Your complete road trip guide to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state
You don’t have to drive the full 300+ mile loop around the Olympic Peninsula, but if you do you’ll see picturesque shoreline, waterfalls, pristine lakes, mountain views and even a rainforest.
Start your trip with a ferry ride from downtown Seattle (which is located just below the famed Pike Place Market). As soon as the ferry leaves the docks, so too will your anxiety after enduring the Seattle traffic. As you disembark onto Bainbridge Island, you’ll immediately feel a sense of serenity. Tall pine trees and winding scenic roads await. Your first destination is the Norwegian town of Poulsbo, where your first stop has to be the world famous (no really, it is) Sluys Bakery for some apple strudel. Take a stroll and enjoy the quaint shops and seaside views. If it’s lunch or dinner time, check out Mor Mor Bistro, which serves up northwestern cuisine in a lovely setting in the heart of town.
Head west on 305, then north on Hwy 104 toward Port Gamble, or what I like to call, “Pleasantville.” Be sure to stop by the General Store (trust me, it’s cool) or one of the fresh produce stands. Hwy 104 meanders north, then turns into 101 west where you’ll head to the town of Sequim. Depending on how much time you have, there are a number of activities indicated on the Google Map below. You’ll also see that I recommend a couple very nice B&B’s, one of which won “Best Inn” on my “2011 Best of” list. Staying in Sequim makes for the perfect home base to see the rest of the sights on this Olympic Peninsula road trip. Make reservations at George Washington Inn or Colette’s for the next couple of days…both are located on a cliff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and are fantastic lodging choices.
After a relaxing evening, the next stop is a hike down to the Dungeness Spit. If you time it right and are adventurous, make the 11-mile (round trip) trek to the lighthouse located at the tip of the spit. Take a backpack with provisions along with a packable hammock. An additional stop, or in lieu of the Dungeness Spit hike, is a stop at the Railroad Bridge Park (aka: Dungeness River Audubon center). Also nearby is a drive straight up the Olympic Mountains to Hurricane Ridge, where on a clear day you can see Vancouver Island. You can simply enjoy the views, or, there are a number of hikes to glacier lakes, rivers and streams.
The next day there are several forks in the road––if you want to go on a hike through a spectacular rain forest, head to Sol Duc in the Olympic National Forest. For a scenic and historic drive, peruse by Lake Crescent for awe-inspiring views of the massive body of clear blue water. While in the area, stop by Lake Crescent Lodge for a history lesson, or, a leisurely walk to Marymere Falls. If you’ve sufficiently enjoyed your drive by the lake, continue west along Hwy 112 to the most northwesterly point in the contiguous U.S., Cape Flattery. This is a wonderful stroll through a rain forest, where you’ll come upon a cliff with all kinds of unique and wonderful vantage points, including a small island with a lighthouse. If you want to explore the area further, and enjoy camping, I have a spot for you! Click here for Google Map of the most perfect, somewhat secluded camp spot right on the beach. If the weather is nice, don’t pass this up…there is no one around and the morning walk on the beach when the tide is out is a memory you’ll never forget.
Click the following link to see an array of pictures from the Pacific Northwest.
In recent years the Olympic Peninsula has become well known as the setting (Forks) for the popular Twilight books and movies. Whether you come to the area for fascination or inspiration, you’ll enjoy this scenic and diverse road trip––no other place in America can match its diversity in terrain and weather in such a small geographic area.. From mountain views, strolls along the beach, waterfalls, outstanding lodging, to rain forest hikes, a road trip to the Olympic Peninsula is not to be missed.
View Olympic Peninsula Map for a Road Trip in a larger map
Notes: This is the Pacific Northwest, so you do need to plan for rain, however during the summer months good weather is on your side. As a matter of fact, few travelers probably know that the far northern half of this region benefits from a “rain shadow,” often benefiting from more sunny days with milder temperatures than Seattle. Best months to visit are August, September and often the first half of October.
If you’ve been on a road trip to the Olympic Peninsula, or you have any questions, please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.