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The Pacific NW is a beautiful and geographically diverse region. Freshwater lakes, saltwater Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, ocean beaches, mountains, rolling plains, waterfalls, rain forests, it's all here.
For Seattle area visitors, here is a sample itinerary. This route provides spectacular views and experiences. And yes, the summer weather is terrific with many daylight hours due to the high northern latitude.
The number of days for the following depends on your time, schedule and interests. This is a circle route, if wished, so can be taken in either direction. Some of many side trips are included.
The basic route direction is this, in order (or reverse): (Suggest using GoogleMaps or MapQuest to plot this route.)
Seattle – Whidbey Island – Port Townsend – Port Angeles (Victoria, BC) – Rain Forests – Astoria – Seaside – Cannon Beach – Newport – Yachats/Cape Perpetua – Bend – Columbia River Gorge – Portland – Mt. St. Helens – Mt. Rainier - Seattle
Seattle 2 – 3 full days (Seattle = surrounding areas, not just downtown sights.) Select both “Things to Do” and “Travel Guide”, left hand column, TA Forum page.
Whidbey Island Worth a full day or more. Getting there: Take I-5 to the Mukilteo Ferry to Clinton. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g58...
Alternate route to Whidbey Island Drive I-5 north to WA SR 20, turn west to major light where SR 20 goes south. Drive south to Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. Stop at Deception Pass (see article, below.)
Side trip Anacortes is worth a visit. Where SR 20 turns southbound to Whidbey Island, continue on SR 20 straight to Anacortes for galleries, dining, scenery. Anacortes is the WA State Ferry terminal for the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island, BC. SR 20 ends there. For that trip, see Whidbey Island article, above.
Olympic Peninsula After exploring Whidbey Island, take the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend, an interesting, historic and scenic town bound by water. Note: It is strongly advised that you make reservations for this ferry. Reservations are required for trucks, trailers and RV's over 6,000 lbs. at least one day prior to sailing. See the WA State Ferry website on this page.
Side Trips Two small towns worth a visit: La Conner, a small charming town on the Swinomish Channel providing galleries, dining, shops, etc. It can be seen as part of a trip toward Mt. Vernon and Anacortes. http://www.laconnerchamber.com/ And Port Gamble, if you drive on the Hood Canal (floating) Bridge to get to the Olympic Peninsula, visit this town (just north of the bridge).
Port Angeles The Olympic National Park entrance for the Hurricane Ridge area of the park is located outside of Port Angeles. The main Visitor Center is before the Park entrance. This is a very good and scenic road extending 17 miles from sea level to the mile high Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. The Ridge, with its several trails/walks provides excellent views of the Straits and mountains. Watch for Deer, Olympic Marmots, Bear possibly, Coyote, Grouse, Raptors, etc. Plan a half day for the Ridge visit.
Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park
Drive West: From Port Angeles, drive to Lake Crescent, Marymere Falls, Sol Duc Hot Springs and more. As time permits, drive around the Olympic Peninsula to the west side to see the fascinating Rain Forests and dramatic ocean beaches. It’s a moderately long drive on a good two lane road, so plan accordingly. Search for Kaleberg, GlacierMeadows and Pala, for example, on the WA State TA Forum for detailed advice and see the Kaleberg website re: ONP.
Side Trip Port Angeles is the terminal for the Coho Ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. You can either drive or walk on this ferry. If by auto, it is strongly advised to make reservations. Passports are required for all.
Victoria is a compact city and does not require a car. Allow at least 1 full day, but it will be rushed. You’ll need more time than available if taking a RT on the Coho ferry. Overnight is strongly advised. See especially Butchart Gardens (beautiful, with evening shows and garden lighting in season), Royal Museum (kids and adults both will find it fascinating), Parliament Buildings, Inner Harbour, Chinatown and environs, Sooke. (Quite far north and west, via Parksville, visit Tofino and beautiful, rugged, coastline (a long drive, an overnight. If you plan to see the more accessible ONP ocean beaches or OR coast, you might skip that drive.)
From Victoria, if continuing on southbound to the OR Coast, return to Port Angeles via the Coho Ferry.
Victoria/Vancouver Island Transportation To/From
If Victoria/Vancouver Island bound, you can fly or, if by water, from Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula, the Coho ferry; from Seattle, the Victoria Clipper (passenger only); from Anacortes, WA State Ferries; from Vancouver/Tsawwassen, BC Ferries. For vehicles, suggest reservations in tourist season.
Victoria and Vancouver Island Information http://www.hellobc.com/vancouver-isla...
To Seattle or Vancouver from Victoria - To continue east, i.e., to Vancouver and/or Seattle, you have two options...
Option 1: Take the WA state car ferry from Victoria (the Sidney Terminal, a short drive north of Victoria) through the San Juan Islands to Anacortes and then either drive to Seattle or use that day to head south down Whidbey Island; 1full day or more, depending on choices you make.
Option 2: Take the BC car ferry from Victoria (the Swartz Bay Terminal also a short drive north of Victoria) to Tsawassen and drive either to Vancouver or to Seattle.
Note: You can get off the WA State international ferry at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Worth 1 full day there, an overnight is far better. See the following.
From the Rain Forests, drive south to Astoria, crossing the Columbia River on the striking Megler Bridge. Visit Astoria, a half day. Continue south to Seaside (a honky tonk, teens/college kids town) on to Cannon Beach (arts/craftsy, good dining. In high season, most lodgings in or near Cannon Beach require a two night minimum but there is plenty of lodging in the area.
Continue south and along the…
Oregon Coast For fantastic ocean shorelines, rocky and sandy beaches, this coast is hard to beat.
Enjoy the little towns. In particular, Cannon Beach, Newport, Yachats, Bandon.
Yachats and Cape Perpetua http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/siuslaw/recre...
Crater Lake National Park
For a totally different climate and land forms –
Drive East to Bend, or via Crater Lake, a great area to explore.
Oregon, Central/Bend Area http://www.visitbend.com/
Drive to Portland via the Columbia River Scenic Hwy, Columbia River Gorge, and return to Seattle.
http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/columbia/ Here is a useful map contained in this website:
Washington State Ferry Home Page: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/
US/Canada Border Traffic – Congestion http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Congestion/bo...
Other wonderful sightseeing options in WA include three national treasures plus scenic islands:
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument http://www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/mshnvm/
Mount Rainier National Park http://www.nps.gov/mora/
North Cascades National Park http://www.nps.gov/noca/ (This would require a different itinerary including "east of the Cascade mountains" landforms and climate.)
San Juan Islands (Specific information on the several major islands, with key websites. Best seen with at least one overnight.)
Note If you wish to visit the San Juan Islands or visit Victoria, BC, without a car you can walk on the Victoria Clipper, from downtown Seattle. Schedule and frequency of boats varies by season. www.clippervacations.com.