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Northwest Washington is a gem unto itself. It’s unique in that it seems to be able to comfortably blend its modern metropolitan areas within their natural surroundings. By the time we finish our tour in Puget Sound, this truth, and more, will be revealed.
Aberdeen, our starting point on the central coast, is an old harbor town nestled along scenic Grays Harbor on the Pacific Coast. Get acquainted with the city’s shipping heritage at the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport. Or, for lazy summer afternoons, choose from among the city’s several large city parks for a pleasant walk along the harbor’s shoreline.
For a scenic detour, let’s take Hwy 101 north, where we’ll venture into the heart of the Olympic Peninsula and circle the scenic Olympic Mountains. Olympic National Park, and its nearly 1,500 square miles of protected lands, takes up the vast majority of the peninsula. Of all the unique attractions you’ll find in the park, one stands out above all: since the peninsula is doused in rain and fog for much of the year, the park is home to several of the northernmost rainforests in the world, offering a truly exceptional natural wonder. Must-sees include the Queets Rain Forest, located along the park’s southwest region, and the Hoh Rain Forest, in the northwest section of the park.
Hwy 101 skirts the Pacific Coast, passing though the villages of Queets and Kalaloch before headed back inland. Northwards, be sure to stop in the town of Forks, one of the largest towns in the heart of the Olympic Peninsula. Visit the Fork’s Timber Museum to learn more about the industry that defined this region for nearly a century. For wild escapes, try a long hike on the scenic Rialto Beach or fishing for wild salmon along the Bogachiel River.
Next, head east along Hwy 101 until you reach the town of Port Angeles. City highlights include the Joyce General Store and a bevy of art galleries located downtown. Hop aboard the ferry that runs regularly to Victoria, British Columbia if you really want to make things interesting. The port is located just 15 miles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
From the scenic route, simply loop around back to the I-5. But if you prefer to plow ahead, take Highway 12, back into the interior of Washington, to the picturesque town of Olympia. Start your tour of Washington’s capital city at, where else, but the Capitol Group, a collection of several historic buildings that house the state’s government. Olympia is also an appropriate starting point to explore Olympia National Park, as well as the adjacent Olympia National Forest.
Jump on I-5 north for a few miles to the city of Tacoma. Nestled in the shadow of Seattle, Tacoma still retains much of its heritage and frontier town charms. A must-see in town is the Point Defiance Park, a 700-acre public park comprised of gardens, a zoo and aquarium, a restored fur-trading outpost, and miles of hiking and biking trails.
We can think of no better way to end our Olympic Peninsula tour than with a stop in incomparable Seattle. This hip and fashionable city offers all the big-city features you expect, accented with that unique Seattle style. Coffee may not have been invented here, but its culture sure was perfected. Maybe it was the seemingly endless rain and gloom of Seattle that spawned all those coffee shops, but it worked. Everywhere are cute and comfortable cafes, providing ample time (and brews) to map out your itinerary. However, we suggest you include visits to the following attractions: The Center for Wooden Boats, a historical museum dedicated to, well, wooden boats; Discovery Park, a 500+-acre park with trails located in one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city; and a Mariner’s baseball game at still-new Safeco Field.