Are you interested in Washington state travel but you're unfamiliar with the Northwest? Don't know quite where to spend your valuable vacation time? Below, we bring you a few suggestions. We have traveled extensively in Washington, and we want to use our experience to help you get the most bang for your buck.
We suggest staying at least three nights in each destination. That gives two full days for seeing the area attractions in each spot. Not overly generous, but enough for a taste. Youíll just have to come back again!
- Stop 1 Seattle 3 nights/two full days
When you fly into Seattle, you might not be ready to hit the road to come to Leavenworth, which is three hours away by the time you grab the car. Seattle is a fun city with lots of sports, museums, shopping, a great downtown, parks, and restaurants. On warm nights, we love to get Thai food to-go and have a picnic in one of the many parks Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill is our favorite. The views of the skyline, ferries, and the islands are terrific. (I would stay downtown, where the action is! You won't need your car much, the bus system is good enough even free downtown!)
- Stop 2 Leavenworth Via Hwy 2 3 nights/two full days
There is more to do here than you could possible pack into two full days. Hike, bike, raft, golf, relax and read on the decks, and take some neat drives. Run of the River is two hours from the I-5 corridor and the nearest town is 25 miles away (Wenatchee). About 4,000 people live the in the valley. The Icicle Valley is very tight with the Cascades jumping to 8-10,000 feet above the valley floor. There is an intimacy in the relationship to the valley and the peaks.
You're far enough away without being too far off the beaten track.
- Stop 3 Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands Via Hwy 2 3 nights/two full days
You can retrace your earlier drive or take Hwy. 20, if you'd like a real long, but beautiful day in the car. By going over Hwy. 20, you get to see the Methow Valley, but you pay the price 6 hours in the car. Your destination is Anacortes, where you will catch the ferry to Orcas.
I like Orcas Island because it has Moran State Park, a large public reserve in the middle of the island. You can drive or bike up to Mt Constitution for an incredible view of the islands, Mt. Baker, and all the way into Canada.
All of the islands have little, accessible public lands. "Private Property" and "No Trespassing" signs abound. The islands are pretty impacted by tourists in the summer, but they are beautiful.
You can day trip to the other islands if you like, but there is plenty to do on Orcas. There is no reason to spend the night on different islands. Again, the transition time is a killer.
- Stop 4 Port Angeles/Port Townsend 3 nights/two full days
You will take the ferry back to Anacortes, drive south on Hwy. 20 to Coupeville and take the ferry to Port Townsend. Port Townsend has some wonderful Victorian bed and breakfasts, or you can drive further to Port Angeles, which I recommend. Port Angeles just seems a little more real to me and further removed from the I-5 corridor. From Port Angeles, you can day hike in Olympic National Park, drive to Hurricane Ridge, or take the ferry to Victoria and see Butchart Gardens.
From Port Angeles, you will backtrack to Seattle via the Hood Canal Bridge and the ferry at Kingston to Edmonds.
What we didnít include:
Mount Rainier. Rainier is beautiful, but it is very close the I-5 corridor, Tacoma and Seattle, which means 3.4 million people also have access to it. It also rains a fair amount, so you often can't see the mountain at all. It is a National Park and more tightly regulated than the Wenatchee National Forest here in Leavenworth. I'm not saying it isn't a good place to go. It is majestic. There are just too many downsides. It bothers me to hit a trail head and have to circle around for a parking place. Save that for back home at the malls.
Lake Chelan.†Lake Chelan is an hour from Run of the River by car. After breakfast, you can take the boat ride up and back in a day. It is a beautiful trip, refreshing to see such a massive roadless area in a country dominated by cars. I would suggest it to folks who don't want to be too active, or those who are really active and looking for a day of rest.
Methow Valley.† Another gem in Washington. The Methow area is quite similar to the Icicle Valley. Deep glacial valleys, high Cascade lakes, even fewer people. Not much there if you're not a hiker or mountain biker. I'm not putting the Methow down, but you will get the same thing in Leavenworth with a lot more variety. However, if you love to hike, hit them both for 3-4 days!