Summer is here, and it's a beautiful time in the Pacific Northwest. We have long hours of daylight, sunshine, and beautiful scenery. Here are some ideas for summer day-trips and weekenders-- short trips to places you can visit in a day or stay overnight and make it a mini-vacation.... that's what we call a "weekender"!
1) The naturally beautiful San Juan Islands:
The San Juan Islands are a group of islands, including Orcas Island, Lopez Island, San Juan Island, Shaw Island, and several other smaller islands. The islands are very natural and beautiful with plenty of opportunities for exploring the outdoors, such as hiking, biking, kayaking, whale watching, and more.
Friday Harbor is a great place to visit on San Juan Island. There are cute shops, whale watching boats, kayak rentals, and more, all within walking distance of the ferry landing. There are many small hotels or B&B's (Bed & Breakfast Inns), if you plan to spend the night. You can explore the island by car or by shuttle bus and visit the lavender farm, Alpaca farm, or perhaps try zip-lining!
My personal favorite spot on San Juan Island is Roche Harbor. It's a historic lime kiln from the late 1800's that has been converted into a rustic resort. The buildings are unique, and you can learn about the history of the area by reading placards around the resort. Be sure to peek in the lobby of the Hotel De Haro for a photo-history of the area. There is also kayak rental, paddle-board rental, scooter rental, a whale-watching charter, and an outdoor sculpture park to visit.
Orcas Island is the largest island in the group of San Juan Islands. It also has great history, charming boutiques, kayak rental, whale-watching, and plenty of hiking and other outdoor activities. The tallest peak in the San Juan Islands is located on Orcas Island. It's called Mt. Constitution, and you can hike to the top for a great view. There is a beautiful historic mansion called Moran Mansion at the Rosario Resort. They give free organ concerts on Saturdays at 4pm, and it's worth a visit if you're in the area!
Lopez and Shaw Islands are smaller less-populated islands that are great for bicyclists because of their flat terrain. These islands offer
Getting there: You can get to the San Juan Islands by taking a Washington State Ferry from Anacortes (1 hour and 45 minutes drive north of Seattle). You can either drive your car on the ferry or park your car in the lot and walk-on the ferry. In the summer, the car lines can be really long, so make a reservation for the ferry in advance or leave plenty of extra time if you plan to wait in line without a reservation.
If you walk-on, you don't have to wait in line with the cars (you leave your car in the parking lot in Anacortes). It's easy because you don't need a reservation and you don't need to wait in line, but remember that you won't have a car when you get to the islands, so you'll need to plan to walk, bike, or take taxis when you get there! You can bring your bike on the ferry, if you like.
If you want to splurge and have a fun adventure, you can take a Kenmore Air float plane to the islands. It leaves from Lake Union and lands right at the dock on San Juan or Orcas Island, in just 45 minutes. It's the fastest way to get to the islands, and it's a really cool experience!
You can find more information about all of the islands here:
Link to ferry info: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/
Link to Kenmore Air float planes: http://www.kenmoreair.com/
2) The lovely Victoria, BC in Canada:
I love visiting Victoria. It's a like getting a small taste of Europe, right here in North America. Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, and there is quite a bit of British influence. The architecture is beautiful, and the old streets feel very European. You can even have a "proper English Tea" in the afternoon at the historic Empress Hotel at the center of Victoria harbor.
There are so many things to do in Victoria: museums, shopping, dining, whale-watching tours, kayak rentals, harbor tours, street performers, and more.
You don't need a car in Victoria because most things are walking distance from the inner harbor and there is excellent public transportation if you'd like to make an excursion to Craigdarroch Castle or the famous Butchart Gardens.
Getting there: The fastest and easiest way to get to Victoria is on the Victoria Clipper. It's a passenger ferry that leaves from downtown Seattle and gets you directly to the Inner Harbor of
Victoria in 3 hours: http://www.clippervacations.com/clipper-ferry/.
You can also take a Kenmore Air float plane directly to Victoria.
Or, if you prefer to have your car in Victoria, you can take a Washington State ferry from Anacortes to Sydney, BC, then drive 30 minutes south to Victoria.
If you are not a U.S. citizen or Greencard holder, you might need a Visa from the Canadian consulate to visit Victoria. You can find more information about whether you need a travel visa here:
Canadian Consulate in Seattle: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/seattle/index.aspx?view=d
More great places to visit:
Winthrop, WA- A charming, historic, western-style town in the beautiful Methow Valley. Plenty of hiking and other outdoor activities in the area. It's a really neat place to visit and see what the "old west" looked like!
Lake Chelan- This mountain lake in the Cascades is a combination of natural beauty and tourist activities, such as boating, water-parks, mini-golf, hiking, biking, and more. It's also a beautiful place for camping.
Vancouver, BC - A fabulous city. My favorite thing to do in the summer is rent a bicycle at Spokes and ride through Stanley park, then explore the city by bike. Be sure to visit Granville Market on Granville Island and spend some time exploring and eating!
(If you are not a U.S. citizen or Greencard holder, you might need a Visa from the Canadian consulate. )
Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument- This active volcano is fascinating to visit, especially on a clear day. It's a 3.5 hour drive, so you can do it as a day-trip. The two Visitor Centers (Forest Learning Center and Johnston Ridge Observatory) provide information and history about the volcano and its 1980 eruption.
Whistler, BC - While most people think of Whistler during the winter, as a ski resort, they have tons and tons of fun things to do in the summer! You can hike, bike, zip-line, take a ride on the mountain coaster, go on a bear-watching tour, and much, much more. It's perfect for kids, too, with a kid-fun park at the base of Blackcomb mountain.
(If you are not a U.S. citizen or Greencard holder, you might need a Visa from the Canadian consulate.)
Mt. Rainier National Park- Every Seattleite's favorite mountain! Great hikes, camping, historic lodges, and beautiful wildflower meadows during the summer.
Olympic National Park- Beautiful hikes, mountains, scenery, camping, historic park lodges, hot springs, and a rain forest. Perfect for a day-trip or an overnight stay.