Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right Washington icon-chevron-right Seattle icon-chevron-right Five awesome day trips from Seattle

Five awesome day trips from Seattle

From a famous bridge connecting two islands to historic towns, the best day trips from Seattle are delightful
North Cascades
Photograph: Shutterstock
By Colleen Stinchcombe |
Advertising

One of the Emerald City's most enticing features is its proximity to attractions like historic ports and crowd-free national parks, many of which are less than three hours away by car.

 

To the west, small-town Bainbridge Island is a popular getaway that boasts a vibrant art and literary culture. Up north toward the Olympic Mountains is Port Angeles, where historic buildings illuminate the town’s once-booming promise. To the west of the port is Anacortes, a simple city that is a stop along a trip to several islands in both the U.S. and Canada and a narrow, awe-inspiring waterway called Deception Pass that brings visitors from miles around. Just south of the Canadian border is Bellingham, a college town that lies on a productive bay and features an exciting coffee and beer culture. Look east and find North Cascades National Park, a remote escape where glaciers still rule.

Read on to discover the best day trips from Seattle and what to eat, what to drink and the myriad of things to do when you get to your destination. Of course, we highlight top hotels in the areas as well.

Best day trips from Seattle

1
Port Townsend
Photograph: Shutterstock

Port Townsend

Settled in the mid-19th century, Port Townsend—once called “The City of Dreams” after early hopes that the area would turn into the largest west coast port—shrank dramatically by the 1890s. Luckily, at least for present-day visitors, the quick rise and decline of the area means that many of the Victorian-style buildings remain untouched and just as glorious as when they were first constructed. The small town of 5,000 people is a two-hour drive outside of Seattle and boasts excellent galleries, bookshops, restaurants and views of the sea.

EAT
Just north of downtown Port Townsend in Fort Worden State Park, Taps at the Guardhouse was built in 1904 and once housed troublemaker soldiers. Today, it’s a modern industrial-chic pub serving delicious sliders, oysters, charcuterie boards and salads. You can still sit in a jail cell if you’d like to.

DRINK
With a beer garden right against the water, Pourhouse is the best place to go to if you want to lounge on a sunny afternoon or play a game of pingpong to unwind. The staff keeps 12 beers and two ciders on tap at all times, many of them local.

DO
Drop by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center in Fort Worden State Park, where kids and adults alike can learn about the northwest’s ancient glaciers and underwater flora and fauna systems, including fossils and a touch tank filled with anemone, crab and starfish.

STAY
Spend the night in a National Historic Landmark bed and breakfast, the Old Consulate Inn. With a history dating back to 1889, the hotel boasts another draw as well: rooms that look over the Puget Sound and into the Olympic Mountains.

If you do just one thing…
Shop the historic district on Water Street, where you’ll see some of the most impressive 19th century buildings and get to peruse local art and trinket shops.

2
Deception Pass
Photograph: Shutterstock

Anacortes

An hour-and-a-half north of Seattle by car, locals primarily travel to Anacortes to experience the nearby attractions, such as Deception Pass, a narrow waterway 15 minutes south of Anacortes that separates Fidalgo Island from Whidbey Island. Two dramatic bridges carry visitors over the strait, a worthy place to stop, take photos and even climb down to the water if you can handle a steep trail. The central area for Deception Pass State Park is on the north end of Whidbey Island, just over the pass, and offers everything from sandy beaches to densely wooded walks and lake swimming.

EAT
Adrift, a hip-casual restaurant, focuses on local meats and produce on the classic American menu. Expect a twist on the B.L.T. featuring avocado and sun-dried tomato aioli and a three-cheese grilled cheese with basil.

DRINK
Just around the corner from Adrift in Anacortes, Salt & Vine is a small-but-mighty wine bar with only eight tables but a smart selection of cured meats and a handful of wines to choose from within a welcoming, unfussy atmosphere.

DO
Purchase a Discover Pass and head to Deception Pass State Park, just south of the bridges, and take a hike, a swim or just look for sea creatures in the tide pools at Rosario Beach.

STAY
Elect to stay at Majestic Inn & Spa, a historic building that once was a hardware store and office space that has been luxuriously renovated with a rooftop deck that offers some of the best views in town.

If you do just one thing…
Drive to Deception Pass, park on either end of the bridge and take a walk across. Deception Island is to the west and, on a clear day, Mount Baker can be seen to the northeast.

Advertising
3
North Cascades National Park
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Christi V.

North Cascades National Park

While Mount Rainier National Park gets a lot of attention and significantly more visitors, the solitude is precisely why locals like to sneak away to North Cascades National Park, which is two hours north of Seattle by car. Sharp alpine peaks, thick glaciers and all the greenery you’d expect from the northwest come together in this beautiful park, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

EAT
Dining options are limited on the way to the park, so make sure you eat beforehand and possibly pack some snacks. Cascade Burgers is a great 1950’s-style diner (about half an hour to the west of the park) with burgers, shakes and onion rings that won’t put a big dent in your gas money.

DRINK
At the halfway point on the way back to Seattle is Local 20 Taproom in Sedro-Woolley. With about a dozen taps, a spacious outdoor space, and artwork created by the talented staff, it’s a good place to celebrate a day out in nature.

DO
Take in the scenery along Highway 20 and, if you’ve got the time and energy, do the short 4.2-mile roundtrip hike to Pyramid Lake, which is one of the shortest hikes in the area and leads through old-growth trees.

STAY
Only open mid-June to October 31, Ross Lake Resort’s no-frills cabins aren’t accessible by car, so guests have to hike or ferry to the resort—which just makes the stay that much more special.

If you do just one thing...
Take a drive to Diablo Lake and pull out into the rest stop for a stunning view. The reservoir, created by Diablo Dam, is one of the most photographed sections of the park, and for good reason: the water is an out-of-this-world turquoise blue thanks to suspended rock sediment.

4
Bellingham
Photograph: Shutterstock

Bellingham

Just 20 miles south of the Canadian border, it takes about an hour and a half to reach Bellingham. At nearly 90,000 people, Bellingham isn’t exactly a small city, but it retains its quaintness with a historic brick downtown area and a bustling bay. A launching pad for visits to Victoria, Vancouver, and the San Juan islands, Bellingham holds its own with walkable downtown areas, a vibrant bar scene and close proximity to nature.

EAT
Located at The Chrysalis Inn, Keenan’s at the Pier is at the south end of Boulevard Pier Park and offers unrivaled indoor and outdoor views of the bay while dining on upscale Pacific Northwest fare like oysters, chowder and crab melts.

DRINK
For craft cocktails, head to Temple Bar just outside the Central Business District. Open since 2002, this artsy spot is equal parts cozy and inventive, serving brie skillets, unique cocktails like Thai basil daiquiris, and local beers and ciders.

DO
It’s entirely appropriate to ditch downtown when you’re visiting Bellingham. Grab lunch and then go chasing waterfalls—specifically, at Whatcom Falls Park, where a very brief walk will take you to four different waterfalls created by Whatcom Creek. You’ll have several miles of trail to explore before dealing with I-5 traffic on your return trip home.

STAY
Resting right up against Bellingham Bay, Hotel Bellwether is an escape from downtown best appreciated by those who enjoy watching sailboats and waterfront sunsets. For a real treat, stay in the luxurious lighthouse suite with 360-degree views.

If you do just one thing…
Walk Boulevard Park Pier from end to end, about 20 minutes in one direction, to get a breath of fresh air and observe locals on their daily strolls.

Advertising
5
Brainbridge
Photograph: Shutterstock

Bainbridge Island

A favored destination for locals and visitors alike, Bainbridge has the added convenience of being a 35-minute ferry ride from the ferry terminal in downtown Seattle. You can usually walk on with no problem but, if you prefer to drive, it’s a good idea to make a ferry reservation. The view of the city from the ferry is worth the price of admission alone. Once you arrive on Bainbridge Island, the downtown area on Winslow Way is a short walk away.

EAT
Help yourself to a steaming bowl of pho and szechwan butter garlic fried tofu at Thuy’s Roosters Café, tucked behind the main drag. The restaurant is family-owned and the pho broth is complex, light and flavorful, excellent for a typical northwest rainy day.

DRINK
Just a block from the ferry terminal, Bainbridge Brewing Alehouse has 18 taps, several of them local craft brews, wines by Bainbridge island vinters, and ceiling-high glass windows that let in natural light on even the gloomiest of days.

DO
Go shopping at the numerous local stores that offer everything from stationery to art to outdoor gear. Paraffine’s Tea Shop will likely drag you inside by the nostrils, since you’ll be able to smell their luxurious candles, teas and incense from the sidewalk.

STAY
Located a block from the downtown strip, The Eagle Harbor Inn is within sight distance of the ferry. Guests can watch the ships arrive and depart while enjoying upscale amenities like Egyptian cotton sheets and private parking.

If you do just one thing…
Wander around the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, which showcases local Kitsap, Puget Sound and Olympic peninsula artists and doesn't require an admission fee.

Need to keep the little ones busy?

Kids in Seattle
Photograph: Shutterstock
Things to do

The 11 best things to do with kids in Seattle

The world-famous Pike Place Market (and the local food scene it inspires), sprawling and well-maintained parks, exciting technology companies and the raucous live music scene all contribute to the character of the Emerald City—and make it an ideal place to raise kids. 

More to explore

Advertising