Autumn Escape

Rustic luxury in a spectacular natural setting makes this cozy Northwest resort your ultimate fall getaway.

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The trip to Alderbrook Resort & Spa may be a long one from Charlotte, but it’s a beautiful adventure. Tucked into the evergreen forest-covered hills alongside Washington State’s Hood Canal, this picturesque resort is ideal for an autumn escape. While you can drive directly from Seattle’s airport—it’s a pleasant 1.5 hours through bucolic small towns and state parks—for the ultimate Pacific Northwest excursion, take one of the region’s famed ferries.

You’ll board (with your rental car) in downtown Seattle, at the docks just a few blocks from Pike Place market. The ferry ride, which takes approximately an hour, chugs across Elliot Bay and offers stunning panoramic views of the Seattle skyline before winding by Bainbridge Island where sprawling estates line the beaches. Ultimately, the ferry docks in the small town of Bremerton, and from there you’ll drive for around 30 minutes through wooded countryside and wetlands, and eventually alongside the Hood Canal to Alderbrook.

The site of the resort has featured some sort of retreat for more than 100 years. As early as 1913, it was a tent camp that could only be reached by boat. Shortly after World War II, the property was developed as a conference center before being rebuilt in 2001 as a lodge and cabins. Today, with its dark wooden beams, tall windows, towering pines, and manicured grounds, it’s an ideal mix of rustic elegance.

A warm fireplace greets guests entering the two-story lobby where you’re likely to find a budding artist painting in one corner and children playing a game of checkers in another. Soft couches beckon for curling up fireside with a book and the view from a wall of windows. You’ll quickly find that there are plenty of inviting spots like this around the resort.

Most of the lodge rooms—there are 77 total—have large balconies and patios, as well as plush window seats. The resort’s 16 cottages feature front porches with views of the canal. And fireplaces and fire pits seem to be everywhere. Settle in to one of the Adirondack chairs next to the flickering fire pits on the lawn, where a glass of wine pairs perfectly with expansive views of the canal’s tranquil water and the peaks of Olympic National Forest beyond. Or you can cozy up beneath an arbor filled with the brilliant red and gold hues of fall beside the roaring fireplace in the resort’s gardens.

Relaxing lazily is easy at Alderbrook. Book some time in its spa for treatments like the Canal Contrast, which includes marine algae exfoliation followed by warm and cool volcanic stones, all designed to leave you refreshed and serene. Or, for the ultimate Washington State fall facial, try the Apple Refresher, which uses an apple enzyme treatment to clear your skin and leave you glowing.

Of course, there’s plenty for the more active traveler to do here as well. Start your morning with an autumn leaf-peeping walk along the resort’s trails, which slowly wind up to just above the lodge, offering views of the canal and the mountains beyond. After your walk, head out to the dock where you can rent kayaks, sailboats, motorboats, and even Hydrobikes. These are your best bets for getting up close with the canal’s wildlife, which ranges from jumping fish and playful seals to majestic whales.

The resort also boasts a par-72 golf course lined with tall fir trees and offering picturesque views, as well as tennis courts adjacent to the course. The serious adventurer can book an excursion through Hood Canal Events (www.hoodcanalevents.com) for guided hiking or kayaking. Just leave some time for a swim at the end of the day. Alderbrook’s heated pool and hot tub are in a glass enclosure that offers some of the resort’s best views as the sun sinks over the canal.

After a day of local activities you’ll want to settle in for an evening of local fare at Alderbrook’s waterfront restaurant. From artisanal cheese to fresh clams pulled straight from the beach at the resort, the menu is regional and flavorful. It changes often, but be sure to indulge in a half-dozen of whichever chilled oysters on the half shell are in season with a crisp glass of Washington Sauvignon Blanc.

As the cool evening settles in, pull up a seat again around one of the resort’s beachside fires. This time, listen to the softly lapping water and soak in the star-filled sky as you toast marshmallows and enjoy that favorite childhood treat: gooey s’mores. It’s a sweet ending to another day at Alderbrook. 

Photos courtesy of Alderbrook Resort.