A good place to start your exploration of Washington’s Olympic National Park is with the Olympic Peninsula highlights. The most popular destination on the Olympic Peninsula is snow-capped Hurricane Ridge in the mountainous heart of Olympic National Park. The Olympic National Park Visitor Center in Port Angeles is pretty cool for young and old alike and a perfect place to begin your trip. There are interactive exhibits and a film, along with gift shop/bookstore and artifacts on display. Children can become Junior Rangers by completing a series of activities.
Nature is a big deal here and wildlife watching is awesome: whales, eagles, the largest unmanaged herd of Roosevelt elk, deer, marmots, black bear, and maybe a seldom-seen fisher. Hiking in the park can be technical, rope climbs to wheelchair accessible paths with magnificent views. Pick your level of water adventure, too, from soaking in mineral springs at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to surfing at the mouth of the Elwha River to kayaking on Freshwater Bay or rafting down the Hoh River. Low tides uncover tide pools and their resident creatures. Don’t forget the mystical Hoh Rain Forest, one of the only temperate rain forests on the planet!
A 2.5 hour drive from SeaTac Airport will get you to the largest town on the Olympic Peninsula, Port Angeles. Its downtown center has outdoor art and tours of the city’s underground. Explore the paths through Webster’s Woods, a free, outdoor art museum with salmon in the trees, metal sculptures, and surprises around every corner. There is a labyrinth there, too, for meditative walking or childhood racing around. The Fiero Marine Life Center on the pier has touch tanks full of cool critters. There is also the “Dream Playground” complete with skate park and tennis courts.
===> Explore another Olympic National Park Itinerary
Olympic National Park in 3 Days: 3 Parks in One … Experience an ecological wonder in Olympic National Park
The self-designated Lavender Capital of North America™, just 25 miles east of Port Angeles, holds a festival during the third weekend in July. Many farms are open to the public and sell all things lavender, including lavender plants. The Olympic Game Farm has all kinds of exotic animals and charms children of all ages. Dungeness Spit, the longest natural sand spit in the US, is a beautiful 5.5 mile walk (one-way) to the historic New Dungeness Light Station.
Twilight is the delight of visitors in Forks, a small friendly town located 57 miles west of Port Angeles. There are tours of representative locations from the fictional books by Stephenie Meyer. The town folk play along with the whole vampire/werewolf theme. There is also an interesting Timber Museum in Forks located next to the town’s visitor center. Forks is also the largest town on the west side of the peninsula making it a perfect base-camp location for the second half of your trip along Hwy 101.
In Port Townsend, enjoy boutique shops and art galleries in historic downtown, one of three Victorian Seaports on the National Register of Historic Places. Dive, snorkel, hike, sail, bike and kayak in the area. Sunset magazine dubbed Port Townsend the “Paris of the Pacific Northwest” because of its authentic charm and maritime heritage. Restaurants, bistros and cafes consciously choose local ingredients at their finest, fresh from the farm, field or sea.