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What to See on the Olympic Peninsula
Flying into Seattle is where the fun begins in the Pacific Northwest (PNW).
Seattle’s rainy city reputation can’t be taken seriously when sitting outside overlooking the Puget Sound, while eating fresh seafood and drinking a glass of Columbia Valley wine, on a sunny 70-degree day in September.
While the rain definitely has its moments, the city’s mysterious haze offers an enchanting appeal. While exploring Seattle, one might begin their day wandering around Pikes Place Market for hours, dabbling in the wild assortment of food choices—from fresh fruits, fish, vegetables and street food of all kinds to local Seattle Coffee, this city knows how to serve good food and drink. The original Starbucks is actually located in the heart of the market, and although the line to enter the iconic shop is always far down the road, it is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. If coffee isn’t your thing, stroll along the waterfront or stay in the market where you can watch the hysterical fisherman toss fresh fish around as they cheer loudly and keep their audience entertained.
Pikes Place offers everything you need to compile a fresh meal or you can take a seat and relax at one of the many famous restaurants on the strip. You have your choice of quick and delicious delicacies, such as to-die-for garlic fries and fresh crab rolls to fine dining salmon or steak filets.
While in Seattle it is also important to get a view from above. Whether you take the elevator up to the top of the Space Needle or the Columbia Towers, the views will seriously put you in awe.
Once you’ve had enough of the city thing, it is time to venture on into the woods, to the Olympic National Park.
About three hours Northwest of Seattle lays Hurricane Ridge, a good first stop in Washington’s Olympic National Park. Now, before reaching the Park, where grocery stores and gas stations are nonexistent, it is smart to make a pit stop in Port Angeles for the necessities.
After stocking up, Hurricane Ridge is about 30 more minutes from the Port. Upon arriving at the park there will be an admission fee, which is good for the week, and then continue driving until you reach the ridge. It is essentially where the road ends, and you will know when you reach your destination because of the insane views and the visitor center. If you are still unsure if you’ve made it, just get out of the car. If you feel like you might blow over and you are much colder than when you began your drive, you have definitely made it.
There are hiking trails everywhere in the National Park and there are many that begin at the visitor center for Hurricane Ridge. Whether you are looking for a quick walk up the ridge for a good view or you are looking to do an overnight backpacking trip, you can find everything you need in this area. Be sure to get a map at the visitor center and ask for help inside!
About an hour Northwest of Hurricane Ridge is a lake with water so clear the bottom looks eerily close. Still within the National Park, Lake Crescent is situated among the mountains in Clallam County Washington and offers nothing short of spectacular views and great camping. On a lucky day you may be able to catch the Fairholme Campground at the perfect time of day, when campers are checking out from the beachfront campsites, and if your luck continues you will be first in line to snag that campground and set up your tent just inches away from the clear water.
After a cozy night’s sleep in the pouring rain, waking up to a leaky rain fly won’t be a problem, as you will be overwhelmed by the majestic fog floating atop the calm water.
La Push Beach
Next up, is the home of the famous Twilight Saga. There isn’t much to see in Forks, Washington, other than an overpriced grocery store, lots of rain, some hail and a little bit of snow paired nicely with “Vampire Crossing” signs and Twilight fan gear. But, as you continue driving West you will reach La Push, a small village on the West Coast, home to the famous and breathtaking First, Second and Third beaches. The weather is highly unpredictable in La Push. Within the hour one might experience warm sun, torrential downpour, and golf ball sized hail. So, be prepared the best you can, especially because you must hike to get to the beaches.
If you do get stuck in a hail storm with a soaking wet tent from being rained on all night on Lake Crescent and coincidently also haven’t showered in quite some time, the Quileute Oceanside Resort is a perfect stop for a warm shower, a cozy night’s sleep and oceanfront views. Be sure to wake up early and catch a breathtaking sunrise on location. If you are staying in the first row of beachfront cottages you can watch the sunrise through your floor to ceiling windows while sipping hot coffee, or if you are in the next row of cottages you are just a 45-second walk to the sandy beach. On a good day, there will be one of those rainbows that begins and ends all along the same beach. The clouds are spectacular as they move so fast you won’t know when the next sprinkle of rain will come. Warm up at the local coffee cart with a strong coffee or delicious white chocolate mocha before packing up and heading on to your next destination.
Sol Duc Hot Springs
Once you are in La Push, you are all the way to the coast and about a four-hour drive from Seattle. Now is a good time to circle back the way you came from with a couple more stops in mind. The Sol Duc Hot Springs are about an hour drive East from La Push and an awesome spot to stop and warm up, with a dip in man-made pools at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, or a nice breakfast. If you are more intrigued by the thought of rustic and natural hot springs, the Olympic Hot Springs are about a 5-mile round trip hike from the end of Olympic Hot Springs Road. These muddy pools of steaming water are an acquired taste, but for those who are ready to endure the crystal clear pools, be warned that the moment you enter the water you will be bathing in some murky H2O. On the hike back to the car you will feel invigorated and refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.
Whiskey Creek Campground
About 50 minutes North of the hot springs you will find Whiskey Creek Beach, and one of the most beautiful campsites around. Every site on location offers a hilltop view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is a barrier between Whiskey Creek and the Canadian Cascades. Zip your tent open, let in the fresh beach air and enjoy your morning stretch with a view of foggy skies and a slowly rising sun. A morning walk to the beach offers spectacular sunrise views and a glimpse of early morning boat traffic.
Whiskey Creek Campground is less than 30 minutes from Port Angeles, which means you are almost back to “civilization”. Whether you plan to stay in the National Park another night or head back to Seattle, Port Angeles is an excellent place to stop for food, a beer, or just a hot coffee. The Next Door Gastropub is a must-do stop if you are hungry, especially after a hike. The garlic fries are a treat everybody can enjoy, the dozen different burger choices are so unique they will make your mouth water just thinking about them four weeks later, and their beer, wine, and cocktail options are just as extraordinary. Sit outside at a high top under one of the heat lamps or enjoy Sunday football at the bar inside. Either way, the service is phenomenal and the overall experience will make you seriously want to come back the next day.
If you make the brave choice not to head to the Gastro pub during your next stop in Port Angeles, definitely stop at the New Day Eatery. The assortment of gluten free and dairy free baked goods and desserts are something special and the lunch menu is interestingly delectable. From burgers that taste like sushi to the carrot cake, this place won’t let you down. Grab a piece of cake to go, and head on the road, as you are just two and a half hours from where you began, in the “rainy city” of Seattle.