Swinomish Casino & Lodge

By Lara Dunning

As I walk up to Swinomish Casino & Lodge, the feathery wisps of the logo immediately catch my attention. It’s positioned on the center tower and appears to be a feather in motion with the colors of blue waters, green trees and orange sunsets. Later, I’ll discover it’s an eagle feather and in Swinomish culture eagles are sacred.

Once inside, the decor continues to mimic the landscape with blues and greens, curved glasswork and stonework. Tribal artwork adorns walls, and oversized windows bring the natural world in. After I check-in, I pour a glass of watermelon water and wander into the large sitting area with a double-sided stone fireplace and lots of cozy chairs and couches. I admire four native canoe paddles and a carving of the ninth moon, the “Moon of the Elk Mating Cry,” hanging above the fireplace. As my eyes follow the curves of the salmon on top of the moon and my body warms next to the fire, it’s easy to believe the lodge’s philosophy of providing guests with a luxurious experience while maintaining the cultural identity of Swinomish Tribe.

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Looking outside, it’s understandable why the tribe decided to build here. Not only does it add to the existing Swinomish Casino, it lets guests revel in the views of Padilla Bay, the San Juan Islands, Swinomish Channel and the Cascade Mountains. Completed in April 2012, the lodge is easily accessed by the Duane Berentson Bridge which connects the mainland with Fidalgo Island.

Our Deluxe Bay View room on the fifth floor is spectacularly appointed with a king sized bed layered with soft white linens, a walkout balcony and a large bathroom with a glass enclosed stone shower. Even our coffee the next morning will be a treat as we pop in a K-Cup pod of Tully’s coffee in the Keurig.

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Overall, the lodge has 98 rooms. They also offer standard rooms with southern exposures and 800 foot suites with plush bathrobes and Jacuzzi tubs. Depending on the time of year, the lodge offers a variety of packages like the Tulip Festival Package, the Island Adventure Whale Watching Package, and Shop La Conner Package and standard packages like the Swinomish Golf Links Package, the Romance Package and Dine On Us Package. Its location, almost equal distance between Anacortes, La Conner, Burlington, Mount Vernon and Deception Pass, makes it a prime location for touring the area. Tonight, we won’t be touring, but we will be dining in the on-site restaurant 13moons.

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Before dinner, we wander down to the second floor and head to the outside patio connected to 13moons. The patio has plenty of seating with gorgeous views and a giant stone fireplace. We cozy up to the fireplace with a glass of happy hour wine and watch the evening activity. An eagle perches atop the train bridge on Swinomish Channel and its high pitched call rings through the air. The clouds nestle up against the Cascades and the San Juan Islands are doused in early evening light. Below us, in the grassy RV Park, guests pull into to their overnight spots.

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After our drinks, we walk inside for our reservation at 13moons and order from the 3-course Rising Moon dinner menu. Dinner is just as lavish as our room. For my appetizer I order the house salad and my husband orders Penn Cove Manila clam chowder, which is chock full of clams and chunky bacon pieces. For my main entree I order baby back ribs rubbed with chili lime and whiskey bbq. My husband orders the NativeCatch grilled Coho salmon with a citrus white wine sauce. For desert, we have chocolate lava cake and the vanilla crème brûlée. Every bite is vibrant and flavorful and most importantly, just the right size. I peruse the regular menu and note the other NativeCatch items, like white truffle sea scallops, Dungeness crab cakes and wild Chinook salmon. Later, the manager explains that NativeCatch seafood “is all-natural, sustainably harvested and processed by the Swinomish Fish Company.” The company is also the largest Native American owned canning facility in the United States.

After dinner we saunter down the stairs to the attached casino. As we enter, the tranquility of the lodge disappears behind us. Instead, the air trills with 800 slot machines. We meander through the slot machines, past the card and dice tables, past Two Salmon Café and finally decide to take our chances on one of the slot machines. My husband triples his money. I don’t fare so well. Afterwards, we return to our peaceful room. Before tucking in, we relax in the balcony chairs and watch the sunset. Pinks, yellows and oranges highlight the clouds and as the world falls asleep, Padilla Bay turns a shimmering iridescent blue.