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The best ways to get from Portland to Seattle

Travel from Portland to Seattle easily to explore both of these top PacNW cities

Written by
Garrick Ramirez

Seattle and Portland, as the top two Pacific Northwest cities, are often compared. They are, however, very different. Both have unique vibes, great restaurants, and access to the outdoors. Both are very much worth a visit, and at less than 200 miles between them, getting from Portland to Seattle and back is easy. Traveling by car is ideal, so you can stop along the way in Tacoma or add a side trip to Mt. St. Helens or the coast. But for a straightforward two-city visit, there are a few easy options.

Here are the best ways to get from Portland to Seattle so you can explore both and decide for yourself which city comes out on top. Will it be Portland, with its famous food trucks and doughnuts? Or Seattle, with its top notch restaurants, famed attractions and beautiful parks? Are you a fan of the City of Roses or the Emerald City—or both? Combine the two cities for an exciting two-fer of a vacation, via plane, train, car or bus.

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How to get from Portland to Seattle

Photograph: Flickr/ap0013/CC

1. Car

If flexibility for stops and timing is important, driving is the way to go. Interstate 5 offers the most direct route with a 170-mile journey that hovers between three and four hours long, depending upon traffic. But take your time: Both Olympia (the capital) and Tacoma (home of the Museum of Glass) are worth a stop. Take the coastal route for a longer, more scenic drive, and you can hit up Canon Beach or even Tillamook, where you can tour the Tillamook Creamery.

Photograph: Flickr/ruelo/CC

2. Bus

You’ll still be at the mercy of traffic, but if you want to leave the driving to someone else, hop aboard one of numerous buses shuttling between Portland and Seattle. Greyhound runs several daily buses with five stops, and tempts passengers with free WiFi, power outlets, and no dreaded middle seats. Book well in advance, and you’ll find the best deals—as in $1 tickets—with BoltBus. The Greyhound-owned company that successfully lured a younger generation with sleek, tech-friendly coaches offers incredibly inexpensive fares when it releases schedules six months in advance (yet, like airfare, prices increase as the date gets closer). Choose between six, daily routes that are quicker than Greyhound with just one stop in Tacoma, WA. 

Photograph: Flickr/A.Davey/CC

3. Train

Unless you’re driving the lengthy coastal route, you’ll find the best scenery aboard Amtrak. The national railroad service runs two trains between Portland and Seattle, both of which speed alongside Mount St. Helens and across the Columbia River Gorge. The Cascades train has four daily departures, while the Coast Starlight offers one daily roundtrip. Both offer amenities such as free WiFi and generous baggage policies. Foodies will appreciate the local food and beverage program, including a notable clam chowder, on the Cascades route.

Photograph: Flickr/Artform Canada/CC

4. Plane

Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air offers numerous daily flights between Portland Airport (PDX) and Sea-Tac Airport (SEA) or Paine Field (PAE), and if you book in advance, you can usually snag a great fare. The flight time is usually a quick 45 minutes, but when you factor in transfers between the two airports, it’s probably just as long as other options listed above.


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