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Pacific Northwest Itinerary Help

We are making our first trip to the Pacific Northwest in early October (actually arriving on 9/30). Here is a rough outline - any comments or feedback would be most appreciated. We are two 30-somethings, and will have our six month old riding along (I know this itinerary might be a bit ambitious with a little one, but hopefully there are enough car rides and times to take it easy to balance out). Rick is based in Washington, so I thought maybe some of the people on this forum would have good ideas! Thanks!

Day 1 - land in Seattle around lunch time. Spend rest of day walking around, Pike Place Market, etc.
Day 2 - in Seattle, Mariners game at night.
Day 3 - possible day trip (or half day trip) to Bainbridge Island? Or would you stay in Seattle and skip Bainbridge Island?
Day 4 - long drive day - leave Seattle and go to Astoria, OR, except take the interior route and stop at the Johnston Ridge Observatory near Mt. St. Helens. Hopefully have a couple of hours of daylight in Astoria, stay in Astoria.
Day 5 - depart Astoria., stop at Lewis & Clark National Historical Park, stop at Tillamook Cheese Factory (ideally for late lunch), head to Newport. Stay Newport.
Day 6 - Stay in Newport. Explore other areas around Newport, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, relax on beach if weather is good.
Day 7 - Head to Portland via Dundee/Newberg for a wine tasting or two.
Day 8 - Portland.
Day 9 - Portland.
Day 10 - depart from Portland mid-morning.

Posted by
533 posts

The Portland Saturday Market (which is also open on Sundays just to be confusing) is wonderful and should not be missed. By my calculations, your Day 9 is a Saturday, so that's perfect.

Posted by
2526 posts

Suggest dropping Bainbridge Island and adding at least some time in Seaside, Oregon. Tillamook Cheese Factory always great...mmmm.

Posted by
2134 posts

My favorite beach town on the coast is Cannon Beach. I've been to Newport but it's never drawn me back like Cannon Beach has. Maybe someone else can weigh in on Newport. But I see you have Newport listed for "relax on beach" and there's no beach in Oregon I like better for relaxing than Cannon Beach. Plus, you're going at an awesome time. The crowds have thinned but the weather should still be ok. It's a phenomenal beach - wide, great for walking, with beautiful Haystack Rock.

Ditto on the skip Bainbridge Island. It's cute, charming, etc, but there's way more for you to do in Seattle with your 2.5 days.

Posted by
6487 posts

I like Cannon Beach too, but it's just a little too 'upscale' for me. I actually do prefer Newport, it's the blue collar town on the coast, more my speed. They have one of the last active commercial fishing fleets left in the US, they have a fish and shrimp processing plant, they have wonderful seafood (if that's your pleasure) - I'm not a seafood fan unless it's battered and deep fried - lol. My daughter swears that the best clam chowder and fresh shrimp cocktail is at the Fish Peddler in Newport, a fish market and take away place with a small seating area and wait service. They have a large sea lion population that hangs around the harbor which, by the way, is the most picturesque on the coast in my opinion (http://www.portofnewport.com/). The Oregon Coast Aquarium is excellent - it's not Monterey Bay but it's very good. The old town by the harbor is full of kitschy souvenir shops but also some good galleries too. I stay away from the Ripleys Believe it or Not. The other shopping area in Nye Beach has fun little shops and some good restaurants and it's a great beach for hanging out if it's nice out. First part of October is usually pretty nice on the coast but you never know, fortunately I love it when it's misty and foggy as much as when it's nice. The water will be COLD, it always is, but just chilling out and walking the beach is interesting in most any weather. Don't miss Yaquina Head lighthouse, great place for whale watching and the view is incredible.

Between Seaside and Cannon Beach is Ecola State Park (http://oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=136) which has one of the most photographed beaches on the West Coast, it's a great place for a picnic and short hike. Farther down the coast before you get to Lincoln City is Pacific City which has the most popular surfing area, great hikes up the dunes, and the best brew pub on the coast in my opinion - Pelican Pub and Brewery (http://www.yourlittlebeachtown.com/eat-drink/pelican-pub-brewery), best burgers anywhere and really good beer, lovely patio overlooking the beach if the weather is cooperating.

I love Astoria too. My daughter and I were there this weekend. Be sure to climb the column if it's clear for the wonderful view (http://astoriacolumn.org/) and if you like fish and chips, these are phenomenal (http://www.bowpicker.com/), very popular so expect a line and a wait of 1/2 hr or more - it's the seagoing version of a food truck so just take away and only a couple of picnic tables but worth the wait.

As you can tell I love the coast, so much to see, so much (or so little) to do.

Posted by
13093 posts

I think a half-day riding a ferry over to Bainbridge and back is a nice relaxing thing to do with your little one. But I lived there for 15 years so I am biased. You will get nice views of the Seattle waterfront and hopefully see Mt. Rainier looming over the Sound. On Bainbridge you can walk into the little village and have lunch. Harbour House Pub was my favorite but there may be some new places that are good. Or stop in the Blackbird Bakery for coffee and a treat.

Walking around downtown your first day is a good idea. You may find the Pike Place Market oppressively crowded in the area around the fish-throwers. If so, you can head for the shops "down under" and then exit further down to the waterfront area. Walk north along the waterfront to the Olympic Sculpture Park and wander around a bit.

Mt. St. Helen's Johnston Ridge Observatory is a fascinating place. I lived in Idaho when the volcano erupted and was pretty badly affected by the ash fall. I can't believe it took me 30 years to go there and see the destruction and the regeneration up close. I am glad you thought of going there. There are some nice short trails right in the area of the observatory.

Posted by
1780 posts

Since you'll have a car, have you thought about doing Snoqualmie Falls? That might be an option instead of Bainbridge Island that would give you something completely different.

Posted by
31471 posts

Steve,

While in Seattle, I would highly recommend a visit to the Museum of Flight (close to SeaTac). It's incredible and will take several hours to go through it.

If you like that sort of thing, you could also stop at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, which is about an hour south of Portland. It's fantastic and one could easily spend the better part of a day there. In Portland you could also spend a few hours at OMSI. I always enjoy taking a tour of the Submarine.

I haven't been to Bainbridge Island, but I'm not sure it's worth the effort.

Of course, if you want to visit the ultimate travel destination you could also stop at Rick Steves headquarters in Edmonds.

Posted by
394 posts

Wow so much great information! Thank you all very much. I will definitely consider all of these options.

Posted by
351 posts

I like the ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island & back, though without a car I find Bainbridge Island rather dull. YMMV.
The views from the ferry are really wonderful, and I really love having a beer or coffee in the open air.

That said, there are quite a few things to do in Seattle that you'll have to skip if you take a half or full day to go to Bainbridge Island. You could, however, take a ferry there & immediately get on the return trip. That would take about 2 hours out of your morning or afternoon. A nice break from walking?

Maybe:
- breakfast at Top Pot Doughnuts
- walk around Pioneer Square
- Underground Tour (I've done the tour twice - it's entertaining & full of interesting info on the history of Seattle)
- Buy sandwiches at Salumi or sandwiches/picnic things at Pike Place market (Salumi is not open Sat or Sun and has a limited menu on Mondays but one of the things they'll have is the porchetta sandwich mmmmmm)
- Take the ferry to Bainbridge Island & back - have your lunch picnic on the ferry
- Ride the monorail into the future! Er, I mean to the Space Needle (I recommend having beers on the observation deck)
- After Space Needle, visit Chihuly Glass and/or EMP
- Dinner somewhere great like any of Tom Douglas's restaurants or Elliott's Oyster House or any of a dozen great brewpubs (I swear I'm not obsessed with beer)

Posted by
115 posts

Hi Steve, welcome to the great Pacific Northwest! Your itinerary looks completely doable to me. Personally, I would skip the Bainbridge Island trip for more time in Seattle. Maybe visit Ballard or Fremont on day 2 or 3. Both of these neighborhoods are north of the city, but are technically in Seattle. Motorgirl has me thinking of beer and these neighborhoods have some fine breweries. Also, if you've ever watched Deadliest Catch, The Northwestern and Wizard moor in Ballard and should be preparing for the trip to Dutch Harbor about the time you'll be there. The debate rages on about who makes the better sandwich, Paseo or Un Bien (the original owner's sons place), and both of these are in Fremont and Ballard. I agree that a Tom Douglas restaurant should be included in your visit. Some are fancy, some are casual like Serious Pie for pizza. Another short trip could be to Alki Beach in West Seattle. The view of the city from Salty's on Alki can't be beat. Another good view of the city is from the top of Capitol Hill when you visit Bakery Nouveau ; ) Totally agree that a trip to the Tillamook Cheese factory is a must as is a meal at Little Big Burger when in Portland. When your little one gets a bit bigger you'll need to come back for the ultimate ferry ride to the San Juan Islands, but that's a whole other trip! I hope the weather is decent for your visit, but be sure to bring a rain hat just in case. Jenny

Posted by
13093 posts

Do we know if they are renting a car while in Seattle, or just when they leave? Many of these suggestions are car-dependent.

Posted by
394 posts

Thanks again. We are renting the car on day 4, on the way out of Seattle, and dropping it off on day 7 upon arrival in Portland.

Posted by
247 posts

The view of Mt St Helens from Johnston Ridge is amazing, if it's a clear day. If the day has low overcast, forget it. Be aware that the exit off I-5 up to the Ridge is a slow road and about 50 miles one way, plan on a couple of hours if you do it. However Astoria is in easy reach either way, since it takes less than 4 hours from Seattle to Astoria via I-5 without stops. As mentioned in other replies, the Astoria Column is the prime attraction, especially on a clear day. If the weather is good, go there for sundown and stay through dusk to see the glow on the river. In case of bad weather, see the Astoria Maritime Museum. It's right on the river and includes a real lightship. Or, if interested in gaudy Victorian mansions, see the Flavel House right behind the county courthouse. Get an official Oregon State highway map ahead of time and you'll be impressed to count the number of State parks along the coast. My last count was 25 between Astoria and Newport alone. Plan on stopping at at least one along the way. Cannon Beach and Newport have their touristy charms, but if you want to see the "real" unspoiled Oregon coast, IMO stop at some of the lesser known parks. I won't reveal my absolute favorite on the north coast, but a very good suggestion would be Ecola just north of Cannon Beach, or Short Sands Beach at Oswald West State Pk, south of Cannon Beach, or Cape Kiwanda near Pacific City. All are within minutes of the coast highway. In Portland, for a unique view of the city and surroundings, take a river cruise - especially if the weather is good. Boats depart from the "seawall" on the downtown riverfront and cruise up to the falls at Oregon City. Go up into the West Hills to the Pittock Mansion for a great view of the city and Mt Hood (depending on weather). House tour optional. Just go west on Burnside Ave from downtown and look for the signs.

Posted by
1662 posts

Great choices on your itinerary, and October is a great month to visit the PNW. I have a couple of suggestions. First, your Day 4 is going to be a very, very, very long day, especially with a 6 month old in the car. As prior posters mentioned, the drive up to Mt. St. Helens is a long one, and if you happen to hit Seattle and Portland rush hour traffic, it will be a super long day. Astoria deserves more than an overnight (ideas were listed by another poster). You might consider doing a St. Helens day trip from Portland and head south from Seattle on Day 4 via the Washington coast. Still a long drive but beautiful. Also, I love Newport, but to save on drive time and make an efficient return via wine country, you might consider staying farther north in Manzanita, Netarts, or Pacific City. I'd recommend Cape Lookout as a stop between Tillamook and points south - the hike out to the point is one of the most beautiful in Oregon.

Posted by
6487 posts

CL, I was also going to suggest somewhere north instead of Newport, but the more I thought about it, Newport will be okay. Since they'll be doing this on a weekday in October the traffic won't be the issue it would be on a weekend in June-Sept and the drive from Newport will only add a bit over an hour to their drive to Dundee/Newberg area and they should easily get there by lunch time. The drive from Newberg to Portland is less than an hour so they should have time for a couple of wine tasting stops.

I would also suggest to the OP that a stop in McMinnville on the way to Newberg would be fun. If it's the right time there are several good places for lunch and even wine tasting there. And, if they like olive oil and/or flavored vinegars, a stop at 3rd Street Oil and Vinegar in McMinnville is a must. You can taste about 50 different flavors or combinations of flavors, I never leave without something.

Posted by
1662 posts

Two more brief thoughts on your visit. First, the Travel Oregon page has a bunch of ideas and is sorted out by geography, along with stunning photos. Second, since you're from the East Coast, it merits a mention that you cannot pump your own gas in Oregon. We natives are quite used to this, but it flusters our visitor friends.

Posted by
394 posts

Thank you all again for the great information. I think we will likely nix Bainbridge Island, but I'll keep the option open in case we are looking for something to do. I really want to see Seattle from the water, but I've found a one hour tour that should fit the bill. We will have to try one of the Tom Douglas restaurants. Newport is sort of non-negotiable for us, I'm a beer guy and I want to go to Rogue's HQ (and we are going to stay at their "Bed 'n Beer." We definitely plan on exploring more of the OR coast than just Astoria and Newport, so I will be sure to heed your collective advice and stop in at least one or two of the other coastal towns, as well as a state park. Very funny that we can't pump our own gas. Though I don't live there, NJ is like that too. Thanks for the head's up.

What are the best local breweries/brewpubs in Seattle?

Posted by
45 posts

I think you'll enjoy your trip to the NW. You asked about brewpubs/breweries-there are almost too many to list. I will say that the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle (in the NW part of the city), has many: Stoup, Jolly Roger, Reuben's Brews, Peddlar-and those are the ones off the top of my head. You could spend a nice afternoon/evening visiting them (and most are kid-freindly-Stoup is owned by a local family with young kids).

Posted by
487 posts

I don't think it has already been mentioned but the Goonies house is located in Astoria and is easy to find. It is a private residence so no tours, but fun to take a picture.

The EMP museum in Seattle was interesting if you are into music. They had several areas that went through historical changes in music, rotating exhibits and some interactive areas as well.

The aviation museum in McMinnville was a great stop so another vote for that. It has the Spruce Goose plane that Howard Hughes built out of wood and was only flown once. It is huge!

Don't forget to drive out to Multnomah Falls area outside of Portland. There are lots of waterfalls and it is such a pretty area!

Posted by
1662 posts

When in Newport, then, make sure to eat at Local Ocean. The aquarium is very close to Rogue on the south side of town, as well as the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

If you're an aspiring Rogue Nation member, you might consider driving back to the valley via Independence, where you can visit their farm - it is in a typical scenic part of the Willamette Valley. Plenty of wineries on Highway 99 heading north to Portland from there. There are also three Rogue outlets in Portland (including the airport) but you may want to test out some of the other fine Oregon brews too.

Posted by
6487 posts

As a proud member of the Rogue Nation myself, I'll give another vote for Rogue farms at Independence. It makes your journey a bit longer but if you get an early start from Newport it's certainly doable. Although you'll get all the scoop at the HQ, if you're really into local brews, especially Rogue, the farm is interesting and in early October should be busy with various harvests and, of course, the new pumpkin and hazelnut ales (and whatever new flavors they come up with). It's really fun to see how they grow (almost) everything for their brews and spirits. It would be about a 2 hr drive from Newport to Independence by way of hwys 20 & 99W, about an hour or so at the farm, then about 1-1/2 hrs to Newberg (more with rest stops and/or lunch). And CL is correct, there are many wineries along 99W between Independence and Newberg, just between Rickreall and McMinnville are: Eola Hills (fantastic pinot noir), Firesteed Cellars, Amity Vineyards, Left Coast Cellars, Coelho Winery, etc.

Just another note, if you do end up on hwy 99W going through Amity, a must stop is the Blue Raeven farmstand and pie shop - they make the best pies ever and have a wonderful selection of local jams, salsas, condiments and pickled anything (lol).

Posted by
394 posts

So much great information. Thank you all again.

Posted by
695 posts

I'm late here, but ...

-In Astoria you may also want to visit Fort Stevens, the only military fort in the United States fired upon by the Japanese in WWII;

-In Portland you can't miss Voodoo Donuts!!

Enjoy!

Posted by
5786 posts

Fort Stevens, the only military fort in the United States fired upon by the Japanese in WWII;

My be true if limited to "fort" as in a fortified enclosure, building, or position able to be defended against an enemy". The Pearl Harbor naval base, Hickam Field and Wheeler Field, may not have strictly been "a fortified enclosure or position" but they were American military bases attached by the Japanese to start WW2.

Posted by
5586 posts

Yeah, I'd definitely say Pearl Harbor got fired upon in WWII. Not to mention Attu and Kiska (in the Aleutian Islands) - they were not only fired on, they were occupied and held by the Japanese for an extended period.

He probably meant "on the US Mainland".

Back on topic, Astoria is nice, but getting there will require at least a little backtracking (Astoria is north of Portland). I'd consider staying someplace a bit further south on the coast - Cannon Beach would be perfect, or someplace south of there. Your problem is that the Oregon Coast has way too many worthwhile things to see and do. You only have, what, 2 days on the coast? - you will be constantly tantalized and frustrated because you will want to stop and spend time at places you see every 5 minutes as you drive the length of the state. 101 (the route along the coast) is mostly 2 lanes and very curvy, with stunning views every couple of minutes (and no shortage of traffic, a mix of everything from gawking tourists like yourself, to fully loaded logging trucks - be careful), so the drive will be slow, and it will take you longer than you think to get to destinations. That's OK, just looking out the window will put a smile on your face. There's no place in the world more beautiful than the Oregon Coast.

If you're overnighting in Newport, be sure to go to Mo's for clam chowder - it's an institution (and the chowder is good, too).

I'd skip the observatory at Mt. Saint Helens - it's gonna be a long detour away from your route and the time driving up there and back will significantly eat into your destination time on the Oregon Coast. I've jumped in my car in Seattle and made a beeline for the Oregon Coast many times. If I were you, I'd do it this way: jump on I-5 EARLY (Seattle area traffic is miserable, try and get out ahead of it - like before 7 am if you can). Head straight down I-5 to Portland (watch out for the State Patrol especially in the areas from around Tacoma to south of Olympia - lots of speed traps around there). Skip the Johnson Ridge Observatory side-trip. In Portland, take Highway 26 and stay on it until you reach the coast, just north of Cannon Beach. That's a good place to start your Oregon Coast trip, be sure to get out and stretch your legs here (you'll need it). From there, slow down.

Your trip sounds like you only get 2 days at the coast, and you're only going as far south as Newport. The great stuff continues south of there - try and see a little more if you can. Honestly, with the number of days you have, I'd gladly lose a day in Portland and/or Seattle, and use that day to see/do/enjoy more of the Oregon Coast. I live in Seattle and used to live in Portland, know them well. Honestly, they're a lot like any other city and despite all the hype, they ain't all that special (used to be, not so much after the past decade's booms). The Oregon Coast hasn't been ruined yet and is still very special - see it while you can. Personally, I'd trade any day in Seattle or Portland for a day in Yachats or Florence.

Posted by
695 posts

You guys are correct, of course. ...US mainland ... Or maybe because Hawaii wasn't a state yet, ...??

At any rate, I stand corrected!

Posted by
110 posts

To the original post: The only things I'd add is to double check the Lewis and Clark NHS to make sure they'll still be open then. Last I checked, they have limited fall and winter hours.

Also, unless you're heart set on Mount Saint Helens, a loop around the peninsula (Seattle to Port Angeles to Astoria) is a gorgeous day trip.

To the commentary: Neither Hawaii nor Alaska were states at that point, they were territories, so the place in Oregon wins by a technicality.

Posted by
394 posts

Thanks. That is an interesting alternative to Mt. St. Helens, and I've been trying to come up with one in case the weather and visibility are poor that day. Are you suggesting driving Seattle to Port Angeles and then Port Angeles to Astoria basically going back towards Olympia, and then along 108, 8, 12, etc.? Or to go the whole way around along the peninsula along 101? Those both look like fairly long drive days, not that I am opposed if it is worth it.

Posted by
6487 posts

I agree with Hamlet's shrink that that is a beautiful drive but it's also 8 hours of traveling without stops so with meal stops, rest stops, photo stops, etc it would be closer to 10-12 hrs and traveling with a baby I can't see that as an optimum option, not to mention that Oct doesn't have the late daylight that would be needed if you don't want to end up coming into Astoria after dark.

Personally I would not miss Mt St Helens if the weather is at all cooperative and early October has a good chance of being very nice - cool and sunny a good part of the time. It is amazing to see the crater and learn all about the explosion and it's aftermath. The film they show is amazing, but you may have seen it many times before on PBS or other nature programs. And walking around it just trying to imagine the landscape before it was covered with up to umpteen feet or more of ash, it was awesome. It's too bad you can't go there in summer. I was there for the first time in late Sept and it was beautiful, but the second time I was there was in July and it took my breath away, the display of wildflowers was absolutely gorgeous.

Posted by
394 posts

What about driving to Aberdeen or Queets instead of Port Angeles and doing the full loop? Would that provide a taste of the Olympic National Park region?

My wife and I are both seasoned travelers, and at least thus far, our little one is great in cars. So we would consider doing the full loop if the weather is too poor for Mt. St. Helens and driving the full loop is recommended.

Also - would anyone ditch a day in Seattle for a full day boat tour to the San Juan Islands? Looks like it leaves Seattle early, boat trip to Friday Harbor, afternoon whale watch, a few hours in Friday Harbor, and then a boat trip back to Seattle, taking pretty much the full day. Has anyone done this? I'm struggling with this one - the whale watch sounds great and I'd love to see an island community like Friday Harbor, but I'm hesitant to give up a full day in Seattle when I only have 2.5 as it is.

Posted by
128 posts

I think this decision should be based on whether you are more interested in "city vs natural beauty" sites. We live about 2 hours north of Seattle and head to Friday Harbor from Anacortes when we go to the San Juans. I'm sure it is just as beautiful to arrive via Seattle. The San Juans are absolutely amazing, so incredibly beautiful and I think, a hidden gem. I had never heard of these islands until we moved to the PNW over 7 years ago. I wouldn't miss seeing them for anything. I actually prefer Portland to Seattle, enjoy your time there, would hesitate to give any Portland time up. Friday Harbor is a fun, little town. It's a bit touristy, but we always enjoy strolling around the downtown area. Keep in mind that although seeing the whales is often touted, it is not always a reality. We've gone to the SJ Islands many times, but have only seen whales once and that was by the lighthouse on San Juan Island. Enjoy your time in the PNW, it's beauty is truly spectacular!!!

Posted by
1662 posts

Re: question about San Juans - if you want to give up the day for an outdoor experience, they're worth the trip. But if the weather is not good, it won't be very enjoyable. As mentioned previously, the whale viewing is hit or miss (mostly miss). With a baby, you might consider a shorter boat trip.

Re: driving to Aberdeen instead of doing the full Olympic loop - IMHO this doesn't give you good flavor of the Olympic rain forest - not even close to the flora and geography that the park would provide. But it's a fine route if you decide to skip St. Helens in favor of getting to Astoria more efficiently.

Posted by
5586 posts

Sorry, the San Juans really do not make a reasonable "day trip" from Seattle. For a weekend, sure. But out and back in a day? No way. Most of your time will be spent getting there and back, little time actually there. Same with the idea to head for - Aberdeen (Aberdeen - seriously?!). No, you can't do it all in the time you have. Save the San Juans for a trip when you can actually spend the majority of a day there, rather than a couple hours. Skip the drive out to the Washington Coast, you don't have time (it's a worthwhile loop if you have 2-3 days, but you don't). And you can NOT efficiently combine the Washington Coast with the Oregon Coast - it takes way too long to connect them (the roads are not direct and are slow - if you're headed for the Oregon Coast from Seattle it's crazy not to take I-5 to Portland - trust me, I've done both many times). If you can squeeze any more time out of Seattle or Portland, spend it on the Oregon Coast, you won't regret it.

Posted by
115 posts

I agree, save the San Juans for a trip when you have a few days to spend. They are no longer a "hidden" gem and even in October there are lots of visitors. The resident orcas are usually heading south by then anyway. You really need a car to appreciate the islands, as San Juan is the only one who's main town is at the ferry terminal. Also, save the Washington coast for another trip, too. The Olympic Natl. Park is a much wilder coast than Oregon and needs more time on foot to appreciate. Sorry, but there's really nothing to see in Aberdeen--Kurt Cobain knew that. Queets is a tiny village on the Queets Reservation.

Posted by
3685 posts

Please do not discount what people are saying about the long drive from Seattle to Astoria. I lived in the Tacoma area for 20 years, and was up there 3 times in the past 3 months. The I5 traffic is horrendous from Seattle to south of Olympia. The time of day doesn't really matter, but the earlier you leave Seattle the less traffic you are likely to hit.

No one has mentioned this, but I love driving the Astoria Bridge over the Columbia River. It means taking 4 (Ocean Beach Hwy) west from Kelso/Longview to 401 (Lewis and Clark Trail Hwy) south toward Naselle to 101 south across the bridge. Kelso/Longview are south of Mt. St. Helens. It takes about 30 minutes longer (about 1 hr 40 minutes) than crossing at Longview and taking 30 west (about 1 hr 10 minutes), but I think the drive is much more fun and it spends more time closer to the river.

Google Map the routes and look at the satellite view to see what you think. BTW, you might also want to Google Astoria Bridge. It is rather impressive.

Posted by
5262 posts

I'll just chime in late to agree with others that the Aberdeen-Queets option is not a good use of your time. A not very attractive drive to some not very attractive towns, and way out of your way. I think Mt. St. Helens is worth the detour if the weather is clear. If it isn't clear along I-5 it definitely won't be up in the mountains.

I agree about getting out of Seattle as early as you can because the I-5 traffic is terrible down to Olympia, after that it's OK. One good route might be down I-5 to Longview, then across the river to US 30 west to Astoria, which is an interesting town in a beautiful setting.

I like Newport, especially the aquarium, not as good as Monterey but better than most. (Another good aquarium, if you like them, is on the Seattle waterfront.) Don't know the Oregon beaches well but there are lots of state parks with wonderful views and walking (don't even think of swimming, too cold and dangerous currents). Generally speaking they get better as you go south, but I'd say Newport is far enough.

I hate to admit it, but the Oregon coast is much better than the Washington coast, except for some spectacular stretches on the northern part of Washington that are remote even by car, and mostly reached only by long hikes.

I also agree, reluctantly, about the San Juans -- wonderful but too far for a worthwhile day trip from Seattle. However, I'd definitely recommend the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge and return, just for the views of the Sound and mountains (again depending on weather). You can just walk onto the ferry, walk off at Bainbridge, turn around and walk back on to return. Takes about 90 minutes altogether. Ferries serve fast food and (irresponsibly for car ferries) beer and wine.

Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
394 posts

Thanks for all of the latest comments, I really appreciate the feedback. I think the plan is to skip both Bainbridge Island (although still considering that) and the day trip to the San Juan Islands, and spend the day in Seattle. The next day, we'll get as early of a start as possible, and if the weather is good, stop at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, and then go on to Astoria. If the weather/visibility is poor, we'll probably head straight to Astoria and find things to do there.