Getting to Seattle from Vancouver Island
We travelled to Seattle on the FRS Clipper service from Victoria on Vancouver Island. It's a fast, passenger only catamaran service between Victoria's Inner Harbour and Pier 69 in downtown Seattle. The journey takes roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes to cross the scenic Juan de Fuca Straight, then into Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound towards Elliott Bay.
Keep an eye out for whales and dolphins whilst you travel at 30 knots, or just enjoy the views of Mount Baker and the Olympic mountain range.
The clipper has 3 different classes of ticket, but all have allocated seating and great views, as well as bar and food service!
Where to Stay in Seattle
We stayed in a great townhouse AirBnB in the Queen Anne district, which had amazing views over the city and the Space Needle. We were surprised by how hilly Seattle was, but the views were definitely worth the hike up to the top!
Queen Anne was a great location, walkable from the clipper and easy access to the Space Needle or Downtown areas (as long as you're ok with the hills!).
Top things to do in Seattle
1. The Space Needle - it's hard to miss this landmark, and you really shouldn't miss a visit. The entry tickets are timed to a 15 minute slot, but you can spend as long as you want at the top. As you'd expect the views are stunning, and the rotating glass floor is a cool experience. There's also a nice bar up there!
2. Chihuly Gardens - this gallery features the amazing glass work of Washington artist, Dale Chihuly, and is definitely worth a visit. There are 8 internal galleries, a huge glasshouse, and a beautiful garden filled with architectural glass works. The bar is home to some of Chihuly's personal collections, and is a great spot for lunch.
3. Take a ride on the mono-rail from the Seattle Center (beside the Space Needle) to the Westlake Mall terminal downtown. It's a short trip between the two terminals, but only costs a few dollars and passes through the architecturally impressive Museum of Popular Culture (MoPOP), and then on a high track above the city.
4. Take a stroll round Pike Place Market, it is buzzing with shops, restaurants, and the first ever Starbucks; if that kind of thing floats your boat you can join the huge line up to get a coffee, perhaps unsurprisingly we didn't! Instead we headed to the ever important brewery - Old Stove Brewing and grabbed a beer looking out over the water. The market is a bit of a maze but there is an app to guide you - we didn't have this when we were there so can't comment on how good it is but we think it would be worth a try. The market is also home to 'The Gum Wall', dubbed 'a hidden work of art' - we'll let you be the judge of that!
Getting to Washington State from Vancouver Island
A couple of weeks later we took the Coho Ferry from Vancouver Island to Port Angeles in Washington State. The Coho is operated by Black Ball Ferry Line, and has been operating this route since 1959! Travelling on the ferry is like stepping back in time, with the original decor and jolly music accompanying the safety announcements.
The ferry takes 90 minutes to cross the Juan de Fuca Straight, from downtown Victoria into Port Angeles. Heading to Washington, you will clear US customs in the ferry port, so need to be there 90 minutes prior to departure. On the way back, you only need to be there 60 minutes before.
There is a bar and cafeteria onboard, but we spent most of the trip out on the foredeck looking for whales. We didn't see any on the way south, but spotted a few humpbacks on the way back, so keep your eyes out!
Olympic National Park
On our second trip over to Washington state, we visited Olympic National Park. Managed by the US National Parks Service, the park is a vast wilderness of nearly 1 million acres and over 70 miles of beautiful wild coastline.
Where to Stay in Olympic National Park
We stayed in a really cool camp near Forks, which we booked through AirBnB. The camp is by the river at the end of a rough track, with no near neighbours. It's completely off-grid, with no power or running water, but there is a covered shelter for cooking and eating and a cool outhouse with a view! You have the entire property to yourselves, and can pitch your tent wherever you like.
If you want somewhere with a few more home comforts, the friends we were travelling with stayed in a log cabin at Kalaloch Lodge. The cabins overlook a beautiful beach, and there is a nice restaurant on site.
Things to do in Olympic National Park
1. Marymere Falls is a short hike through the forest from Crescent Lake. The early part of the walk is pretty flat, and meanders past some huge trees and over a couple of log bridges, the last section up to the falls is pretty steep, but there's a good path with steps in places. Sadly this trail does not allow dogs so Sarah and Hector chilled down at the lake, but worth bearing in mind if you travel with your dog.
2. Hole-in-the-Wall is a stunning natural arch in the rocks. Walk along Rialto Beach from the car parking area at the southern end of the beach, making sure that you get the tide times right! There were some huge schools of fish just off the beach when we were there, which attracted loads of Pelicans. Some of the fish were getting washed up on the beach by the waves, and the kids loved catching them.
3. Sol Duc Hot Springs offers three pools at different temperatures, plus a fresh water outdoor swimming pool and cold water shower! The natural mineral hot springs are directed into man-made pools. There are also changing rooms and a gift shop.
There are other natural pools in the park, but the hike was a bit far for the kids after already hiking to the hole-in-the-wall.
4. Ruby Beach is one of many stunning beaches on the western coast of the park. There's another much smaller natural arch at this beach, and it's much quieter than Rialto.
Two very different experiences in Washington State, but both well worth a visit. Olympic National Park was more our usual style, but we really enjoyed our short city break in Seattle. Which would you do?