1. Hoh Rainforest
We overheard a fellow ask the park ranger “Is it actually worth the drive in?”… Our jaws fell to the floor. Yes, yes it is worth the drive!
It’s true that Washington is one of the rainiest states, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. The Hoh is a Pacific temperate rain forests and is 1 of 7 on the planet. The forrest is located on the Olympic Peninsula, about 19 miles off of Highway 101. The 19 mile drive is extremely diverse and the scenery changes the deeper you go.
Upon arrival, we checked into the visitor center and headed to our campsite that we had reserved in advanced. Luckily, there were numerous sites available and we were able to pick and choose which one suited us best (we visited in May).
Check out the Hall of Mosses (.8 mile) and Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles) to see the famous moss draped maples that look like they’re out of fairytale. If you’re into a more intensive hike, head out the 5 Mile Island trail (which is actually 12.5 miles roundtrip) to explore waterfalls and snowcapped mountains.
If you’re driving in from the South, stop at Kalaloch Beach! These campsites really book up in advanced, probably because they’re literally right on the cliff overlooking a million dollar view. We parked in the Ruby Beach parking lot and walked down to find these carved out trees right off the beach.
2. Cape Disappointment
If you plan on visiting southern Washington, I suggest you grab your tent, because we guarantee you’re going to want to watch the sunset with a cold beer in your hand *on our way out of town, we stopped by Three Magnets Brewing Co. and filled up two grunts*. We made reservations for a campsite upon arrival. When we visited in May, the mosquitos were UNREAL, so come prepared!
Things to do…
Once you’re in the State Park, there are multiple things to see and do. We suggest watching to sunset, cooking some dinner and relaxing the first night. Wake up early and take a stroll along Waikiki Beach at the north jetty, it’s definitely a serene sight to see. After exploring Waikiki, we drove up the road towards the lighthouse. There are multiple signs guiding you where to go, it’s hard to miss.
Hiking to Dead Mans Cove
You’ll come across a large parking lot, we entered the trailhead on the left side. This will lead you to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse as well as Dead Mans Cove. Dead Mans Cove isn’t prominent on the trailhead, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for a trail leading down to the beach. It’s a bit steep and most likely wet, so make sure you wear appropriate shoes for hiking around. We suggest going first thing in the morning to beat crowds.
*Note: Don’t mess around with the tides, the ocean is much stronger than you*
3. Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
The journey getting to Friday Harbor is part of the fun! It doesn’t matter what direction you’re coming from, it’s going to be stunning.
We drove north from Tacoma and boarded the ferry at Anacortes. Looking back now, we would not have driven our car across. Save the $60 car fee and walk on for $13.
Kayaking, Fishing, Eating.
Everything is within walking distance from the ferry terminal. With that being said, we stayed at a house that was very close to the middle of downtown. The house was called Wayfarers Rest, and it was a lovely experience.
The morning after we arrived, we woke up early to meet our guides with Sea Quest Kayak Tours in the middle of downtown. They shuttled us to and from our launching beach which was really convenient. Our tour lasted about 3 hours and was a blast! Although we didn’t see any whales, the experience was breathtaking and having lunch on a deserted beach was definitely a highlight of the trip. We highly recommend this company.
Upon arriving to Friday Harbor, we hadn’t yet planned to go on a fishing charter. We were walking along the boardwalk and spotted a sign attached to a boat that said “San Juan Fishing Charters“. We looked at each other and knew it was meant to be. During our charter we caught a few lingcod, explored some islands and got to see some sealions up close and personal. We were very grateful the boat had an enclosed space because it was a bit rainy and freezing outside.
That night we indulged at a restaurant called Cask & Shooner. It’s located on the corner as soon as you exit the ferry, you can’t miss it. If you like wood, good cocktails/beer and ridiculous sea food, we suggest you pop in here. Rachel’s heart melted as soon as the accordion player began to serenade each table. Ask for a table by the window, it’s a sunset you will soon not forget.
4. Port Townsend
Where do we even begin? We’re SO lucky to have the inside scoop on this historical town because Rachel has 6 amazing relatives that reside here. If there is one thing we took away from Port Townsend, it’s that it is a true community. The nicest people in the world live here. I mean, can you blame them? This town is picture perfect.
Since we love everything about this place, we’re going to list our favorite spots instead of giving a play by play.
The Cellar Door: This underground speakeasy is not to be missed. Each night of the week hosts a different event. We suggest visiting on Thursday, ordering an old fashioned and warming your bones with some amazing live jazz.
Sirens: This local spot is the place to be, anytime of day. Their motto is “Be a local… climb the stairs” because literally, you have to go up stairs to the second floor. Sirens has a full menu of delectable offerings and with 11 micro brews on tap, and a extensive bar. It has a gorgeous outdoor patio that is almost always filled in the nice months, so come early to stake a spot.
Waterfront Pizza: If we lived here, we would probably eat here everyday… it’s that dangerous. Freshly made pizza by the slice? Yes please. Don’t be picky either, whatever is in the window, you eat. It’s going to be good!
Elevated Ice Cream: What’s better than pizza? You guessed it. DO NOT PASS THIS UP! I repeat, indulge. They have been in business for over 40 years and know how to do it right. They strive to only use locally grown fruits and nuts to flavor their creams. Their ice cream is an all-natural dairy mixture (14% butterfat) made with farm-fresh milk and cream. No added colors or artificial crap. It’s the real deal.
Finn River Cidery: About a 15 minute drive south of Port Townsend, you will arrive in Chimacum. It is here that Finn River Cidery reigns. There’s nothing better than walking through apple orchards, sipping cider that was once hanging in the tree next to you. It’s a beautiful thing. We suggest you partake in a tasting because you’re going to want to try every single cider they make. Our favorite ciders were the Black Current Sparkling and the Golden Russet. We had the honor of tasting their Pommeau, which tastes like calvados and apple wine had a beautiful baby. Please take some time out of your life to relax and enjoy yourselves here.
About 1.5 hours west of Port Townsend is the start of the northern side of Olympic National Park. If you have time, we suggest visiting Crescent Lake and hiking Mt. Storm King. Mt. Storm King is 3.8 miles rountrip with 1780ft of elevation. It’ll get your thighs burning for sure! While you’re on your way back into town, eat at One 12. It’s the best “post hike” meal full of delicious carbs!
5. Palouse Falls
The drive from west to east is one you don’t want to miss. Driving over the mountains into the rain shadow is exhilarating. The scenery changes from sharp giant mountains to green rolling hills almost instantly. If you go in the spring, you will see billions of wildflowers coating each pasture. The drive alone is worth it! It’s the Grand Canyon of Washington.
How to get there and what to expect
We went into it with little knowledge of where/how to get to the falls, but we did know that we had to drive to Palouse State Park. For some reason, we thought it was a couple miles to even get to the falls, but to our dismay… you literally park, get out of your car and there it is. We were hoping for something a little more suspenseful, but it’s incredible non-the-less.
Since we were ready to go on a hike, we found our own trail. There is fencing all the way around the front of the falls, but if you head right towards to gazebo, you’ll be surprised to find a small path that leads you down to some railroad tracks (these are very active tracks, so be mindful). Keep walking straight and you will find a rope that will help repel you down into the canyon. We called it the “Kalalau Trail of Washington” because there is a section where the trail is about 12 inches wide and there’s a couple hundred foot drop next to you. Just be careful and you’ll be fine. We don’t suggest small children doing this. The view of the falls from the lower canyon is beautiful!
If you absolutely love Seattle and came here to read about it, you’re going to be disappointed. Washington has so much more to offer than Seattle, and we encourage you to look beyond the Space Needle. Sure it’s a beautiful city, but we’re small city people who love small city things.
We’ve heard people call Tacoma the “Arm Pit of Washington” go right ahead… that just means shorter lines at the breweries for us!
We may be biased towards Tacoma because it’s the city that brought us to Washington in the first place. For those of you who don’t know, Holt took a travel nursing assignment which landed us right smack on the Puget Sound. We rented a beautiful airbnb on Dash Point which made us feel like we were millionaires for three months.
Beer, Beer and more Beer!
Our first mission while living in Washington was to complete the South Sound Craft Crawl. Which we so proudly did! During our brewery escapades, we discovered that it’s not about drinking as many beers as you can, it’s about drinking as many delicious beers as you can! Let’s talk about which breweries made the top of our list…
Narrows Brewery Co. – This place has it all. Amazing rotating craft beers and a view for days. We visited Narrows on a regular basis even though we lived about 30 minutes away. This place is also ridiculously clean, which was nice. PS: Save your money and don’t eat at the restaurant below the brewery, it’s expensive and the food is less than par.
North 47 – This was our first brewery to visit in Tacoma. We were so lucky to have North 47 within walking distance from our house. The Elated Slug (ESB) is an absolute winner here. Rachel sports her slug tank top on a regular basis. North 47 is always hosting unique events such as Trivia, Yoga, Paint and Brew, and local live music.
Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. – First of all, this is managed by some of the nicest guys in Tacoma. They are always trying new and fresh things to change up your pallet. They host unique events such as Bob Ross Paint Night that brings the beer community together with art! Our guilty pleasure in Tacoma turned into night-capping here with a hot pretzel with their homemade herb butter sauce.
Cockrell Brewing – Picture yourself on a quiet warm spring day, surrounded by a blossoming orchard, sipping a flight of hard ciders. A black lab runs over to give you a quick kiss and then frolics away into the field behind you. You feel like family when you’re here!
Hiking: If you’re in the mood for a beautiful hike, try out Rattlesnake Ledge, which is located in Snoqualmie about 20 minutes southeast of Tacoma. This hike is 4 miles roundtrip (1160ft. elevation gain) and the trail is well maintained. If you prefer something a little more extreme, head down the road to Mt. Si and hike Mailbox Peak. This trail is 9.4 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 4k. You will most likely run into snow depending on the time of year, so come prepared!
7. North Cascades National Park & Methow Valley
If we could go back and re-visit one location, this would be it. Half of the time we thought we magically teleported to the Austrian Alps. We drove in from the west side of Highway 20 and took it all the way to Winthrop in Methow Valley. This is hands down, the most beautiful drive in Washington. You’re going to want to stop every 5 minutes, so plan ahead to leave ample amount of time for exploring.
We highly recommend driving all the way to Winthrop and taking in this tiny magnificent town. We were shocked to find this little gem in the middle of no where. It’s hip, ahead of it’s time and has delicious restaurants, beer, cider and architecture. You can find Olsen Kundig works of art, scattered around thousands of acres.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Skytop house which is now our dream home inspiration. Rachel’s parents rented out the main house, while we rented the guest quarters above the garage. Both units are to die for! The bathtub in the guest quarters is not to be missed. We cannot recommend this house enough.
Where to Eat
Our favorite restaurant we visited during out stay was The Copper Glance -“a petit lounge bar in Winthrop, offering creative classic cocktails and delicious wholesome fare”. We suggest visiting on a day where the front BBQ pits are smoking! The Old Schoolhouse Brewery was also a great casual family friendly place to have a few local brews.
Thank you for reading! All thoughts, comments, suggestions are our own and we were not endorsed to promote anyone.
-Rachel & Holt