Playing Tourist in my Own Back Yard – The Olympic Peninsula

Exploring the Olympic Peninsula

When I had some time off a few weeks ago, I took several day trips on the Olympic Peninsula.  It’s sad to say, but I really don’t get out and explore our own local area as often as I should.  I think I take it for granted that I can always do that when company comes to town, or I don’t have other plans, or it’s a nice sunny day and a friend might want to do something fun.  I decided that since I was off work and most other people were working, the weather was fabulous, that I would go exploring.

I live in Tacoma, so I started by heading over the Narrows Bridge towards Gig Harbor.  I always love the view from the Narrows.  Following Highway 16, I went past Gig Harbor and Port Orchard, turned onto Highway 3 going North at Bremerton.  I took a detour to drive through Poulsbo because I hadn’t been for years.  This is a pretty little town with lots of shops and restaurants and I filed it away for a day when I can make it my destination.  At Port Gamble I turned West onto Highway 104 and crossed the Hood Canal Bridge.  Hood Canal Bridge    Hood Canal Bridge

What a beautiful drive so far!  Incredible views of the water, lots of trees, and very little traffic.

I took another detour into Port Ludlow because I had heard about The Resort at Port Ludlow but had not seen it for myself.  I stopped in and the front desk people were kind enough to let me take a look around and even gave me keys to look in 3 different rooms.  This is a lovely resort right on a marina with beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains, Admiralty Inlet and the mouth of Hood Canal.  The Inn at Port Ludlow has just 37 rooms and suites; they have meeting space for up to 60, and would be the ideal setting for an intimate, waterside Wedding.  It would also be a great romantic weekend getaway location for guests from the Seattle / Tacoma area.  The Fireside Restaurant is warm and inviting, and weather permitting; you can sit out on the deck.      There is a beautiful lawn area on the water side of the resort with chairs and benches; I could see myself sitting out here enjoying the sun and salt air with a good book for a few hours.  One of the meeting rooms looks out onto this view; it would be hard for me to keep focused on business details while looking across this beautiful expanse of lawn.

The rooms are beautiful, with fireplaces, mini-fridge, and large bathrooms with jetted tubs, oversized robes and fabulous views.  I toured a suite that had a huge deck and fabulous view.  The bedroom itself was a little small, but the living area, huge bathroom, and incredible deck more than made up for it.  I also toured 2 Queen Rooms, one with a full bay view and one with a partial view.  These rooms were spacious with a seating area by the fireplace, and the bathroom could be opened up to look out into the room – opening it up even more.

Queen Suite

The staff was very friendly.  The Port Ludlow Golf Club is right there and they offer packages including golf.  They also offer spa treatments right in your guest room.  And the rates are very affordable, starting as low as $129 per night.

Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula

After my tour of The Inn at Port Ludlow, I headed up to Port Townsend.  The Wooden Boat Festival was going on that weekend, so the town was crowded.  I was fortunate to find a parking spot on the street for 2 hours, and set off on foot.  This is an historical town with beautiful architecture was founded in 1792; it is full of shops, restaurants, museums, parks and more.  I was pretty hungry by this time, and wanted to eat where I could look at the water.  I wandered into the Belmont, which was established in 1889 and has a restaurant and hotel. The food and service were very good, although the restaurant itself looked a little tired.  The view was fantastic, and I would recommend eating here if you’re visiting Port Townsend.

After lunch, I wandered around, in and out of shops, took some pictures of the fabulous old buildings, and was intrigued to find a couple of interesting little hotels.  The Swan Hotel is right on the marina and offers wonderful views of both the Olympic and Cascade mountains as well as sea views.  They were completely full so I wasn’t able to see the rooms, but from the outside it was very inviting.  Their sister hotel, The Bishop Victorian Hotel & Gardens is located a couple of blocks inland in the Downtown Historic District.  They, too, were full, but the owners were very inviting and gave me some information and history on both hotels.

Depending on the time of year you visit, you might see whales, bald eagles, and deer.  There are some great wineries in the area, for those wine connoisseurs out there.  There are numerous events and festivals happening throughout the year, including Farmers Markets.

I timed my drive so that I would hit rush hour in Bremerton on the way home.  My advice would be either plan to stay at least until after dinner, or even better spend the night or even a weekend.  You really need that much time to explore this area.

Aloha Beachside B&B – A Little Bit of Hawaii in The Pacific NW

Aloha Beachside B&B Located in Wauna

I had a little time off a couple of weeks ago and decided to do some exploring in my local area.  I had seen signs for the Aloha Beachside Bed & Breakfast, but had never actually seen it.  I wasn’t sure exactly where it was, but it turns out I had driven right past it quite often.

I pulled in without having made an appointment, hoping that I would be able to take a look around.  The owner, Lalaine Wong, being full of the Aloha spirit took the time to show me around, even though she was in the midst of cleaning up after a busy weekend. 

I learned that there are 5 rooms at the Aloha Bed & Breakfast, and all come with a full breakfast.  There are 3 rooms in the main house, and 2 more in the Cabana which is below the main house closer to the beach.

The best room in the main house is the King Kamehameha Room which has views out over the water (even from the tub in the huge bathroom) and direct access to the deck.  This is also called the Honeymoon Suite.  My next choice would be the Queen Liliokalani room which has a nice chaise lounge and working fireplace.  This is a small room near the front door, but it does have it’s own private bath.

The views from the deck on this level are stunning. 

Aloha Beachside B&BAloha Beachside B&B

If you’re traveling with family, the Ohana Room is downstairs and includes a queen bed plus 2 twins; a full living room; a full kitchen and dining area.  It also has a working fireplace. 

The Cabana would be the perfect place for a family or 2 couples traveling together.  It has 2 bedrooms and a shared living room, full kitchen and dining area.  There is a small gazebo outside which would be a perfect place to sit with a book and relax for awhile.  There is also a natural waterfall that can be seen from the deck of the Cabana. 

Aloha Beachside B&B

There are charming touches throughout the property, including a bench at the entry to the cabana. 

Aloha Beachside B&B – Great Choice for a Romantic Getaway

If you are looking for a place close to home to just get away for a night or 2, Aloha Beachside Bed & Breakfast is a great choice.  It is close to Gig Harbor with it’s charming waterfront full of galleries, shops and restaurants.  It is about an hour from Seattle, but will make you feel like you are an ocean away.

Enjoy the Aloha Spirit – Visit Aloha Beachside B&B

And remember, Perfect Paradise Vacations can help you with your plans to stay here.

Anderson Travel Academy – Why Open a Travel School?

Anderson Travel Academy – New Travel School in Gig Harbor 

With all of the options available on the Internet for booking travel, many people are surprised that travel agents still exist.  The truth is, people are coming back to using travel agents big time.  Many people have found that it takes hours of research to plan their trips and that it doesn’t cost extra to use a travel agent, or travel consultant/vacation planner as many of us call ourselves these days.  Just as you would hire an expert in other fields, such as real estate, attorneys, financial planners – hiring a good travel consultant can save you money, time and headaches.

But why would a travel agency owner want to start a travel school.  Wouldn’t the graduates of Anderson Travel Academy become competitors of the agents who work for Anderson Travel?  Marti Anderson, the owner of Anderson Travel, believes that there is plenty of business to go around and I agree.  Also, many traditional travel consultants have been in the business for years and either are retiring or cutting down their hours.  The industry needs new blood. 

Why Would You Attend A Travel School?

Why would someone need to attend a travel school?  There are many host agencies that will let anyone join, there are affiliate programs that have links to online travel agencies, and there are even MLM opportunities that let you buy your own travel website.  Well the truth is, there is a lot more to advising people on their travel and vacation choices then just sending them to a website. 

By attending Anderson Travel Academy, the only travel school in Washington State, you will learn how to work with clients.  You will learn how to access vendors and travel wholesalers and what value they can bring to your business (such as insider secrets, perks for your clients, and travel agency specials that aren’t available to the general public). 

There are so many facets to selling travel.  Many travel consultants specialize in a particular niche – such as a specific destination, cruises, Destination Weddings and Honeymoons, business travel, adventure travel, accessible travel, and more.  The world is a big place and there is no one agent or website that can truly give you the best advice, pricing and planning for every destination. 

So, by attending this new travel school, you can learn how to decide what area of travel you want to specialize in, as well as how to get the best training and contacts for that particular speciality.

Anderson Travel Academy – Article About the new Gig Harbor Travel School

Anderson Travel Academy is designed to teach you the basics of the travel industry, as well as give you some direction as to how to get started in the business.  I work with Anderson Travel as my host agency, but I am really a home based travel consultant with my own business, Perfect Paradise Vacations.  Marti Anderson has been a huge help to me in helping me reach my business goals and I have learned a lot from my association with Anderson Travel.

If you want to learn more about this new Washington State Travel School, check out their website



A Day in Gig Harbor?

Have you been to Gig Harbor lately?

It’s a fun place to spend a sunny day or two.  There really is a lot to see and do in this charming little town.  You can stroll along the waterfront exploring the interesting shops and art galleries.  They have their Art Walk on the first Saturday of every month with spotlighted artists in the galleries.  You can spend most of the day just poking around, from the antique mall, to Java & Clay. to looking at the boats in the marina. to checking out the Harbor History Museum and much more.

If you want to get out on the water you might want to take a tour with Destiny Harbor Tours.  Captain Tom Drohan is an expert on the history of the area, and makes it fun and entertaining.  You will go out of Gig Harbor, under the Narrows Bridge.  Narrows Bridge - Close UpYou’ll also cruise by the interesting community of Salmon Beach and past Point Defiance Park before turning around and heading back to Gig Harbor.  If you’re lucky you might see some eagles Bald Eagleor harbor seals.

Back on land, you’re probably getting hungry.  If you’ve brought the kids, Kelly’s Espresso and Café is a great place to eat.  It’s bright and friendly with a varied menu so there’s something for everyone.  If you like Mexican food, El Pueblito is right across from the water on Harborside Avenue.  If it’s just the grownups, you will definitely want to go to The Tides and sit out on the deck of this historic eatery.  You might also want to venture up the hill away from downtown and check out The Wine Studio – a charming, warm and inviting wine bar and shop.  They have tastings on Friday night and Saturday afternoons.  You might also check out Gig Harbor’s own 7 Seas Brewery.  Both of these are located next to The Inn at Gig Harbor, a good choice if you decide to stay the night (which after tasting wine and beer might be a good idea).  You can book this hotel as well as the Best Western Plus Wesley Inn and Suites on my website.

There is a lot more to do here.  There are parks and beaches, which are always fun for the family.  You can drive out to Key Peninsula to visit Blue Willow Lavendar Farm. There is the Maritime Gig Festival in June, the Gig Harbor Food and Wine Festival in July and more.  Outdoor music in the park on Tuesdays and Movies in the Park on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer.  A good place to find all the happenings is at

So get out and play tourist in your own Pacific Northwest.  I love to explore out area.  We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful place with so many exciting places to see and things to do.

I’m going to Wine a little….

When you think of wine tasting in Washington state, what comes to mind? Walla Walla, theYakima Valley, Woodinville, or maybe even the Port Angeles/Port Townsend area of the Olympic Peninsula?  I have some other suggestions for you. 

I was fortunate a couple of weeks ago to be invited to do a barrel tasting at Mosquito Fleet Winery in Belfair, Washington.  I’m a member of the wine club at The Wine Studio, a charming little wine shop in Gig Harbor.  The new owners, Kirsten and Rich, had arranged this tasting as a special treat for the wine club members.  If you aren’t familiar with this shop, you should check them out.  On Friday evenings they have wineries or distributors come in for wine tastings from 5 – 7.  They have a ladies night on Wednesdays with special prices for the ladies.  And they have other events from time to time.  Even if there is no event going on, it’s a great place to stop in and pick up a bottle or enjoy a glass or two with friends.

You may not have heard of Mosquito Fleet yet, but you will.  They only released 2 varieties for 2009 – a Meritage and a Cabernet Sauvignon – a total of only 217 cases.  They will be bottling their 2010 wines in September and releasing them I believe in February 2013.  This time there will be more varieties and a larger number of cases so it won’t be quite as hard to come by. The 2 couples that own the winery welcomed us and, besides enjoying their fabulous wines and the nice spread of cheeses, fruits, and more, they educated us about their approach to wine making in an informative and entertaining way. 

If you find yourself heading that way, you may want to plan your day to continue on to Shelton to the Walter Dacon Winery.  This is another winery I learned about by going into The Wine Studio for a tasting.  They were tasting 5 different Syrahs – one of my favorite varietals.  I liked all of these wines, including the dessert wine which are usually too sweet for me.

Last night they had Madsen Family Cellars from Olympia come in for a tasting.  I wasn’t able to go, but decided to include them in this post because after visiting Shelton you could continue your tour on to Olympia.  I checked out Madsen’s website and they mention that there are a couple of other wineries in the area so you could make a real day of wine tasting.  One of them is Stottle Winery in Lacey.  Their tasting room is open 5 days a week and your tasting fee is applied to any purchase – I love that!

Northwest Mountain Wines, also located in Olympia, will be having their tasting at The Wine Studio on May 25th.  I’ll be at that one as I’ve got a 5 day weekend off from my “day job”.  They have some interesting sounding wines, including some fruit wines and for the holidays a spiced mead. 

Another winery I visited a couple of months ago is Trillium Creek Winery in LakeBay.  Claude and Claudia were great hosts, with lots of fun stories (I tend to find that most winemakers are fun to be around, hmmmm, I think I’m on to something here.)   They have a charming little tasting room, and Claude will offer you some cheeses to go with the wines as he tells you his philosophy of wine making.  Their wines are sulfite free, and they also have some fruit wines including an interesting Ginger wine.  Their property is beautiful and you can arrange for a tour.  Although their wines are not as full flavored as I like, a visit here is a very enjoyable way to spend an hour or two.

Another local winery I have not visited, but have put on my list as I’m typing this and realizing that I need to do more wine tastings close to home, is Olalla Valley Vineyard and Winery in Olalla, Washington.  They also have several varietals as well as some fruit wines.

So, if you enjoy wine, are looking for something to do one day, why not visit one or more of these local wineries.  Just make sure you have a designated driver or taste and spit which seems like such a waste of good wine to me.

Destiny Harbor Tours – Gig Harbor, WA

I met Captain Tom Drohan through my local Chamber of Commerce.  He always has some info regarding his business, Destiny Harbor Tours with him and is happy to share.  I’d been wanting to go out on his boat, but finding the time during the good weather (especially with the “summer” we’ve been having in the NW this year) was difficult.  Finally today I decided if I didn’t just go, I wouldn’t make it until next year.  The weather report was saying that today was the last really nice day for the foreseeable future.

I decided it would be fun for my nephew to go with me.  He is 11 and was complaining about being bored today.  So, we headed down to the Rent-A-Boat dock by Anthony’s Restaurant and got onboard. 

This is a fabulous place to start the tour, from the very inside of the harbor.  You can see the new Harbor History Museum, you sail past the marinas, net sheds, Skansie Brothers park, The Tides Tavern, and the Lighthouse.  Captain Tom is very knowledgeable about the area and talks about the history while pointing out sites of interest.

Once out of the Harbor, we headed towards the Narrows Bridges.  This is a unique experience, seeing them from underneath and watching the cars go across.  We stopped just after we passed under and Tom told the story of Galloping Gertie.  He calls the current bridges Sturdy Gertie and New Gertie, although he said that people tell him he should call the newest one Thirdy Gertie since it is the 3rd span built there. 

Tom also pointed out the Wurlitzer mansion and another house with (I believe) a squash court set into the side of the cliff.  Amazing.  Along this shore we saw a couple of seals and an Osprey.  We went as far as Point Fosdick so that we could get a look at the Olympic Mountains.  They were pretty hazy, but we could see them. 

We then headed back under the bridges and past Salmon Beach.  This is a very interesting little community.  There are no roads down to these houses.  You must park up above and take stairs down.  The houses are fabulous – mixed big new houses, with the small bungalows that started it all.


After Salmon Beach we passed Point Defiance Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country.  Along the beaches here we saw people enjoying small private spaces.  On one beach were some people with their dog.  We saw a couple of seals here, watching the dog.  As we got closer, they ducked under the water and disappeared.

Just past here we saw an eagle soaring overhead and then spotted another one in a tree. 

Then it was time to head back to the Harbor.  We motored quite quickly back until we had to slow down entering the harbor.  There were lots of boats out enjoying this perfect, Northwest summer day.  Soon we were at the dock and our tour was over. 

I would recommend this tour to anyone, whether a local or visiting from out of the area.  You probably want to bring a light jacket, as even on a day as nice as today it got a little chilly out on the water.  A camera is a must, and binoculars would be a good idea.  The best places to sit are probably the very back or towards the front where you can stand up to see.  The seats are benches along the sides and back of the boat, so while sitting on the side you have to twist a lot to see everything.  Otherwise, it was a fabulous way to spend an afternoon.

Great Gig Harbor Day

I was disappointed to wake up this morning to the rain.  I was planning for a nice day, mowing the lawn, maybe giving Sherman a bath, and enjoying some warm spring sunshing out on the deck.  It took me a while to get motivated to do anything, but finally got a couple of indoor chores out of the way. 

Around 12:15 my niece/roommate mentioned that she and her son were going to Kelly’s for lunch.  That sounded good – I’d been feeling a little hungry and thinking about what to have for lunch.  I said I’d meet them there as we had different plans for the rest of the day.  For those of you who don’t know, Kelly’s Cafe and Espresso on Pioneer Way right in the heart of Gig Harbor has been voted best breakfast, best burger and I’m sure they have gotten a bunch of other bests over the years.  Great prices, great location, they now serve breakfast all day (a plus as far as my 11 year old nephew is concerned).  This is a great casual, family dining spot.  I have never had a bad meal here, although sometimes when they are busy (as they were today) the service can be a little slow.  But the food is worth the wait!

Today I had the Albacore Tuna Melt with dill havarti cheese on scrumptious sourdough bread.  I chose a green salad instead of fries.  I could only finish half the sandwich, but just had the leftovers for dinner – just as good leftover as when it was served at the restaurant.  For $8.99 I would highly recommend this sandwich.

When I arrived at Kelly’s, I had noticed a sign across the street at The Keeping Room advertising wine tasting from 1 – 4.  I’ve been here before, it is a great little gift / wine shop with a very welcoming attitude.  They were featuring some northwest wines today and Art was pouring.  I started with a San Juan Riesling – I’m not usually a riesling person because they are so sweet, but this was good.  There was also a Willamette Valley Chardonnay (not my fave), a Pinot Noir and a chocolate port.  I’m not a port person, but this was pretty tasty. 

I left and dropped some books at the library then stopped at the Verizon Store on Pt. Fosdick.  I am not very techy and had not been able to configure my Blackberry with my Bluetooth and was having some other issues as well.  A couple of the young folks there helped me out – Thanks! – you know who you are (sorry I didn’t get your names).  Then we got to talking travel and I could have stayed awhile, but they had other customers to help.  Plus, I had to get that tuna melt home to the fridge.

I came home for awhile, but then while checking status updates on Facebook I saw that  The Wine Studio had some wine left from their tasting yesterday and that 7 Seas Brewery was having their Can Release Party.  I had forgotten all about that.

If you have not been to The Wine Studio, you really should stop in and meet the owner, Diana Becks.  Her shop is warm and inviting, just like she is.  Tastings are listed on her website, and she also will allow you to take over and host a private event.  I had stopped in yesterday and tried the Onyx wines from South Africa and they were all good, although I did have my favorites.  Diana stocks a great variety of wines, all price ranges, domestic and imported.  And she can special order just about anything you would like. 

By the time I left there it was about 5:40 and the 7 Seas Brewery party was scheduled to end at 6PM.  It was still raining, but I had not been to their tasting room so I decided to make the stop.  I wish I had arrived earlier.  There was still quite a crowd, but the event was definitely winding down.  They had music, food and of course, great beer.  The live music and food were done when I arrived, but I did try one of their new cans of British Pale Ale and enjoyed it.  I hung out under one of the canopies and visited with some other folks – it would have been better if the sun was shining, but it was a great event anyway.  I didn’t have a chance to meet the owners, Mike & Travis, but after tasting their beer I’ll be stopping in again when they aren’t so busy. 

So, that’s how I spent a rainy day in Gig Harbor.  I look forward to getting out and about on a sunny day soon.