The Olympic Peninsula in Washington State is one of America’s most stunning regions, offering a wealth of beautiful sights as well as things to do. If you plan to visit, be sure to be at least some of these amazing spots on your itinerary.
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Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park
Take a scenic drive up to Hurricane Ridge, the most easily accessed mountain area in Olympic National Park, to enjoy gorgeous views of wildflower-filled meadows, spectacular mountains and a wide variety of wildlife with the chance to spot mountain goats, black-tailed deer, marmots, and even the elusive bobcat. This year-round destination is also beautiful in the winter when it’s transformed into an especially breathtaking white wonderland. Not only will you take in some of the best winter vistas to be found in the Pacific Northwest, but you can also enjoy skiing in the small, family-friendly resort – minus the typically high costs and crowds that found in most ski resorts.
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend
If you love gorgeous scenery and outdoor activities, Fort Worden is sure to feel like paradise, with miles of trails to explore and gorgeous sandy beaches that sit at the edge of the glistening waters of Admiralty Bay. Rent a kayak onsite and paddle out among marine life like seals, dolphins and otters or rent a bicycle, if you don’t already have one with you, and pedal to Point Wilson lighthouse. At the Marine Science Center you can get up close to the underwater world without getting wet, and history lovers will enjoy visiting the Puget Sound Coast Artillery Museum which focuses on Harbor Defenses of the Puget Sound. At the end of Officer’s Row, take a tour of the Commanding Offer’s Quarters, filled with late Victorian-era furnishings that offer a glimpse into the life of an officer and his family.
Marymere Falls, Olympic National Park
If you’re searching for a short but very rewarding hike, consider taking the trail in Olympic National Park to Marymere Falls. This fairly flat, eight-tenths of a mile trail that leaves from Storm King Visitor Center will bring you to this magnificent waterfall that plunges nearly 90 feet into a pool below. Not only does it make a picture-perfect photo op, but the lush, green scenery along the path is absolutely spectacular.
Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park
This glacially-carved lake in Olympic National Park not far from Marymere Falls offers lots of daytime activities and stunning natural beauty. The clear, emerald-hued waters are nearly 60 feet deep and are home to the Beardslee and Crescenti trout, two types of fish found nowhere else on the planet. On a warm summer day, the lake’s pristine waters are ideal for swimming. Those who like to get active can also rent pedal boats, row boats, hydro bikes, kayaks and canoes to explore this massive body of water. Stay awhile by spending the night at Log Cabin Resort on the lake’s edge, offering everything from rustic cabins to deluxe waterfront chalets.
Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, Dungeness
Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge is home to eelgrass beds and tide flats that offer a haven to an abundance of migrating shorebirds in the spring and fall as well as flocks of waterfowl in the winter, making it a bird watcher’s paradise. The star attraction in this stunning region is one of the world’s longest natural sand spits, Dungeness Spit, which serves to soften the wild waves of the sea and form a serene bay, picturesque beaches and tide flats. Visitors can make the ten-mile trek to visit the lighthouse that sits at the end of the spit which is open to public tours. While camping is not allowed directly inside the refuge, you will find a wonderful campground within the Dungeness Recreational Area that sits right at the edge, atop the bluffs overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Many sites offer stunning panoramic views of the dazzling turquoise waters. If you enjoy being lulled to sleep to the sounds of the crashing waves, you won’t want to miss out on this experience.
For some of the most dramatic scenery and the chance to stand at the northwestern-most point in the U.S., take the short hike on Cape Flattery Trail. Located on the Makah Nation at Neah Bay, the .75-mile trail features four observation decks with breathtaking views of interesting rock formations as well as seabirds, including puffins, and marine mammals like orcas and gray whales. The impressive marine landscape includes the brilliant turquoise waters of the Pacific, the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Tatoosh Island.
Olympic Game Farm, Sequim
The Olympic Game Farm is one of the most popular attractions for families on the peninsula. The farm worked exclusively with Walt Disney Studios for nearly three decades, filming many of their beloved nature films on site. It opened to the public back in 1972 after becoming a haven for retired Hollywood animals and also giving “in need” captive bred animals a new and loving home.
The farm is home to the famous waving bear as well as numerous llamas, elk, deer, reindeer, yak, zebra and even bison who make their way up to vehicles providing an up-close experience. Visitors can also view lions, tigers, wolves, cougars, lynx and other animals. Located in a beautiful setting in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, you’ll also enjoy magnificent views of the Olympic Mountain range.
Downtown Port Townsend
Port Townsend, a Victorian seaport town, is set on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Surrounded by water and soaring jagged mountains, it was named one of America’s Best Small Towns by Fodor’s Travel Guides and even earned the distinction as the “City of Dreams” when it was officially settled back in 1851, with the hopes that it would become the largest harbor on the west coast. While that didn’t happen, it is still considered a city of dreams today, with people of all types and backgrounds giving up more lucrative careers in larger cities for the chance to live in one of the most picturesque places on the planet. Visit the downtown area where you’ll likely enjoy all types of entertainment right on its streets that are lined with beautiful century-old buildings which house a variety of restaurants and cafes, galleries and boutiques.
Located on the peninsula’s furthest southwestern reaches, with its 28 miles of sand, Long Beach is one of the most visited oceanfront towns in the Pacific Northwest. It proclaims to be the “World’s Longest Beach,” and while that may not be technically true, it is amazing for all sorts of activities on the sand, including kite flying – the annual Washington State International Kite Festival is held here in August each year, and you’ll also find a World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame. While summer brings out elbow-to-elbow crowds, by visiting in the off-season, you’ll often have the sands all to yourself. You can take part in all sorts of activities geared for all ages, including carnival rides, games, bumper cars and a carousel. Rent a bicycle built for two, or a three-wheeler to cruise the beach.
Hoh Rain Forest
The Hoh Rain Forest is among the only protected temperate rain forests in the Northern Hemisphere, and a not-to-be-missed destination on the west side of the peninsula. With an annual average of 140 inches of precipitation, the Hoh and the nearby Queets and Quinault valleys are true temperate rain forests, where annual precipitation can reach as much as 200 inches in the highlands. Located 19 miles inland from Highway 101, you’ll find the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and three loop trails nearby that offer an easy stroll and a fantastic sampling of the area. The one-and-a-quarter Spruce Nature Trail winds through the younger, late-successional forests of red alder and cottonwood along the glacier-fed river, while the three-quarters of a mile Hall of Mosses Trail reveals the moss-covered maples that are especially magical in the spring.
Puget Sound Express Whale Watching, Port Townsend
Puget Sound Express operates whale watching tours from the Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend, including a 4-hour tour departing in the morning and afternoon toward the San Juan Islands. On this incredible adventure, passengers can see orcas, or killer whales, along with other area wildlife like bald eagles, harbor seals, minke whales, humpback whales, porpoise and more.
Purple Haze Lavender Farm, Sequim
As the name suggests, the Purple Haze Lavender Farm has magnificent fields of lavender, with over 15,000 plants and more than 50 varieties, as well as a gift shop with a wide variety of lavender products. The varied shades of purple are dazzling, and the setting includes wonderful gardens, ponds and wetlands. This popular destination gives visitors a chance to learn about America’s agricultural roots and find out how lavender is used in aromatherapy, perfumery, culinary, floral and landscaping. If you’ve never tried lavender ice cream or a lavender mocha, you’ll have the opportunity to experience it here.
Marrowstone Island is an ideal place to visit for all sorts of outdoor activities. Enjoy hikes in one of a number of parks, including Flagler State Park, a large marine and camping park with a lighthouse, miles of trails and an extensive walkable saltwater shoreline as well as 19th-century historic military fort buildings. There are roadside farms and flower stands and even a beautiful vineyard where you can sample tasty wines and visit an art gallery displaying works by local artists. Mystery Bay Farm offers award-winning goat cheeses as well as public tours where you can learn about turning milk into cheese, meet the goats, enjoy a cheese tasting and tour the milking parlor and cheese making facility. Head here at either 6 a.m. or 6 p.m. and you can even help out in milking the goats!
Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches
Shi Shi Beach is frequently ranked as one of the most beautiful wild beaches on earth, offering some of the most picturesque views of the rugged Olympic coast you’ll find. You’ll need to take a 4-mile hike out, and back to reach it, but it is well worth the reward with a sandy beach that’s dotted with gnarled logs that have been bleached and battered by the surf. The waves violently crash on the sea stacks offshore, while bald eagles and all sorts of other seabirds soar overhead. The last stretch of the trail is Point of Arches, with spectacular rock sea stacks that rise out of the water for a mile or more. You can also explore the numerous tide pools, watching for hermit crabs, starfish and other marine creatures.
Petroglyphs on the Ozette Triangle
The 9.4-mile Ozette Triangle Loop is one of the Olympic Peninsula’s very best hikes. One of its highlights is the Makah petroglyphs that have etched into the Wedding Rocks, a cluster of boulders that hug the shore about halfway along the coast. These sacred artifacts predate European settlement in the Northwest. Along the way, you’ll see gorgeous sea stacks, sea lions, sea otters, and, of course, beautiful ocean scenery too. If you’re lucky, you may even see a whale or two. A little over three miles follows the shoreline where you can look for starfish, watch the oystercatchers search for their meal and gaze up into the towering trees where bald eagles are often perched. At Sand Point, you’ll enjoy more than two miles of some of Washington’s finest sandy beaches too.