A string of interconnected waterways and islands, Washington’s Puget Sound provides instant access to the majestic side of the Pacific Northwest. Eagles and whales are frequent sights; on clear days, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and the Olympic Range add to the panoramic sweep of sea and sky. Thanks to numerous ferries and bridges, this looplike journey from Seattle through the forest-cloaked Olympic Peninsula is as easy as it is invigorating.
An affluent suburb that’s more like a wooded retreat, Bainbridge Island is a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle. Country lanes dead-end at picturesque bays, and the streets near the ferry terminal are lined with cafés and boutiques.
Just north, on the Kitsap Peninsula, fluttering Norwegian flags trumpet Poulsbo’s Scandinavian roots. Tiny, landmarked Port Gamble is a pretty cluster of clapboard houses curled around the mouth of Gamble Bay.
Crossing over to the Olympic Peninsula, the road climbs through thick stands of western red cedar before descending into the valley hamlet of Sequim, which a quirk of geography has graced with a microclimate that’s sunnier than the often-rainy Pacific Northwest. The area is flush with lavender fields that may put you in mind of Provence. Three miles north, in the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, one of the world’s longest sandspits extends into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A walking path wends along a beach strewn with tree-size driftwood to the still-functioning 1857 lighthouse.
To the west, Port Angeles, once the hub of a booming lumber industry, has a laid-back, no-nonsense vibe. It’s the primary gateway to Olympic National Park—which, at 922,000 acres, is bigger than Rhode Island. The park’s diversity is staggering: moss-draped rain forests, jagged cliffs, and glacier-capped peaks.
On the coast’s northeast tip, Port Townsend was a washed-up Victorian burg until an influx of artists kick-started its revival in the 1960’s. Now it’s a bed-and-breakfast mecca.
A ferry across Admiralty Inlet goes to Whidbey Island, home to the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve (with its bird-filled lagoons) and the town of Langley, with its cosmopolitan restaurants and galleries.
Seattle to Bainbridge Island: 12 miles
Bainbridge Island to Sequim: 55 miles
Sequim to Port Angeles: 19 miles