Whether you are a visitor looking to add on to your Seattle vacation experience, or a local looking for a quick escape, there are many day trips and getaways within driving distance of Seattle. You can head to the forest, the mountains or even to a quiet island, visit a national park or enjoy small-town shopping, enjoy a lively destination or something more remote.
You'll be able to relax and know when the getaway is over, it's only a short drive home. As you make your way farther down the list, the trips get farther away and are more ideal for at least one night away, but none of the destinations on this list take more than a four-hour drive.
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Bainbridge Island is located in the Puget Sound, between Seattle and the Kitsap Peninsula. From the Seattle side, catch the Bainbridge Island Ferry to get there; from the Kitsap side, you can drive onto the island via Highway 305. The island is filled with thousands of acres of parks and gardens, including the picturesque Bloedel Reserve. Wander the waterfront or the adorable village of Winslow where you’ll find local shops and dining options. Bainbridge Island is also home to several wineries, a brewery and a distillery if you want to create your own tasting tour. This is a great day trip, but if you stay a night or two, look to the island’s cottages, inns and Airbnb options rather than expecting larger, chain hotels.
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Bellingham is Washington’s 13th largest city, but the wider metro area is the sixth largest in the state. Bellingham is just large enough to have plenty to see and do, but not so large that it has lost its unique atmosphere — Bellingham is a city that values its outdoor spaces, the environment (be prepared to recycle!) and its laid-back vibe.
Visitors to the city should delve into the city’s outdoor spaces as they’re fantastic — keep it local and explore a park in the city, or branch out and take a whale watching tour in the nearby San Juan Islands, or go skiing or hiking at nearby Mt. Baker. Bellingham has plenty of dining and cultural spots to enjoy, including the Mt. Baker Theatre and Whatcom Museum of History and Art. If you like a little bit of history added into the mix, visit the Fairhaven Historic District within the city limits of Bellingham, but with its own thing going on.
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In fact, Fairhaven is so pleasant to visit that some visitors make it the focal point of their getaways. This historic district is located just south of downtown Bellingham and is six square blocks, but it’s six square blocks of straight-up charm. Newer buildings and Victorian-era red brick structures make up the area and house shops and restaurants, including one of the best indie bookstores you’ll find anywhere — Village Books. For the bookish visitor, this may just be the highlight of a Bellingham visit. Books on the shelves are curated by Village Books’ buyers, and books include new and used books alike, as well as ebooks on their website. Stop in to explore the collection or check the store’s website for events. Other shops in Fairhaven include jewelry stores, a flower shop, a rug gallery and other artsy shops. After you’re done exploring the shops, Fairhaven is an equally fine place for a bite to eat.
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Get that remote waterfront feeling just a short drive away from the full range of visitor amenities in Whatcom County. Not far from Bellingham, Birch Bay offers an ideal base for a more natural vacation. The bay itself is a half-moon bay that’s picturesque and ideal for recreation. Walk, bike or beachcomb when the tide goes out. The small town of Birch Bay has options for dining, but if you’re looking for more than fast food or casual, you’ll need to go to nearby Ferndale or Semiahmoo Resort for meals or evening entertainment. Also nearby are even more recreation options like the Semiahmoo Spit, which opens up more hiking, beachcombing and birding opportunities.Continue to 5 of 28 below.
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Washington State is home to several grand lodges that are perfectly perched for outdoor recreation, but don’t require that you rough it at all. So if you like your days filled with hikes, but your nights filled with pillow-top mattresses, go with a lodge. The Lake Quinault Lodge is one of these, and it’s got an idyllic location with lake views and the Olympic National Forest just steps away.
Activities at or near the lodge include boating or swimming on Lake Quinault, hiking (the Quinault Loop Trail and the Rainforest Nature Trail have trailheads right on the property) and fishing. Alternately, the lodge itself has a spa where you can enjoy a relaxing massage, a restaurant, a rec room where you can play a round of ping pong or some board games, as well as a heated pool and sauna.
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Leavenworth is tucked along the base of the Cascades, and its location coupled with its Bavarian theme means you might just feel like you’re enjoying a little getaway to the Alps. Start with wandering Front Street and exploring the German-themed restaurants and shops. If you want to get into the Alpine spirit of things, stop at restaurants like Munchen Haus and dine upon a beer and a brat on a bun completed by one of the many specialty mustards and sauces on the condiment bar. Or try some schnitzel at Andreas Keller. Duck into the many shops tucked along this main drag, hang out in Front Street Park or take a hike through Waterfront Park — both within steps of downtown. If you stay longer than a day, branch out beyond the town and plan a hike in the surrounding hills. The area is also popular in the winter as the surrounding mountains get plenty of snow perfect for sledding, skiing, snowshoeing and other wintery pastimes.
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Mt. Rainier is an easy day trip from Seattle, Tacoma or most other Western Washington cities, but can easily turn into an overnight camping trip or a stay at Paradise Inn right on the mountain. Day trips are easily filled by hiking a trail or two as you drive around the national park. Research where you want to go ahead of time, or just look for marked trailheads and pull over to explore. Highlights include visiting Paradise and wandering the wildflower fields (if they’re in season), exploring the temperate rainforest at Carbon River and hiking to Silver Falls at Ohanapecosh, but there’s far more to do at this national park. Activities also vary pretty widely by season. Most visitors will want to come during the spring or summer when the roads are clear and everything is open and accessible. But the park is far from closed down during the winter and even lesser experienced snow sports fans will find activities like free snowshoe tours at Paradise.
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Port Ludlow is a small resort community with lots of outdoorsy appeal. Located on the Olympic Peninsula, the town serves as a great getaway in its own right, or use it as a base to get to northern parts of the Olympic National Park, like Hurricane Ridge or nearby Port Townsend.
Port Ludlow is known for golf, as well as outdoor pursuits like kayaking, birdwatching or boating on the picturesque bay. Don’t expect lots of ritz and glitz. Instead, be prepared for a beautifully relaxing stay in a lovely location and you’ll leave recharged.Continue to 9 of 28 below.
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Port Townsend is just up the coastline from Port Ludlow and offers another option to explore a small and approachable town filled with charm around every corner. Port Townsend is a former Victorian seaport town rich in historic attractions, unique shops and scenic beauty. Stay right on the water and enjoy the views. In fact, the water is one of the best attractions here as visitors can sometimes spot whales from shore, watch eagles and water birds, go beachcombing or get out on the water. Downtown Port Townsend is also great for a stroll and a bite to eat, or keep an eye on the events calendar as the town hosts festivals and happenings throughout the year.
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The San Juan Islands in general are a stellar vacation destination, but the largest island and home to the largest city in the island chain is San Juan Island. Many visitors opt to stay in Friday Harbor, which has the greatest concentration of lodging options and restaurants. Friday Harbor also makes a fabulous launch pad for the many maritime activities that visitors shouldn’t miss during a visit to San Juan Island — whale watching tours, kayak rentals and even seaplanes from Seattle land nearby. Outside of Friday Harbor, life on San Juan Island pretty quickly slows down (not that Friday Harbor is exactly a bustling big city). Drive past lavender farms or stop by a wine tasting room. Enjoy the slow pace and amazing scenery to its fullest.
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While you can visit the Skagit Valley any time of year, it is most popular by far during the spring when the Tulip Festival takes over — and the resulting traffic on the country roads is a testament to that. Fields of tulips will make you feel like you’re in Holland as you drive past, but it’s a real treat to spend some time at one or more of the tulip farms. Bring a picnic lunch along and don’t forget your camera.
Other times of year, the Skagit Valley is filled with outdoor recreation options, everything from skiing and white water rafting in the mountains in the east to visiting beaches to the west.
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Suncadia Resort is an easy drive from Seattle and Tacoma, but feels a million miles away. This mountain resort is upscale and posh, yet a whole lot of fun for the family. Hike, bike, snowshoe or cross-country ski on the resort’s miles of trails. Golf at one of three courses also within the resort’s bounds. The resort has a pool, hot tub, a spa, an ice skating rink in the winter, several restaurants and even a winery all on the property. If you love this resort so much you don’t want to leave, you can even buy a vacation home or cabin in one of three neighborhoods. That’s right. The vacation doesn’t have to end!Continue to 13 of 28 below.
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Want to jet away to Vegas, but don’t have the funds? The next best thing in Washington State is a trip to Tulalip Resort Casino just about an hour north of Seattle. This full-service casino resort provides a high-end Vegas experience, including table games and slots galore, live entertainment, luxe hotel rooms and a number of restaurants (and a buffet!) all on the resort property. If that’s still just not enough for you, the right next door is Seattle Premium Outlets, a large, upscale outlet mall.
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Whidbey Island is just a little over an hour by car from Seattle, but it couldn’t feel more opposite of Washington’s largest city. This island has a distinct rural atmosphere. Like many of the islands in the Puget Sound, you’ll find ample art galleries, plenty of delicious places to eat and drink, wineries dotting the countryside, and shorelines on both the Puget Sound and several lakes to explore.
Oak Harbor is the main hub on the island and a fine place to wander between galleries or go out to eat. Beyond Oak Harbor, the island is your oyster. Don’t miss spending some time at Ebey’s Landing, which marries outdoor adventures (hiking the Bluff Trail is especially scenic!) with some historic appeal.
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Just a half hour outside of Seattle is Woodinville — Western Washington’s own wine country. No, you won’t see fields of grape vines, but you will see wineries and tasting rooms by the dozen all within close proximity to each other. There are two ways to tackle Woodinville. If what you seek is as many tastes as possible in a close space (and less driving to go with all that tasting), then head to the Warehouse District where there are more boutique wineries per square foot than anywhere else on the planet. If you prefer your wine with some wandering, then wander you shall as there are more than 100 wineries situated within driving distance of each other, including well-known wineries like Chateau Ste. Michelle and plenty of lesser-known wineries and tasting rooms just waiting to become your next favorite.
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Hood River, Oregon, is known above all for its wind — windsurfers and kite surfers travel from near and far to whip their way along the river. If that’s not quite your thing, never fear. The surrounding Columbia River Gorge overall is pretty stunning. Admire cliffs and waterfalls as you make your way along rugged trails. Have a picnic along the edge of the river. Go white water rafting. Stay at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington, or find a campsite and commune with nature. And if you somehow get tired of all the natural beauty, Portland is less than an hour away.Continue to 17 of 28 below.
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Lake Chelan is a perfect all-around vacation spot for families, for couples seeking romance, for girlfriend getaways — really, for any kind of vacation you might seek. The lake is huge and located on Washington’s sunny side, so visitors can soak up the rays while they sip wine from one of the area’s many wineries. It’s an idyllic combination. Obviously, lake activities are a hit here. Get out on the water and you won’t regret it. But Lake Chelan is also known for its food and wine. Both are fresh and often local, due to the lake’s position right near agricultural Eastern Washington. So save some of your vacation budget for dining!
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Long Beach is exactly what it sounds like — long! The beach is 28 miles long so there’s plenty of space to walk along the shore and listen to the waves washing up on the sand. The town itself has plenty of seaside hotels and restaurants. Activities to enjoy include riding horses along the shoreline, renting a bike, walking on the half-mile-long boardwalk, going crabbing or clamming, golf, or even visiting lighthouses in nearby Ilwaco. Also, don’t miss dining at a seafood restaurant since this is, after all, the coast. Seafood is fresh and delicious. Oysters are especially popular on local menus.
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The Methow Valley is located on the south side of the North Cascades, and is a prime location for outdoor adventures. Casual adventurers will find the usual trails and ski runs and rivers to enjoy, but Methow Valley goes far beyond the casual. You can go so far as to go heli-skiing in this area! But for most, summers will mean leisurely meals overlooking rolling hills, hikes on sunny days or fishing sessions on the Methow River. The valley is also popular in the winter for skiing, snowshoeing and other snow sports. This area is not hugely commercial, but does have some incredible places to stay, including Sun Mountain Lodge.
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Mt. St. Helens is about three hours from Seattle, but it’s worth the drive. As you turn off of I-5 and head toward the Johnston Ridge Observatory — which is most visitors' ultimate destination — you’ll see the destruction the 1980 eruption left first hand. At first, burned and white tree stumps only show up here and there, but soon, the forest is filled with them, as well as with new growth. There are smaller visitor centers on the way where you can stop and catch the view or explore a few trails, but Johnston Ridge Observatory is where it’s at with longer trails (and you can even launch climbing the mountain from this area), and a film and exhibits about the eruption. While Mt. St. Helens does not have a national park around it like Mt. Rainier, there are opportunities for recreation in the area too. Perhaps most notably are the Ape Caves — lava tubes you can hike through.Continue to 21 of 28 below.
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The North Cascades National Park is best and most commonly experienced via a road trip along the North Cascades Highway. The highway follows State Route 20 from Sedro-Woolley to the town of Twisp and passes through the national park as well as several towns and past the Gorge Dam Overlook on the way. Stop by the North Cascades National Park Visitor Center to learn more about what to do in the area or chat with a ranger about which trails might suit you and your party best, but count on ample hiking, fishing, biking and the usual outdoor pursuits. The park is a little more wild than, say, Mt. Rainier National Park, where you’ll see tons of other people exploring along with you (you might even run into traffic on a sunny day). It’s also a lot farther north so State Route 20 does close for snow at times in the winter.
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Washington has a coastline, it’s true, but many Washingtonians keep on driving and head to the Oregon Coast. Just over the border from Long Beach, Washington, the northern stretch of Oregon’s Coast includes more than one great getaway spot. Start with quaint and historic Astoria where you can climb the Astoria Tower to enjoy some pretty amazing views (be prepared for a lot of steps!) and stroll the historic downtown. If beach is what you seek, you can choose from several beach towns. Cannon Beach is the most sophisticated with lots of art galleries and a long stretch of beach highlighted by 235-foot-high Haystack Rock. Seaside is possibly the most fun of the beach towns in the area, with a long boardwalk, restaurants and shops, an arcade and aquarium, and plenty to do. Plenty of other smaller beach towns offer camping, RV sites and quieter stretches of beach as well.
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Olympic National Park is yet another amazing natural destination — one with almost a million acres and just about every habitat possible between its bounds. You want rainforest? You got it. You want beaches? You got it. You want to stay in a lodge and relax near a lake? Quinault Lodge is perfect. Hiking, biking, driving the Olympic Peninsula Loop, skiing — you can do it all. One special highlight that’s perfect for both the adventurous and those who just want to drive somewhere and see something gorgeous is Hurricane Ridge. The drive to get to the ridge is pretty awesome, but the trail along the ridge is sure to dazzle as you walk along a pathway that feels about even with the mountaintops in the distance.
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Seattle and Portland are the two largest cities in the Northwest, and each has its own distinct vibe. Portland is a bit more laid back than Seattle, a little quirkier. It’s also filled with lots of things to do. First things first, come to Portland for the food. Portland does food of all kinds really well, but especially food trucks (there are hundreds!), brunch and breakfast. Next, make sure to enjoy the tax-free shopping. All of Oregon has no sales tax! Portland is home to wonderful parks and green spaces, including expansive Forest Park and Washington Park, which is home to the zoo, a Japanese garden and more. By day, explore downtown or quieter Nob Hill or choose another neighborhood to delve into. By night, take in a show at one of the city’s many large or small venues.Continue to 25 of 28 below.
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Spokane is Washington State’s second largest city, but is a five-hour drive from Seattle. The city is not always the first to come to mind for a vacation destination, but has plenty to offer. Spokane is focused around a river strung with parks and trails as it meanders through the city; the river has several waterfalls located within the city limits. Visit Riverfront Park (host of the 1974 World’s Fair) and enjoy the waterfalls there as well as the lovely park. If the waterfalls win you over, also visit the more impressive falls at Huntington Park. Other things to do in town include visiting the Bing Crosby Collection, taking in a round of golf, or tossing back a microbrew — Spokane’s craft beer scene has experienced a boom in recent years.
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The Tri-Cities is made up of Richland, Kennewick and Pasco, and this reliably dry and sunny destination is popular with golfers, boaters and wine lovers. Golfers will find seven golf courses and two championship putting courses and fantastic weather for much of the year to get out on the course. Wine is another big reason to visit the area — tasting rooms are open throughout the year and the Tri-Cities Wine Festival takes place in November. But it’s not all about golf and wine. If you want to get outdoors, look to the Sacagawea Heritage Trail or Columbia Park, which has 300 acres as well as watery recreation options like water skiing, fishing and boating. The area also has a long and storied history, including part of the Lewis and Clark trail. If you dig on history or geology, don’t miss a visit to The Hanford Reach Interpretive Center.
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Wenatchee is just on the other side of the Cascades on the sunny side of Washington, and as such, it’s popular for people seeking an outdoorsy vacation in the sun or snow. In the summer, explore the 13-mile riverside Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail (Wenatchee is the Apple Capital of the World after all) or Ohme Gardens. Or sign up for a whitewater rafting trip down the Wenatchee River if you want something a bit more adventurous. In the winter, jaunt off to nearby Mission Ridge for skiing and snowboarding. Wenatchee is also really close to Leavenworth so a vacation here can easily include jaunts over to the little Bavarian town in the mountains.
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A few hours to the south of Seattle is Oregon’s major wine country, the Willamette Valley. Where Seattle’s neighboring wine country in Woodinville has about 90 wineries, Willamette Valley has more than 500 dotting the landscape. Of course, you can taste wine until to your heart’s content here — and you totally should — but that’s far from the only thing to do. Choose different towns and regions to explore, from Corvallis to Yamhill to Salem. Stop to dine and enjoy the fresh food at local markets and restaurants. Pair your wine and food adventure with some outdoors adventures as there are plenty of places to cycle or hike. Or do something a little more unusual like going on a hot air balloon ride. The valley is so large that there are many different kinds of things to do, but whatever you do, this is a vacation sure to be relaxing and delicious.