Olympic Peninsula & San Juan Islands: Coastal Wanderings

Experience the remote wonders of the Olympic Peninsula, the relaxed pace of life on the San Juan Islands and the buzz of downtown Seattle on this loop around Washington’s idyllic islands and verdant peninsulas. Charming waterfront inns and boutique hotels allow you to sample in style all of the natural wonders and culinary delights that this special corner of the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Seattle

Day 1 and 2

From your base on Seattle’s waterfront, venture out into this vibrant city on foot, bike or by ferry. No Seattle visit would be complete without a trip to Pike Place Market, Seattle’s hub for fresh, local produce and seafood. Here you’ll meet a private chef for a ‘behind-the-scenes’ visit that is personalized to your culinary interests.  They will share their sourcing strategies and provide a couple of their own tasting creations using seasonal ingredients from their favorite vendors.

Later that afternoon, you’ll take to the skies; soar high above the Cascade Mountains for a bird’s eye view of Mt. Rainer, the lower 48’s most glaciated peak, and Mt. St. Helens, its most active volcano.  Afterwards, a coveted reservation at Junebaby or Copine will provide a chance to sample the Emerald City’s dynamic food scene.

The Olympic Peninsula

Day 3 & 4

Take your pick of two great options to travel to the vast and rugged Olympic Peninsula. Hop on the ferry for a unique view of the Seattle skyline on route to Bainbridge Island and make a stop at locavore hot spot Hitchcock Deli. The alternative route will take the long way around the Hood Canal for a private shucking class and tasting at one of Washington’s favorite oyster purveyors.

Continue west along Route 101, with the Olympic Mountains rising up to your left and the Strait of Juan de Fuca stretched out on your right. After checking into your pretty oceanfront bed & breakfast, sneak in a golden hour drive up to Hurricane Ridge where you can watch the sun disappear behind the Pacific horizon. 

The next day, you’ll head deeper into Olympic National Park with your naturalist guide. Hike through moss-covered firs and cedars along the Hoh River and picnic with views of the sea stacks on remote Rialto beach.

Whidbey Island

Days 5 & 6 

Today you will pass through the Victorian maritime community of Port Townsend en route to Whidbey Island. If you like the look of the vintage vessels in the boatyard, explore Port Townsend Bay and the beaches of Fort Worden State Park in a traditional wooden dinghy before you board the ferry to Whidbey Island, where you will spend the next two nights at the Inn at Langley, a charming coastal lodge. 

Fall into the slower pace of island life as you stroll the quaint streets of downtown Langley with views of the Saratoga Passage and Mount Baker. This small community is a haven for artists and we would love to connect you with a local painter or photographer to spend a day flexing your creative muscles. If you’d rather get your hands dirty, head out to dig for clams with a community conservation group. In the evenings, enjoy quintessential Pacific Northwest dining experiences prepared by Matt Costello at the Inn or opt for something more casual in Langley. 

San Juan Island

Days 7 – 10

In the morning, the ferry will steer towards Friday Harbor, the largest year round community in the islands and the “Whale Capital” of the west.  

After checking into the Friday Harbor House, your first stop will be at the Whale Museum and Research Center – an absolute must. Here you’ll enjoy a privately guided tour, as well as private session in the Orca ID Lab and the Acoustics Lab.  The time in the research lab will focus on the orca’s ‘family trait’ markings, as well as their communication. Armed with a deepened knowledge of orcas, you will be ready to encounter these stunning mammals in their natural habitat later in your stay.

At sunset, you’ll depart Roche Harbor for a kayak through the bioluminescent waters of Garrison and Westcott Bays. As you go, your paddles will stir up the microorganisms that  cause the water to glow under the night sky.

Further explore the backroads of San Juan Island by bike or e-bike with a local naturalist who will provide some geographical and historical context to the island’s coastline, forests and farmland.  An al fresco lunch at a local shellfish farm will be a great chance to catch your breath before returning to Friday Harbor. 

For your final day on the islands, you’ll explore the Salish Sea and its marine life on a private whale watching charter.  The waters surrounding San Juan Island are considered the best place in the world to observe Orca Whales in the wild. Together with your naturalist and captain, who call these waters home and follow the orcas movements daily, you’ll scan the surface for ‘blows and fins”. 

Finish your journey with one last ferry ride from Friday Harbor to Anacortes and enjoy views of Mt. Baker and the North Cascades as you return to Seattle.  

From The Magazine

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