By Lisa Young | September 2017 | 7 minute read
West coast USA’s Washington State offers a drive on the wild side. Take a trip from Seattle along the Olympic Peninsula for pristine coast, ancient rainforest and snowy mountains, soak up the state’s farm to fork scene and explore the national and state parks which surround the city.
"Easily accessible from Seattle, the circular Cascade Loop drives through the rugged North Cascades National Park. Stops include Winthrop and the Bavarian-style Leavenworth. Summer offers hiking, biking and fishing”
CARL SMITH, USA SENIOR SPECIALIST, AUDLEY TRAVEL
A cruise to Alaska: HSeven major cruise lines offer cruises to Alaska from Seattle. Suggest clients make time to see the city and Washington State
Olympic Peninsula: Drive through Olympic National Park, with its wilderness, rainforests, beaches and trails
It’s a stroll: Walk through Mount Rainier National Park or drive to Sunrise Point for stunning views across Puget Sound
A walk on the wild side: Walk, ride a horse, raft or kayak through the impressive North Cascades National Park
Whale-watching tour: Take a trip along Puget Sound and spot whales, seals and dolphins in abundance
Pike Place Market: Browse the stalls, watch a fish-tossing ritual, or buy a coffee from the original Starbucks (opened 1971)
Museum of Flight: One of the largest air and space museums in the world has 160 historically significant planes and spacecraft. Or visit the Future of Flight (futureofflight.org), the world’s largest factory, to see Boeing aircraft being built
Chihuly Garden and Glass: See works by famous glass artist Dale Chihuly. Vast glass sculptures stand 30.5-metres tall
Chill out in the Wine Country: World-class wineries and artisan microbreweries can be found here - and sampled
Eye of the needle: Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, the Space Needle is the symbol of Seattle. It offers stunning views and a revolving restaurant
Washington State’s capital is known for its coffee culture, markets, tech headquarters and musical legends. It is also one of the most popular places to live in the U.S. with its urban-to -wilderness proximity and variety of adventure activities and beautiful scenery.
Iconic city attractions include Chihuly Garden and Glass and the MoPOP Museum (formerly the EMP). Check out Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarten’s history in the museum – all were born out of the Seattle music scene.
The Seattle CityPASS is a good way to see more of Seattle for less. It includes entry for around a 50% discount at the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Cruises Harbour Tour, MoPOP Museum or Woodland Park Zoo, Chihuly Garden and Glass or Pacific Science Centre.
This year over 200 cruises will head out of the city to Alaska. But increasingly cruisers are staying on in the city for a day or two or bolting on a tour of the Pacific Northwest.
The Olympic Peninsula
Home to Olympic National Park and a UNESCO World Biosphere site, this area has nearly a million acres of wilderness, 900 miles of hiking trails and 5,000 elk.
Olympia, an hour’s drive south from Seattle, is known for its colourful farmers’ market, the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, marina and brewery scene.
My next stop, at the southern end of the Olympic Peninsula, is Aberdeen, famously the birthplace of Kurt Cobain.
Heading west from here, the clockwise journey around the peninsula is mostly on Route 101, taking in stunning beaches, rainforests and incredible natural beauty.
The Olympic Peninsula has several great lodges: Kalaloch Lodge and Quinault Lodge are around an hour- and-a-half from Aberdeen. Both offer views of the Pacific coast and are ideal for exploring the peninsula.
The highlights of this amazing national park include Ruby Beach, where harbour seals, porpoises, orcas and humpback whales are a common sight. Huge sea stacks and surf-tossed logs along the shore make for a spectacular setting.
Hoh Rainforest is 32 miles inland from Ruby Beach. Trailheads lead through one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. Hike the beautiful Hall of Mosses loop trail near the visitor centre – it is less than a mile long, but look out for those elk!
Another 31 miles north and I arrive at Forks, where the Twilight series was filmed, and then on to Cape Flattery Head, the northwestern-most tip of the Continental U.S. I spot eagles overhead.
At Port Angeles you can take the ferry across to Vancouver Island, crossing the border into Canada.
From Port Angeles, I head to the Victorian seaport of Port Townsend, with its Victorian buildings, unique boutiques, galleries and restaurants. Its vibrant working waterfront is also the starting out point for whale-watching tours.
A fun and unusual place to stay is Fort Worden, where An Officer and a Gentleman was filmed.
Finally, my Olympic Peninsula trip concludes at Bainbridge Island, a 90-minute drive from Port Townsend. The ferry here goes right to the heart of Seattle and provides unbeatable views of the city, mountains and the iconic Space Needle.
Three national parks are each within a two- to two-and-a-half hour’s drive of the city and there are many state parks and national monuments.
One of the most famous national monuments is the still-active volcano, Mount St Helens, a great stop off when driving to the winelands or south to Oregon.
Near Mount St Helens, Mount Rainier National Park has over 120 glaciers and reaches 4,393 metres at its summit. Visitors can join hiking paths that take them through the extensive mountain range and foothills.
To the northeast of Seattle North Cascades National Park is an outdoors adventurer’s playground. Drive the scenic North Cascade Loop – 440 miles through jagged alpine peaks with 300 glaciers, aquamarine lakes, deep forests and pretty villages – then stop off at the Sun Mountain Resort and Leavenworth, a Bavarian-style town straight out of the Sound of Music.
Farm to table
The Pacific Northwest culinary scene is built around the region’s seafood and creative chefs, yet Washington State is also the second- largest wine producer in the U.S. Wine lovers should head south to ‘Wine Country’, where around 900 of the state’s wineries are found, to combine some Viognier and Merlot with a fine-dining experience.
What the experts say
“Seattle is flourishing, with new hotels, new flights, more Alaska cruise options and other exciting developments. For 2018, we will have some 70,000 more aircraft seats with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian offering flights daily into Seattle.
"To support this anticipated growth, from May 2018 Thomas Cook will offer direct non stop flights between Manchester and Seattle. There is a significant hotel expansion programme in the city, with over 3,000 more hotel beds due to come online by the end of 2018. And our attractions are keeping pace. A Pike Place Market extension and Space Needle renovation add to the picture of an expanding and increasingly exciting destination for UK travellers.
“So see our UK website – seattle-washingtonstate.co.uk – for itinerary suggestions, news and a list of tour operators. Introduce your clients to the best of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle and Washington State!”
STEVE JOHNSON, INSPIRED BY ASIA, MANAGING EXECUTIVE
Air: Virgin Atlantic now has a non-stop flight into Seattle-Tacoma from Heathrow, on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
In September 2017 Norwegian Airlines will start direct flights between Gatwick and Seattle. Four flights will operate a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Attractions: Pike Place Market in Seattle has a new ‘MarketFront’ extension that includes 47 new stalls and a public terrace and plaza with views of Puget Sound and Olympic Mountain.
The 55-year-old Space Needle is to undergo a facelift this year, updating the structure’s physical systems and offering a heightened Observation Deck experience with floor-to-ceiling glass on the interior and exterior.
Accommodation: More than 3,000 more beds will be added in downtown and greater Seattle by 2019.
The new downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel will be Seattle’s largest hotel with 1,260-guest rooms when it opens in late 2018.
Marriott International is to unveil a new hotel concept in Seattle. Moxy Seattle is due to open before the end of 2017.
Cruise: The Norwegian Bliss, a new cruise ship that will accommodate 4,000 guests, will sail to Alaska from Seattle in 2018.
Where to book it
America As You Like It has a 10-night fly-drive to Washington State that takes in the Cascade Highway starts from £1494pp, in a twin room. The deal includes flights, hotel and car hire.
Audley Travel has a tailor-made 21-day Canada & USA Pacific Northwest self-drive itinerary from £3,390pp, based on two sharing. The deal includes flights, transfers, car hire and accommodation. The itinerary has two nights in Winthrop, ideal for exploring the North Cascades National Park.