Flying into Seattle in midwinter, I'm hoping for the best but prepared for the worst – weather, that is. My suitcase bulges with coats, scarves, gloves, boots and umbrella. You name it, it's either in there or wrapped around me. As I head from the airport to The Edgewater in full sunshine, I break into a sweat.
Of course, the sweat could also be down to the fact I'm dragging that stuffed suitcase from the closest light-rail station to The Edgewater instead of arriving elegantly via taxi. It's only a few blocks, thankfully flat or downhill. The biggest revelation from the walk is just how steep the Seattle waterfront is. From Western Avenue, I nip underneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct, ride the elevator perched next to the Seattle Marriott down to the waterfront, pass the Pier 66 cruise terminal and swing into The Edgewater to begin my dalliance with rock'n'roll history.
The Beatles aren't the only musicians to have graced The Edgewater – Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Blondie have also stayed over the years - but the Fab Four sparked mass hysteria when they swung through Seattle in 1964. Fans were so out of control that the hotel installed cyclone fencing to keep them at bay. Even with that, some tried swimming to the overwater hotel to see their idols. To reach the hotel after their concert, the Beatles were smuggled in an ambulance. And when they were itching to do something at 2.30am, they were smuggled back out. Crouched in the back of the hotel publicist's 1957 Chevy, they were driven to the Space Needle a few blocks away (the hotel and Space Needle both opened in 1962 in time for the World Fair).
The mop tops' stay is immortalised in a photograph showing them fishing from their hotel room – the image is replicated on jigsaws, coffee mugs, fridge magnets and shot glasses in the hotel gift shop. The band stayed in neighbouring rooms that have now morphed into one suite complete with British touches such as Union Jack cushions.
I'm staying a floor below, in a room with a similar outlook over Elliott Bay and the comings and goings of ferries and cargo boats. Mt Rainier, Washington's highest mountain, is visible in the distance. A boat cruises by, packed with tourists inspecting the hotel from very close quarters, the sun bounces off the water and dappled light dances across the ceiling. The effect is soporific. I lie down for a minute – after all, I've flown straight through from Australia – and next thing I know a passing boat's horn jolts me awake, saving me from missing the last few hours of daylight and perhaps even my early dinner reservation at the hotel. On a sunny afternoon, the waterfront couldn't be more pleasant. Couples stroll hand in hand, men fish from the piers, a little girl jumps in a puddle and seagulls act like they do the world over, nicking morsels from people the second they turn their back. Fatigue is tugging at the edges but I push on to Pike Place Market as vendors start packing up for the day. The market, more than a century old, is a maze of more than 500 small businesses.
Back in my room, I fill the claw-foot slipper bath and slide back the doors between bathroom and bedroom to enjoy the view while soaking away the journey. Dinner at Six Seven is calling my name – and I'm starving.
The sunset is already history but the chandelier-lit dining room is a delight. Cleverly, considering how dim the room is, the menu is backlit. I dive into a bowl of mussels, the miso black cod and, to complete the excess, a side of lobster mac'n'cheese with a six-cheese sauce.
In the restaurant, along with the hotel's other public areas, nature is brought indoors - giant trees appear to grow through the floors and up into the ceiling. In the elevators, tiny lights form the shape of trees, and room curtains feature leaves and branches.
I could happily spend the day poking around the hotel's nooks and crannies but there's a city to explore. First up, I delve into the Nirvana exhibition at the Experience Music Project Museum, housed within the curvaceous Frank Gehry building at the base of the Space Needle.
It's quite a leap from Kurt Cobain to Tom Hanks but I figure Argosy Cruises' locks tour is the best way to see the floating home that starred in 1993's Sleepless in Seattle. From the waterfront ticket office, we're bussed to Lake Union to begin the cruise. I learn that the iconic homes – now among Seattle's most expensive real estate – started as shantytowns pieced together from lumberyard offcuts. The cheap housing proliferated, becoming an eyesore, until authorities clamped down on numbers, sending prices skywards. The floating home with the famous film pedigree sold last year for more than $US2 million.
After passing through the Ballard Locks and entering the saltwater of Puget Sound, we chug back towards the city skyline. It's too cold to stay up on deck and I'm now thankful for the warm gear brought from home. I wrap my hands around a hot chocolate as we pass The Edgewater. It's the closest I'll come to a floating home in Seattle – and I'm nowhere near ready to say goodbye.
Qantas flies daily to Los Angeles from Sydney and Melbourne; fly on to Seattle with Alaskan Airlines. See qantas.com.
The Edgewater, on the Seattle waterfront, is near attractions such as the Space Needle, EMP Museum and Argosy Cruises. Rooms from $210; the Beatles suite, Room 272, from $730 a night.
SEE + DO
A Seattle CityPass, $90 adults or $65 children, covers the Space Needle, EMP Museum, an Argosy Cruises' harbour tour and more. citypass.com
The writer travelled as a guest of Scoot and The Edgewater.