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Olympic Peninsula

Photo by Elizabeth Rose

Olympic Peninsula Itineraries

A Day in Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula

Olympic Peninsula Lighthouses

Stunning natural beauty, historic lodges, rain forest and beaches

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The Olympic Peninsula of Washington is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Hood Canal and on the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Olympic Peninsula is home to the rain forests and rugged terrain of the Olympic National Park, as well as historic lodges, logging towns, Native American cultural centers and chances to walk on beautiful driftwood-studded beaches.


Getting to the Olympic Peninsula

You can access the Olympic Peninsula from the east via the Hood Canal Bridge from the Kitsap Peninsula or from the South via Highway 101 through Olympia or the Long Beach Peninsula.

Whether you have just a day as you wait for a ferry to Victoria, B.C. or can take five days to explore the small towns, huge trees and waterfalls, the Olympic Peninsula is well worth your visit. Few places in America can match its diversity in terrain and weather in such a compact geographic area.


What to See on the Olympic Peninsula

The main attraction on the Olympic Peninsula is the Olympic National Park  but there is a wealth of outdoor activities, cultural experiences and local events in each community around the Peninsula to keep you busy. How about visiting Forks, made famous by the Twilight vampire movie and book series. Or, have a burger at The Hard Rain Café just outside the Hoh Rain Forest.

You can visit the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend, accessible by the Hood Canal Bridge, known for stately Victorian homes, galleries, restaurants and the annual Wooden Boat Festival. The whole town is on the National Historic Register. Another town to visit, this one on the sunny side of the peninsula is Sequim, known for lavender fields and Dungeness crab.

You can follow a short waterfall trail, drive to visit historic lighthouses, enjoy kayaking on Crescent Lake or luxuriate on the deck of the historic Lake Quinault Lodge with a glass of wine in your hand.  You don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula.

In the evening, find seafood or northwest cuisine restaurants. At the Kalaloch Lodge, one summer evening, I had a salmon dinner from a fish caught in Neah Bay just that day. My evening’s entertainment consisted of walking on the beach watching the vibrant sunset.


Where to Stay on the Olympic Peninsula

There are a variety of accommodations in the area ranging from quaint Bed and Breakfasts, to scenic campsites and beautiful historic lodges.


When To Go

Like many destinations in the Pacific Northwest, you can visit year round. However in winter, it is important to check the weather reports to ensure that roads are clear and no dangerous storms are expected. The Olympic Peninsula includes rain forests, beaches, cozy lodges at lower elevations as well as the mountainous higher elevations of the Olympic National Park.

How Much Time To Spend

You can take a day trip to visit some of the highlights of the Olympic Peninsula but to experience all that the peninsula has to offer allow at least four days.

High and Low Season

Summer is the high season.

Weather and Climate

Like many destinations in the Pacific Northwest, you can visit year round. However in winter, it is important to check the weather reports to ensure that roads are clear and no dangerous storms are expected. While the beaches and rain forests are at a lower elevation, mountainous parts of the Olympic National Park may be inaccessible parts of the winter.

Time Zone

Pacific

What To Pack and Wear

The Olympic Peninsula is casual. Expect changes in weather so dress in layers. Bring sturdy walking shoes or day hikers/hiking boots. Choose a waterproof jacket for your outer layer. Higher altitudes, of course, will be colder and, in winter, require heavier clothing. Bring gear and clothing related to what you want to do… explore a beach in summer or go snowshoeing in winter.

What it Costs

You can take a day driving trip to see the sights on the Olympic Peninsula, pack a picnic lunch and spend no more than it costs to purchase gas.

The entrance fee for the Olympic National Park for a car is $20. More on National Park fees. A one day Discover Pass for State Parks is $10. More on State Park fees.

Transportation

To enjoy the diverse offerings of the beautiful Olympic Peninsula, you’ll need to drive. And, certainly, there are those who are bicycle travelers.

As far as getting there from Seattle you can take the Bainbridge Island ferry or from north Seattle, take the Edmonds to Kingston ferry.  There is also a ferry from Coupeville on Whidbey Island to Port Townsend (make reservations on this ferry). More on Washington State Ferries.

From Tacoma, drive across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and continue North on Route 16 through Gig Harbor and Port Orchard. Turn onto Hwy 3 South of Bremerton and continue until you reach the Hood Canal Bridge and follow Hwy 104 to Hwy101.

From Olympia and points south you will be driving west on Hwy 8 at Olympia, then North toward Shelton along Hwy 101.

Evergreen Escapes offers day tours of the Olympic Peninsula and longer. They can pick you up at your Seattle hotel and offer a very comfortable van trip.

All Points Charters and Tours  is located on the Olympic Peninsula although I have not had the opportunity to review their offerings.

There are local bus services and airport transportation.

Background

The Olympic Peninsula of Washington is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Hood Canal and on the north by the  Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Olympic Peninsula is home to rugged scenery, quaint towns, lighthouses and rural festivals.

Hurricane Ridge, Crescent Lake, Ruby Beach, Kalaloch Lodge, the Victorian Seaport of Port Townsend, the Lavender Festival Weekend in Sequim, the Hoh Rain Forest and Forks are all Olympic Peninsula destinations… and all very different.

Olympic National Park, a designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, is the main draw of the Peninsula, with nearly one million acres of recreation opportunities in rain forest valleys, alpine meadows and 73 miles of wilderness coastline.

Outside the Park is Olympic National Forest with another half-million acres of recreation lands. In addition, there are state and county parks and unique small communities to discover.

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