Seattle is a world class city, but trust this area local when I say that you should carve out some time to escape the city limits when you visit. You don’t need a ton of time, because thankfully, there are just so many incredible day trips from Seattle that can give you a taste of the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Mountains, rainforests, beaches, and waterfalls are abundant in this almost too-good-to-be-true region. Seeing them will help you understand the answer locals give when asked what’s so special about our home: we’ve got the mountains and the water – what more could we need?
I’m a Seattle local and, to help you plan your trip, I put together this list of the best Seattle day trips! I’ve also got a guide to where to stay in Seattle and the top things to do in Seattle – bookmark them now for reading later.
Table of Contents
- 19 Best Seattle Day Trips
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Bainbridge Island
- San Juan Islands
- Olympic National Park
- Skagit Valley
- Port Townsend
- Vashon Island
- North Cascades National Park
- Snoqualmie Falls
- Whidbey Island
- Mount St Helens National Park
- Port Angeles
- Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour
- Victoria, BC
- Ruby Beach
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19 Best Seattle Day Trips
Mount Rainier National Park
If you happen to be in Seattle on a clear day, you’ll probably hear locals commenting on how “the Mountain is out”. They’re referring to Seattle’s iconic Mount Rainier. The magnificent view of this over 14,000-foot beauty alone should entice you to travel the 80 miles south of Seattle to the #4 entry on my list of best places to visit in Washington State.
Hiking trails abound in the surrounding areas and if you’re visiting in summer, you’ll be welcomed by meadows of colorful wildflowers filled with marmots, pikas, hummingbirds, and chipmunks. Nature lovers and hikers of all levels will love visiting Mount Rainier National Park.
🚗 How to Get There: Mount Rainier is an easy drive if you have a car, or you can easily rent one through Discover Cars. If you’d prefer to let someone else handle all the logistics, there are tons of highly rated tours on Viator to choose from.
Riding the downtown ferry to Bainbridge Island is a prototypical Seattle experience and it marks the first ferry most new arrivals and visitors ride when they go exploring. In fact, just riding the ferries is one of the top activities on my list of the best things to do in Washington!
Whether you’re going by foot, bike or car, Bainbridge Island has a lot to offer. Restaurants, shops, and wineries are all easily accessed from the ferry terminal, as is the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.
Lytle Beach to the south is a local favorite and offers surprisingly warm waters for the Puget Sound, while Fort Ward Park is the perfect place to picnic. To the north, the Bloedel Reserve is a tranquil respite where you can soak up the beauty of the island’s Japanese-inspired garden. Interested in wine-tasting, the Reserve, and learning some island history? This excellent tour offers a chance to check off all three activities.
San Juan Islands
Interested in some whale watching? It’s one of the best things to do outside Seattle and the San Juan Islands are the perfect place for it. Located about three hours north of Seattle, the little archipelago consists of 172 islands with the biggest being Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan Island.
Lime Kiln State Park on Friday Harbor is the perfect base for whale watching, and is also a great spot for kayakers looking to grab some of the best views in the state. The islands also offer small boutiques and farm-to-table restaurants, helping to make this one of the best Seattle day trips for relaxation or adventure.
✈️ Local Tip: If you’d rather skip the drive or ferry, you can arrive in the San Juan Islands in style by taking a seaplane transfer.
Tacoma is one of the largest cities in Washington state. Check out my post on the best things to do in Tacoma to understand why this is one of those short day trips from Seattle that offers something for everyone.
Art connoisseurs will enjoy wandering through the breathtaking Chihuly Museum of Glass. The Point Defiance Zoo is great for families, animal lovers, and conservationists. History buffs will love being transported to the 1800s at the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum.
🍽️ Local Tip: Wherever you choose to explore in Tacoma, don’t miss the scrumptious soul food eats at Southern Kitchen.
Olympic National Park
Hikers and backpackers will find their options endless at Olympic National Park, located two hours west of Seattle. And all types of travelers will gape in awe at the varied landscapes, which range from rainforest to glacier-capped mountains to coastal beaches. Popular destinations within the park include Hurricane Ridge and the Hoh rain forest.
The Olympic National Forest is admittedly a long day trip from Seattle, so consider either taking a tour to maximize your time within the park, or spending the night and camping beneath the forest canopy. It’s definitely one of the best weekend getaways in Washington.
About 70 miles north of downtown Seattle, the Skagit Valley makes for one of the more colorful and lowkey day trips from Seattle. It’s most famous for its tulip festival and, if you’re visiting around late March to April, it’s pretty much a must-see.
While the tulips are the main draw, the valley also features a lot of farm stands full of delicious seasonal produce. There are pumpkin patches and apple picking in the fall, and it’s one of the best day trips near Seattle for bird watching, particularly in the wintertime during the Skagit Eagle Festival.
👉 Local Tip – Aprils in the Seattle are are quite rainy, and that means the fields around the tulips can get pretty muddy. Be sure to wear some rain boots or at least a pair of old shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Port Townsend is quickly becoming a hotspot for Seattle day-trippers, and it’s hard not to feed off the energy coursing through town. It’s chock full of historic Victorian-style buildings erected in the 19th century, when Port Townsend was expected to become one of the most bustling cities along the Puget Sound.
Boating is huge here, with events like the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival happening annually along with several regattas. You’ll want to visit Fort Worden State Park both for its camping opportunities and to explore the abandoned military bunkers that are probably (most definitely) haunted. Finally, don’t skip out on the downtown area which has great options for shopping, two independent theaters, and some funky cafes!
If you need a place to go to slow down and retreat from city life, then Vashon Island is calling. Vashon is yet another place that’s an easy ferry ride away from Seattle, but entering this particular island feels like you’ve pressed the pause button in the best way.
This laidback and rural small-town community is known for its strawberry festival but is also home to several cideries, wineries, and May’s Kitchen, one of the best Thai food places in the Seattle area. Explore the tiny downtown or retreat to one of the many beaches around the perimeter of the island if you’re craving a rejuvenating trip. Get planning with my guide to things to do on Vashon Island.
🥐 Local Tip: Be sure to stop at Snapdragon Bakery and Cafe during your visit and order a cinnamon bun. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Despite being the capital of the state, Olympia tends to get overlooked when it comes to day trips from Seattle. That shouldn’t stop you from going, though, because there’s plenty to do in and around the city. The nearby Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Reserve is a wonderful place to visit for those interested in waterfowl and wandering through a landscape consisting of marshes, mudflats, grassland, and woodland.
Within Olympia, you’ll find delicious breweries like Headless Mumby and one of the best coffee roasters in the state, Olympia Coffee. All this is just an hour’s drive south from downtown, making it a totally worthwhile destination for your day trip from Seattle.
North Cascades National Park
The North Cascades National Park is what most people think of when they imagine the Pacific Northwest. Jagged mountain peaks, sprawling forests, valleys with crisp blue lakes, and cascading waterfalls make up this landscape. Its rugged terrain is just calling out for adventure lovers to visit.
Don’t miss Diablo Lake, whose turquoise blue waters are mesmerizing. The entire area is also great for camping and backpacking adventures. Skiers will be especially pleased with the options the Mount Baker area provides.
Snoqualmie Falls is probably best known for its appearance in the cult TV classic Twin Peaks. Fans should definitely make a visit, but even those unfamiliar with the show will enjoy these picture-perfect falls. Located east of Seattle between Snoqualmie and Fall City, the 268-foot falls are central to the indigenous Snoqualmie Tribe’s beliefs.
While visiting the falls provides a good photo opportunity, be sure to continue exploring the area. Twede’s Café in North Bend will continue your Twin Peaks tour, and avid hikers might want to try their hand at one of the popular nearby trails: Rattlesnake Mountain or Mount Si. Alternately, drive a little further north to Camlann Village, a medieval living history museum in Carnation.
👉 Local Tip – If you want to stay at the falls for the day instead of going to North Bend, be sure to dine at the amazing Salish Lodge. And, as long as you’re there, why not book yourself a relaxing massage as well?
Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island is as much a destination for hippies and artists as it is for outdoor enthusiasts. About 35 miles north of Seattle, visitors will find Whidbey Island an easy-going community with several larger towns to explore.
Langley is my personal favorite and you’re guaranteed to have a great time there whether you spend your time relaxing by the waterfront, playing games in the old-school arcade, or marveling over just how many wild bunnies are running about.
To the north of the Island is the Deception Pass Bridge, which provides magnificent views whether you’re walking across it or exploring the area beneath it on this epic kayak tour. It definitely makes for one of the more memorable day trips from Seattle you can take, and don’t miss Deception Pass State Park, too!
👉 Local Tip – Visiting Langley? Be sure to bring a roll of quarters with you so you have plenty of time to enjoy the local arcade, the Machine Shop.
Feeling up for a Bavarian adventure? Leavenworth offers some of the most fun things to do outside of Seattle! This city in the Cascade Range has architecture, food, and restaurants reminiscent of a cute German town. It’s the perfect place to visit during the wintertime when it gets dressed up in a magical display of Christmas lights, although it does get busy.
Leavenworth’s location in the Cascade Mountains also makes it the perfect place for skiers and winter sports enthusiasts. Even if you’re visiting in summer, you’ll find fun activities to do, like sipping cold brews, paddle boarding, and rafting in the Wenatchee River. Lucky for you, you can enjoy both the brews and the river with this tour.
Mount St Helens National Park
Continuing south past Mount Rainier will take you to yet another magnificent mountain. Mount Saint Helens is part of the cascade mountain range and is most well-known for its violent eruption in the ‘80s. It’s still an active volcano, but this doesn’t deter visitors and for good reason – the mountain’s distinctive crater-shaped top tells a stark visual story of its history.
One of the best ways to see Mount Saint Helens is on an aerial tour above the mountain, which will treat you to once-in-a-lifetime views. There are also hiking trails of multiple difficulties for those who want to climb the volcano, as well as caves to explore and meadows brimming with wildflowers in the spring and summer.
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Since Port Angeles is in the vicinity of the Olympic National Park and Rialto Beach, an overnight stay is a good idea for those that also want to go to a couple of those places. If you only have a day, though, Port Angeles is certainly worth a day trip all of its own. Hiking, biking, fishing, and boating are all available to visitors, with some trails accessible right from downtown.
If you are interested in learning more about the area’s Native Tribes and their culture, you will find many opportunities through museums, festivals, and murals. Shoppers, meanwhile, will find tons of antique and specialty shops in the walkable downtown area to keep them happy.
⛴️ Did You Know? If you want to plan a day trip to Victoria, British Columbia, you have the option of taking a ferry right from Port Angeles!
Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour
Aviation fanatics and tech enthusiasts should take the easy 30-minute drive up to the Boeing Factory in Everett. You’ll find production lines of the 747 and other famous aircraft here. The Factory is the world’s largest building by volume. If you’ve ever wondered how a plane is built, you’ll be treated to that answer with this tour.
Check out ever-changing exhibits, learn about robots and aerospace, and the new things Boeing is working on. This is the perfect, easy day trip to take in the winter or on one of Seattle’s (frequent) rainy days.
Important Note: As of July 2022, the Boeing Factory tours are still closed due to the ongoing health crisis, but the interactive exhibits can still be enjoyed.
A visit to Poulsbo will transport you to Scandinavia. This tiny town, also known as “Little Norway,” is at the north end of the Kitsap Peninsula. The town charms visitors with its many Nordic-inspired events, like the annual Viking Fest in May and the Midsommer Celebration in June.
Poulsbo’s main strip is incredibly walkable and offers tons of cute shops to wander through. Foodies should try pastries at Sluys Bakery, which make for a pleasant snack to munch on while walking along the waterfront. The city is kid and family-friendly and you can even go check out Sawdust Hill Alpaca Farm.
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Seattle residents and visitors are lucky – Victoria, BC is only a ferry ride away. This city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island deserves many days of exploration. But if you have only a few hours of a day to stay, then there are several sites you’ll want to visit, like the grand Craigdarroch Castle and the Fisherman’s Wharf.
Don’t miss out on a classic tea time at the Empress (and be sure to dress up for the occasion!). This is a magnificent city for whale watching tours, and its incredible beauty and bike-ability mean you can easily spend the entirety of your trip outdoors.
Important Note: As of late summer 2021, the Canadian border is currently in the process of reopening to vaccinated American travelers. Rules and regulations are quickly changing, so be sure to check here to find out if you can enter Canada.
👉 Read Next: 33 Fun Things to Do in Washington
Ruby Beach certainly makes for one of the longer day trips from Seattle on this list, but experiencing this magical stretch of Pacific Northwest coast is absolutely worth the trek. Fantastic sunsets, a gorgeous hike, and a chance to search tide pools for crabs and starfish await you on this chilly beach of the Olympic Peninsula.
Ruby has readily identifiable sea stacks, though there are more coastal beaches around Kalaloch to the south (also worth checking out). For those deterred from all the driving it takes to get out to the coast in a day, it’s a good idea to book a cabin at either Kalaloch Lodges or a place in Forks for the night.
👉 Local Tip – Washington beaches tend to be rocky, and to get to this one you often have to climb over a ton of driftwood first. Be sure to wear shoes that can accommodate the trek!
So, which of these day trips from Seattle are you taking? Leave a comment about your favorites down below! And, before you go, be sure to check out my detailed list of all the best places to go in Washington and all my Seattle travel guides.