Road Trip Itinerary: Seattle to Vancouver

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The road from Seattle to Vancouver is not a long one. Set against some of the vast distances in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, these two cities are almost neighbors. If you were of a mind to do so, you could do the entire drive in under three hours.

But with so much to see in Pacific Northwest Wonderland, why would you want to miss out?

Despite the short geographical distance, a Seattle to Vancouver road trip can be an exhilarating adventure. Spread over a few days, this journey can take in some of the finest corners of this wild, rugged, and totally gorgeous part of the world.

Many adventurers make this drive in order to depart on a cruise from Vancouver. Vancouver’s cruise port is a popular destination for those visiting Alaska and cruising along the cold Pacific waters. If that is you, why not add a few days to your itinerary and get your vacation started with an extraordinary drive through the best of the Pacific Northwest!

We’ve broken the trip out over the course of 4 days of driving but the trip can easily be modified depending on how much time you have and how much you’d like to go rogue. There are truly too many things to see in each location for just one day so if you can, take your time, book a couple nights in each spot and enjoy!

Driving Day 1

The first thing to do on any road trip starting in Seattle is to enjoy the delights of Seattle itself!
Pick up a cup of Jo at Retreat where they serve locally roasted coffee and small bites. Take your coffee to go and stroll around Green Lake. Alternatively you can rent a city bike and peddle around the lake. In the summers the lake fills up with families and friends on picnics, roller blading and playing catch.
While you’re close by, stop and get vegan ice cream at Frankie and Jos in neighboring Ballard. Taste the local flavors of pine and fresh berries.
The Lockes in Ballard are truly a unique site to experience. They are free to access and if you’re lucky you might get to see the water filling up and emptying to let boats pass through. Take the tunnel to see up close schools of salmon migrating upstream. Next take some time to stroll the nearby gardens.
You may have already gathered that we think some of the hyped up attractions are better off swapping out for more local gems. However if you are interested in ticking off some of the major tourist attractions (some are still worthwhile) such as the Space Needle, try taking a walk within the vicinity to view it from the ground rather than waiting in line and paying tickets to go to the top. The best view of the city is from the water anyway, which we’ll get to later.
Pike Place is another tourist destination worth taking a peak at. While many locals avoid this market at all costs, it’s still truly a magical place to see. Witness fishmongers tossing giant salmon up in the air for their teammates to catch. Give it a try if you’re brave enough.

Once you have enjoyed the city, head west into the wilderness. Book a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Walk out on the deck to take in the most beautiful view of the skyline. 

Once you have enjoyed the city, head west into the wilderness. Book a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Walk out on the deck to take in the most beautiful view of the skyline.

Driving Day 2

From Bainbridge drive West to Olympic National Park where you’ll lose track of how many waterfalls you’ve passed and walk shorelines full of massive drift wood logs. While the park is technically not on the way to Vancouver, Olympic National Park is truly one of the most magical places on the West Coast and is not to be missed. It’s easily accessible and equally remote. The land is quiet aside from the occasional eagle call and woosh of the wind in the trees.

If you’re into hiking, be sure to pack your boots as there are many quick trails to hop on and take in the views. Alternatively the mountain roads are abundant with vista points and pull offs to bask in the breathtaking views no matter your ability or pace.

Purchasing a Discovery Pass will pay for itself on this trip so you might as well take advantage of the discount and head to a few destinations.

Driving Day 3

Your third day of driving will be all about exploring the wonders of the North Cascades National Park. You will only have a couple of hours of real driving to do to reach your end of the day destination so take the opportunity to really explore the area. Check out Lake Chelan, Ross Lake, and Mount Baker, or just enjoy the awesome scenery on the North Cascades Highway, the only paved road in the National Park. Similar to the roads in Olympic National Park, there are plenty of vista points to pull of the main road and take in the scenery. 

Stay at Ross Lake Lodge, the only lodge on Highway 20, and feel like you’ve stepped back in time. If you’re open to taking a more adventurous route, there are over 130 wilderness camping spots within the park. Take your pick!

Driving Day 4

The final day’s driving brings you down from the North Cascades to the coast then through the small towns of Burlington, Bellingham, and across the Candian border at White Rock. Stop in one of the main streets to pick up local lunch. Our favorite is, Saltine in Bellingham. They make the most beautiful and equally tasty dishes out of the freshest local ingredients. Think dungeness crab cakes and Smoked Trout Salads.

Take a moment to settle at the Peace Arch park, a monument to the War of 1812 between the US and Great Britain, then press on along the coast, before crossing the Fraser River and arriving at Vancouver!

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