Seattle might be known for its elective mix of edgy music, top-notch dining and the Jetson-esque Space Needle, but what you didn’t know is that just 30 minutes’ drive from downtown is serious Washington wine country. And in the middle of that wine country is a boutique spa hotel that’s got a world-class reputation. Ask any Seattleite and they’ll say a weekend at Willows Lodge is pure decadence for all your senses.
Traveller: Lisa Perkovic
Room: Nicest suite
Address: 14580 NE 145th Street, Woodinville, Washington State, USA
Date: April 2019
Best for: Couples looking to treat themselves with fine wine, fine dining, fireplaces and a fair amount of pampering without having to leave the property.
The Signature Factor
The food. Willows Lodge is home to not one but two award-winning restaurants: The Herbfarm and The Barking Frog. You’ll crisscross the driveway, through an old tree stump that sits in the middle (yes, it’s big enough to walk through) many times during your stay. Secure your reservation at The Herbfarm before you book your room, because this AAA 5 Diamond award-winning restaurant’s nine-course degustation dinners are a nationwide treasure.
If you like cosy fireplaces and sprawling country gardens, this is your home away from home. The 84-room property sits on two hectares of manicured lands tucked between Washington’s wineries and the Sammamish River. It’s halfway between an English country manor and an American mountain lodge, with quaint kitchen gardens and pigs and chickens, alongside outdoor firepits, open-air hot tubs and bike trails.
This is a lodge dedicated to easy luxury; check-in begins with a crisp glass of local chardonnay. We arrive late afternoon, so we linger in the appropriately named Fireside lobby bar, where a live four-piece band has a bunch of merry Seattleites who have fled the city for the weekend losing their big city stress one song at a time. The lodge is the exact opposite of a quiet, chic spa retreat, with strangers scooching over so you’ve got a seat by the big fire before recommending their favourite dishes from the lodge restaurants.
There are no below average rooms at Willows Lodge – literally, room categories are named ‘Nice’, ‘Nicer’, ‘Nicest’. Each has an electric fireplace and Wi-Fi, and Nicer categories and above have views out to the gardens.
Plenty of special occasions are celebrated at Willows Lodge, and the Nicest suites are perfect for couples looking to hide away from the world with king-size bed, living area, dining space, balcony and fireplace. The best feature is the double-sized deep soak Jacuzzi tubs, but the icing on the cake is a TV built into the bathroom mirror.
On my plate
The best of the Pacific North West. We hop across the driveway to Barking Frog for dinner, where another fireplace sits right in the centre of one of the tables; with a big metal flue going all the way up to the ceiling, it’s one of the most dramatic table centrepieces we’ve seen in some time. However, it’s quickly clear the real drama happens on the plate. Chef Bobby Moore’s team uses local ingredients wherever possible, so expect to see Northwest mushrooms, quail, truffles and local oysters on the menu. The egg yolk ravioli with house-made sausage has a dedicated local following, the Hawaiian ahi and beef short rib takes the term surf’n’turf up a notch, and the deconstructed apple crumble seems to be on every table the night we dine.
Highlights from the mini-bar
The mini-bar has all your standard offerings, but it’s the miniature glass bottles of Barking Frog maple syrup that we can’t stop thinking about. Served with the huckleberry pancakes at breakfast, it’s almost too cute to use but too good not to.
I wish I could take home…
The miniature glass bottle of maple syrup. Luckily, in classic American hospitality, the staff are quick to offer to box up the leftovers from our enormous stack of pancakes, and without being asked, add in a fresh bottle of maple syrup for the road.
It feels almost sacrilegious to stay at Willows Lodge without adding in a visit to the spa. Located just off the main lodge entrance, we can practically smell the relaxation each time we walk past it, with guests booking in for facials, hot stone massages and body wraps. If you don’t have time for a treatment, save half an hour to pop into the outdoor Jacuzzis free for all guests to use. Set among a Japanese stone garden, it’s divine.
The majority of guests do stay in, choosing to enjoy the grounds, the hot tub and the outdoor fire pits with a glass of local wine.
Across the road from Willows are the sprawling grounds of the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. It’s one of the most renowned wineries in the region, so pop in early to try the 30-minute tour and tasting.
Fireside’s happy hour fills up fast so get in early. If you can’t get a dinner reservation at the restaurants, the bar has a solid menu of dishes that will keep you fed and happy.
The restaurants have their own slew of awards, but the lodge itself has been a AAA – 4 Diamond rated property every year since 2011 and was named one of the top 10 best resort hotels in the West by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2016.
Higher level suites have stair access only, an issue for those with mobility issues and for those who may have overpacked and feel guilty when the young staff have to gallantly hoist your large suitcases to your room.
We could linger longer and have brought our fur babies. Willows Lodge is pet-friendly, with staff keeping dog treats behind the counter for four-legged guests’ check-in.
Where to find Willows Lodge
Seattle skyscrapers give way to suburbs, which give way to Willows Lodge at 14580 NE 145th Street, Woodinville, Washington State, USA.