Washington State Overview
Washington State is the heart of the Pacific Northwest. With that title comes everything you’d hope for, from the lush, green Olympic Peninsula to the white peaks of the Cascade Mountains and the crisp, whale-surrounded San Juan Islands. Head east and you’ll see another side of the state that’s more cowboy than boutique, where the world gets much of its apples and the skies go on forever. The biggest urban jolt is Seattle, but other corners such as Spokane, Bellingham and Olympia are gaining sophistication by the day.
Nature went into overdrive when it worked its magic in Washington. Wild beaches, verdant rainforests, snow-sprinkled volcanoes, bijoux island retreats and the continent’s deepest river gorge all collide in the ‘Evergreen State’.
There’s plenty of adventure to be found here. Hike in Alpine meadows, trek through moss-covered forests and skip over driftwood on the Olympic Peninsula’s storm-pounded beaches. Climb a volcano at Mt Rainier or ski down one at Mt Baker. Kayak with orcas in the San Juan Islands, set sail sat sunset in Puget Sound, go windsurfing on the Columbia River or hold onto your hat jet boating into Hells Canyon.
For all its epic scenery though, the state’s star attraction is Seattle. Experience the coffee culture, head out in to the surrounding national parks and on to the waters of Puget Sound, or step on board a cruise to Alaska, many of which depart from the city’s port.
South of Seattle, cross the fabulous Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a kaleidoscopic pedestrian overpass connecting the Museum of Glass to downtown Tacoma. Fans of the “Twilight” series will want to visit Forks, the town in which author Stephanie Meyer based the novels.
The diversity of the landscape makes Washington State one of the most interesting and beautiful to explore. No matter what your primary reason for visiting is, from city to nature, you won’t be disappointed.
Must See Places in Washington State
Olympic National Park
From ocean beaches to mountaintops, Olympic National Park overflows with incomparable scenery. The park covers most of the Olympic Peninsula.
San Juan Islands
Dotting Puget Sound, various islands range from small rural getaways to thriving artistic hubs. The San Juan Islands are the best known of Washington’s many islands, with the four largest being readily accessible by ferry. Each has a mix of galleries, seafood restaurants, and parks, including San Juan Island National Historic Park where British and American troops became embroiled in the Pig War border dispute. Puget Sound is also orca whale territory, and visitors may see the elegant mammals while on a ferry, from shore, or during a whale watching tour.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier (14,410 feet) is one of a geologically recent chain of volcanoes in the Cascade Mountains. Also known as Mount Tacoma, the volcanic massif is often shrouded in cloud for days on end. But on clear days, it’s a landmark visible from many miles away, including from Seattle and Olympia.
The town of Port Angeles lies along the northern shores of the Olympic Peninsula, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The region is known for the huge number of things to do outdoors, such as hiking, biking, golfing, boating, kayaking, fishing, birding, and more.
East of the Cascade Mountains, much of Washington State is less populated farmland. The weather is sunnier on this side of the mountains, but the tourist draws are also fewer and farther between. Spokane lies on the border with Idaho, and this major Washington city is a hub of attractions (parks especially) and amenities.
The town of Leavenworth proudly calls itself the Bavarian Village, celebrating its heritage throughout the year. It’s common to see local residents wearing lederhosen or blowing a morning serenade on an alphorn. The entire town is decorated in an adapted German architectural style, down to the Gothic scripts on the signposts.
It’s a departure point for Mount Baker, but the university city of Bellingham is also a draw in its own right. For a quick introduction to this corner of the Pacific Northwest, stroll through Fairhaven Historic District and duck into local art galleries or catch some sun on a restaurant patio.
North Cascades National Park
The North Cascades are one of the most unspoiled tracts of country in the United States. Anglers, walkers, and nature lovers are all well catered for in the national park, which shares a border with British Columbia, Canada. A drive through the park on WA 20 is rewarded with some fantastic views.
Best Time to Visit Washington State
On the western side of the Cascades, there is no better time to visit than July and August when the weather is truly inspiring. To avoid the busy tourist months, try visiting in September when the skies are still predominantly clear and most tourists have gone home. If you enjoy cool, rainy weather, then Washington is a paradise.
In eastern Washington, there really is no bad time to visit. Winters tend to be cold and snowy, but if skiing is on the agenda, the Cascade ski resorts are fantastic. Summers are great from June right through the end of fall in October. Dry skies and nice, warm weather make for great conditions for exploring the outdoors east of the mountains.
Video Credit: Port of Seattle