Check out the rest of our 26 Best Lakeside Getaways in the Northwest here.
Quirky, historic and...therapeutic? That’s Soap Lake in a nutshell, where mineral-rich waters with purported healing qualities have been attracting visitors for decades. Local Native American tribes came here, and settlers built a health resort (known back then as a sanatorium) in the early 1900s.The lake’s name comes from the water’s propensity to foam up, giving it a soapy appearance and feel.
Soap Lake, a sleepy spot with tourist-town aspirations (townsfolk have been in a lather to construct a giant lakeside lava lamp for years—it remains unbuilt), has an avid fan base that includes Eastern Europeans and Russians. Visitors come here for the soothing waters and healing mud: Slather it on and then bake in the sun to get the full skin-soothing treatment.
Book your stay at the historic Soap Lake Natural Spa and Resort, which pipes in the Soap Lake water so you can enjoy it inside at your leisure; the attached restaurant, Don’s, serves classic steak and seafood fare, with some Greek dishes included in the mix. The real local find, however, is nearby Mom’s European Food & Deli, a haven for Russian bites, from salamis to authentic borscht.
Depending on your interests, you’ll either avoid or embrace the carnival-like atmosphere of the annual motorcycle rally, usually held during the third week of July. Or go caving with the kids 7 miles north at Lenore Lake Caves, created by ice age floods and featuring plenty of scenery and wildlife.
GETTING THERE: Soap Lake is in the middle of Washington state, approximately 25 miles north of Moses Lake and about a three-hour drive from Seattle.
Soap Lake Natural Spa and Resort, 236 Main Ave. E; 800.524.0558
Mom’s European Food & Deli, 331 Main Ave. E; 509.246.1121
The Sand Set
As the second-largest lake in the state, it’s no surprise that Lake Washington and its beaches are a big draw for locals searching for a nearby spot for boating, swimming, paddleboarding and other summertime fun. These are some of the best.
Luther Burbank Park (Mercer Island, 2040 84th Ave. SE): Perfect for you, your kids and your dog. After your dip in the water, take your dog for a romp in the off-leash area.
Matthews Beach (Matthews Beach Park, 5100 NE 93rd St.): This popular, family-friendly swimming area is Seattle’s largest freshwater beach.
Juanita Beach Park (Kirkland, 9703 NE Juanita Drive): Bring a date for a walk along the gorgeous dock or bring friends for a day of beach volleyball and horseshoes.
Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park (Renton, 1201 Lake Washington Blvd. N): The kids will enjoy the large swimming area, surrounded by a pier, and the sizable playground. Forgot your picnic? Ivar’s and Kidd Valley have concessions on the park’s grounds.
Chism Beach Park (Bellevue, 9600 SE 11th St.): Spread out on the sloping grassy area of this small park while watching a brilliant summer sunset.
Groveland Beach Park (Mercer Island, SE 58th Street and 80th Avenue SE): This west-facing neighborhood beach area is perfect for watching the Blue Angels during Seafair’s big weekend (August 4–6).
Waverly Beach Park (Kirkland, 633 Waverly Park Way): This beach is popular in the summer because of its long stretch of dock and breathtaking views of Seattle.
Madison Park Beach (Madison Park, 1900 43rd Ave. E): Watch boats pass by from the grassy picnic area, the sandy beach or the dock, with its multilevel diving boards.