Thomas Barwick

If you were in the market for a sublime waterfront view, the west coast of Washington's San Juan Island is where you'd want to stake your Northwest claim. But spend just one pampered night at the Highland Inn, and you'll wake up wondering why you'd ever be silly enough to build your own place here when owner Helen Chapman King can take care of you at hers. King has two spacious suites to choose from—one is full of English antiques; the other is in country French style. Both have window-seat breakfast nooks, wood-burning fireplaces, and marble bathrooms with steam cabinet showers. The prime activity?Leisurely whale-watching from the 90-foot-long veranda (shown here). Since there are never more than four guests at a time, you pretty much have the run of the retreat-but from April through October, plan on company from the island's three resident pods of orcas, cavorting in Haro Strait below. Highland Inn of San Juan Island, 1 mile south of Lime Kiln lighthouse, Wash.; 888/400-9850 or 360/378-9450, fax 360/378-1693; doubles from $175, including breakfast.

—Kimberly Brown Seely