Washington is such a beautiful state with so many things to see and do. I’ve written a lot about many of my favorite places that we’ve been in each region, so check out the posts below in my Washington Travel Guide for ideas on where to go!
Olympic Peninsula (West of Seattle)
I think the Peninsula often gets overlooked when people are planning their Seattle vacations because it is a bit out of the way and harder to get to. Port Angeles is a good home base on the north side – you’ll either need to take the ferry from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island and then continue north, or another option would be to drive around Puget Sound through Tacoma and then north from there. If you’re heading out to Lake Quinault or the southern part of the Peninsula, then I recommend going south through Tacoma and Olympia and then west to the coast. If you’ve got the time, there are some great hikes and sights to see out there!
Located on the southern edge of Olympic National Park, Lake Quinault makes for the perfect weekend getaway from Seattle. It’s about a three hour drive from the city and is such a peaceful, relaxing place. Relax on the water or hike through the Quinault rainforest.
The Washington coast is full of gorgeous beaches. Check out this post to hear about our favorite stops get advice on making a full loop of the Olympic Peninsula. We started from Lake Quinault and then went north along the coast, then in to Lake Crescent and Port Angeles.
This short 1.5 mile hike is just off the shores of beautiful Lake Crescent and is perfect for kids. Read more about our Olympic Peninsula waterfall trip here.
This is one of my favorite waterfalls on the peninsula. It’s a short, easy hike through the mossy rainforest to the falls.
Salt Creek is my favorite place to look at tidepools. Check the tide charts before you go to make sure you have plenty of time to see the starfish and anemones! We combined this with a trip all the way out to Cape Flattery, the northwesternmost point in the continental U.S.!
One of my absolute favorite places in Washington. I’ve included photos from Hurricane Ridge in a lot of my posts on the Olympic Peninsula, because we always try to head up there whenever we are out near Port Angeles. It’s a 17 mile road up to the Visitor Center from Port Angeles, and it has one of the most incredible views. Definitely can’t miss this if you’re out on the peninsula. There are some short hikes from the Visitor Center, and I recommend the hike up to Klahane Ridge if you’ve got the time.
North of Seattle
The San Juan Islands are a wonderful day trip or weekend getaway about an hour and a half north of Seattle. Take the ferry from Anacortes out to the islands. There are multiple ferries a day, and I recommend reserving online in order to make sure you get a spot on the ferry you want.
Friday Harbor on San Juan Island is probably the most popular spot for visitors. It’s a cute little town with lots of shops and restaurants. You also can take whale watching tours from here to see the orca pods that live nearby! Check out this post for some more of our favorite spots on the island.
We took a day trip up to Orcas Island last summer, and it’s another one of my favorite places in Washington. Head up to the top of Mount Constitution for some of the most breathtaking views of the islands with Mount Baker in the distance.
Diablo Lake is another one of my favorite places (I have a lot of favorites…). The turquoise waters are unbelievable! It’s probably a couple hour drive from Anacortes or from Seattle, depending on where you are coming from. There is a great overlook off the highway, and if you’ve got the time, stay and camp a few nights and do some hiking in the area. You won’t be disappointed!
If you’re visiting in April, you have to check out the Skagit Valley tulip festival! Located about an hour north of Seattle (before you get to Anacortes), these tulip fields are an amazing sight!
Mount Rainier (South from Seattle)
Mount Rainier is one of my favorite places on earth. It still takes my breath away when I see the mountain every day on my commute to work in downtown Seattle. It’s about 2.5-3 hours to drive down to Mount Rainier National Park from Seattle. So far we’ve only been able to do day trips down there to hike, but it would be an awesome weekend adventure to go down and camp or stay in one of the lodges in the park. I’ve listed some of my favorite hikes below.
One of the best hikes we’ve done at Mount Rainier. This is a great loop from the Paradise Visitor Center past Myrtle Falls and up to Panorama Point. Absolutely incredible views the entire way, and if you’ve got a clear day you’ll be able to see Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens from Panorama Point.
Skyline Trail part 2
We ended up at Mount Rainier exactly a year to the day later than the above post (that one is from June 2015, this one is from June 2016), and it was crazy to see how different it was based on the snow levels from year to year. We had way more snow this past winter, so we weren’t able to do the entire Skyline trail, but we did a lot of it and loved the views as always. The kids had so much fun playing in the snow and sledding down the hills!
Check out this post for info on hiking from Narada Falls to Reflection Lake – a great, easy to moderate hike through gorgeous fields of wildflowers and amazing views.
This hike is a bit tougher, but so worth it to see these impressive falls! It’s on the way up to Paradise Visitor Center.
This photo is of the falls frozen in the winter, and it’s even more beautiful in the summer! The waterfall is located on the way up to Paradise Visitor Center and is an easy stop right off the main road to stop and see quickly on your way up to the Skyline trail or other hikes near the visitor center.
Ok so this one isn’t Mount Rainier , but it’s in the same direction from Seattle and also is so worth a visit if you are in the area and have the time. The highway out to Johnston Ridge Observatory was built specifically for visitors to be able to visit the overlook and learn about the 1980 eruption. There are several visitor centers along the way, each with informative exhibits and videos that are fascinating to watch and learn about what happened. J and I actually had the opportunity to hike up to the rim last summer, which was such an incredible experience. Look for a post on that coming soon!
If you’re continuing south…check out my Oregon travel guide for more amazing sights to see. We took a week-long road trip through Oregon a couple years ago, and it’s such a beautiful state!
East from Seattle
There are tons of great hikes in the Central Cascades, only a short drive from Seattle. I’ve listed a few of my favorites below.
This is a great beginner hike, especially for kids. It’s only about an hour from Seattle and is four miles round-trip with 1000 feet of elevation gain. We took J’s niece (6.5) and nephew (8) and they did great! It’s a beautiful overlook onto Rattlesnake Lake, and a fun hike even on a rainy day.
Snoqualmie is only about 45 minutes from Seattle and is another great stop for an impressive sight! There is a parking lot right next to the falls, so no hiking required, although there is also a great trail down to the river if you want to get closer.
A challenging hike also not far from Seattle. It’s a grueling four miles to the top, but you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of Mount Rainier, and on a clear day you can even see downtown Seattle. We’ve done this hike a few times – most recently as a sunset hike for J’s birthday. Hiking down in the dark with our headlamps was an adventure!
A bit further east (about two hours from Seattle) is Lake Wenatchee State Park. We spent a fun weekend here camping and kayaking and had a great time.
And of course a post about Washington wouldn’t be complete without some info on my favorite places in Seattle!
A trip to Seattle just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Pike Place! I could wander through here for hours visiting all the stands and shops. I’ve listed out a few of my favorites in this post.
One of the best places to get a view over Seattle and Puget Sound!
If you’re looking for a quirky stop, then make sure you see the troll under the bridge in Fremont!
And of course the Space Needle! I think it’s worth a trip up once, especially if you’ve got a clear day. Check the prices online – I believe it’s cheaper in the early morning and later at night if you want to avoid some of the crowds and save a bit of money.