12 Top-Rated Things to Do in Port Angeles, WA
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On the north end of the Olympic Peninsula, abutting the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Port Angeles is one of the best basecamps for Olympic adventures. And adventure is aplenty in this rain shadow region doused with sunny weather. From orca whale sightings to hiking through a rainforest, wanderlust runs rampant in every direction from Port Angeles.
Olympic National Park is often the first reason visitors flock to Port Angeles. The park encompasses nearly one million acres. Many of its most iconic areas are accessible from Port Angeles within a short drive. The closest park attraction, Hurricane Ridge, is a must-see landscape 20 minutes away.
What keeps people coming back to Port Angeles, or inspires them to pack up and move here, is the friendly community and culture. The coast-spanning Olympic Discovery Trail is the main non-motorized corridor in town. Public parks, local establishments, and a unique sand spit line this paved path and open the door for city adventures.
Find the best places to visit with our list of the top things to do in Port Angeles.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. See the View at Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge offers one of the most dramatic Olympic National Park views with a 17-mile drive from the city. This scenic vista is a top spot for any visit to the park, let alone a must-do experience when visiting Port Angeles.
The drive on Hurricane Ridge Road starts just after the Olympic National Park Visitors Center on the south side of town. The road passes by the popular Heart O' the Hills Campground, one of the best places to go camping in Olympic National Park. Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center awaits at the top, alongside a breathtaking view of the Olympic range.
Simply staring in awe at the craggy mountains from the visitor center's back porch is time well spent. The visitor center also provides exhibits, restroom facilities, and interpretive presentations. Gain an even better perspective of the massive horizon on the network of trails that spans from the visitor center.
Hurricane Ridge also entices visitors throughout the winter. Uphill traffic is allowed on Hurricane Ridge Road Friday through Sunday and some holiday weekends during the winter (weather permitting). Cars need to be equipped with traction devices like chains. At the snowy summit, warmly dressed visitors enjoy snowshoeing, sledding, and downhill endeavors at the Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area.
Official site: https://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm
2. Bicycle Tour the Olympic Discovery Trail
One of the best ways to tour the coastal landscapes of Port Angeles is via bicycle. The slower pace of travel allows more time to enjoy the unique environment at the continent's edge. And the number one route to follow is the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT), which cruises right through the downtown waterfront.
The ODT is a 130-mile route navigating the Olympic Peninsula's northern coast. Stretching from Port Townsend to La Push, the trail crosses five converted railroad trusses and navigates several postcard-worthy environments. The trail is still in development and currently comprises a combination of paved roads, gravel roads, and bike paths. Non-motorized sections are added to the route every year.
The ODT section connecting to downtown Port Angeles is well developed, with a paved pathway free of vehicle traffic. It's an excellent bike path to reach the lavender fields of Sequim to the east. The trail extends west to Lake Crescent with a 25-mile ride, including sections on a gravel road.
Places in Port Angeles like Sound Bike & Kayak and Adventures through Kayaking have bicycles available for rent.
Official site: https://olympicdiscoverytrail.org/
3. Paddle Off Ediz Hook
Ediz Hook is a three-mile, crescent-shaped sand spit extending from the Port Angeles shoreline. Also referred to as "the Spit" or "the Hook," this unique landform offers easy adventures from the city. Ediz Hook Road extends along the spit for vehicle traffic. The recommended route is via bicycle or walking the improvised trail next to the roadway.
What immediately stands out on The Spit is the magnificent view of Port Angeles backed by the Olympic Mountains. On cloudless afternoons, this vantage point is reason enough to visit. The Hook also provides shelter from the waves of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This protection makes for an excellent spot to launch a kayak or canoe.
The most abundant parking areas are near the beginning of the Spit. Here, it's easy to access the calm water and shoreline. Other popular water activities include scuba diving and paddleboarding. A public boat launch for motorized vehicles is near the U.S. Coast Guard Station at the far end of the Spit.
4. Day Trip to Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent, 20 miles west, is another crown jewel of Olympic National Park near Port Angeles. This incredibly deep and clear glacially carved lake is abundant with natural appeal.
A popular activity is picnicking at places like East Beach and Bovee's Meadow, where swimming beaches are also available. Non-motorized boating is also a favorite way to experience Lake Crescent. Public boat docks are on either end of the lake.
A visit to Lake Crescent isn't complete without hiking around the shoreline a bit. One of Olympic's best hiking trails, Marymere Falls, starts from the Storm King Ranger Station on the lake's southeast shore. The less-than-a-mile trek encounters little elevation gain along the way, and the rushing water at the end of the trail is always a family favorite to experience.
The historic Lake Crescent Lodge is also on the southeast side of the lake, offering a cozy lobby with a stone fireplace. The Fairholme Campground, on the west side of the lake, also provides a place to stay for a weekend trip from Port Angeles.
5. Revel in the Rainforest
Of the many breathtaking landscapes in Olympic National Park, the mossy rainforests are perhaps the most magical. It's like walking through a terrarium when visiting these dense regions. The many shades of green add to the parks' palette and the reasons why Olympic is one of the best national parks in Washington.
The Hoh Rain Forest within the park is one of the most popular ways to experience lush surroundings. The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is a scenic two-hour drive from Port Angeles. At the visitor center, several family-friendly trails span out through the thick landscape. And the iconic 17.3-mile Hoh River Trail departs from the visitor center and heads to the base of Mt. Olympus.
If you are looking for an easy way to explore the area, you can join a Hoh Rain Forest and Rialto Beach Guided Tour in Olympic National Park. This option takes care of the transportation from the Visitor Center and includes a guided one- or two-mile hike with a naturalist and a stop at Rialto Beach.
Bogachiel State Park offers a shorter drive from Port Angeles and similar access to a less-crowded rainforest area. Farther south in the park and a longer drive, the Quinault and Queets rainforest areas are also verdant, with hiking trails and scenery.
6. Meet Native Sea Creatures at the Feiro Marine Life Center
Near the Olympic Coast Discovery Center on the waterfront, this fun place to visit offers up-close looks at native marine life. The Feiro Marine Life Center provides a wide array of aquariums and touch-tanks with seawater straight from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This hands-on facility also features educational opportunities and academic lectures.
Visitors encounter sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, and other aquatic creatures at the Marine Life Center. The museum also has several exhibits detailing the diverse ecosystem found just offshore. The naturalists at the Feiro Marine Life Center are perhaps the most valuable resource, however. These oceanic experts are happy to share their favorite local tide pool spots.
Address: 315 N Lincoln Street, Port Angeles, Washington
Official site: https://feiromarinelifecenter.org/
7. Wander the Wild Washington Pacific Coast
With several dramatic landscapes to explore in the national park, the rugged western coast should be high on the list. Olympic protects over 70 miles of the most rugged coastline in the country. Jutting sea stacks, forested headlands, and a wild sense of exploration define much of the mesmerizing landscape.
Port Angeles makes for an excellent basecamp for day trips to the Pacific coast. One of the closest coastal areas from the city is Rialto Beach, approximately 70 miles away in the park's Mora area. The classic scenery of coastal Olympic National Park presents itself at this blissful beach backed by a dense forest.
Other beaches of interest line the coast north and south of Rialto Beach. The southern coast has more resources for visitors and places to stop, while the more rugged northern coast is primed for extended backpacking trips.
8. Watch for Whales
Port Angeles is a prime spot for whale sightings. And not just a single species - humpback, orca, minke, and gray whales make appearances throughout the year. The city offers several ways to enjoy these remarkable wildlife sightings, including land-based viewing areas and guided tours.
Several sites near Port Angeles are on The Whale Trail, an international collection of prime whale-watching sites. Salt Creek Recreation Area, a 20-minute drive from Port Angeles, is one such Whale Trail location where several vantage points offer a spectacular view. Tongue Point, within the Recreation Area, is a particularly great spot to see whale spouts.
One of the most guaranteed ways to spot whales is by hopping on a guided tour. Several companies in the region offer knowledgeable navigation of the water. The Port Angeles Whale Watching Company, also known as Island Adventures Whale Watching, is one of the most popular outfits. This boating company offers excursions between May and October.
Official site: https://thewhaletrail.org/
9. Get Lost in Some Lavender in Sequim
The sunny city of Sequim sits 18 miles east of Port Angeles, easily accessible with a bike ride on the Olympic Discovery Trail. Sequim, pronounced "Squim," has several scenic natural amenities to explore. But only one earns the city the title of "Lavender Capital of North America."
The sunny weather of the Olympic Rain Shadow nourishes thousands of lavender plants in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley. Lavender operations in the area comprise almost exclusively local and family farms. This aromatic agriculture gets its first tint of purple near late June, with a full burst of color approximately two weeks after.
The community celebrates the full bloom with the Washington Lavender Festival in July. This time of year, visitors make good use of the Lavender Trail, which connects all the local farms in the region. Alongside an abundance of eye-catching colors, the farms host small events and receptions. Gift shops at the farms encourage visitors to support local operations.
Official site: http://sequimlavender.org/
10. Soak in Some Hot Springs
Among its many mystical atmospheres, Olympic National Park is also home to one of Washington's best hot springs. Situated south of Lake Crescent, and an hour's drive from Port Angeles, Sol Duc Hot Springs is well worth the day trip or overnight visit.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, a charming and rustic lodge operated by a concessionaire within the park, maintains the hot-water pools. The resort has three mineral hot soaking pools and one freshwater pool. The hot water is accessible to the public, not just guests, with the price of admission.
This area of the park caters to all-day adventures. The nearby hike to Sol Duc Falls offers a scenic 1.6-mile round trip to a postcard-worthy waterfall. It is a recommended way to achieve sore muscles before a soak. The drive to Sol Duc passes by the southern shores of Lake Crescent, which offers several side-adventures to tack onto a day.
11. Gain Knowledge of Your Surroundings at the Olympic Coast Discovery Center
On the Port Angeles waterfront, the Olympic Coast Discovery Center offers an excellent resource for making the most out of a coastal vacation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates the facility and offers detailed information about the coastal region - specifically, everything visitors need to know about the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.
The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 3,188 square miles off the peninsula's rugged west coast. Knowledgeable volunteers at the Discovery Center are happy to help plan any voyage along this part of the peninsula. The Discovery Center is open daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, always with free admission.
Address: The Landing, 115 E Railroad Avenue #208, Port Angeles, Washington
12. Take a Twilight Tour
The Olympic Peninsula holds particular interest for fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Her suspenseful and best-selling vampire romance novels take place in the nearby community of Forks, approximately an hour's drive from Port Angeles. But as any fan knows, Port Angeles is also home to some central plot locations.
Bella and Edward's first date took place at Bella Italia on First Street. Patrons today can order the mushroom ravioli or whatever suits their cravings while indulging in the literary atmosphere.
The enthusiasm for Twilight in Port Angeles is low-key if visitors don't know where to look. The real fan experience is in Forks, where a city-sponsored Twilight Map highlights real-life locations from the book. Forks also sponsors the annual Forever Twilight in Forks festival in September. This fandom event brings in thousands of like-minded readers with a plethora of unique experiences and special speakers.