From Oregon to Alaska, the Pacific Northwest is known for its rocky, evergreen shorelines and cobalt-blue waters. Don’t let the October-to-April rainy season deter you; the region’s dramatic views and huge swaths of pristine wilderness make it prime boating territory.
And while it’s true that your heater might see more use than your air conditioning, a Boston Whaler is the perfect vessel for exploring these parts. Whether you’re starting in Boise or British Columbia, Portland or Port Angeles, consider the following destinations for your next boating adventure.
San Juan Islands
Rich in history, rare wildlife and peaceful, secluded anchorages, Washington’s San Juan Islands — all 172 of them — are paradise for boaters. As the only four with ferry service, San Juan, Orcas, Shaw and Lopez Islands are the most populous, with charming hamlets tucked into tree-lined shores straight off of a postcard.
More remote spots like Matia and Patos Islands offer limited mooring, but what they lack in amenities they more than make up for in natural beauty. Pack your hiking boots to take advantage of miles and miles of forest trails, pull into Friday Harbor for espresso and farm-fresh dining, or just set your navigation system to “roam” and take in the endless scenery.
Tucked between Lake Washington and the Puget Sound, Seattle offers a virtually infinite number of boating experiences. The Sound’s many islands and inlets are best reached by Whaler, just as looming Mount Rainier is best viewed from the cockpit. Boating rituals abound here (just Google “Duck Dodge” or “Husky Sailgating”), and Lake Union’s tightknit houseboat community is a distinctly Seattle phenomenon.
The Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission has the largest state-managed mooring system in the U.S., with more than 40 marine parks and 8,500 feet of public moorage space. For an easy half-day trip, head across Elliott Bay to Bainbridge Island for amazing views of the Seattle skyline; dock at Waterfront Park and explore the town’s boutiques and cafes. Or plan a full-day trip to the Port of Poulsbo, a city known as “Little Norway” for its proud Scandinavian heritage; the large Poulsbo Marina has 130 guest slips (in addition to 254 permanent slips) and a full array of amenities.
Follow the path of explorers Lewis and Clark down the Columbia and enjoy a unique vantage point of Washington on one side and Oregon on the other. You’ll be in good company: The river is frequented by all variety of freighters, sailboats and fishing trawlers, along with the brave windsurfers who take advantage of the 40-mile-per-hour easterlies that blow through from mid-September to late March.
Similarly diehard anglers fish the region for sturgeon in the winter, and salmon and steelhead in the summer months, when the winds tend to be calmer and the temperatures hover between the 70s and 80s. With more than 40 launch ramps and marinas in pleasant ports from Astoria to Hood River and beyond, you’ll find ample opportunities to chat with locals and stock up on supplies for your own expedition.
Located on the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Yaquina River, roughly two-and-a-half hours southwest of Portland by land, Newport has long been oriented toward sailing. In fact, it was named after another sailing hub — Newport, Rhode Island — by Sam Case, who in 1866 opened the town’s first resort.
Today, Newport is home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Oregon Coast History Center, among other family-friendly attractions. If you visit, be sure to sample the local crab, or even try your hand at crabbing in the Yaquina Bay; “The Dungeness Capital of the World” takes its trademarked nickname very seriously.
Wherever your adventures may lead, you can’t go wrong if you’re traveling by Whaler, surrounded by a uniquely Northwestern palette of emerald green and Pacific blue.