A travel journal
to Port Angeles by lcampbell
Quote: How exciting to move to a new city! I was eager to explore the nooks and crannies. Find out everything! Here are my adventures where the ocean meets the mountains, and friendly people abound. The Olympic Peninsula "has it all" as a vacation destination (and home, but don’t tell anyone!)
Port Angeles is located on the Straight of Juan de Fuca, on the north-central coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. It is sandwiched between the sea and the Olympic Mountains--the best of both worlds! It is a great "home base" to explore Olympic National Park, the coastal beaches, hot springs, and Vancouver Island in Canada is just a short ferry ride away. And don’t forget the antiques, wineries, breweries, and yummy seafood. The list of activities is endless...fishing, kayaking, hiking, biking, whale watching, camping--I could go on and on. The folks that know everything are the North Olympic Penninsula and Visitor and Convention Bureau at 800/942-4042.
My favorite things to see and do are exploring the coast and beaches, hiking in Olympic National Park, and hanging out in Port Angeles. It is also fun to kayak the Elwha River, explore Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, and soak in the Sol Duc Hot Springs.
I have already mentioned the beauty and diverse activities, but I also have to mention the people. They are just about the friendliest I’ve met. I am an avid runner, and I can’t tell you how many times folks have stopped when they didn’t have to in order to let me run across a street. I got the feeling that cashiers and waitstaff actually care if you have a good time, and I got a ton of helpful advice when people found out I was new in town. I suggest getting to know these friendly foks.
BUSES: The Clallam County and Jefferson County bus system circles the entire peninsula with many stops in the towns and side routes off the main highway to some great places. Bus prices are low. I can travel by bus from Port Angeles to my work station at Kalaloch (2 hours by car) for only .75, and I met some backpackers who travelled from Olympia to the Hoh Rainforest for just over . More information at Clallam Transit and Jefferson Transit
FERRIES: The Washington State ferry system is also very impressive. There are numerous ferry routes that connect the peninsula with the Seattle area or Whidbey Island.
Private ferries go from Port Angeles to Victoria, Canada (Vancouver Island). These private trips cost more, but they are the only choices to go to Canada. More information at MV Coho or Victoria Express.
Thor Town Hostel is not located exactly in the downtown/hub area of Port Angeles, but it is still in a good location. It is about a 20-minute walk via a waterfront trail (which can be accessed just one block from the hostel) to the main pier area and downtown Port Angeles. It is another 3- to 4-mile walk to the end of Ediz Hook (a natural sand and rock spit reaching out into the Straight of Juan du Fuca). This is a great spot for sunset, or for panoramic views back to Port Angeles with the Olympic Mountains in the background and water in the foreground. The public pier has free live music on Wednesday evenings during the summer, and next door is the ferry to go to Victoria, Canada. Downtown and within a half mile radius is filled with antique and other shops, plenty of food choices, the Marine Center, bus station, ferry station, thrift shops, waterfront trail, seafood stores, bakeries, groceries and a farmer’s market. For more details, see my "Around Town" entry in this journal.
I enjoyed the friendly atmosphere of Thor Town. Kurt and Michelle were great, and they really helped us to get settled in town. I thought the $30 per night for a private room was fairly decent, but was more impressed with the $12 per night for singles. The hostel is sort of "under construction"--Kurt seemed to be doing his best to improve the hostel with gardens, a new (and very large) refrigerator, and other general improvements. I think it will be great when it is all done.
The bus system around the Olympic Peninsula is impressive. Bus riders can get to most of the highlights via public transportation. And Thor Town Hostel is just one block off the bus route. If you are coming via bus, the hostel is just one block off the main route (Highway 101 turns into Front Street, and the hostel is one block off of Front Street on Race Street). Have the bus driver drop you off as close to Race Street as possible.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 4, 2002
Thor Town Hostel
316 North Race Street
Port Angeles, Washington 98362
Thai Peppers: This is a family-owned Thai restaurant in the main downtown/waterfront area of Port Angeles, on Lincoln Street almost directly across from the Visitor Center. The prices are great (under $10 for many of the entrees) and the food is very good. My husband’s favorite is Masaman Curry, a coconutty/peanutty curry that we first tried in Thailand, but we also like this local version. I thought the service was excellent.
Bella Italia: You can tell that a restaurant is fabulous when it is ALWAYS packed, even on weeknights. But the extra effort for a reservation or a reasonable wait is definitely worth it. One dish that I consider a MUST TRY is the smoked salmon ravioli. This is incredible. The combination of smoky salty salmon, with fresh pasta and a creamy dill sauce is perfect. It sounds strange, but trust me on this. When I went with my family during a recent visit, we all ordered pasta. The pasta dishes do not come with salad, so we ordered one large caesar salad for $6, and the hostess brought us 4 plates, and we had plenty of salad for the 4 of us. Bella Italia is also located in the main downtown area of Port Angeles, on First Street. Prices are generally $15-$20 for an entrée.
India Oven: I have not been to a lot of Indian restaurants, and I’ve never been to India, so I can’t be sure that I’m the best judge of Indian food…. But that said, I really enjoy eating at India Oven. The service is fast and excellent, and the food is interesting and good. I like to eat Malai Kofta, which are spicy vegetarian "balls" in a great sauce. My husband always gets the Chicken Vindaloo. The prices are generally under $10-$12 for an entrée which includes rice and nan.
Some good choices for breakfast and lunch are:
Olympic Bagel Company: The best bagels I’ve ever had. Located on the corner of First Street and Francis.
Bonnie’s Bakery: Yum! Especially the Pecan Caramel Rolls. They have great pastries, soup and sandwiches, and homemade bread. Located near downtown on Lincoln Street, in an old historical brick building. Great place.
And here is the word of mouth on some other places: Gordy’s has the best pizza and choose Hacienda del Mar for Mexican food. Michaels, a sort Mediterranean/Italian place on First Street downtown is my boss’ favorite. I have heard from the locals that C’est Si Bon, an expensive French restaurant on Highway 101 just east of Port Angeles, is excellent. I was not impressed by Bushwackers, and I have heard that the Crabhouse is not great either. And there are plenty more that I haven’t tried or heard about, so explore!
Port Angeles Restaurants
Throughout Port Angeles
Port Angeles, Washington
Start the hike at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, which is located easily by driving east out of Port Angeles on Highway 101 for about 10 miles, and then following the brown signs north to the parking area. There is a $3 fee at the trailhead. The hike is a beach hike and is best done at low tide (check the local telephone book for a tide table). It is best to wear hiking boots, and be warned that you will be hiking on a slant, which is hard on the legs and hips.
My husband and I picked the absolute perfect day to visit Dungeness. It was sunny and 60 degrees. Because we went on a weekday in April, we didn’t expect too many people. But we never expected the supreme solitude that we found! We saw only 13 people during the 11 mile, 5 hour trip to the lighthouse and back. In fact, we saw more harbor seals swimming along the shore than we did people!
Only the ocean-facing half of the spit is available for hiking. The half facing the mainland is protected by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. You can look into this protected bay (bring binoculars!) but cannot enter it. The spit and bay are famous for bird watching. I don’t get into bird watching, but enthusiasts I have met said they have seen birds from their "life list" on Dungeness Spit. The notable bird we saw (that we recognized) was an immature bald eagle.
The colorful rocks all along the Spit captivated me, along with the beachlogs and driftwood. Also fascinating was the lighthouse. It was originally staffed by the Coast Guard. But when they decided to close the lighthouse and leave it unstaffed, the Lighthouse Society took it over and has been sending volunteers out ever since. The volunteers (up to 6 at a time) work for 1 week tours of duty. They clean, mow the lawn, and give tours in exchange for staying in the living quarters. The volunteers we met greeted us with friendly smiles, and offers of restroom facilities and drinking water. Then we were given a tour up to the top--74 steps--along with some area history. There are a few picnic tables available for lunch before the hike back. It is such a popular "volunteer vacation" that there is a two-year waiting list!
Other details: Camping is available at the Dungeness Recreation Area near the trailhead parking area. Also, if you get a permit it is possilbe to kayak out to the lighthouse.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 4, 2002
Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge
Port Angeles, Washington
Attraction | "Around Town"
My first stop? The thrift stores. I love these shops. The search, the discovery of hidden treasures. Funky sweaters, retro lamps, wild scarves. How about that time I got a brand new gortex jacket for $3. What fun! There are the normal standbys--Goodwill, Salvation Army, and St. Vincent's. But my absolute favorite for furniture and home décor is Grandma’s Attic--a sort of antique/thrift combination store. I see the owner often at other thrift stores and countless rummage sales. She is a professional who beats me to every garage sale and gets the best stuff, and I love her taste. She has unique and interesting items, located near the corner of 8th and Cherry.
By now I’m getting hungry and thirsty. My favorite stops for something light are Olympic Bagel or Bonnie’s Bakery. I think today I’ll go for a sandwich on homemade bread at Bonnie’s--yum! See other ideas in my dining entry.
Now I have energy for a quick spin either out to the end of Ediz Hook, or I could follow the Waterfront Trail east out of town, out to the Morse Creek Trailhead. See my entry on Ediz Hook/Waterfront Trail. I always make it a point to go out on the pier next to the Visitor Center downtown. It is a wood decked pier, with a small tower at the end to climb up and get even better views. Directly next to the pier, I can also visit the Marine Center or the tiny public beach called Hollywood Beach.
As the afternoon progresses, I have time to visit Port Book and News, my favorite bookstore downtown (downtown is next to the waterfront, so not far from the Visitor Center, pier, trail, and beach). Port Angeles’ downtown has unique gift shops, antique shops, and is filled with local art--sculptures, paintings, tile mosaics (all part of a sort of "Art Walk"). Also, there are two different murals, a large fountain, and the most beautiful hanging baskets cascading with flowers.
If it is Wednesday, I must stop by the Farmer’s Market. A short street is blocked off downtown from 4-7pm on Wednesdays in the summer for a collection of produce vendors (mostly organic goods), crafters, bakers, and other entrepreneurs. I pick up some greens for dinner, the best molasses cookie I’ve ever had, and some fresh flowers. On Wednesday nights at 7pm in the summer, there is also live music on the pier.
Now back up that big hill back to my house. My garage sale bicycle delivering another fun day in my new town of Port Angeles!
Throughout Port Angeles
Port Angeles, Washington
Attraction | "Rafting down the Elwha River"
"This wetsuit makes me feel sexy" I said to my friend Mike. He just looked at me like he sometimes does when he thinks I’m crazy. Just then, our fellow raftmate walked up. Seems he is a reporter from the local paper...I hope he doesn’t print that feeling sexy part in his article.
There would be two guides, Charlie and Brian. Fantastic guys--a naturalist and a schoolteacher turned river runners for the season. Brian gave us a short introduction to what he expected of us in the raft. The instructions were very simple--paddle when they say paddle, forward or back, otherwise just sit back and enjoy the view. After a few safety pointers, we were off to the river.
The bulk of the two hour trip was spent inside Olympic National Park. Olympic Raft and Kayak is the only company guiding on the Elwha, so boat traffic was not an issue. We had the whole place to ourselves. This raft trip is considered a Class 2+. My understanding is that Class 1 is just an easy float, and Class 2 is minimal rapids. We did have a few spots the were pretty fun rapids, but mostly I found this to be more of a relaxation trip than anything (and educational!). I would classify it as being for families and beginners. It is not too adventurous, especially since the guides do all the work for you.
BUT, now that I’ve said all this, I still think this is a great trip. And for those looking for more of an adrenaline rush, I think maybe it is a more exciting trip in, say, April or May when the water is at its fastest rather than in July when we went. The company also does sea and lake kayaking trips which I feel would be more challanging. I was impressed enough with Olympic Raft and Kayak that I may return for one of their full day ocean kayak trips.
The prices for all these trips were very reasonable, in my opinion. The two-hour Elwha trip is $49 per person. There are similarily priced half-day kayak trips, plus a full-day kayak at Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge for $99. They also rent rain gear and wetsuits cheap. If your guide will let you, and you are feeling very brave, you can take a swim in the swimming hole near the end of the trip. There is a 15-foot bank to jump off. Watch for interesting birds, like the harlequin duck, and relax and enjoy rafting on turquoise water through an old growth forest. Excellent!
Rafting the Elwha River
Olympic Raft and Kayak
Port Angeles, Washington 98363
Attraction | "Sol Duc Hot Springs"
Too expensive? The prices weren’t as bad as I thought--$10 for a whole day. You are given a plastic "bracelet" which allows you to come and go as you please. I would recommend slipping a hike to Sol Duc Falls into your day. Towels can be rented for $1 if you don’t have one or want an extra. You are asked to shower both before and after going in the pools. There are three different hot pools each at a different temperature between 99 and 105 degrees F. There is also a nice big chlorine swimming pool. This is not a warm pool, just a normal ol’ pool--it was great for swimming laps before warming back up in the hot pools. Other amenities include a massage therapist, a snack bar, lodging, and a restaurant.
Too busy? Because I visited on a weekday in September, there were only maybe 25 other folks in the pools. I think that during the summer months, it is a much busier place. I would guess too crowded for comfort, but I don’t know for sure.
Heebie Jeebies? The pools are kept clean, but I did notice what looked like dead skin floating on the top of the water. WELL, from one of the signs that I read, I guess this is a natural element or mineral of some sort and not dead skin at all. Huh. The resort claims that the way the water is circulated keeps it clean without chemicals, plus the pools are all drained and cleaned every night.
Too commercial? Definitely. Besides the crowds I mentioned before, the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort seems to have forgotten its history. The original resort was built in 1912 as a European-style health spa, but none of the original buildings remain. I also feel that the ambiance could be improved – they could lose the plain cement pools and deck and try some natural landscaping, rocks and plants, that sort of thing. The whole effect seems to keep you detached from your mountain surroundings instead of keeping you part of them. The loudspeaker announcing that your snack bar order is ready is also quite annoying (imagine when crowded!)
Due to the lack of people, the rare company of my mom and sister, and the relaxing feel of the hot water (despite the atmosphere), I would say that I had a pleasant time at Sol Duc Hot Springs. I just wish I had the money for a massage!
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
Sol Duc Hot Spgs
Port Angeles, Washington 98305
So, now back to our modest portion of this grand trail of all trails. Right now it stretches more or less from Port Angeles about 15 miles east to Sequim (but with a 3-mile stretch missing in the middle), plus a 4-mile stretch west to the end of Ediz Hook.
Ediz Hook is a natural arm of land formed long ago by the settling of silt from the Elwha River. The Hook is a great place to look back at Port Angeles with the Olympic Mountains behind, or to catch the sunrise or sunset. The trail to the Hook first goes through a large industrial area, but the experience at the end is worth it.
From downtown heading east, the trail first goes by the City Pier, next to both the Marine Center and Hollywood Beach. The trail follows the water and is paved for about the first mile, with picnic tables and benches. Next there is a short section of trail called the Rayonier section that goes through a former industrial site. While it is not very pretty right now, it provides a valuable link to the rest of the trail, previously left unconnected. The future of this section is unknown at this time, but there is huge potential to create some great green space – let’s hope that the powers that be can get it right!
Past the Rayonier site, the trail is gravel and continues to follow the water for another 1-2 miles before heading into the woods. Before too long you reach a scenic bridge which is an old railroad trestle. On the far side of the bridge is the Morse Creek Trailhead, maybe a total of 5 miles at this point. I sometimes have my husband drop me off at Morse Creek and I run or walk home. It is also a good turnaround point for bikerides on the trail.
Going east from Morse Creek, the trail has more hills and residential areas. There is an unfinished section between Old Olympic Highway and Vautier Road. You can follow the highway east, turn right on Vautier, and hook up with the trail again on the left going all the way to Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim. It doesn’t go near the water again, but the creek areas are very scenic, especially when the trees are changing color in fall.
Waterfront Trail and Ediz Hook
Port Angeles, Washington
Attraction | "A Season at Kalaloch - Part 1"
Anyway, during the summer when I am not on fires in other states, I live and work at Kalaloch, one of the many areas of "wilderness coast" on the Olympic Peninsula. There are long strips of undeveloped coastline in Washington which are part of Olympic National Park. What a beautiful sight--no hotels, no condos, no motor boat tours! Nothing! Just glorious wild beaches combined with rocky headlands, tidepools, and drift logs of amazing size. The coastal stretch around Kalaloch is about 9 miles long, going from South Beach to Ruby Beach. In that whole area, there are 2 campgrounds (South Beach and Kalaloch), the Kalaloch Lodge/Cabins and Restaurant, a small store, a small Ranger Station and a bit of employee housing. That’s it. And if that isn’t solitude enough, add the fact that there is no cell phone coverage, television or radio reception. The perfect spot to "get away from it all"--don’t forget a good book! Get ready to relax.
You can access the widest and sandiest parts of the coast from the Kalaloch Lodge and campground. The beach gets a bit narrower as you head south, but for the most part is stays flat and sandy. Perfect for running--it is 5 miles to run from Kalaloch to South Beach and back, for all you runners out there. All along this stretch of coast are access trails--in addition to the campgrounds and lodge, you can park and take a short hike to Beach 1, 2, 3, 4, and Ruby Beach. Beach 1 and 2 are between Kalaloch and South Beach, so if you are going to walk or run south from Kalaloch, you can probably skip these access points.
Beach 4 is rich with rock outcrops--perfect for checking out tidepools. The ABSOLUTE best way to see this spot is with a Ranger on their daily guided tidepool walks at Beach 4. They happen every morning during the summer at low tide (check at Ranger Station for exact time). They are fun and educational, and really enrich the experience and give you what you need to know for exploring on your own. And Ruby Beach is a great place to explore--another "must see." Ruby Beach is the only area on this coastal stretch that has seastacks (more found farther north). The beach sand is also tinted pink, hence the name.
....continued in Part 2.....
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 5, 2002
A Season at Kalaloch
157151 Highway 101
Port Angeles, Washington 98331
Attraction | "A Season at Kalaloch - Part 2"
A great long hike for those who are ambitious is to hike from Ruby Beach (get someone to drop you off) back to Kalaloch, approximately 7 miles. You will need to time this hike with the low tide, but you will be rewarded with seastacks, seacaves, seastars, and hopefully some wildlife. My friend Mike and I did this hike and saw a seal swimming in the surf and four bald eagles, one of which flew directly over our heads. The stretch between Ruby Beach and Beach 4 was especially scenic and peaceful. There are no beach access trails between the two, and we never saw another person.
Looking for more things to do around Kalaloch? I loved watching the families with their picnic lunches, building sandcastles and flying kites. Swimming is not recommended on the Washington coast, due to the very low temperature of the water (hypothermia sets in fast). But it is possible if you wear a wetsuit or drysuit. But beware of currents, and there are absolutely no lifeguards. You will definitely be swimming at your own risk. Another one of my favorite spots is the Kalaloch River Nature trail. It is directly across the highway from the Kalaloch campground. This 1-mile loop gives a great introduction to the rainforest, and I love the great boardwalk that winds around through the trees and moss. There is also a ranger-guided walk on this trail. This trail is a great place to escape if it is windy on the beach, or a bit rainy. The trees really shelter you and I always feel very protected back in this spot.
Finally, Kalaloch is a great "home base" for exploring other areas of Olympic National Park. It is about 1 hour to the end of the Queets road, 30 minutes to Amanda Park and the start of the the Quinault area, 1 hour to the end of the Hoh Road. These three areas are our three temperate rainforest valleys, and are the only rainforests in the lower 48 states. Also easily accessible from Kalaloch are the coastal stretches near Oil City, La Push, and Mora. If you thought Kalaloch was great, wait until you see these wilderness beaches! For more information, see Kalaloch Lodge.
As night falls at Kalaloch, be sure to catch sunset. I cannot even describe the beauty and variety of the sunsets at Kalaloch. You think you can tell what the sunset will be like that night, but it is common to be caught off-guard by some incredible sight that you did not expect. Some unreal color, or a strange cloud that moves in quickly and glows. After the sunset, see the ranger program at the campground ampitheater. Follow up with a nice campfire on the beach (you can collect and burn small pieces of driftwood). You will definitely become a beach snob after visiting this perfect wilderness coast.
Attraction | "Olympic National Park - Part 1, Intro and PA area"
The park is essentially divided into 13 separate areas, each accessible separately from spur roads and from points along Highway 101 which encircles Olympic National Park. The entrance fee for the park is $10 per private vehicle, and the pass is good in all of the areas for seven days. There are 16 campgrounds, and over 600 miles of trails. Visitor centers and Ranger Stations are scattered around for information and Ranger programs.
It is very difficult to describe in detail all of the 13 separate areas, so please refer to Olympic National Park, or call 360/565-3130 for more information. Call 360/565-3100 for backpacking information. I will try to give brief descriptions with highlights of the areas by grouping them geographically to make it easier to organize your trip. But first! Please read some very important information at Leave No Trace.
NORTH – These are the areas most easily accessible from Port Angeles.
Hurricane Ridge – This is the highest area you can drive to in the park and takes about an hour. The views into the interior of the Olympic Mountains give you a good sense as to how truly huge this wilderness is. After a stop at the Visitor Center and snack shop, try a sub-alpine hike up Hurricane Hill, about 3 miles round trip. Adventurous drivers can drive from Hurricane Ridge to the end of Obstruction Point Road, where you will find a trailhead. The Grand Ridge trail goes 7.6 miles from Obstruction Point to Deer Park, and is great to do if you have someone to pick you up at Deer Park, or can arrange to swap car keys with fellow hikers coming from the Deer Park side.
Deer Park – There is a really nice small campground at the top of this long, steep, curvy dirt road. The scenic view from Blue Mountain, and its short nature trail, is worth seeing.
Elwha – This lush river valley is the site of the controversial Elwha dam removals. The Elwha River is a great one to raft down (see my separate journal entry), and is an access point for hiking and backpacking. This is also where the 3 mile hike to Olympic Hot Springs starts.
Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Olympic Peninsula, Washington 98362
Attraction | "Olympic National Park - Part 2, SE and Rainforests"
RAINFOREST VALLEYS – There are three main rainforest valleys at Olympic National Park. Each gets more than 140 inches of rain per year--that is more than 12 feet! You will be amazed at the ability of vegetation and moss to grow on every surface of everything, not an inch left uncovered. Keep your eyes peeled for elk in these valleys as well. These areas are more readily accessible from a "base camp" of Forks or Kalaloch rather than Port Angeles (although possible with long day trips from PA).
Hoh – This is the most popular rainforest valley. The Hoh Road follows the Hoh River. Before entering the park boundary, you will find numerous state and private campgrounds, a variety of lodging, food and coffee, gift shops, and a great company called Peak 6 that has sporting goods and guided kayaking. Once inside the park, there is another campground, a large Visitor Center with guided ranger hikes and talks, and numerouse trails. You should not visit the Hoh without taking at least a short hike on the Hall of Mosses Nature Trail (0.7 mile loop) or the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 mile loop). The trail that follows the Hoh River is also the climber access to Mount Olympus.
Queets – A 30-minute drive through the rainforest takes you from Highway 101 to the end of the Queets road and the heart of this rainforest valley. At the end there is a Ranger Station, which you will likely find unstaffted most of the time. There is a small secluded campground on the Queets River. The 3-mile Sams Loop Trail is a nice way to see the rainforest without the crowds. The trail up Queets River is only accessible after fording the Queets River, which is best done later in the summer when the water level is safer. There are few visitors to this area of the park, so you will likely find it quiet and serene.
Quinault – There is a great loop drive around lake, but the Quinault area is primarily a backpacking access point. Food and lodging are available in the adjacent town of Amanda Park, and there are private lodges on the lake. This area is one of the lesser visited areas of the park--a great place to find solitude.
Attraction | "Olympic National Park - Part 3, Coast and NW area"
LAKE CRESCENT AND SOL DUC
Lake Crescent – Glacier-carved Lake Crescent is a huge emerald lake at 9 miles long and 1 mile wide, and incredibly deep. Get information at Storm King Ranger Station, which is also the trailhead for a short hike to Marymere Falls. You can canoe or kayak on the lake, with rentals available in Port Angeles or at Fairholm store on the west side of the lake. You can relax at East Beach, or try the Spruce Railroad Trail, the only trail at Olympic National Park that allows bicycles. Lake Crescent is accessible from Port Angeles, but there are two lodges on the lake: Lake Crescent Lodge and Log Cabin Resort.
Sol Duc – The scenic drive up the Sol Duc River ends at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (see my separate journal entry), and at a trailhead. The best short hike from the trailhead is to Sol Duc Falls. You will get an incredible reward for a 1.6 mile round trip hike. This trailhead is also a great jumping off point for long hikes and backpacking into the high country. The 20+ mile Seven Lakes Basin Loop is a backpack filled with flowery meadows, sub-alpine lakes, and scenic ridges. But permits are limited in this area, so contact the Wilderness Information Center at the park for reservations as soon as possible. Sol Duc is a bit of a drive, but is accessible from Port Angeles.
Attraction | "Across the pond to Victoria, Canada"
There are two private ferry services that go to Victoria. The MV Coho ferry is the least expensive of the two, and is the one that takes both cars and people. The crossing is 1.5 hours, and prices are currently $8 one way for passengers, and $30 one way for vehicles 18 feet and under. The Victoria Express is the faster, passenger-only ferry. The crossing is one hour and the cost is currently $25 round trip per person. This is the one that I get seasick on, but I think it’s just me, not the service. Both ferry companies are on the waterfront next to downtown Port Angeles. I believe they each have three crossings per day, and slightly different times. It is best to buy your tickets at least 30-60 minutes ahead or else make a reservation ahead of time. You can take one ferry and come back on another by buying one-way tickets, if this is what works best in your schedule. Americans need a driver’s license only to go to Canada.
Once in Victoria, there are plenty of activities--I have only explored a few. On my first trip, I visited the Royal British Colombia Museum, Chinatown, and Beacon Hill Park. See this previous journal entry.
My second trip mostly focused around Buchart Gardens. We booked the bus trip and bought the entrance tickets on the ferry. I can’t remember the exact cost, but I think it was over $30 per person. Immediately after getting off the ferry, we walked up to a nifty double decker bus, showed our tickets, and were whisked away to the Gardens. The drive was scenic and interesting. It took about 30 minutes, and the bus driver talked a little about the history of Victoria and Buchart Gardens.
The Gardens were spectacular, but unfortunately crowded. The bus driver said that his bus is normally one of the first ones there, so his passengers usually get some solitude before the masses arrive. But this day, there were already about 15 buses, with more arriving behind us. There are separate garden areas: Sunken Garden, Rose Garden, Italian Garden, and my favorite, Japanese Garden. There are restaurants and a nice gift shop as well.
After returning by bus back to the main area of Victoria, we did some shopping. My mother claims that the antique shopping is excellent, but I don’t know much about antiques. We had some extra time after we arrived, so I decided to explore a walking trail that is directly next to the ferry dock. I saw a harbor seal and some float planes landing--a great way to pass a little waiting time.
Visiting Victoria, Canada
Port Angeles to Victoria, Canada
Port Angeles, Washington
After a one hour drive, we arrived 15 minutes early for the Port Townsend ferry, only to find the ferry completely full and a long line already forming for the next ferry in 2 hours! We decided to drive to Kingston to try that ferry, which we boarded without a problem. When we disembarked, there wasn’t much further to go, so we thought maybe we could meet our friends on time after all. BUT OF COURSE there was an accident on the highway and traffic was crawling along. Ah! The exit! Only 8 more miles to go! But the traffic at the exit (everyone heading to the Tulip Festival) was backed up onto the Interstate, and was slower than a snail all the way to LaConner, the Tulip Festival home base.
After 4 hours of travel, these tulips better be worth it!
LaConner is packed with people, but by some miracle we found a parking spot right away. We found our friends quickly and they had only beat us by 15 minutes--whew! There were tons of unique shops in LaConner--one was dedicated only to olives, and another only to cats. Interesting. After snacking on Salmon Tacos on a picnic bench by the waterfront, we headed out to the fields.
Again, the traffic was crawling, but it wasn’t too long before we were directly into a parking lot in a farmer’s field. From there we could walk through two different tulip farms. We were free to roam the mowed walkways in and between the tulip fields. From a distance, the fields were solid blocks of color. But up close, the flowers stood out as vibrant individuals. It was impossible to stop taking photos! The colors were overwhelming. Workers were picking bundles of flowers to be sold for $4 for a bunch of 10. There were at least a dozen more tulip farms, but we were content just to see these two farms before heading home.
The Tulip Festival lasts as long as the tulips are in full bloom, so the dates and length of the festival are variable. And there are daffodil fields that were fading and irises that were yet to bloom. So with all the different flowers, the Skagit Valley is a stunning place to visit for 4-6 weeks around April, just maybe stick to a weekday if you can. Also, try bringing a bicycle to beat the traffic when going between fields.
After some more travel bumps on the way home, we ended up having 8 hours of driving for 3 hours at the festival. The tulips were outstanding, but I won’t be doing that again any time soon!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 5, 2002
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Port Angeles Waterfront
Port Angeles, Washington
Port Angeles, Washington