January 23, 2016
Flight: Orange County, SNA –> Seattle, SEA –> Orange County, SNA
Starting point: Irvine, CA
Budget for 2 people: $1530 ($613 flight, $57 car; $330 hotel, $80 gas, $250 food, $200 other)
- Day 0: late flight from the Orange County, SNA to Seattle, SEA; sleep close to the airport to pick up a rental car next morning
- Day 1: drive to Olympic National Park, WA; see Port Angeles, Clallam Bay (200 mi, 5 h); stay at Port Angeles
- Day 2: continue exploring Olympic National Park, WA; see La Push, Hoh Rainforest and get lost taking a wrong road (400 mi, 8 h)
- Day 3: explore Seattle; see Space Needle, Science Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pike Place Market
- Day 4: see Waterfront Park, Olympic Sculpture Park, downtown, Gum Wall; take a ferry to Bainbridge Island (35 min)
- Day 5: walk to and take pictures from Kerry Park; fly back home
We traveled to Washington state at the end of November. This is not a touristic season as it is cold and rains a lot. It was difficult to find a big city with hotels in the Olympic National Park for that period, thus we picked our first night stop in Port Angeles. We decided that on our first day we’ll enter the park from Port Angeles side, make a few stops on our way, drive to Clallam Bay and return back to Port Angeles.
Tip: Consider that views are amazing all the time during your drive and you'll want to make many unplanned stops on your way. Also, note that gas stations can be found only in bigger towns thus make sure you have enough gas for your trip.
During that season Clallam Bay looked like a ghost town with no lights and people around. We took a few photos and drove back to Port Angeles. It was heavily raining all day long and we were wet and exhausted by that time.
If you have more time, you can choose to visit New Dungeness Lighthouse. You need to hike 5 mi from the Refuge parking lot along the North side of the Dungeness Spit to get to it, hiking permit is $3.
We planned to drive to Ozette Lake and see Lake Crescent on our way. We followed Google Maps navigation and it took us via some gravel road into nowhere. Good side of it is that we saw some amazing forests. However, at some point the road became terrible and we could not continue driving on our small rented car. We turned back and went straight to La Push First Beach.
La Push area has several beaches nearby, you can also visit Rialto Beach. If you have more time you can drive to Kalaloch and Ruby beaches. All beaches are rocky and famous for their giant drift logs, waves, and views of offshore islands.
Our final and most favorite stop was Hoh Rainforest. And I must say that in this case we were lucky to have rains prior to our visit. The forest was in its full beauty, showing bright green colors everywhere. There are several hiking trails for you to choose: a paved 0.1 mile Mini loop trail, Hall of Mosses 0.8 mile loop trail or Spruce Nature 1.2 mile loop trail, all beginning near the Visitor Center.
We then drove to the Tacoma airport to drop off the car and go to Seattle downtown where our hotel was.
Our hotel was close to the Space Needle and it was convenient for us to walk to all the places we wanted. It is ~20-30 min walk to the downtown from there but we like walking and Seattle can be explored on foot.
On our first day we did the most touristic attractions: Space Needle, Science Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pike Place Market, downtown.
Space Needle gives you an opportunity to see beautiful views, you can purchase a ticket for day and night rides. Regular ticket is $22, Space Needle + Chihuly Garden is $36, Day/Night Space Needle is $32. We chose to go to Day Space Needle and Chihuly Garden. I personally love glass and everything made of glass and I enjoyed Chihuly Garden a lot! I wouldn't go to the Science Center again though, I think it is more interesting for kids.
Chihuly Garden and Glass:
View from Space Needle:
Pike Place Market is all about food. You can come back here any time during the day to try something new. I would definitely recommend their famous clam chowder which is being exported to other countries as well. This is the place, but be prepared for long queues. Another popular place is selling Russian piroshky. But other than these there are many other places nearby which you can select based on your taste.
If I could re-plan our trip, I would spend more time in the national park and about 2 days in Seattle. Or I would plan more daily trips from Seattle to explore nearby towns. This day we took a ferry to Bainbridge Island (35 min) to see some relaxed life and take pictures of Seattle on our way.
After that, we enjoyed walking in Waterfront Park, Olympic Sculpture Park, downtown. You can simply walk the whole day in those areas, making stops for famous coffee and food. We also saw another popular touristic spot - Gum Wall (a place where many different walking tours start from). There we found some quite fresh delicious gums. JK :)
If you want some beautiful pictures of Seattle, walk to the Kerry Park. It's a small park from where you get an elevated view of the skyline of the city with the Space Needle. On your way to the park you will see another side of the city - residential areas. You will also pass by some shops and restaurants if you'd like a stop.