Unique Inns

One of the best ways to enjoy a stay in the state of Washington is at one of the local bed-and-breakfast establishments. Here, Travel Agent looks at three properties that provide a quaint “inn-style” experience—and on top of that, they also pay commission, which is a policy written into the bylaws of Unique Inns, the North American bed-and-breakfast innkeeping organization to which they belong. Unique Inns has 45 members throughout British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California.

Willows Inn

Willows Inn serves organic food and participates in the Slow Food Movement.

Willows Inn is in the San Juan Islands, accessible by a six-minute ferry ride from Bellingham. The cozy property, which is on Lummi Island, has eight rooms, all with private entrances, showers, fireplaces and covered decks. Of note is the Guest House, which has two king beds; two bathrooms, one with a walk-in steam shower; and a full kitchen. Contact innkeepers Riley Starks and Judy Olsen at [email protected] to discuss the unique qualities of each room or to elaborate on the island’s activities, such as exploring the nearby beaches, whale watching and kayaking.

Rates, which run from $145 to $310, include a full farm-style breakfast. Be sure to tell clients that The Willows Inn serves “organic fine dining” and is a fan of the burgeoning Slow Food movement, which was launched to counteract “fast food and fast life.” As a result, organic produce, pastured chicken eggs and fresh-caught salmon and other seafood are regularly served at the property. Additionally, the inn, which can be bought out for weddings and corporate retreats, provides a package called the “Agritourism Experience,” which allows guests to work with a Nettles Farm intern. At the end of the day, they can enjoy the fruits of their labor at the restaurant and take home a box of produce to enjoy. The program costs $95 per person and requires a two-night minimum stay.

Shelburne inn

The Shelburne Inn in Seaview is near the longest beach in North America.

The Shelburne Inn in Seaview is near the longest beach in North America on the Long Beach Peninsula, in the extreme southwest portion of Washington. This location makes it a sanctuary for nature lovers who also adore lighthouses, ocean vistas and a forest setting. The inn has 13 guest rooms and two suites. Of note is Suite #17 for its French doors that lead out onto a deck overlooking the herb garden. There’s also a separate sitting area and a bedroom, all furnished with European and American antiques and fine art. Wireless Internet is available throughout the inn. Dining is a dream at The Shelburne, thanks to the fact that the highly acclaimed Shoalwater Restaurant and Heron & Beaver Pub are on its ground floor. Both restaurants specialize in incorporating fresh local products with rich, interesting flavors. Innkeepers David Campiche and Laurie Anderson serve guests a daily breakfast. Contact Anderson ([email protected], 360-642-2442) for insider details on when and what to book. Rates run from $135 to $279.

Shelburne inn

A guest room at the Shelburne Inn has French doors that lend to a quaint atmosphere.

For a more urban experience, the Inn at El Gaucho in Seattle is in the city’s ultra-hip Belltown, which has evolved from an industrial-style arts district to an area that is now considered trendy for its restaurants, boutiques and galleries. The Inn at El Gaucho is actually the brainchild of Paul Mackay, the founder of El Gaucho Steakhouse, above which the inn sits, boasting 18 Junior Luxury Suites with plasma-screen TVs and other high-tech amenities. Of note is Room #8, a 400-square-foot corner suite with views of Elliott Bay (think Sleepless in Seattle). The inn is currently offering a “Teatro ZinZanni” package, which includes accommodations in a Belltown Junior Suite; two tickets to Teatro ZinZanni, a three-hour international circus, comedy and cabaret, which includes five-course dinner; town car transportation to and from the show, and continental breakfast. The offer is valid through August 31 for $429, plus tax. Room rates typically run from $175 to $345. Contact Dominique Calle ([email protected]) or Britney Johnson ([email protected]) for reservations.