We’ve officially reached single digits on our departure countdown! Seattle (and Washington in general) has been so good to us, and I thought it would be a good time to look back on our two years and the places and activities that made us fall in love.
This list is by no way exhaustive, in fact I had a hard time narrowing it down to just ten places.
10. Skagit County Tulip Festival
There’s something kind of magical being surrounded by tulips of every color. We made the Roozengaarde a destination after hearing about it on the news. It’s a perfect little day trip from Seattle! We took a nice drive through along the Tulip Highway, stopping at a couple of farmer stands along the way to munch on snacks, before we reached the fields of flowers. Bonus: you can buy cut tulips at the front gate area to take home with you!
Bellingham is a small little town near the border of Canada. Home to Western Washington University, it was quiet when we went at Christmas since many students went home for the holidays. We made the decision to not go home for Christmas; travel to Pittsburgh gets expensive and exhausting when you do it every couple of months. We wanted to go to a place we had never been before and explore.
We stayed at the Hotel Bellwether because it was dog-friendly, and our package came with some spa services. It was a gorgeous hotel right on the water. We hiked Oyster Dome one day and found ourselves entering a winter wonderland the higher we climbed. Exploring Sehome Hill Arboretum was an easy way to pass the afternoon. We met up with some local friends a few times to go on mini pub crawls (if you’re ever in Bellingham, check out Aslan and Kulshan, my two favorites). It was relaxing and peaceful and just what we were looking for.
8. Hurricane Ridge
There are plenty of destinations on the Olympic Peninsula that are show-stopping, and Hurricane Ridge is one of them. I love this place not just because it’s beautiful but because it’s also right outside of my favorite town on the peninsula, Port Angeles. We’ve visited in the winter when there is a lot of snow, in the fall when there’s a bit of snow and in the spring when the snow level is somewhere in between. No matter the season, Hurricane Ridge is always breathtaking.
7. Biking everywhere
Thank goodness we came to Seattle with our old Schwinn bikes. The city is so bikeable! We are lucky enough that we can bike to get groceries, whether that’s at a store or farmer’s market. We can bike to breweries (goodness knows there are enough of them). We can bike just for fun. We used to bike to even bike to work most days! There are bike lanes on many roads and trails that connect you to many parts of the city.
I will say that it was a lifesaver when we upgraded to our new road bikes. The hills here are insane, and it makes such a huge difference to have a lighter bike going uphill.
6. Mountain views
One thing that I will never, ever get tired of is looking out in the distance and seeing mountains. Mountains, mountains, everywhere! Seattle is situated between two mountain ranges, the Cascades to the east and the Olympics to the west. Although Pittsburgh is situated in the Appalachians, there’s no comparison to the mountains out here.
We were lucky enough to have an apartment that faced east when we first moved. It made the fact that sunrise was at 4:30am in the summer worth it, because we were privy to some spectacular views.
5. Rialto Beach
Rialto Beach is another stop on the Olympic Peninsula. While swimming isn’t a good idea here, it’s still my favorite beach in all of Washington. It’s dramatic and exciting, with huge crashing waves and even bigger driftwood. It’s easy to sit and just watch the water for a long time. La Push is nearby, and if you’re lucky you can sometimes hear horns dancing on the wind.
One of our new years resolutions in 2015 was to go hiking at least once a month. By April, we had gone hiking enough to sit out the rest of the year! There is such a diversity of hiking options. We hiked along the ocean on the Dungeness Spit. We visited an ice cave in the Cascades. We hiked to too many waterfalls to count. There were lakes, rivers and vistas to be seen.
I’m not sure why we never hiked when we were living in Pennsylvania, but this is one hobby we’re taking home with us.
3. The North Cascades National Park
The North Cascades National Park is home to my favorite mountains. To me, this area feels more rugged and wild than the Olympics or Wenatchee and Snoqualmie. This park borders Canada, so it’s a bit of a trek to get up here but it’s so worth it. You can take Highway 20 and find many places to stop and get out of your car and just be in the moment. Company towns dot the highway, all popping up when the Gorge, Diablo and Ross Dams were commissioned by Seattle City Light.
2. Learning the joys of camping
Growing up, I never went camping. It just wasn’t a thing that my family did. We might have camped out in the back yard once or twice, but I don’t think I ever made it through the night. So when we were invited camping for the first time, I was all for it. Sure, it was bike camping. And sure, I’d never considered going “touring”, but from the first moment, I was hooked.
I might not have anything to really compare it to, but I’m fairly positive camping in the Northwest is not like anywhere else. We’ve camped up and down the west coast of the state, and I don’t think I could pick a favorite place if you asked. We’ve gone to the mountains, the beach and the islands. Camping has fast become one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend and it’s something I hope to continue doing, no matter where we land.
1. San Juan Islands
By far my favorite place in Washington, perhaps the entire United States, is San Juan Island. Our first visit to these islands was to go on a whale watching tour and we kept coming back. There are three resident Orca pods that live among the San Juans, and almost every time we’ve gone up we’ve seen some.
But it isn’t just the whales that drew us back time and time again. The little town, Friday Harbor, is a one-of-a-kind place full of friendly people. Walking through the fields at Pelindaba Lavender Farm is so relaxing (and their gift shop is great, too). The American and British camps offer history as well as views. We’ve visited in the sun and the rain and I loved it every time. If we ever get back to Seattle, making a trip up to the islands is at the top of our to-do list.
Stay tuned for a list of my favorite Seattle spots next week!