Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Alderbrook Resort & Spa

Alderbrook has it all: beaches, lawn activities, hiking, dining and well-appointed cottages. (Photos by Molly White)

Parent review: a weekend on Hood Canal at Alderbrook Resort & Spa

It's not cheap, but it's comfortable, fun and full of kid-friendly activities.

We had just one unscheduled weekend left in our summer itinerary, and I was eager to make the most of it.

I was looking to book something special, maybe even a bit indulgent. Recently our family had been escaping the city by heading to the Cascades. For something new, I searched for a family-friendly accommodation in the other direction, on the Hood Canal and Olympic Peninsula. My toddler has mixed feelings about long drives (her reaction to the car seat has convinced us she’s destined for opera). So, I was looking for something close — not as far as the Washington’s coast.

Alderbrook Resort & Spa — a historical and luxurious resort and spa located less than two hours from Seattle on the Hood Canal, fit the bill in every respect. I called them and was lucky enough to snag a single night in one of their waterfront cottages. We decided to camp on Hood Canal the second night and make it a weekend getaway.

Hood Canal is not actually a canal, but rather a fjord, which is defined as a long, narrow, deep saltwater inlet between high cliffs formed by the submergence of a glaciated valley. It’s the only fjord in the Lower 48 states, and formed 13,000 years ago when the Cordilleran Ice Sheet retreated. The glacial lake of the Skokomish valley then edged downward and joined with the fjord, creating the L-shaped channel that exists today. We were excited to explore this unique and relatively unpopulated area of Washington, and Alderbrook turned out to be the ideal jumping-off point.

Getting there

We waded through a really unpleasant amount of traffic getting out of the city on a Friday, but once we made it to Alderbrook we were greeted by exactly what our city-weary psyches needed. There were expansive meandering gardens of native plants, a kid heaven of beach and grassy lawns, yard games and every imaginable comfort within our very own little home-for-the-night on the beach.

The cottage was appointed with thoughtful and sophisticated interior design and amenities, all place-specific. Nothing felt generic. Throughout the cottage, little notes greeted us, explaining the nautical history of the resort (for a long time it was only reachable by boat). The kids found a string and instruction card showing them how to tie a figure-eight knot. My toddler and I indulged in a peaceful few moments doodling in a pretty sketchbook placed by the front windows. Local art is hung on the walls, and there are many opportunities to learn about the special ecosystems of Hood Canal. The authenticity and quality of the grounds and the accommodations was way beyond the norm, and I enjoyed soaking it all in.

Alderbrook Resort & Spa

What to do at Alderbrook Resort & Spa

The kids endlessly entertained themselves with beach combing (so many oyster shells!), water play, kayaks, lawn games (badminton, soccer, bocce ball, croquet and corn hole). Their favorite feature of the resort, however, was the free s’mores makings. My husband and I appreciated the dedicated firepit the resort provides for this: Our kids could run wild with their sticks and chocolate-covered faces without bothering the quieter groups of people sitting around the main patio fire.

The second day we explored the nature trails, and the saltwater pool and hot tub. The pool and hot tub are located within a beautiful glass building overlooking the beach. A verdant garden surrounds it, and plants also enliven the interior. It feels like a spacious, historical greenhouse. It is wonderful and refreshing, and the kids enjoyed every second of their time in the water. The resort reserves a few hours each day for adult swim only, so we felt zero guilt letting our kids squeal and play enthusiastically during their time at the pool.

The trail system at Alderbrook meanders through their forested 84-acre property and includes several miles of trails. It is a reason in and of itself to make a trip to Alderbrook. It’s great for short adult hikes, trail runs and for getting young children onto hiking trails with ease. The trails are impeccably maintained, and they are simple to navigate, with clearly marked signage that corresponds well to the paper maps available at the front desk. There are many beautifully crafted wooden bridges and lookout points along the trails. In addition, there are signs explaining all kinds of interesting facts about the local trees, berries, and the beautiful spring-fed Alderbrook Creek that cuts its way down the landscape.

Alderbrook Resort & Spa

The hiking is easy and interesting around Alderbrook.

If that’s not enough entertainment to keep your group motivated, before hitting the trails ask the front desk about their private geocacheing course, or grab a booklet for a self-guided Shinrin Yoku forest mediation. This is an excellent destination if you are just getting your family into hiking for the first time. On these trails you can discover big rewards with basically zero logistical stress or planning. To me, that is worth a lot!

Whether staying overnight or just visiting the restaurant or spa for the day, check about the day’s schedule of activities. These are reasonably priced and open to the community (not just overnight guests). Examples include waterfront yoga, and kayaking and paddle boarding at their waterfront center. Activities change based on time of year, vendor availability and seasonality.

The dining room at Alderbrook is sophisticated yet still kid-friendly.

Where to eat while at Alderbrook

Make dining reservations early so you don’t miss the superb restaurant at Alderbrook. The ambiance is sophisticated and many tables have water views, but it is also sufficiently spacious to be family-friendly. (Your rambunctious kids won’t be bumping elbows with folks at other tables.) Expect fresh, local spins on all the classics, and an assortment of healthy and hearty choices. We were not visiting during optimal shellfish season, but the oyster dish we tried was delicious. For a breakfast indulgence, be sure to check out the “morning patisserie” section that is sure to please even the pickiest sweet tooth. (We gobbled a chocolate-hazelnut cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting and tart cherry glaze.)

Skip the patio dining menu. The food is assembled in a small area behind an outdoor bar and the quality of the food is variable, at best. If you want to dine outdoors, order takeout from the main restaurant. The small difference in price is worth every penny.

Another great option for quick kid-friendly bites midday: the generously-sized and delicious $5 hot dogs from the little food cart located just outside the pool and fitness center. This cart is usually open during peak pool hours and it also serves ice cream, chips and soda. Kids can even use tokens to get these snacks at their whim.

Alderbrook Resort & Spa: the prices

Rates for rooms and cottages change daily depending on availability, view and season. Low-season rates for rooms start at $169, and rates for cottages start at $399. High-season rates for rooms start at $209, while rates for cottages start at $599.

Alderbrook: what’s nearby

While you’re in the area, take a day trip to Hama Hama Oyster and Tree Farm, a family-run sustainable farm in its fifth generation. Their Oyster Saloon, located on Highway 101 in Lilliwap, is a festive and family-friendly outdoor venue for a casual yet supurb meal right on the beach. Many of their tables sit under rustic wooden A-frame structures, offering protection from rain and sun. During the high season the saloon is open most days from noon to 5 p.m., but call or check their website for details. It’s also a good idea to make a reservation if you want a table.

Another great option for bites near the water is the Union City Market (shown at right), where on Sundays you can enjoy live music on a pleasant waterfront patio.

More nearby getaways in Seattle’s Child:

Parent review: Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth

Cabins at Cama Beach State Park: just the escape you’re looking for

Explore our full Family Travel section

About the Author

Molly White

Molly White is a biologist and writer. She grew up in Washington, Alaska and Scotland. She currently lives in Seattle, where she and her three young children enjoy spending an uncivilized amount of time outdoors. On their adventures through the wild landscapes and waterways of the Pacific Northwest, they learn together about all the important things.