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Vacation Olympic Peninsula

Tourist Guide

Nature Beckons
Hidden Treasures of Washington's Olympic Peninsula

Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent


Have breakfast at the Snug Harbor Café before exploring Port Townsend. Also called the Victorian City, Port Townsend is an architectural gem straight out of the late 19th century. To explore the history of Port Townsend, your first stop should be the Jefferson County Historical Museum, next to City Hall. Exhibits here tell the city's fascinating history, and it's the starting point for a guided walking tour through the downtown and uptown districts. Check the calendar too: The town's famous festivals celebrate everything from wooden boats to jazz. The eccentric Kinetic Sculpture Race in October is legendary.

In Port Townsend's quaint historic waterfront, you may also shop for antiques, visit galleries featuring the work of local artists, and enjoy lunch served with a view. Port Townsend restaurants offer a range of dining options, from high–end restaurants such as Fins Coastal Cuisine, to the fun, family-friendly Nifty Fiftys Soda Fountain.

Instead of having lunch in town, you might also pack a picnic and visit Fort Worden (the location for the charming movie, "An Officer and a Gentleman") or discover the spirit of maritime adventure at the Northwest Maritime Center and Wooden Boat Foundation on Port Townsend Bay. This haven for wooden boat enthusiasts hosts the world's largest wooden boat festival each September.

Olympic National Park
Hikers at the beach in Olympic National Park

When you leave Port Townsend, continue driving on State Route 20 west to US Highway 101 towards Sequim and Port Angeles. At Blyn on the shores of Sequim Bay, stop at the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribal Center to visit the House of Myth, where totem poles are carved using traditional methods with traditional tools. Some of the totem poles carved here are on display at the Longhouse and Deli on the opposite side of the highway as well as in front of the 7 Cedars Casino.

Following Highway 10 will take you through fragrant lavender fields in the Sequim Dungeness Valley area, the self-proclaimed "Lavender Capital of North America." The Annual Lavender Festival in this agrarian area is held the third full weekend in July, when the lavender crop is at full peak. Prized for use in both cosmetics and in cooking, local farms grow more than 100 varieties of lavender. Be sure to stop at one of the many farms with small shops where you can buy lavender–infused products.

Continue your journey on to the Dungeness Spit, famous for its tasty namesake, the Dungeness crab. The world's longest naturally occurring sandspit and home to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, the spit is a sanctuary for more than 250 species of birds, 41 species of land mammals, and eight species of water mammals. Enjoy a picnic looking over breathtaking views of the beaches, Dungeness harbor, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Next stop: Port Angeles. The largest city on the peninsula, Port Angeles is considered the gateway to the Olympic National Park, but it's also an easy place to catch a ferry to Victoria and Vancouver Island in British Columbia. (Note: A US passport is required for travel between Port Angeles and Victoria.) Spend some time in town perusing art exhibits and galleries or stroll part of the Olympic Discovery Trail along the Port Angeles waterfront. Twilight fans also know Port Angeles as a central location in Stephanie Meyer's popular series of vampire romance novels. The locals have embraced the connection: at Bella Italia you can order the mushroom ravioli eaten by Bella Swan in the fictional tale.

From Port Angeles, it's only 17 miles to Hurricane Ridge, one of the most popular destinations on the Olympic Peninsula. Hike here in summer, make snowballs in winter, and look for wildlife all year long. A newly-widened highway with numerous scenic lookouts makes driving easy. Before entering, stop at the Visitors Center for a quick orientation before driving the long, winding road. At the top, prepare to be dazzled by breathtaking views of glaciers, the mountain range, and the glimmering waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

As you descend back down the mountains on your return trip, stop at one of the many lookouts. For a side excursion, turn left onto U.S. Highway 101 heading for pristine Lake Crescent with the charming Lake Crescent Lodge. Located on the shore of the second deepest lake in Washington State, find your room in one of the historic lodge rooms or unwind in a cottage under the trees. The casual lakefront dining room is a terrific choice for dinner with a menu featuring classic Pacific Northwest fare, including grilled Dungeness crab cakes and baked wild salmon.

Continue to Day 3


* Lake Cresecent and beach images by

(Updated: 09/27/12 DL)

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