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20 Highlights of the Olympic Peninsula

Posted on July 2, 2014 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Olympic Peninsula Road Trip

Olympic National Park

I'm quite smitten with my home state of Oregon while my aunt has lived happily in Washington for several decades. So, for as long as I can remember, we've enjoyed a good-natured "my-state-is-obviously-better" rivalry. But I had to admit - when I called her from a kayak in the middle of a sparkling lake surrounded by forested mountains - that her state was giving mine a serious run for its money in the natural-beauty department.

But even aside from its famously gorgeous scenery, I was so impressed by the area's minimal crowds and traffic, incredibly nice people everywhere I went, great restaurants, and - last but definitely not least! - tons of interesting historical places.

More detailed posts will follow, but for now, here are my favorite moments from my weeklong road trip around the Olympic Peninsula. They are simply in chronological order, because there's no way I could pick a #1 favorite.

1. The Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry across Puget Sound.

I love ferries, and this one is no exception. I think at least one ferry ride is essential for the full Washington State experience.

Puget Sound Ferry

2. Historic Port Gamble.

Such a beautifully-restored, quiet, and quaint little seaside town. I felt so relaxed and happy there. It's also interesting for its New England feel - the town's founders modeled Port Gamble after their hometown in Maine.

N Rainier Ave. with Water Towers
Looking down N Rainier Ave. the heart of the historic district, upon my arrival. The iconic water towers date from 1880 and 1885.

Steeple with Tree

3. Car camping at Fort Worden State Park.

Upper Campground, Fort Worden State Park

Who needs a tent? It was a little cramped, sure. But simple, cozy, and so fun. And I got to enjoy all the natural beauty with none of the work.

4. Walking along the beach to Point Wilson Lighthouse.

Point Wilson Lighthouse

5. The friendly folks at the Commanding Officer's Quarters Museum at Fort Worden.

Commanding Officer's Quarters Museum

These guys are great! And so is the museum.

6. Seeing "The Fault in Our Stars" at the historic Rose Theatre in Port Townsend.

Such a cute and friendly theatre, beautifully restored, with the best popcorn, AND a real live human introduced the movie before it started! I had read the book and really enjoyed the movie, too.

Rose Theatre

7. Staying at the historic Palace Hotel in Port Townsend.

With monumental stairways, high ceilings, and an amazing stained-glass skylight, it lives up to its name. But it also has great Old West character and colorful history (read: was a brothel).

Palace Hotel at Dusk

I was really happy here. Full review forthcoming.

8. Checking out an old anchor that just arrived at the Maritime Museum in Port Townsend.

A unique opportunity, as the anchor is only here for a few weeks. (Thanks to Gary of the Palace Hotel for the recommendation!)

Discoverer Doug Monk with the Antique Anchor

9. An evening drive on Ediz Hook in Port Angeles.

Ediz Hook, Looking West
So much traffic! Ugh.

Port Angeles through the Window
The light and views were simply spectacular in every direction

Paper Mill from Ediz Hook
Even the paper mill was beautiful in that light. And it's historic to boot - 1920.

Bald Eagle
And I even saw a bald eagle. I mean, come on!

10. The historical tour of Port Angeles.

Great guides and really interesting history. It was an extra-special time to the join the tour because they were celebrating the 100th anniversary of "sluicing the Hogback." More on that interesting phrase later!

Historical Tour Guides

11. Riding in a Model T Ford in Port Angeles.

Almost as fun as the ride was talking with its friendly, overall-clad owner about how he bought the car on eBay from a guy in "that cheese town" in Oregon. (I correctly guessed Tillamook.)

12. Eating in Port Angeles.

Michael's Restaurant

I managed to try all four restaurants recommended to me by locals (it's a tough job...), and they were all delicious. And all historic, natch.

13. Spending two glorious days at the historic Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park.

FDR was here! But even with presidential treatment, it's hard to imagine he had a better time. The views, the wood-burning fire, the amazing staff, the rustic historic room... it really couldn't be better. I can't wait to go back.

Lake Crescent Lodge

14. Waking up to this view at Lake Crescent Lodge:

Lake Crescent Lodge

Yep, that would be a buck with a gorgeous rack of antlers enjoying a breakfast of flowers. And the desk staff was apologetic my room only had this view instead of the lake. Poor me.

15. Eating in the Lake Crescent Lodge restaurant.

Apple Crumble
Just one mouth-watering example: hot apple crumble with homemade ice cream. Oh. My.

Every meal was fantastic, and the waiters were the best.

16. Paddling around Lake Crescent in a kayak.

Kayaking on Lake Crescent

This was pretty much paradise. The weather was warm but not hot, the water was clean and clear, the only sound was the gentle lapping of waves on my boat, and there was incredible beauty in every direction. Sigh.

17. Hiking to Sol Duc Falls.

Sol Duc Falls

And this is just one of many spectacular waterfalls on the Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail.

18. Driving on Highway 101 in Washington.

Highway 101

Minimum traffic, maximum beauty, well-maintained, and just the right amount of curvy. Pretty much everything I ask for in a road.

19. Ruby Beach.

Ruby Beach

This gorgeous beach is an easy stop just off Highway 101. Thanks to my awesome waiter at the Lake Crescent Lodge for the recommendation!

20. Crossing the beautiful Astoria-Megler Bridge back into Oregon.

Bridge Detail

There's no place like home, but I'm already dreaming about my next trip back to the Olympic Peninsula.