Captain wifey and I have been really excited to check out the newly relocated MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) here in Seattle. The new location is perfect - nestled in the South Lake Union neighborhood, right next to the Center for Wooden Boats, there's restaurants, it's close to the Space Needle and the Seattle Center, there is free parking around the corner, it's on the lake, and the museum is about stuff we're interested in - boats, the Northwest, & Northwest history.
Also, before I got into teaching (my current day job) I worked a little in the museum world. After spending hours on the museum floor and interacting with guests it was easy to see both what works, and the many challenges local museums face. From that experience I can say that the new MOHAI was carefully thought out by people who know museums - it shows.
Another cool thing about the location of the museum is its access to Lake Union from Lake Union Park. There are boat tie-ups everywhere - you could actually sail up, tie-up, go to the museum, eat lunch, and sail off into the sunset (that may be wishful thinking, the actual tie-up rules are a little confusing, read more here & I'd call ahead). It is also right across the water from the new-ish kayak put-in (pictured below). We've set off from here in the past.
It seems there's always something going on around the outside of the museum - from FarmBoat drop-offs, to toy sailing races, to the carving of a traditional Native American canoe (check out the plans for a new Northwest Native Canoe Center at Lake Union Park!).
Once you head into the museum you'll be in a giant great room. This building used to be a Naval Reserve Armory back in the day. The museum has a open layout in the middle with exhibits on multiple floors in the rooms along all sides of the building.
One of the highlights of the great room is John Grade's massive wooden sculpture "Wawona". It was made from old planks salvaged from the hull of a ship (named Wawona). It actually extends below the floor into the lake and above the ceiling/on the roof…it's amazing.
There's lots of hands on stuff (a.k.a. great for kids). Touch screens galore, a periscope on the top floor with views of lake and city, railroads to pound on, things to turn, pull, push, & move. Make sure to try the educational old-school slot machine!
The exhibits are nicely organized, not too cramped (with artifacts), and there is a nice flow. Lots of cool stuff. Definitely worth the visit!
~Paul & Amber ETC
P.S. The food at the cafe is good and reasonably priced - you could museum it up, have lunch, then go back for more...
Vashon Island. Heard of it? We have. Every Sunday we head over to our local Ballard Farmers Market (Ballard is a neighborhood in Seattle) and buy our meat from the Vashon Island butcher there. The legend is that his animals are raised on a beautiful & quaint island just a 20 minute ferry ride from West Seattle. An island we've always known about but have never visited. This island must be farmy - the Sea Breeze Farm produces eggs, meat, & milk that is sold year round at the University & Ballard farmers markets here in the city.
I imagined farms and trees. Maybe some hills? A lot of my cyclist friends speak of riding the ferry over to Vashon (that's the pretty part) then biking up a giant hill that leads to town (that's the sweaty part).
Well, we explored the island last weekend in the winter sun (remember the sunny Saturday?). We found farms, hills, lighthouses, coffee roasters, exercise bikes, marinas, lots of kayak put-ins…but no UFOs (that's a different Vashon legend we'll talk about later).
Town is cool. Lots of restaurants, some of them a little wacky. A local movie theater, a music store, hardware store…lots of shopping. Restaurants for breakfast, lunch & dinner, coffee. Spend some time walking around with coffee in hand - make sure to check out the Treasure Island consignment shop - it's awesome and full of every vintage thing you could imagine.
Other notable stores? We like Island Quilter…my wife loves it because she's a quilter and loves to browse fabric (Katie from Sewkatiedid was there!). I also found it intriguing due to the Luke Haynes feature - I was pulled in by his giant Kanye/Jay-Z quilt in the window. I'll say that again - Jay-Z on a quilt…in a quilt store.
We grabbed a quick bite in town at Pure Organic Cafe. I had a coconut smoothie, my wife had some warm Ginger Tea, and we shared a giant piece of leafy pizza.
Just down the road a mile from the shopping district is a historic coffee roaster with tons of Northwest history. Long story short - this used to be Seattle's Best Coffee but now it's independent…and yummy. It's the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. You can spend time here browsing the mini-museum scattered around the cafe and shop, shop for tea, herbs, groceries, beer, and of course, coffee. It is a great pit-stop for cyclists or for anyone who loves a good cup of Joe. Next door is a little grocery shop (Minglement - pictured below) with gifts, oils, food, and other goodies.
Keep driving south from the coffee & you'll hit Quartermaster Harbor. We went left over the portage, towards Maury Island & Dockton. At the intersection of Dockton Rd SW & Portage Way SW you'll find one of the many mysteries on the island…the abandoned exercise bikes on Tramp Harbor.
From there we continued onto Maury Island (not really an island anymore since the Army Corps of Engineers filled in the bridge connecting it to Vashon back in the day). It's absolutely worth stopping by the Point Robinson Lighthouse, pictured below, and we also found a nice kayak put-in at the Dockton Marina.
Maury Island has some fun history too - my favorite is the 1947 alleged UFO sighting. The Maury Island incident as it's called, created a lot of buzz in the media and was one of the first UFO/Flying Saucer sightings (it was even before Roswell)…It was also one of the first mentions of the Men in Black…read more here…Some folks are even making a movie about the incident! Support that project and learn more here...and remember, you didn't hear it from me:)
Heading back over the portage leads you towards the other side of Quartermaster Harbor to the community of Burton. They also have a marina and a nice little marina-grocery store with boaty provisions. Jensen Point is the best kayak launch-site over here, and in the summer you can even rent boats for the hour, day, or longer. Look for full-moon paddles on Quartermaster Harbor in the summer months, 5 days each month around the full-moon.
Worth a day trip from Seattle? Yes! Did we even see every park and kayak put-in on the island? No! Will we be back to paddle? For sure.
~Paul & Amber ETC
We thought we'd take one more little paddle on our quick-trip to the coast North Carolina last Fall- a visit to the quaint little town of Beaufort. First of all, this ain't no South Carolinian town of Beaufort (bew-fert)…this here is Beaufort (boh-fert - soft -t at the end there). Glad we cleared that up.
Beaufort is a scenic, quiet, & friendly seaport village near the southern section of the Outer Banks. From our point of view it is perfect - cute small town with nice restaurants and places to explore on foot, cool history, and some great paddling nearby. The town's Front street is just across a skinny waterway (Taylor Creek) with the Rachel Carson Coastal Reserve on the other side - an awesome sanctuary to explore by kayak (wild ponies anyone?).
Added bonus: the town was once upon a time a hangout for some special guests…pirates. Blackbeard had been to the town and although he wasn't that impressed back in the 18th century, his beloved ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, grounded & eventually sank near Beaufort. They recently found her & the Maritime Museum in Beaufort gets first dibs on all of the artifacts being resurrected from the sea. Arrr.
You get a taste of the history of this place when you check out the Beaufort Historic Site. Located right in the middle of the historic part of town, the site has several historic buildings/houses to explore. Gorgeous stuff.
There's lots of other places to check out in town - we stopped by the Beaufort Coffee Shop (Cru Bar & Coffee Shop) for a cup of Joe. When you're on the road in the South and you hear the sound of a real espresso machine you go there...we're from Seattle after all! We also strolled the General Store & Taylor's Creek Antiques.
While walking along the waterfront in town you'll notice signs for the Rachel Carson Reserve - just across the Creek.
After exploring town we finally drove down a few minutes to a nice boat launch. We launched from the Beaufort boating access ramp on Lennoxville Road. There was a parking lot and it turned out to be a great place to set off. We paddled against the current eastward (which felt like northward), out past the end of Carrot Island. The current was pretty swift here. Without too much planning, we always paddle against the current first - that way it's an easy ride back (you don't want to try it the other way around!).
As you paddle, there are great beach houses and nice boats to check out on the mainland side, and pretty wildlife scenes from the reserve on the other. A reserve boardwalk, pictured below, is right across the creek from the boat launch. Taking it gives you views of the other side of the island.
The put-in is also right next to The Boathouse & Front Street Village - a future residential area with boat storage, marina, boat fuel, groceries, and more. There is a lot planned for this area, check out more here. For us, it was a great place to grab a snack after our paddle & check out the old fishing net wheel, left over from when this was once part of Beaufort Fisheries.
Do we recommend a visit to Beaufort? For sure. Great paddling and a quaint, historic town…perfect! Just don't call it Bew-fert.
~Paul & Amber ETC
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