Local Road Trips Everyone In the Pacific Northwest Should Take

by Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Inc. on July 13, 2018

road trip MNStudio/Shutterstock

Vacation — everyone needs one every once in a while, but we know that not everyone has the time or the money for them. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to have a refreshing and inspiring getaway.

The Pacific Northwest is notorious for its sweeping terrain and lucky for us, its vast beauty is easily explored by car. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of (fairly) easy road trips everyone from the Olympia region should take. Each drive is as beautiful as its destination and celebrates the diversity of this beautiful region, from sea to mountains and even high desert.

So get packing, fill up your tanks, and get going!

Kitsap Peninsula, Poulsbo, Washington

kayaking William C Bunce/Shutterstock

The rural, tree-lined roads of this route unwind stress the second you gaze out that car window. This drive is quick, so you’ll have time to stop at one or a few of the several small towns which make up the Kitsap Peninsula. First, stop off in the maritime city of Gig Harbor. You can pop in the Harbor History Museum or stop at one of the many restaurants and shops that line the waterfront Harborview Drive. From there, head north about 20 miles to Port Orchard, where you’ll find several unique antique stores you’ll want to get lost in.

After you’re done shopping in Port Orchard, climb aboard the Carlisle II, an original 1900s Mosquito Fleet vessel still ferrying pedestrians to Bremerton’s Harborside District where you’ll find lots of maritime history and mouth-watering restaurants. And if you have a few days for this road trip, pack some camping gear and head to Kitsap Memorial State Park in Poulsbo straight from Bremerton. Not only is it a campground, but they have fantastic hiking trails and exciting activities like clamming, crabbing, fishing, kayaking, and even just laying around the beach if that’s what you’d like.

Whether you decide to make this a day trip or a weekend-long adventure, you won’t be disappointed.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

vancouver mffoto/Shutterstock

If you’re looking for a more international vibe, look no further. Even though it’s a fairly short drive north (if you consider 4 hours short), it’s truly special crossing the border and arriving in Canada. There are also some excellent spots to stop along the way. We recommend taking a break at the halfway point, stretching your legs and even having a picnic in the beautiful, pastoral Skagit Valley. Pick up some fresh berries and produce from Snow Goose Produce and enjoy the fields of tulips that surround you.

Next stop: Canada. Vancouver, Canada’s second-biggest city, attracts businesses, travelers, and immigrants from all over the world, which really means one thing: it has some amazing food. Feast your way through some heavenly dim sum, izakayas, dosas…the list is seemingly endless. Aside from the food, there are so many things to do in Vancouver, it’s almost impossible to choose. Explore space at the futuristic Science World, or head to the Museum of Anthropology if that’s more your thing. Enjoy the beaches at Kitsilano or English Bay, or head up to Grouse Mountain to soak up some unparalleled views. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, trek over the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has been thrilling visitors since 1889. If you’re here to shop, go straight to Robson Street. And if you’re feeling like adding a road trip to your road trip, take a drive up the sea-to-sky highway. This hour and a half long drive to the world-class ski town, Whistler, has been named among the most beautiful in the world. With flowing waterfalls jaw-dropping views all around, you’ll want to pack a lunch, your camera, gas up your car, and get going.

Pro tip: Unless you decide to take the drive up to Whistler, we suggest parking your car once you get there and using their super-efficient public transportation system, as driving in Vancouver can be a hassle.

Portland, Oregon

Portland Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock

Portlandia! What a place. This city has been voted one of the most popular (and hippest) in the U.S. and as soon as you visit, it is easy to see why. The people are friendly, the city is environmentally conscious, and there are a ton of great restaurants and fun activities spread throughout.

Due to how short this drive is, you won’t need to stop anywhere on the way. This means the fun can start immediately, and you’ll need all the time you can get because there’s a lot to do in Portland. From the quirky and obscure (which Portland is becoming best known for) to hiking up to the Witches Castle at Forest Park to visiting the world’s smallest park, measuring a whopping 452 square inches, to hitting up the tourist favorites, there’s something for everyone here.

Embark on a spirits tasting at one of the cities many distilleries, or head to Smith Teamaker if that’s more your style. You won’t have any trouble finding good eats (food trucks everywhere!), but Voodoo, Lardo, Pine State Biscuits and Pok Pok are popular tourist spots for a reason: they’re beyond delicious.

Chelan, Washington

washington vineyard ARSimonds/Shutterstock

You may want to stop and stretch your legs on this 4-hour drive, and luckily for us, there are many beautiful places to stop — Tiger Mountain State Forest, Snoqualmie National Forest, Lake Easton, to name a few. Whether you choose to make a pit stop or drive straight through, the destination is simply remarkable.

Unlike Olympia, Lake Chelan has approximately 300 days of sun per year, making it the perfect weekend getaway if you’re looking to up your Vitamin D intake. There are about 20 wineries surrounding this spectacular 50-mile lake, and even on one of its few overcast days, the grandeur is still breathtaking.

Along with your favorite lakeside activities (kayaks, fishing, jet skis, speedboats, rafting) the number one reason people come here: the wineries. Though a relatively new wine destination, the Lake Chelan Valley offers a rich tasting experience. You won’t be able to hit them all in one trip, but you can’t go wrong no matter which you choose to try. If you’re a red wine person, the South Shore’s Fielding Hills winery and sip their selection of premium, limited quantity, hand-crafted premium reds or Four Lakes winery on the North Shore for a nice, hearty Syrah. If whites are more your thing, Mellisoni vineyard, planted at a 45-degree angle, is famous for its beautiful white blend.

It’s also highly recommended to stop at the orchards and apple-pick on your way home.

Columbia River Gorge, Hood River, Washington

Crown Point Bob Pool/Shutterstock

Carved by the great Missoula Floods, the Columbia River Gorge is an exquisite landscape full of stunning vistas and bountiful waterfalls. Though just under three hours away, its charming orchards and vineyards and Hood River’s laid-back, surf-town vibe make the area seems like another world. Take the historic Columbia River Highway right up to the CR Gorge National Scenic Area and prepare to have your breath stolen straight from your chest. A round-trip excursion through here is hands down the most gorge-ous drive in the Pacific Northwest.

You can choose to stay in any of the area’s surrounding towns, like Cascade Locks or Stevenson, as both the Oregon and Washington sides of the river are spectacular. Our personal favorite, however, is Hood River. Rock climbing is a way of life over here, and the river offers both sandy beaches to soak up the sun as well as some of the country’s best kite surfing. If the winds are still, however, paddle boarding is another popular way to enjoy the water.

The canyon spans for 80 miles, making it the largest national scenic area in the United States, so you have a lot of space to choose from. There are a variety of historical museums and art galleries, fine dining options, theaters, wineries, and a wealth of recreational activities. When it was established a national area, it adopted and accomplished two goals: preserve the natural environment and enhance the local economy. It’s hard to go wrong here.

Bellingham, Washington

ferryboat Edmund Lowe Photography/Shutterstock

Bellingham might just be one of the most unheralded cities in Washington. The streets aren’t crowded with lost tourists, the outdoors are natural and undisturbed, and the locals are welcoming. This hidden getaway is worth coming for a weekend trip, as it truly feels like you’re on a far-away retreat.

Though less than 3 hours away, it’s worth stopping on the beautiful Chuckanut Drive, a scenic 20-mile roadway that hugs the cliffs of Chuckanut Mountain above Puget Sound, in Bow, WA on your way. The scenery alone is worth the drive, but we highly recommend checking out the food. There are a ton of farms, bakeries, cafes, and restaurants along the way, but if you’re an oyster fan, you’re going to want to stop at Taylor Shellfish Farms. You’ll follow a narrow drive down a fairly steep hill and across the railroad tracks to find a horde of perfectly placed waterfront picnic tables and charcoal grills ready for you to barbecue fresh oysters. So stop, have yourself an amazing picnic, and onward to Bellingham!

If you’ve been to Portland, you know that the food is worth those 30-60 minute waits. Here in Bellingham, you can get equally tasty food without the wait! Check out The Horseshoe (Washington’s oldest restaurant), Rocket Donuts (think Voodoo, but slightly less outrageous), and Mount Bakery (best brunch in town).

The local shops are also worth stopping in, especially if you’re looking for more one-of-a-kind items, but the real reason to go to Bellingham is to be outside. With so much unspoiled land surrounding you, you will feel like you’re a million miles away from the stressors of everyday life.


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