Begin your journey with an appetite, heading north from Olympia toward Shelton. Taylor Shellfish Farms in Shelton is a prime place to pull over for a snack of oysters, clams, mussels or geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”), a regional specialty.
Heartier eaters may want to detour east on SR 106 to Union, where the Restaurant at Alderbrook offers locally harvested seafood; menu items include Bluenose bass in bacon-blood orange sauce and creamy Dungeness crab mac and cheese under a blanket of butter-roasted bread crumbs and stunning views of Hood Canal’s calm waters.
Head back to SR 101 and drive north, passing through charming small towns until you reach the foot of Discovery Bay. Here, you’ll take a right on SR 20 to head to Port Townsend. The city’s roots as a Victorian seaport still shine through today, with beautiful old houses and preserved period architecture.
Wander the appropriately named main thoroughfare Water Street, with sound views and plenty of small shops, galleries, and eateries to duck into. Don’t miss Elevated Ice Cream, an old-school ice cream parlor founded in 1977, where all of the good stuff is made on-site and sold by the ounce. Nearby Fort Worden State Park is filled with bunkers to explore and military history.
Head back to SR 101 and veer west, where you’ll come to lavender-laden Sequim (pronounced “skwim”) and a respite from wet weather. The town sits in a rain shadow and typically boasts a sunny, dry climate. Adventure seekers can take a one-hour drive through the Olympic Game Farm to see and feed (wheat bread only) llamas, yaks, bears and more. Chances are a bison will slobber on your car window, hungry for another slice.
Next, continue about 30 minutes west to Port Angeles, nestled between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains. This is a great stopping point for the day. Unwind with a glass of vino at Olympic Cellars Winery, a woman-run operation set in a whimsically restored 1890s barn, before sitting down for dinner at Bella Italia, Sabai Thai or any of the wide number of dining options.
If you have an extra day, use Port Angeles as a jumping-off point for explorations of Olympic National Park—a World Heritage site—and spectacular Hurricane Ridge before heading back onto the highway.
From Port Angeles, the road soon passes by brilliantly blue Lake Crescent on the way to Forks, known for its connection to the popular Twilight franchise. The sleepy timber town offers visitors the chance to join themed tours and enjoy other series-related paraphernalia.
The city, however, is rooted in lumber, which you’ll see at the Forks Timber Museum. For more trees—fully intact ones—take a detour off 101 along Upper Hoh Road to one of four temperate rain forests on the peninsula: Hoh Rain Forest, a lush, canopied wonderland of mosses, ferns and trees. From the visitor center, the Hall of Mosses Trail and Spruce Nature Trail are each about a mile and ideal for a relaxed stroll.
Continue south on Highway 101 to reach Hoquiam, where, if you time your trip around Loggers Playday, you can enjoy a pancake feed, fair, grand parade and logging show complete with ax throwing and tree climbing.
Detour west along SR 109 about 21 miles to Ocean Shores for miles of sand, family-friendly accommodations, and beachy activities. Putt your way to victory on one of two well-maintained mini golf courses at Pacific Paradise, knock down some pins at Shores Bowl and fill up on sweet treats at Murphy’s Candy and Ice Cream.
For outdoor pursuits, horseback riding along the beach is particularly popular, as are kite flying, moped driving, and cycling. For shopping, souvenir-selling Sharky’s is a must, if only to get your picture taken walking into the massive shark jaws around the entrance. Just don’t forget a sweatshirt or jacket—even when the sun is shining, the ocean winds can make it chilly on the beach.
Back on SR 101, roll into Aberdeen, the hometown of late grunge icon Kurt Cobain, where a welcome sign encourages you to “Come As You Are,” and a statue of the Nirvana frontman’s Fender Jag-Stang electric guitar sits near Young Street Bridge. For sightseeing, take a self-guided walking tour past homes of timber barons from a bygone era (maps are available at the Grays Harbor Chamber of Commerce), or step aboard Lady Washington, a replica of the first ship to come to the area back in the 1700s. She’s another star in these parts, having been featured in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
After resting your head at one of Aberdeen’s cute B&Bs, head south to Raymond, which welcomes visitors with steel statues scattered along both sides of the road. Stop into the Northwest Carriage Museum to explore the extensive collection of horse-drawn vehicles.
Continue your way along Willapa Bay to arrive at Long Beach Peninsula. In the summer, the small towns here buzz with beachgoers and boaters, while winter is perfect for storm-watching. In the fall, see the cranberry bogs being harvested and hit the beach for clam digging. Or partake in the bounty of fresh foods: Breakfast at the 42nd Street Cafe & Bistro in Seaview, brunch at Jimella and Nanci’s Market Cafe in Ocean Park, lunch at the Shelburne Inn Pub in Seaview, dinner at The Depot Restaurant in Seaview and a nightcap at Pickled Fish in Long Beach are all quality bets.
If you’ve promised souvenirs to friends back home, Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach provides seashells, logoed beach wear and saltwater taffy (in 45 delicious flavors)—not to mention a two-headed calf and Jake the Alligator Man (he has the upper body of a human and a reptilian lower half).