Whether it's for a day trip or a whole weekend visit, Seattle is a major tourist destination. But its nearby towns, national parks, and islands are also worth visiting for those in search of something outside the city's intense offerings. From mountains, rainforests, beaches, and waterfalls to wildlife parks, island hopping, wining and dining, museums, and shopping, Seattle and its superb surrounding areas offer endless experiences suited to every kind of visitor.Anyone who thinks that this metropolis, its mountains, and its waters are all that there is to do and see are grossly mistaken, and these amazing day trips prove it by delivering incredible sights, sounds, and activities that represent the very best of the Pacific Northwest.
Want to go to Europe without going to Europe? Then head to Leavenworth - a city in the Cascade Range full of Bavarian delights. From its architecture and restaurants to delicious cuisine, this place truly feels like an authentic German town - particularly in winter when it's trussed up into a magical winter wonderland adorned with bright Christmas lights.
Also, Leavenworth ain't worth leavin' for this specific reason: its idyllic location in the Cascade Mountains makes it the ultimate place around Seattle for skiers and winter sportspeople. But folks intending to descend in summer need worry not, for they too have an array of fun to discover; think paddleboarding, rafting the Wenatchee River, and, of course, sipping refreshingly cold brews to name just a few highlights.
Seattle to Scandinavia takes a heck of a long time to travel. Or does it? This pint-sized town at the northern end of the Kitsap Peninsula transports visitors all the way to Scandinavia from Seattle in just one and a half hours. Nicknamed “Little Norway,” anyone lucky enough to visit Poulsbo will uncover the exact reason why its pet name came to be; its numerous Nordic-inspired events, including the yearly Viking Fest in May and the Midsommer Celebration in June.
Even if there are no festivals occurring during one's visit, there's still so much to do and see in this fun little town. Its main strip is easily explorable on foot and is home to a multitude of cute-and-quaint shops to get lost in. Plus, hungry visitors have a lot in store as well; they can sample the divine pastries from the town's bakeries whilst walking along the pretty waterfront, or check out the top family-friendly activity of them all that's always a hit with the kids: Sawdust Hill Alpaca Farm.
7 Mount Rainier National Park
People in Seattle on a clear day might hear the locals say “the mountain is out." Indeed, they're talking about the city's legendary Mount Rainier that dominates the horizon. The 14,000-foot marvel of Mother Nature is enough of a reason on its own to journey the 80 miles south of Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park, but the beautiful hiking trails are another enticement.
Nature lovers will be in their absolute element when exploring the abounding paths in Mount Rainier National Park, where hikers of all skill and experience levels can enjoy pristine treks through its lush lands. Furthermore, it's an area of stark contrasts; it's an icy, snowy, wintry wonderland in the chilly months, which transforms into vibrant meadows of wildflowers and bustling critters in summer, the latter which is said to be the most inviting time to visit.
6 Olympic National Park
Innumerable hiking, road tripping, and outdoorsy adventures are to be had in Olympic National Park - a picturesque zone of nature just two hours to Seattle's west. The area serves up an immense amount of diverse landscapes that make up so many varied experiences; there are glaciers, snow-capped mountains, rainforests, and sublime coastal beaches all on offer across the park's sensational terrain.
Of course, some parts are more popular than others, with the likes of Hoh Rainforest and Hurricane Ridge being two locally loved favorites. And, naturally, because it's quite a distance from Seattle, many visitors decide to spend the night here instead of a mere day trip, camping underneath the forest canopy and sleeping under the twinkling stars.
5 Bainbridge Island
Hopping on the downtown ferry to Bainbridge Island is a quintessential Seattle activity that any visitor has to experience during their trip. The ferry ride to Bainbridge is all part of the fun, and upon arrival, visitors have a wealth of attractions and activities on the menu.
Plentiful shops, wineries, and restaurants await and are all easy to reach from the ferry terminal, while beaches abound on the island too; Lytle Beach is a particularly treasured spot amongst locals and is a perfect place for enjoying a paddle.
If a picnic is on the to-do list, then heading to Fort Ward Park is the way to go, meanwhile, photography fans and those on the hunt for some blessed peace and quiet should head north to Bloedel Reserve - home to a stunning Japanese garden that'll take their breath away.
4 Skagit Valley
It only takes about an hour or so to travel the 70 miles north of downtown Seattle to Skagit Valley. It's one of the most unheard-of day trips on the list, delivering a quieter, more laid-back escapade than many of the other famous spots. They say that the best things in life are free, and that remains truer than ever in this particular place; renowned for its colorful tulip festival from late March to April, Skagit Valley is indeed one of the most visually pleasing retreats to be discovered around Seattle that'll make photographers and flower fans drool.
Whilst the sprawling tulip terrains are the main reason people visit the valley, there is no lack of other attractions to enjoy as well, such as apple picking and pumpkin patch pics in fall, farm food stands selling all manners of tasty seasonal produce year-round, as well as fantastic bird watching opportunities - especially in winter during the Skagit Eagle Festival.
3 Port Townsend
Port Townsend exudes a magical, old-world feel with its abundance of historic Victorian-style buildings that date back to the nineteenth century - a time when it was destined to become one of Puget Sound's busiest cities.
And buzzing it is today; its booming downtown area has excellent shopping options as well as two theaters and a number of fun cafés to visit. But it's folks who love to get out on the water that will really love it here; there's a big boating scene with lots of entertaining events taking place every year, including the famous Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.
It gets even better for lovers of the great outdoors too; it's here where Fort Worden State Park offers incredible camping experiences and the chance to go spelunking in the old abandoned military bunkers, which are rumored to be haunted.
2 The San Juan Islands
Making the three-and-a-half-hour journey from Seattle to the San Juan Islands is worth every second. Why? Because this archipelago of 172 small islands is one of the best places for whale watching in the entire region - more specifically, marveling at majestic orcas. It's the island of San Juan at Lime Kiln State Park's Friday Harbor that is the most amazing spot for watching passing whales, who are regularly seen frolicking and traveling here.
What's more, the islands also offer the chance to get wet in the form of kayaking with some truly epic views. But those who prefer to stay dry can also enjoy a superb day out; the San Juan Islands boasts bounties of boutiques, cafés, and authentic farm-to-table restaurants for sampling some sumptuous Seattle cuisine.
Just 40 minutes from Seattle is Tacoma - one of the largest cities in the entire Washington state that promises an entertaining day out with something for everyone on the cards.
Families with children and anyone with an affinity for animals and conservation will have a great time at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, whilst on the other hand, art aficionados will relish sauntering through the head-turning exhibitions at the Chihuly Museum of Glass.
Last but not least, visitors who can't resist a bit of history can experience a day in the 1800s at the fascinating Fort Nisqually Living History Museum.