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Escape the Emerald City: Unique Weekend Adventures Near Seattle

Seattle is a fantastic place to visit, and you’ll find plenty to do within the city limits whether you stay for a day, a weekend, or an entire week. The verdant Evergreens combined with the expansive waters of Puget Sound and Lake Washington throughout the city means you don’t need to leave the urban core to feel like you’ve had a bit of a getaway.

However, if you have a bit of time or just want to experience the entirety of what the region has to offer, numerous day trips are possible and easily accessible. From the crashing waves of the coast to the tranquil respites of the islands and the many mountain peaks and forests, here are the top weekend trips you can take from the Emerald City!

The Washington Coast and Hoh Rainforest 

Seattle might be located on the water, but it’s not a coastal town. Situated on Puget Sound, which empties into the sea, the actual Pacific Ocean is a few hours’ drive away. So if it’s an ocean vacation you desire, you have a few options.

You can drive south on I-5 towards Tacoma and Olympia before heading West for the coast. Or you can take a ferry, either from Seattle to Bremerton or from Edmonds (about a 30-minute drive north on I-5) to Kingston. Then, continue west to the Olympic Peninsula and eventually, Olympic National Park. 

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The best beaches to use as a base are Rialto, Ruby, and First and Second. All are a part of the national park, so you’ll need a valid pass (either an Olympic National Park Pass or an America The Beautiful National Park Pass) to visit. Rialto and Ruby have campgrounds available and the former allows beach camping past a certain point. First and Second Beach are right off of Kalaloch Campground and the Kalaloch Lodge.

If you plan to camp or stay at the lodge, make sure to reserve ahead of time between Memorial Day and late September. The beaches and campgrounds are dog-friendly.

The Hoh Rainforest is a great addition, and there are campgrounds there as well as short day hikes. Please note during the high season, there is a metered system to enter, so plan to arrive early.

Whidbey Island, photo by author Sydney Baker

Whidbey Island — Deception Pass — La Conner

If you’re feeling a bit ambitious for a weekend trip, this is the itinerary for you! These three destinations in Island and Skagit counties are the perfect combination to fully explore Puget Sound. 

Start by driving north on I-5 from Seattle to Mukilteo where you’ll catch a 20-minute ferry ride to Clinton on Whidbey Island. Spend the day walking from Double Bluff Beach and Ebey’s Landing, a local favorite where you can hike the beach and the cliffs above at low tide. Stop in at Langley and grab a coffee (or perhaps a new read) at the Commons Cafe and Books. Or pull over at Coupeville for fantastic pastries at the Little Red Hen Bakery or lunch at Front Street Grill, make sure to check out the historic pier. Finally, drive to Oak Harbor to enjoy the beach along the bay and stay the night.

Deception Pass, photo by author Sydney Baker

The next morning head to Deception Pass, only a 20-minute drive away. Make sure to park and walk the bridge, as well as explore the trails and hidden beaches on either side. Spend the afternoon picnicking and walking in the state park, where numerous campgrounds and tables await.

End the day in historic La Conner along the Swinomish Channel. The adorable waterside town has a tiny waterfront that you can walk, lined with amazing restaurants. And don’t miss the La Conner Brewing Company!

Sunset at First Beach, Washington Coast. Photo by author Sydney Baker


Just 90 miles north of Seattle is the hip college town of Bellingham. Once a simple sleepy cousin to the big city, it has exploded in popularity. The town is cute and the historic Fairhaven District is where you should prioritize your wandering. However, everyone knows that the main draw for the area is the outdoor recreation. 

The nearby Chuckanut Mountains and Larrabee State Park offer miles of trails waiting to be explored by foot, bike, or even horse. And your four-legged friends are more than welcome there and on the trails!

If you’re looking to cool off in the summer, bring a paddle board or floaties for nearby Lake Padden, Lake Whatcom, or Lake Samish.

And if you’re looking for refreshments, Aslan Brewing has a great spot downtown with outdoor seating that welcomes dogs. Additionally, Makeworth Coffee Roasters and Camber Coffee are fantastic spots to get your caffeine hit. 

Poulsbo + Kitsap Peninsula

A short ferry ride away from Edmonds lies the Kitsap Peninsula, a small slab that connects to the larger Olympic Peninsula. However, if you want something a bit closer to Seattle for the weekend, Kitsap is perfect! 

The main attraction is Poulsbo, a historically Norwegian town on the water that makes you feel like you’ve just taken a flight across the Atlantic. While a certain, better-known mountain town frequently tops the list of “most European destinations in the U.S.” (we’ll get to that in a sec), Poulsbo is a true hidden gem.

Poulsbo isn’t merely an amusement park-like town built solely to attract tourists. Rather, it maintains a connection to its history. Like the suburb Ballard in Seattle, in the 1800s settlers arrived from Scandinavia, mostly Norway. They made a home in the Pacific Northwest as they were able to log, fish, and farm just like back home.

Today, the town maintains a distinctly European feel with the architecture and facades of the main street. Additionally, you’ll still find Norwegian used on many street signs and be greeted in Norwegian with “Velkommen.” Make sure to visit Sluys Bakery, which sells famous sourdough bread and Nordic treats as well as the Maritime Museum or the Heritage Museum.

Poulsbo can be reached by taking either the Bainbridge Island or Bremerton ferry from Seattle and driving about 20 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, take the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston and drive about 15 minutes.

Additional points of interest on the peninsula include Hansville, home to a cute lighthouse to walk out to, and the Foulweather Bluff Preserve, as well as Port Gamble, a National Historic site, home to the oldest sawmill in the country.


Yes, Leavenworth is the famous Bavarian town you’ve probably heard about in Washington that really could be Germany. In winter, snow coats the Cascades, reminiscent of the Bavarian Alps, and the Christmas market rivals those in Europe.

Should you enjoy skiing or snowboarding, Stevens Pass is only a 40-minute drive away. Additionally, cross-country ski runs are located close to town, and there are numerous spas in town to refresh after a day of exercise!

In the summer, make sure to hike in the Enchantments, and in the fall, attend the annual Oktoberfest amongst fantastic mountain foliage.

Leavenworth is between a 2 and 2.5-hour drive from Seattle, depending on the route and mountain pass openings. Remember to check road conditions in the winter, as chains and/or winter tires might be required. 

Skagit Valley

Best known for the annual tulip festival that takes place in the spring, the Valley is great to visit no matter the time of year. If you want to view flowers, book accommodation at least a few months in advance, as it’s a popular festival.

Skagit Valley tulips, photo by author Sydney Baker

For food, don’t miss Calico Cupboard in Mount Vernon, which serves up great espresso drinks, homemade pastries, and brunch. The small city also has a surprisingly high quantity of top-notch breweries. 

A few miles outside of town, Lang’s Horse and Pony Farm has been around for decades and offers fantastic trail rides in the area. Especially nice during tulip or fall foliage season. And don’t miss hikes in Blanchard State Park and the Skagit River Trail!

Skagit Valley is an easy hour’s drive north on I-5 from Seattle, making it a very doable weekend trip.

Seattle’s proximity to diverse landscapes offers an array of weekend getaways that cater to every taste, whether you’re seeking the tranquility of island life, the rugged beauty of coastal beaches, the charm of historical towns, or the allure of mountain adventures. Each destination, from the serene Whidbey Island to the culturally rich Leavenworth, provides a unique escape from the hustle of city life.

These getaways underline the Pacific Northwest’s incredible ability to blend urban sophistication with natural splendor, ensuring that every trip out of Seattle is not just a journey, but an enriching experience that rejuvenates both body and soul.

Sydney Baker

Sydney is a freelance writer from Seattle who previously worked in immigration and international education at higher education institutions. She has lived in Sydney, Montreal, and Luxembourg, traveled solo across four continents, speaks French, and a little Spanish, and is always on the lookout for her next adventure. When she isn’t sipping coffee you can find her hiking in the mountains or near the water. She writes about travel, lifestyle, and language all over the internet.


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