When you walk through the stately front door of “At the Helm,” and gaze upon the gorgeous re-claimed wood from an Astoria shipyard, you instinctively know you’ve arrived someplace special. Every detail of the hotel and pub feels special, from the fluffy bathrobes for guests to the freshly roasted coffee.
When Marcene Miller and her husband, Rod Miller, bought the old Shoalwater Bank building just about a year ago, they were excited for Marcene to fulfill her life-long dream of owning and operating her own hotel and restaurant. Sure, she’s owned the Subway in Long Beach for a long time, but Marcene longed for an opportunity to express her creative side. She’s dabbled in wedding planning and enjoys the process of creating décor that inspires and relaxes her guests. The smile on her face reflected her enthusiasm for the project as she told me of their plans for a soft opening somewhere around June 10th.
Each of the nine hotel rooms is named after a different boat that she and her husband have owned. He’s been in the commercial fishing industry for decades, and they thought it a perfect way to honor their past while embracing their future. The boating theme is carried out tastefully throughout the hotel and pub. It’s perfect, especially since the view from their property showcases the Port of Ilwaco and boat after boat from around the world.
Marcene was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington. Her family moved to Ilwaco during her sophomore year in high school. She was shocked at first at the change in lifestyle. The slower pace and small-town fishing village is quite the contrast from life in Vancouver. But, over time she grew to love Ilwaco and now she can’t image living anywhere else.
She and Rod fell in love and got married right after high school and will soon be celebrating 39 years of marriage. The strength of family and community is import to them, and they hope to reflect that in the restaurant and pub. Local vendors will always have priority, and they want guests to feel like they belong.
I asked Marcene to show me around and give me some examples of what makes “At the Helm” unique. She proudly took me on a tour of all nine rooms, and by the time we were done, I didn’t want to leave. The view is what grabs you first! All the rooms on the west side look right down onto the marina where you can watch birds of prey dive for fish, fisherman set out to sea, and watch some of the best sunsets of the Pacific Northwest.
The details in the rooms are exquisite. Re-claimed hardwood counters, large showers, cozy chairs, beautiful coastal art, and an eco-friendly alcohol burning fireplace in each room. Guests will arrive to find a snack basket awaiting them filled with fresh local pastries and other delicious delicacies and be greeted with a glass of local beer or wine. It’s evident that a visit to “At the Helm” will be a remarkable luxurious experience.
The hotel can accommodate up to twenty-five guests and will be perfect for family reunions or small wedding parties, where intimacy and comfort are essential. The outdoor firepit will be the ideal place to unwind after a fun day of exploring Cape Disappointment, Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge, or just relaxing on a nearby beach.
Marcene wants her guests to feel right at home without having to lift a finger. It’s a place where old-world charm meets modern day comforts. With an Alexa bot in each room, and Wi-Fi throughout, you could hardly call it old-fashioned, yet somehow the place feels slower, and the demands and tension of the outside world melt away.
“At the Helm” is also committed to eco-friendly products. Marcene said there won’t be any plastic water bottles or little plastic amenity containers and they chose to go with extra efficient heated flooring and lighting. Marcene wants to help preserve the natural beauty and resources that have made The Long Beach Peninsula world famous. She believes we have a responsibility to respect our natural wonders.
The pub, called “Waterline,” can hold up to thirty guests and will undoubtedly be packed with tourist and locals eager for fresh libations and an exclusive northwest flavored menu. Every day, from 11:30 to 8:00, it will feature unique dishes, like a decadent version of tater tots covered with beer braised pork, apple slaw, peppers, and other goodness. They’ll serve tenderloin, frittata, and a special Angus beef dog.
At the Helm and Waterline will be opening soon and we encourage you to go enjoy and relax. You can find them on Facebook and on their website, but an in-person visit will leave a lasting impression.