Previewing Five Best Pacific Northwest Experiences

Pacific Northwest

Mt. Baker to the west as seen from Orcas Island. (Photo courtesy of San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau)

This month we will spend a week in the Pacific Northwest, where we will get a taste of Seattle, Vancouver, the San Juan Islands and plenty of great food and drink. And if the weather cooperates, I’m looking forward to hiking, seeing the magnificent Pacific Ocean and get a taste of Olympic National Park. We will spend a week in the region, plenty of time to get a taste of the five best Pacific Northwest experiences.

Stacey and I visited Seattle in July of 2003 and it remains one of our favorite trips. We visited friends who live there and got a nice taste of everything the Emerald City has to offer. We also drove south to see Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, drove through beautiful Astoria, Ore., and made our way to the Pacific shores along the Oregon coast.

We won’t make it down to Oregon on this visit, but we will see lots of highlights of Washington State and Vancouver. Here is just a taste of the the fun we’ll have with this preview of five best Pacific Northwest experiences.

San Juan Islands

Pacific Northwest

The view as seen from Outlook Inn on Orcas Island (Photo courtesy of Outlook Inn)

We visited Friday Harbor on San Juan Island on our previous trip. That excursion was centered on a whale watching tour.

This time around we’re staying overnight at the Outlook Inn on Orcas Island. It’s a historic inn that overlooks the water with a little island perched in the middle. If we get rained in and must spend the day in this hotel, I can think of worse experiences.

The ferry out to the islands will be half the fun for our son. Once on the island we’ll have our choice of shopping for unique pottery, visiting the island’s winery and brewery, sampling food at some of its restaurants and hiking in Moran State Park.

We’ll only have one night on the island, but it should be long enough to get in a nice hike and enjoy the laid-back feel of this beautiful island. And of course lounging at the Outlook Inn on a crisp October evening sounds like what an autumn experience in the Pacific Northwest should be.


A ferry departs Mukilteo, just north of Seattle (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Ledgard)

A ferry departs Mukilteo, just north of Seattle (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Ledgard)

Without Seattle this Pacific Northwest experience isn’t happening.

This trip is a combination of enjoying a beautiful city and a long overdue visit to friends who live in Seattle. We’ll stay four nights in Seattle, enough time to see some of the highlights.

Yes, that includes Pike’s Place Market, Alki Beach and the Space Needle.  But we won’t spend an abundance of time on those main sights; after all, we have visited Seattle before.

What I’m looking forward to most is experiencing the neighborhoods of Ballard, Fremont and Madison Park. Great food, an abundance of breweries and just a cool vibe in these three unique neighborhoods will be the highlight of our Seattle experience I predict.

Olympic National Park

Pacific Northwest

A sunny moment at La Push (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Ledgard)

This Pacific Northwest experience might not happen. The unpredictable weather will play a role in this decision.

Olympic National Park sits on the Olympic Peninsula between the Pacific Ocean to the west and Puget Sound and Seattle to the east. I’ve heard how beautiful this park is with rainforests, the Olympic mountains and the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.

If we do make it out it will be a long day. The drive without stops will take us four hours to get to La Push and the Pacific.

Olympic National Park has been high on my outdoors wish list for years; it’s made it to Stacey’s list in the past seven or eight years thanks to the “Twilight” book and movie series set there. That may or may not play a role in the reason for our visit. Stay tuned for how that turns out.


Pacific Northwest

Beautiful Vancouver (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Ledgard)

My only Canadian experience came in Toronto and Niagara Falls a couple of years ago. Stacey and Colby haven’t been.

So in deciding if we would spend a couple of days in Portland or Vancouver the deciding factor was an opportunity to visit another country. Yes, we will have our passports in hand when we drive across the border into British Columbia.

We will be there two nights, enough time to experience the highlights. Everyone says we “must” visit the market on Granville Island. I’ve read great things about the converted warehouses in Gastown that today house boutiques and restaurants. I do hope to walk the seawall on the western edge of Stanley Park, and enjoy the Asian culture in the city.

Food, Beer and Wine, Oh My

Our visit to the Pacific Northwest 12 years ago showed us how much amazing seafood, craft beer, great wines and outstanding coffee come out of the region. My expectations are sky high. We love seafood, and I want to get a nice share of oysters and clams.

I’m hopeful to make the scenic Chuckanut drive that parallels Interstate 5 just south of the Canadian border when we make our way back to Seattle for our flight home. Not only is the drive beautiful, I’ve read the oysters that come out of Samish Bay are out of this world.

Part of the reason we’re spending an evening in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is for its abundance of breweries. And of course the wine that comes out of Washington and Oregon will be nice. One of my fondest memories of our trip in 2003 was enjoying an evening of fresh tilapia on the grill with several bottles of locally made Chateau Ste. Michelle. Yum.

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