Courtesy of Alderbrook Resort & Spa
One of my favorite things about Alderbrook Resort & Spa is one of the smallest things: It leaves a skipping stone on the beds of its guests.
The skipping stone is a sign that this resort, perched in a stunning setting on the glacier-carved fjord that is Hood Canal, is anything but pretentious. While luxurious touches abound — from the full-service spa to soaking tubs in many of the rooms — the overall vibe is rustic and relaxed. Almost from the moment I set foot in Alderbrook's grand lobby, with its high beams, two-story stone fireplace and cat napping in one of the chairs, it became my favorite close-to-Seattle resort.
My recent visit was a retreat that I arranged for myself. My mission was simple: I needed two solid days away from home and family obligations to do nothing but be inspired and write, and I had chosen Alderbrook because it was close to Seattle and on the water. I’d seen pictures of the mist rising off Hood Canal from Alderbrook’s pier, and was already sold.
Plus, I wanted to check it out as a possible family getaway destination.
A quick history
Alderbrook opened in 1913 as a rustic waterfront resort that you could only reach by boat. No roads yet existed on that part of the Hood Canal. Over the years, buildings and accommodations were added, and from 2002–2004, the property was renovated into a luxury resort, with 77 guestrooms, 16 cottages, a restaurant, a spa and a gorgeous, glassed-in pool complex (complete with large hot tub and steam room) located on the water.
Kids will, of course, want to head straight for the pool (no lifeguard, by the way), but the lodge and the grounds abound with opportunities to be active or chill. The resort boasts a private beach and long pier. A classic Alderbrook moment is to take an early morning walk on the pier to enjoy the view.
At the Alderbrook outdoor center, you can rent all kinds of watercraft — from stand-up paddleboards and kayaks to hydrocycles and even a pontoon — and use them to explore the canal. Or, in the summer, just set your crew up for sand play and swimming from the beach, while you admire the view of Hood Canal backed by the Olympic Mountains.
A firepit surrounded by Adirondack chairs invites both marshmallow roasting and late-afternoon reading. There is enough space for lawn games and you’ll find them scattered about and free to use.
Just across Route 106, forested hills beckon for hiking, with five miles of well-marked and well-maintained nature trails offering a variety of distances and experiences. During my stay, I hiked the lovely Huckleberry Hillclimb trail, which wanders across sweet stone bridges, among giant fir trees and, yes, up a big hill. It even includes interpretive signage that teaches about plants along the way.
Alderbrook is also a geocaching hot spot, with a series of caches waiting for families to find them; just check out your GPS unit and clue booklet at the resort's activities desk.
More fun indoors
The great indoors is designed for coziness and connecting. In the main lodge, curl up in front of the fireplace to read, or settle in for some board games. Keep an eye out for the two resident cats. A game room with an Xbox will draw kids in like a magnet. Parents, you've been warned.
Rooms are just as hang-out-able. Even arriving is fun: The resort is designed with a system of outdoor stairways and balconies, which means that you’re enjoying the sound of lapping waves, the scent of cedar and the sight of Hood Canal as you’re opening your door. My king room on the third floor had a window seat with a view of the grounds and the canal, a fridge, a soaking tub, a flat-screen TV and a desk and chair.
Camp-style family fun
Drop-in programs add to the family-camp like atmosphere. Depending on the time of year, you might be able to take classes in en plein air (outdoor) painting, aqua yoga, clamming or kayaking. Learn about foraging during a weekly chef-guided walk, or try your hand at fly-casting. Holidays are celebrated with gusto: St. Paddle’s Day around St. Patrick's Day; Thunder on the Canal festival for July 4; holiday tree lighting the day after Thanksgiving and more.
One downside is that food options are limited. While you can get snacks, espresso and small meals at the onsite gift shop, there is just one restaurant on the premises. The menu is Northwest-inspired, featuring seafood and locally sourced meats and produce, but on the pricey side, with dinner entrees starting at $26. Ways to save include preparing breakfast in your room (cold cereal and milk worked fine for me) or eating on the patio (a more limited, more affordable menu). Union City Market, three miles away, offers smoothies, cheese, produce and bread. A free shuttle from the resort can take you there on weekends.
Exploring Hood Canal
A bonus of an Alderbrook stay is that many of Hood Canal’s treasures are within easy striking distance. Swim at Lake Cushman or hike at spectacular Staircase, located in Olympic National Park. Go wine-tasting (ice cream tasting for the kids) in the cute town of Hoodsport, which looks like it was designed by REI. Explore the beach at Twanoh State Park, just 10 minutes away. Crab, clam or fish on the canal.
And right next door, tee off at the 18-hole Alderbrook golf course if you like.
I took advantage of only a few of the many offerings at Alderbrook during my stay — the pool, beach, firepit and nature trails — but I returned to the city thoroughly refreshed. And you can be as sure as the skipping stone on my bed that I’ll be back.
If you go:
Find it: Alderbrook Resort & Spa is located 10 E. Alderbrook Dr., Union. It's about two hours from Seattle either taking the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry from West Seattle to Port Orchard, or by driving south to Tacoma and then across the Tacoma Narrows bridge.
Book: Book online. Contact the resort at 360-898-2200 with questions.
Cost: Rack rates for a September weekday stay start at around $250 per night for a family four. Access to the pool, beach, game room and lawn games are all included for overnight guests. Watercraft rentals and spa services are extra.
Deals: Save on an Alderbrook stay by booking a weekday stay, checking the “Pearl of the Day” rates on the website, signing up for Alderbrook’s email newsletter or keep tabs on its social media pages. Non-peak times are most affordable, including the first two weeks of June, the week after Labor Day, on Halloween, the week after Thanksgiving, the first two weeks of December and almost any time in January or February.
Types of rooms: There are a number of room configurations that work well for families, including the parlor view suites, oversized suites with a separate seating area and a private King bedroom; rooms with two queens; and two-bedroom and one-bedroom cottages, located on the beach. Cottages sleep up to six guests. Refrigerators and microwaves are available by request in all rooms. Some rooms are also pet -friendly.
Spa: The Alderbrook spa offers a long roster of services, which change seasonally.