Our Favorite Washington Spots—Olympic Peninsula Edition
We lived in Washington state, on the western side of the Sound, for a year. We fell in love in an instant, and those 12 months have changed our lives forever. When we talked about sharing our travel experiences, we knew that when it came to Washington, there was no way we could choose only 5 places for the entire state…not when the eastern side is such a contrast to the western side, and not when the vibrant urban feel of Seattle is so opposite the jawdropping natural beauty of the coastline.
As a result of that realization, our Washington lists will be split into different areas. And because we spent that year living on the Kitsap Peninsula, just a stone’s throw from the Olympic Peninsula, here is our list for our Top 5 places to go if you’re visiting the Olympic Peninsula.
1) Second Beach, Olympic National Park
Second Beach is breathtaking all on it’s own. But to get there, you have to take a short 4 mile round trip hike through easily some of the most magical scenery possible. When we hiked the trail with our then 5 year old, there were giant trees overturned with their roots showing. Moss and ferns everywhere you looked. And as you near the beach, you hear the ocean long before you see it.
And once you get to Second Beach? Brace yourself. The moment that we stood on that beach is etched in my brain permanently. When you visit Second Beach, be on the look out for Ochre Starfish, Sea Anenomes, Mussels, and even Hairy Hermit Crabs. If you have a budding naturalist, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Second Beach.
The hike to the beach does have a few tricky spots, but a good pair of hiking shoes will do the trick. Watch for the “magic tree” (we called it that)…a old, hollow tree that has all sorts of wonderful treasures that people have put in there.
2) Port Townsend
If you have a military nut in your house, Port Townsend is the place to go. Home to historic Fort Worden, our little guy adored snooping around the old bunkers, watching the reenactors, and exploring the grounds.
If you’re more into sea glass and ocean creatures, definitely check out Glass Beach. Sometimes we’d find tons of sea glass, sometimes we didn’t. Beyond sea glass though, this beach is full of amazing ocean life…chitons, limpits, tons of different sea weeds. And any boat nerds will love watching Ro-Ro ships pass by.
Port Townsend’s downtown and marina is awesome. Make sure to take some time to walk through the historic, quaint downtown!
3) Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
If you made us pick our favorite beach on the Olympic Peninsula, I don’t think we could. Ruby Beach is definitely at the top. The hike to get to Ruby Beach is longer than the hike to Second Beach, and is 6 miles roundtrip. Just like Second Beach though, the hike is part of the beauty and experience. Coming over that final section and seeing the expanse of the Pacific Ocean before you is life changing.
We stayed at Ruby Beach for a good portion of our day…we just couldn’t make ourselves leave. The sea stacks are incredibly breathtaking, and seeing them as the sun begins to set really tops off the experience. There is a vast array of ocean life just like at Second Beach. Both beaches are amazing…and it’d be impossible for me to suggest one over the other.
4) Cape Flattery
Cape Flattery was our last big day trip before we moved from Washington. You know how they say to save the best for last? We did. The hike to the North-westernmost point of the Lower 48 is a beautiful hike in itself.
Despite the fact that I typically hold fast to the idea that the journey is better than the destination, this is my one exception. The hike is amazing, but the view of Cape Flattery is mesmerizing. As we stood there, at the edge of the continental US, we watched gray whales play in the water surrounding the lighthouse island. We watched waves crash into sea caves. And those tall evergreens against the moody skies were breathtaking.
I did this hike 33 weeks pregnant, and while it was definitely challenging, it was worth it. Our 6 year old handled it like a pro, and he still talks about it to this day. (Granted, he talks about the guys he met that were doing aerial photography.) One tip: wear good hiking shoes, and keep those little ones on the boardwalk!
5) Port Angeles
Port Angeles was Explorer Cub’s favorite town on the Olympic Peninsula. He loved all the ship traffic, and always looked forward to seeing the ships coming through and the Coast Guard boats.
We loved Port Angeles because of it’s proximity to Elwha River. As environmentalists, we felt strongly about the Elwha Dam removal project, and to be able to see the Elwha River and the mouth of the river restoring itself back to the way it had been was a huge part of concreting what we felt was right.
Standing at the mouth of the Elwha was a highlight of our time in Washington. Explorer Cub played in a driftwood hut on the beach with a friend he had just made, while we relaxed on those rocky shores, watching Bald Eagles and multitudes of sea birds fly and roost.
So there you have it!!!! Our top 5 places to visit on the Olympic National Park. This list is nowhere near everything we loved…there were even a few places we really wanted to see that we just didn’t get to. (Being pregnant with Tiny Timber definitely altered some plans.)
Have you been to the Olympic Peninsula? What would you add to the list?