Looking west from Seattle, across Elliott Bay, you’ll see a range of snow-capped mountains. You are seeing the Olympics. To get a close-up view of these peaks you’ll want to go west to Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula.
Begin this adventure by boarding a Washington State Ferry at Pier 54, sail across Elliott Bay to Bainbridge Island.
Pulling away from the dock, you’ll get a terrific view of the Seattle skyline and the Space Needle. To the left is the huge Port of Seattle Harbor Island complex with its enormous cranes that look like some form of prehistoric bird! Beyond the docks you might even catch sight of Mount Rainier.
That long stretch of beach on your left is Alki; the original settlers landed here in 1851.
The ferry docks at Winslow on Bainbridge Island. This small, upscale community has been included in the top 10 list of places to live in the United States.
Leave the ferry; take SR 3 across the Island, over the Agate Pass Bridge toward Poulsbo. Once a quaint Norwegian fishing village; modern Poulsbo on Liberty Bay is known for its delicious bakery, galleries and its’ Front Street shops.
Don’t stay too long, the mountains are calling!
Cross the Hood Canal floating bridge and you're on the Olympic Peninsula. This is one of the only floating bridges over tidal water and can gets up to an 18 foot difference in water level each day.
Looking for a place for lunch? How about a stop at the Victorian town of Port Townsend? Water Street has a number of dining spots featuring northwest favorites like fish and chips and clam chowder. Browse galleries, book stores, antique collections and sweet shops after lunch.
To see outstanding examples of restored Victorian homes pick up a map at the Visitor Center and drive up the bluff to tour the historic Uptown District.
The city of Port Angeles is the next stop. This seaport on the Straits of Juan de Fuca is the gateway to the Olympic National Park.
I recommend a stop at the Park’s Visitor's Center. See exhibits about the Olympics’ natural history and get info on favorite park stops from Hurricane Ridge to the Rainforests and Pacific coast beaches. Pick up hiking and backpacking maps and learn about park weather conditions. If it’s foggy down on the Strait, it can be clear and sunny up the mountain.
The 17 mile drive to Hurricane Ridge takes you through old-growth forests for spectacular 180 degree views of Olympic peaks in the Bailey Range. Join a guided walk from the Ridge Visitors Center for amazing mountain top outlooks. As you drive down the mountain watch for unique wildlife like marmots, lynx and mountain goats.
Back in Port Angeles consider adding a side-trip to Canada. The Ferry Coho sails from the Port Angeles waterfront to Victoria, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. The Strait of Juan de Fuca crossing takes about 90 minutes puts you this ‘very British’ provincial capital. Make a reservation to take your car on the international ferry. You must have your passport to enter Canada. Your driver’s license won’t do!
To continue your Olympic Peninsula tour, join Highway 101 and drive west to Lake Crescent. This glacially carved lake is a favorite for trout fishing and hiking. The lake is a great place to stop for a picnic lunch and maybe a forested hike to Marymere Falls on the Spruce Railroad trail.
Highway 101 divides at Elma to go south to Forks or north on SR 112 along the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Neah Bay. The fishing villages of Clallam Bay and Sekiu are on the road to Neah Bay. Stop at Shi Shi Beach for views of the sea stacks dotting the shoreline.
Drive the last 15 miles to Neah Bay home of the Makah Indian Nation. Learn about the Makah’s with a visit the tribal cultural center to see traditional clothing, basketry and carvings, plus a long house and a full-size carved canoe.
Anglers sail from Neah Bay in search of salmon and halibut. Look for the catch displayed at the docks at the end of the day.
Get amazing views of the northwest point of the continental United States when you take the Cape Flattery trail to the viewing platform overlooking the Pacific Ocean. See sea birds and sea-lions on the off-shore rocks, migrating whales and rocky cliffs where the Pacific Ocean meets the entrance of the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
When it’s time to go down the Pacific coast, drive east to pick up SR 113 then continue south to the town of Forks. Stop at the Visitors Center to learn how Forks was made famous by the Twilight Series. See ‘Bella’s Truck’ parked out front and pick up a map of Twilight locations to visit.
The region’s reputation as the ‘Logging Capital of the World’ is told next door in the Timber Museum. Build like a log cabin structure, the museum has displays of homesteading, farming and logging in the area
Visit the nearby village of La Push. Stop for a hike along the shoreline. Start at First Beach with big waves; pick up the forested trail to Second and Third Beaches with rock arch formations. At Rialto Beach tide pool surround the Hole-in-the-Wall. If it’s time for lunch, check out the Quileute Tribal Village.
Back on Highway 101 look for the Hoh Rain Forest cut off and drive 19 miles east to the Visitors Center. This is a must-see attraction, but be prepared with rain gear. The average rainfall is over 12 feet a year!
At the Visitor’s Center get information on the Hoh Rain Forest trails and choose the one that right for you. I like the Hall of Mosses trail that makes an easy loop through moss and ferns carpeted forest floor with towering conifers, big leaf and vine maple trees creating a dense canopy overhead. For a more challenging hike consider the 17 mile trail to Glacier Meadows for views of Mount Olympus.
Back on Highway 101, travel south along the Quillayute wildlife reserve. Get your first glimpse of thundering Pacific coastal waves when you reach Ruby Beach. Stop here to see sea stacks and the beach shore. It's a great place for photos.
Time for lunch? Kalaloch Lodge is next. Get ocean views from the Lodge Overlook before taking the trail to the beach. The surf breaks on the beach as you walk along the shore. Driftwood and tide pools add to the fun.
The coast road goes east at Lake Quinault in the southern end of the National Park.
Plan a stop at the Quinault Rainforest trail to see the ‘Valley of the Rain Forest Giants”. There are streams, waterfalls and wild life along this walking trail. Back at the lake shore get a boat to fish or snap the perfect shot.
The 1926 Lake Quinault Lodge would make a great stop for the night. Dinner in the historic Roosevelt Room and views of the sunset makes a restful end to your day.
Leave Highway 101 and drive to the coastal towns of Moclips, Copalis Beach and Ocean Park. Stop for a walk on the beach and watch the surf. Sand Castle building and kite flying are popular here.
Travel south to Hoquiam on Grays Harbor where you’ll find more Olympic Peninsula tour options. If you’re looking for ocean fishing, go to Westport on Highway 105.
If you enjoy a sandy Pacific Ocean beach, take Highway 109 west to Ocean Shores.
There are six miles of sandy beaches at Ocean Shores. This is a family playground with 23 inter-connected lakes and canals, shore pine trees and sand dunes. Watch for Snowy Plover birds when you hike out to Damon Point. Back in town there are shops, restaurants and the Coastal Interpretive Center to visit. From the North Jetty you can see Westport the next Grays Harbor stop.
Deep sea fisherman will want to head to the Westport Marina to join a fishing charter in search for Salmon, Halibut and Tuna. Get a great view of the harbor when you climb the Westport Viewing Tower. Walk along the Main Street docks to the north end of town to visit the Maritime Museum. The huge Destruction Island Lighthouse lens is a must see along with the two Sea Mammal skeletons at the Whale House.
Away from the marina there is another lighthouse that you’ll want to visit. The Grays Harbor Lighthouse stands 107 feet tall and has 135 metal stairs if you want to get a view from the lantern room. Drive on to the South Jetty and walk along the dunes to watch surfers catch a wave on their boogie boards.
When its time to leave the Pacific Ocean beaches; drive back to Hoquiam to pick up Highway 12 going east toward Olympia. At the Highway 101 cutoff at Shelton go north to explore Hood Canal. At Potlatch get a first view of the Canal. I think it time to enjoy a seafood lunch at Hoodsport. Salmon, Hoodsport oysters, crab and clams are all favorites here.
Lilliwaup is the next village as you drive north on 101. You’ll see boaters and water skiers on the saltwater bay. Stop in Brinnon for info on what to see on an Olympic National Forrest hike.
Continue north along the canal to Mount Walker. Take the short drive to the peak for north and south Puget Sound views.
Quilcene is next. Quilcene and Dabob oysters are the prize here. I think it’s time to sample these tasty treats.
Back on 101, drive north to the junction of 104 and head for the Washington State Ferry at Kingston. Put your car in line; check the schedule for the next ferry and walk up to Kingston’s Main Street. Browse the shops and get an ice cream cone!
Once you’re on the ferry go up on deck for the 30 minute ride to Edmonds. This busy shipping lane from Seattle to the Strait of Juan de Fuca is filled with crafts from freighters to yachts.
Off the ferry, you are on SR 104 which connects with I-5 for the 30 minute drive to Seattle to complete your Olympic Peninsula adventure.