Top 15 Best Day Trips from Seattle for First Time Travelers

Choosing day trips from Seattle city allows you to see what other parts of the state have to offer and all these places are just a few hours away.

Seattle is conveniently placed in the middle of Pacific Northwest’s best geographical areas. That allows its proximity to various tourist attractions including stunning landscapes, scenic beaches, historic ports, peaceful national parks, and more.

Also known as the Emerald City, Seattle has a lot of beautiful places to visit within its metropolitan area. But there’s so much more to absorb in its breathtaking surroundings.

So once you’ve exhausted all your options within the city limits, it’s time to branch out for more.

1.Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island is referred to as the Nantucket of the Pacific Northwest that is an ideal escape from the buzzing city. The peaceful island is filled with green forests and the Rocky Mountains that offer incredible views. Fans of the popular show, Grey’s Anatomy will recognize the wild beauty of Bainbridge Island.

For culture enthusiasts, two spots that are worth checking out in Bainbridge Island are the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, and the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. A popular place on the island is Winslow Way where you can find multiple boutiques with unique clothes. There’s also an array of restaurants in the area to satisfy your taste buds.

Travel Tips:

  • To go to Bainbridge Island, take a 35-minute ferry ride across Elliot Bay from the ferry terminal in downtown Seattle.
  • Try a typical northwest rainy day dish, a hot bowl of pho at Thuy’s Rooster’s Café. 
  • You can shop for teas, candles, and incense at the Paraffine’s Tea Shop.
Bainbridge Island - Best Day Trips from Seattle
Source: Danita Delmont/Shuttershock

2. North Cascades National Park 

Just two hours away from north of Seattle is a picture-perfect portrayal of clear blue skies, thick glacier peaks, and mountains of conifer forests. North Cascades National Park is one of the most stunning national parks in the USA usually sneaked into by locals.

One of the most incredible landmarks in the area is the reservoir formed by the Diablo Dam. The water has an unreal turquoise-blue tint which makes it one of the most photogenic areas within the park. Hikers can take a short 4.2 mile round trip to Pyramid Lake where the path is lined with beautiful old-growth trees.

Travel Tips:

  • Do try the 1950’s –style diner, Cascade Burger for delicious burgers, onion rings, and shakes. It’s located just half an hour to the west of the national park. 
  • Just in case you want to stay overnight you can choose from multiple campsites within the park.
North Cascades National Park
Source: Christi V./Yelp

3. Bellingham 

About one and a half hours away from Seattle is the coastal town of Bellingham which is also near the Canadian border, which makes it an ideal stop for the surrounding areas, including San Juan Island, Victoria, and Vancouver.

Although it is referred to as a town, it has a lot of places worth checking out. For vibrant sceneries, you must go to Lake Padden, Mount Baker, Lummi Island, and Whatcom Falls. Also, for indoor eye-pleasers, you should check out the Whatcom Museum, and the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention.

Travel Tips:

  • Take a stroll in the Boulevard Park Pier for a fresh breath of air with scenic views. 
  • You must try fancy dishes like crab melts and chowder at the restaurant, Keenan’s at the Pier. It’s located in the Chrysalis Inn. 
  • For a cozier dining and drinking experience, you can try the Temple Bar, situated outside the Central Business District. 
Bellingham - Best Day Trips from Seattle
Source: Shuttershock

4. Port Townsend

Previously known as “The City of Dreams”, Port Townsend is beautifully filled with Victorian-style buildings that have been well-preserved since the late 1800s. Not only does the small-town show that off, but it also boasts intricate bookshops, galleries, and restaurants worth visiting.

A few landmarks you must check around Port Townsend include Fort Worden State Park, Jefferson County Historical Museum, and Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Also, if you’re into water activities you can try fishing in the shorelines of the Olympic Peninsula. For more information on fishing, regulations check this out.

Even if you just stick to a day trip, you should visit the Manresa Castle which is a 100-year-old castle turned hotel. The architecture of the German-inspired castle is worth a drop-in.  

Travel Tips:

  • You can reach Port Townsend in 1.5 to 2 hours either by car or ferry from Seattle. 
  • Check out the modern-industrial pub at the Guardhouse for mouthwatering sliders and oysters. 
  • For local art and trinket shops visit Water Street.
Port Townsend
Source: Aaron McCoy/ Getty Images

5. Anacortes

Anacortes is a beautiful city 1.5 hours away from Seattle by car. The historic downtown must be checked out preferably through walking tours so that you can observe the detailed architecture.

A place in Anacortes that covers sandy beaches, wooden bridges, and lakes in the central area of Deception Pass State Park. It attracts visitors from all around the state especially due to the 1,487-foot long bridge with a drop of 177 meters below.

If you are into kayaking, you must go to the Burrows Bay and witness marine life seals, sea stars, and even whales (if you get lucky). But make sure if that’s your priority you must get it done within the morning when the water is calmer. Check out Anacortes Kayak Tours for further details.

Travel Tips:

  • You must take a walk at the bridge in Deception Pass to view the Deception Island on the west and Mount Baker on the northeast. 
  • Don’t forget to pack sunglasses because Anacortes is one of the sunniest parts of the Pacific Northwest.
  • To devour dishes made of local meat and produce, try the hip-casual restaurant called Adrift.
Anacortes - Best Day Trips from Seattle
Source: Shuttershock

6. Tacoma 

Tacoma is a small town south of Seattle on the Puget Sound that delivers multiple cultural and outdoor offerings to its visitors. A must-visit place for contemporary art lovers is the Museum of Glass, which displays a variety of pieces by Tacoma Native Dale Chihuly. 

To capture scenic trails, you must go to 760-acre Point Defiance Park. Also, Wright Park is a great place for a picnic or an afternoon walk, with a botanical garden within the park that has free entry. If you visit Tacoma in summer, the Tacoma Rainer baseball game is a quite entertaining way to spend a sunny day. 

Travel Tips:

  • Tacoma is 40 minutes down the I-5 freeway, making it one of the nearest locations for a day trip from Seattle.
  • You can also take the Sounder Train which will cost just $5.25.
  • Try the Marrow Kitchen & Bar for contemporary American cuisine; it serves separate menus for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
  • Burger lovers should try Frisko Freeze, which has been a Tacoma staple since mid-19th Century. 
Tacoma
Source: Sean Pavone/Shuttershock

7. Leavenworth

Leavenworth is a small town that mimics a Bavarian village in its entirety. In this lookalike old German town, you’ll find everything German including the architecture of all the buildings and the restaurants that serve German sausage and beer. Also, the town is so popular among visitors that it is named by A&E’s as the “Ultimate Holiday Town in the USA”.

Travel Tips:

  • Leavenworth is about 2 hours and 20 minutes away from Seattle by car.
  • The best time to visit Leavenworth is during Christmas when the entire town is lit up and European-style markets dominate the streets.
  • If you are there during winter make sure to carry extra warm clothes as the surroundings are filled with snowy mountains. 
Leavenworth
Source: Checubus / shutterstock

8. Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most picturesque outdoors you can find near Seattle. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions within the Snoqualmie Pass which cuts through the scenic Cascade Mountains. 

The falls in itself is 270 feet high, making it one of the most magnificent falls in North America. You can view the stunning waterfall from the observation decks present on the spot. The falls provide captivating views at all times, in sunny and rainy weather.   

Travel Tips:

  • One of the closest day trip locations from Seattle, the Snoqualmie Falls is just 35 minutes away. 
  • Purchase some souvenirs to take back from the gift shop in the area. 
  • For a fine dining experience, go to the Salish Lodge to add a touch of luxury to your day trip.
Snoqualmie Falls
Source: Patrick Tr / shutterstock

9. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park is one of the first national parks established in the United States making the country’s most glaciated peaks at proximity for travelers.

Although it’s not possible to cover the 236,381-acre park in a day trip, multiple hikes are starting from 20 minutes to a few hours that you can take to grasp the breathtaking views. These include the Skyline Trail and the green Grove of the Patriarchs loop.

Travel Tips:

  • It’s about 95 miles away from Seattle. You can go there by noncommercial vehicles where the driver will pay a $30 entry fee that covers every passenger. 
  • The park closes during extreme weather, so if you’re planning to go there in the winter make sure to check the weather forecast beforehand. 
  • In case you choose to camp out there, you’d need to pay $20 for the campground fee per night. 
Mount Rainier National Park
Source: Source: Roman Khomlyak / shutterstock

10. Olympic National Park 

The Olympic National Park is a ground for a diverse ecosystem, making it one of the most stunning destinations in Washington State. There are three places that you must check out when you’re at the location – the serene Sol Duc River, Lake Crescent, which has hiking trails and sites for camping, and Hurricane Ridge which is the perfect location for skiing.  

Just 12 minutes away is the Olympic National Forest which is going to be overwhelming for nature lovers. The whole area is packed with jaw-dropping trails and incredible viewpoints.

Travel Tips:

  • The best time to visit the Olympic National Park is in July and August as the weather is the warmest and most of the facilities are open. 
  • The weather can vary drastically from one part of the park to another so you must check the current weather conditions before you take your day trip. Check this website for further details. 
  • If you plan to picnic, bring your meals so you can enjoy the view while doing so, at the available picnic tables all over the park.
Olympic National Park
Source: Galyna Andrushko / shutterstock

11. Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens gained its popularity from a tragic incident of the volcano eruption that took place in 1980. Since then curious visitors have made the location gain attraction. You can roam around the blast zone and reflect on what took place 40 years back. If a hike does not appeal to you, you can also choose to view the crater from Johnston Ridge Observatory. 

Travel Tips:

  • Mouth St. Helens is 3 hours and 15 minutes away from Seattle by car. 
  • Check out the Windy Ridge which is the closest available viewpoint of the crater as well as the stunning Spirit Lake. 
  • There is a limit for the number of people allowed to climb the volcano, so if that’s your plan make sure you start very early from Seattle. 
Mount St. Helens
Source: Roman Khomlyak / shutterstock

12. San Juan Island

San Juan Island has everything a traveler wants, and more. Starting from alpaca ranch and lavender farm, to winery and lighthouse, the island has got it all covered. Also, one place you must visit is the Whale Museum. You can also sign up for tours of whale watching on the island.

To witness an incredible view of the sea in the front along with some parts of Canada, you can go to the Lime Kiln Lighthouse especially during sunset.

Travel Tips:

  • San Juan Island is 3 hours and 15 minutes away from Seattle by a ferry that stops at the town of Friday Harbor. 
  • Enjoy eating with the view of the water at multiple restaurants in Friday Harbor. 
  • Try local seafood at the Bait Shop or Fish+Brew. 
San Juan Island
Source: Edmund Lowe Photography / shutterstock

13. Darrington

Darrington is a small rural town situated in the Snohomish Country. Its popularity is supported by multiple outdoor activities throughout the year. If you visit the town during winter you can opt for snowmobile rides through the forests, while in summer the most favored activities include horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, or bird watching. 

If you’re not acrophobic, you can try a helicopter tour to get a panoramic view of the mountains below. One thing is for sure, that a day trip in Darrington will be eventful even though it’s a rural town hidden between mountains and rivers. 

Travel Tips:

  • Darrington is an hour and a half away from Seattle city center by car. 
  • For delicious burgers, fries, and shakes try the Burger Barn at Emens Ave.
  • Authentic handmade pizzas are served in Hometown Bakery Café at Cascade Street. 
Source: Edmund Lowe Photography / shutterstock
Source: PNW Dronetography / shutterstock

14. Blake Island Marine State Park 

Blake Island Marine State Park is a cozy retreat away from the busy Seattle. You can either choose to relax while viewing the picturesque views of the island or opt for biking or hiking through the serene trails to make your day trip more active. You’ll be able to witness a rich history and culture in every corner of the State Park.

Travel Tips:

  • You can take the Blake Island Fast Ferry from Seattle Central Waterfront; departs every hour from 9 am to 3p m). Return trips are every half an hour from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Try Ivar’s Acres of Clams for mouthwatering fried fish and chowders. 
Blake Island Marine State Park
Source: Joy Prescott / shutterstock

15. Portland 

Although Portland can be considered as a trip on its own, you can create a plan for a day trip in this vibrant city. You can visit three stunning landmarks throughout the day – Portland International Rose Garden, Pittock Mansion, and Pioneer Square. 

Throughout the day, you must check out at least two restaurants in this buzzing city as it’s known as one of the cities in the USA with the best foods. Recommendations include Andina Restaurant (fine-dining), Southpark Seafood (local cuisine), and Frank’s Noodle House (affordable).

Travel Tips:

  • Portland is 2 hours and 50 minutes away from Seattle by car. 
  • You can rent bicycles or electric-scooters to explore the city. Check out the rules for riding electric-scooters in the city here.
  • Portland is known for its coffee and beer. Check out the cafes, See See and Either/Or for coffee, and visit any bar in Beervana for the best breweries. 
Portland
Source: f11photo / shutterstock

Conclusion

These day trips from Seattle recommendations cover so many types of landscapes and man-made spots, that there’s something to meet everyone’s preference. If you’d like to go just by that, select the day trips that seem the most appealing to you.

However, if you have quite a few days at hand, try to cover all the suggestions mentioned in this article as each of them is noteworthy. 

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