Puget Sound Getaway From Seattle
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
Back To Nature
There are no TV’s or phones to distract from the idyllic views at the Lake Crescent Lodge (416 Lake Crescent Rd., Olympic National Park; 360/928-3211; lakecrescentlodge.com). Rooms in the converted 1916 tavern and Roosevelt cottages feel the most authentic, thanks to rustic birch furniture and pine-lined walls.
The mouthwatering signature sandwich at the Port Angeles CrabHouse (221 N. Lincoln, Port Angeles; 360/457-0424) combines Dungeness and Pacific meat on toasted sourdough. Bonus: an unironically retro interior with wraparound vistas of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The perfect antidote to that Pacific Northwest drizzle: a just-pulled Borgia (a mocha laced with orange zest) with your morning eggs at Sweet Laurette’s Café & Bistro (1029 Lawrence St., Port Townsend; 360/385-4886).
Chef Matt Costello of the Inn at Langley (400 First St., Langley, Whidbey Island; 360/221-3033) scours nearby farmers’ markets for his six-course prix fixe menus (Whidbey Island lamb loin; citrus-cured wild salmon), served Friday to Sunday. With only one seating a night, the meal can seem like a festive dinner party.
Everyone from tattooed bikers to blue-haired old ladies slurps down the steamed Penn Cove mussels at funky Toby’s Tavern (8 N.W. Front St., Coupeville, Whidbey Island; 360/678-4222), which overlooks the waters where the famed bivalves are harvested.
Lose yourself among the cultivated woodlands and manicured landscapes at the Bloedel Reserve (7571 N.E. Dolphin Dr., Bainbridge Island; 206/842-7631; reservations required), the sprawling former estate of a lumber baron turned passionate horticulturist.
Wild at Heart
Designated by Congress in 1938, mammoth and mountainous Olympic National Park (Visitors’ center at 3002 Mount Angeles Rd., Port Angeles; 360/565-3130; nps.gov) stretches across rugged Pacific coast and lush interior old-growth forests. Daylong explorations are surprisingly simple: in less than an hour, you can drive from Port Angeles to the Hurricane Hill Trail, a 3.2-mile ramble through subalpine meadows and groves, with heart-stopping views of peaks and nearby Vancouver Island.
In downtown Port Townsend, whimsical Summer House Design (930 Water St., Port Townsend; 360/344-4192) stocks pétanque sets and handblown sake glasses. Artisans on Taylor (236 Taylor St., Port Townsend; 360/379-1029) has lathe-turned madrone-wood bowls. At the Wandering Wardrobe (936 Washington St., Port Townsend; 360/379-4691), score vintage handbags and Jackie O.–style suits.