Lake Union Park pond.
2. Ride Boats
An Emerald City Charters sign near Pier 54 says, “Let’s Go Sailing”; we say, “Let’s do just that.” The 1.5-hour tour of Elliott Bay on a 70-foot racing boat is $33, while 2.5-hour sunset sails are $49 each. The Center for Wooden Boats offers free rides on the sailboat Betsy D, gillnetter Admirable, or steam-powered Puffin on Sundays as part of the CastOff! program. And even better than free: a year-round Sunday ice cream cruise of Lake Union ($11) on the M/V Fremont Avenue, courtesy Seattle Ferry Service.
3. Park It
For all of Seattle’s waterfront mansions—and they are legion—there is still plenty of public park space by the water. And we’re not talking two-block green spaces: -Discovery Park in Magnolia is 534 acres. Inland are the remnants of the land’s past life as Fort Lawton, and a beach lined with driftwood leads to the 1881 West Point Lighthouse. The smaller Seward Park in South Seattle has old-growth forest and an anchorage for visiting boats. Puget Sound and Whidbey Island views from Carkeek Park are from a high bluff, looking over the still--active waterfront railroad tracks. And South Lake Union may be experiencing a rebirth, but the majestic Seattle Gas Light Company structures at Gas Works Park still hold court on the lake’s north end.
4. Scuba Dive
Just outside of Seattle’s city limits is the Edmonds -Underwater Park, a marine preserve that brings 25,000 scuba divers every year to see the underwater man-made reefs, sunken tugboat, the bed of a pickup truck, and a remnant of the old 520 floating bridge. Classes and underwater maps are found one block south at Underwater Sports.
5. Soak by Boat
It was an idea whose time finally came: combining the acts of boating and hot tubbing. The one-of-a-kind experience from Hot Tub Boats costs as little as $139 per hour for up to six people, and passengers pilot themselves through Lake Union and Portage Bay. When Husky Stadium’s renovation is complete, the company plans to place the vessels right outside home football games.
6. Beach Comb
The city’s longest stretch of public sand is at West Seattle’s Alki Beach Park, the site of Seattle’s first white settlers and now a small replica of the Statue of Liberty. It’s more of a see-and-be-seen scene at Madison Park Beach, where summer lifeguards oversee swimmers and sunbathers on a grassy lawn. The fire pits on the sand in Ballard’s Golden Gardens Park make it cookout central, and the swim beach at Luther Burbank Park on Mercer Island shares the three-quarter-mile waterfront with a public fishing pier and more than 135 species of birds.
7. Take to the Trail
The waterfront trail in the Washington Park Arboretum may be right under Highway 520, but they’re nevertheless a peek at a scenic pocket of bird-laden marshes. The paved track that goes north from the Olympic Sculpture Park, connecting Belltown to Magnolia, is properly known as the Elliott Bay Trail; stop at the rose garden or peer up at the industrial grain elevators. For a dozen Sundays between May and September, Lake Washington Boulevard between Mount Baker Beach and Seward Parks transforms from motorway to ridiculously wide bike path, closing to cars from 10am to 6pm.
8. Get Cultured
Olympic Sculpture Park, which transitioned from oil depository to an outdoor gallery for the likes of Alexander Calder and Richard Serra, is a Belltown staple. There’s more waterfront art in Kirkland’s Houghton Beach Park.
Just feet from Kirkland’s Lake Washington shore is Asher Goods men’s shop, featuring goatskin gloves, wool vests, and Stetson hats—sounds like beachwear for the great Northwest.
For a beachside shop, Coastal Surf Boutique has stylish togs a cut above the usual flowered wraps and emergency bathing suits: Look for the usual Billabong and Quicksilver pieces, plus vintage-style wooden Alki signs.
Be forewarned: At the -Edgewater Hotel Gift Shop, you’ll be tempted to go home with one of the bear-shaped lamb’s wool footstools also found in the hotel’s rooms.
The 1922 steamship -Virginia V, docked at Lake Union Park Wharf, holds the Lake Union Park Floating Farmers Market every Thursday from June till October, with fresh produce and craft booths crowding the boat’s wooden deck.
Tucked under the viaduct, Seattle Antiques Market is a 6,000-square-foot treasure trove of vintage arcade games and maybe-broken cameras—a must-visit destination when you -absolutely must purchase an authentic phonograph horn on short notice.
1. Alderbrook Resort and Spa
It has the feel of a midcentury resort in the Poconos, but the towering Douglas firs are 100 percent Northwest. The hotel, celebrating its centennial this year, keeps guests on property with badminton on the lawn, an expansive spa menu, and killer lobster mac and cheese in the restaurant. Room to Request Two Waterfront Corner King rooms look out onto the elbow of Hood Canal and the Olympics.
2. Inn at Langley
Though the restaurant helmed by former Palace Kitchen chef Matt Costello is the site’s biggest draw, the 28-room hotel is one of the swankiest accommodations on Whidbey Island. Rooms have jetted tubs, wood-burning fireplaces, and views of the Saratoga Passage just past a narrow wooden boardwalk. Room to Request The Saratoga master suite is apartment size at 1,500 square feet, with a full kitchen, bamboo floors, and a private deck.
3. Inn at Port Gardner
The Everett hotel’s marina location is perfect for a quick jaunt to Jetty Island, but it also means the occasional industrial noise from the working waterfront. Room to Request The Port Gardner Suite on the third floor has a hot tub on its private deck.
4. Inn at Port Ludlow
As part of a resort comprised of a golf course and marina, the beachfront hotel is nevertheless a sedate retreat in a nook just off the top of Hood Canal. All rooms have gas fireplaces and whirlpool tubs, and the downstairs Fireside Restaurant has, appropriately, a large stone fireplace. Room to Request The third-floor Queen Bay Suite, located at the end of the building, has a pair of balconies to view the marina and Olympic Mountains.
5. La Conner Channel Lodge
The town of La Conner sits in a delta south of Anacortes, home to fewer than a thousand residents and a popular base for Skagit Valley Tulip Festival trips. The cedar-shake inn has a whiff of bed-and-breakfast-style hominess. Room to Request All six waterfront rooms on the third floor have equal-size balconies; might as well ask for the southernmost one, nearest the rust-red Rainbow Bridge over the Swinomish Channel.
Published: May 2013