Looking for a travel guide to the Pacific Northwest? Is there more to this area than fog and coffee? Well …. probably? Luckily for all of us, I brought in a local to share her best PNW travel tips – where to go, what to do, and how to do it all cheaply and safely.
Hi! I’m Sam from The Philosophy of Kindness. Five years ago I flew to Seattle on a whim. It was love at first sight. One month later my bags were packed and I never looked back.
When I think of the Pacific Northwest I think of it’s the green forests, cities that incorporate nature at every turn, mountains, farms, harbors, coffee shops on every corner, thrift shops and half off bookstores everywhere, and the quirkiness of cities that celebrate being offbeat.
Must go in the Pacific Northwest
The Oregon Coast
If breathtaking is what you are looking for the coast is where you need to head. It’s 363 miles of isolated beaches dotted with quaint seaside towns, cliffs, sand dunes, sea stacks jutting out of the ocean, picturesque lighthouses and great spots to view sea lions.
Stanley Park is a breath of fresh air if you are looking to escape the city. There is so much to do here! Tour the Rose Garden, visit the First Nation totem poles or stand inside a 700-year-old cedar tree. However, a stroll around the seawall shouldn’t be passed up. If the tide is in enough you can look over the side and see huge purple starfish clinging to the rock below.
The quaint town isn’t so much the destination, but it is the main stopping point to get info and park passes for Mountain Loop Highway. The Highway cuts its way through the Cascade Mountain Range where you can find camping sites, lakes, hiking trails, and picnic areas can be can be found throughout the area.
The biggest attraction are the Big Four Ice Caves, which are a short hike from the highway. Further down the road is Monte Cristo, once a booming prospectors city now it’s a ghost town.
If you’re looking for a unique event, Seafair is a summer-long festival that takes place throughout Seattle. At any given time you can take part in the Solstice Parade celebrating artists, watch milk carton boat derbies, or check out the Seafair pirates storming the beach. Every town also seems to host their own street fairs where you can check out the local handcrafted scene.
Get out of the city
Hood Canal, Olympic National Park, San Juan Islands, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Earth Sanctuary, Mount Baker, Mount Hood – the list goes on! If you’re visiting a city, you can easily find a National or State park within a hour or two drive from where you are staying. The Cascades surround the area and are beautiful to view from the city but are spectacular to hike through.
Take a ferry
They’re inexpensive way to get around and offer some of the best views around. And since they aren’t a traditional tourist attraction, they will drop you off in non-tourist spots that are fun to explore.
Must eat in the Pacific Northwest
The coffee culture in the Pacific Northwest is unlike anywhere else in the US. Skip Starbucks or anything with a name you recognize and go to any of the local cafes. Many coffee shops roast their own beans and if they don’t, they surely buy from local roasters. Try a pour over to bring out the flavor profiles or a Chemex to share.
It’s sweet, tender, meaty, and best of all it’s a sustainable seafood. There are so many ways to cook it. You can find it in crab cakes, chowder, wontons, but my personal favorite is just to dip it in butter and savor the flavor.
Cultural tips for traveling in the Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a really liberal area. We’re very much about environmental causes, sustainability, buying local and organic. You will see trash, recycling, and compost bins everywhere.
People here are really friendly, especially in the the more touristy areas. Bus drivers were one of the best sources I found in regards for help in getting around and information on what to see and do.
Cheap travel tips for the Pacific Northwest
Outside of the cities transportation can be difficult. However buses and bikes are a great way to get around. There are two options for traveling between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver.
Amtrak operates between the cities and you can get great views of the ocean from the train. The Bolt Bus also runs between the cities and you can get a seat for as low as $1.
In the summer is when the Pacific Northwest comes alive. There are festivals, an abundance of parks to visit, Shakespeare in the Park, Pow Wows, farmer’s markets (usually there is live music), and parades. All of these things are free or very minimal cost.