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15 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways from Seattle

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Oct 21, 2021

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One of the big appeals of Seattle is the many possible weekend getaways within a short drive or ferry ride. From the towering peaks of the North Cascades to the tourist-friendly San Juan Islands, half the fun of visiting or living in Seattle is exploring these rich attractions outside the city.

Whether planned months ahead of time or a last-minute weekend getaway, iconic places to visit like Olympic National Park, Deception Pass, and the Winthrop Valley offer memorable visiting experiences. And half of the fun is sometimes getting there, traveling via ferry, train, or scenic highway.

Other national parks, scenic small towns, and isolated islands also beckon for weekend adventures from Seattle. And many, if not all these outstanding places offer a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. And for those looking to add a little spark to the daily routine, all of Seattle's top weekend getaways offer their own form of a romantic vacation.

Find the best places for your next two-day escape with our list of the top weekend getaways from Seattle.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. San Juan Islands

 Aerial image of Orcas Island
Aerial image of Orcas Island

Exploring the San Juan Islands is a premier weekend getaway from Seattle, inviting a feeling of distant travel only a short ferry trip away. Common aspects of San Juan weekend trips include whale watching, fresh seafood, and some of the best smoldering sunsets in the country.

The San Juan Islands are also a popular weekend getaway for couples. The most populated island of the archipelago, San Juan Island, hosts the tourist-friendly and extremely walkable Friday Harbor. A popular spot to bunk up for the night in Friday Harbor is the Tucker House Inn, particularly for those looking for a romantic retreat.

Orcas Island, Turtle Mountain Preserve: Photo Copyright: Brad Lane
Orcas Island, Turtle Mountain Preserve: Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Orcas and Lopez Islands are also popular for tourists and weekend getaways, equipped with seaside accommodations with individual flair. One of the best campgrounds in Washington, Moran State Park, is on Orcas Island and has a trail leading to the top of the park's centerpiece feature, Mount Constitution. Lopez Island offers quieter surroundings and a slower pace, with quaint cafes and cozy restaurants in Lopez Village.

2. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On clear days, the impressive Mount Rainier is visible from Seattle on the southeast horizon. And visitors and residents can reach this crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest with a two-hour drive from the city.

Mount Rainier is the tallest peak in the state and encompasses a landscape of old-growth forests and rushing waterfalls. It's also an environment packed full of hiking trails, campgrounds, and memorable adventures. The Skyline Trail, within the aptly named Paradise area of the park, tops the list of the best hiking trails, as does the surreal alpine valley found at Spray Park near Mowich Lake.

Silver Falls, near Ohanapecosh Campground
Silver Falls, near Ohanapecosh Campground | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Campgrounds like the Ohanapecosh Campground are great for families, and backcountry sites including the Ipsut Creek Campground provide a more wilderness-based overnight experience. Hotels and lodges surround the national park in gateway communities like Packwood and Ashford. For the full overnight experience on a weekend visit, the National Park Inn at Mount Rainier provides cozy suites and quick access to the park.

Official Site: https://www.nps.gov/mora/index.htm

3. Leavenworth

Leavenworth
Leavenworth | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Leavenworth is a Bavarian-themed town complete with annual celebrations and high mountain backgrounds. It's along Highway 2 and opposite Stevens Pass from Seattle, approximately a 2.5-hour drive from the city. The town incorporates an unmistakable Bavarian motif. The annual Oktoberfest is a very popular time to visit when the streets are lined with live polka music and lederhosen.

Several other cultural celebrations and festivals take place in Leavenworth throughout the year, typically every month. During December, the town comes under a new glow for their annual Christmas Lighting Festival and Village of Lights.

Outside of festivals, Leavenworth also provides reason to visit with world-class mountain recreation surrounding the town. One of the first places to head is Icicle Gorge on the north side of the town, where iconic hiking trails like the Enchantments offer other-worldly alpine landscapes.

The Enzian Inn provides a great and authentic place to spend the night in Leavenworth no matter the time of year or reason for the visit. This Bavarian-themed hotel is right near all the action of the downtown Bavarian village.

4. Port Angeles or Port Townsend

Port Townsend lighthouse
Port Townsend lighthouse

The Olympic Peninsula of Washington provides many landscapes to explore and gateway towns to spend the night. Port Angeles and Port Townsend are two towns on the northeast corner of the peninsula, easily accessible from Seattle by ferry. Both towns encompass a distinctive charm and are great launching points for bigger weekend adventures.

Port Angeles is a great locale for those looking to dive deeper into Olympic National Park. It's home to the Olympic National Park Visitor Center and provides quick access to iconic places like Lake Crescent and Hurricane Ridge. This proximity to the national park makes Port Angeles a great place to rest between full days of adventure, and also helps the city rank high as one of the best small towns in Washington.

For a charming Victorian seaport town with plenty of opportunities to walk, eat dinner, and stay the night at a stylish hotel, Port Townsend provides all the necessary ingredients for a great last-minute weekend getaway. The Bishop Victorian Hotel is a top-rated hotel in Port Townsend, featuring Victorian-inspired furnishings in the heart of the Historic District. The Fountain Cafe is a great place to catch a bite to eat in Port Townsend, catering to all appetites and tastes.

5. Whidbey Island

Double Bluff Beach on Whidbey Island
Double Bluff Beach on Whidbey Island | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Whidbey Island is the largest island in Puget Sound and one of the most accessible from Seattle. It's primed for family weekend getaways with farm-fresh restaurants, art galleries, and miles of scenic shoreline throughout the island.

Whidbey also offers several ways to explore its wild surroundings. Fort Ebey State Park, near the center of the island, provides great historical context and a decommissioned coastal fort with several hiking trails.

On the northern tip of Whidbey, connecting Fidalgo Island, Deception Pass State Park is one of the best state parks in Washington. Featuring hundreds of campsites to pitch a tent or park an RV, Deception Pass also has an abundance of tide pooling opportunities, hiking trails, and scenic vistas.

With leashed pets welcomed on the trails at Deception Pass State Park, and other off-leash areas on the island, Whidbey is a great option for a dog-friendly weekend getaway.

6. Bellingham

 Bellingham
Bellingham

Bellingham is 90 minutes north of Seattle, adjacent to the sea and the San Juan Islands. The city is also a gateway to Mount Baker and the North Cascades. And Bellingham is also home to Western Washington University, which infuses the city with a distinct charm and vibrant cultural scene. It also adds to the many reasons for a weekend visit with collegiate sports happenings and collegiate events.

The Chuckanut Scenic Byway is a recommended route when driving from Seattle. It presents a stunning scene of mountains meeting the sea. From this exploratory route, the adventure into Bellingham only continues. For a taste of the city's wild landscapes, the hiking trails at Whatcom Falls Park explore lush surroundings and cascading water features.

7. Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Mount St. Helens from the Johnston Ridge Observatory
Mount St. Helens from the Johnston Ridge Observatory | Photo Copyright: Brad lane

Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, part of Gifford Pinchot National Forest, is accessible from Seattle with less than a three-hour drive. The closest access point is the Spirit Lake Memorial Byway, departing from Castle Rock and ending at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. This high-elevation observatory offers one of the best views of the crater left behind after the dramatic 1980 eruption.

There's so much to see and experience in the rebounding landscape surrounding Mount St. Helens, far more than a day trip could possibly explore. Spirit Lake Memorial Byway itself has several notable trailheads lining its route, including memorable hikes like Hummocks and Coldwater Lake. And the Boundary Trail, with a trailhead at Johnston Ridge Observatory, is worth a whole day of exploring on its own.

Hiking to the summit of Mount St. Helens
Hiking to the summit of Mount St. Helens | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

And this western portion of the mountain is only one area to explore. The south and east side of the national volcanic monument also have several trailheads and places to camp. The south side is home to the starting point for the most popular summit hike of St. Helens, the Climbers Bivouac Trailhead, which offers an endeavor to plan the whole weekend around. Permits are required for the Mount St. Helens summit hike.

8. North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park
North Cascades National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

North Cascades National Park is a scenic two-hour drive from Seattle. This extraordinary public land encompasses dramatic alpine landscapes and aquamarine lakes. And the main route for exploration from Seattle is Highway 20, also known as the North Cascades Scenic Highway.

Many great places to visit line the North Cascades Scenic Highway, like Colonial Creek and Newhalem Campground – two of the best campgrounds in North Cascades National Park. Other must-see stops along the highway include Diablo Lake, Rainy Pass, and the Methow Valley. Great places to spend the night can be found in the Methow Valley, four hours from Seattle, within the charming towns of Winthrop, Twisp, and Mazama.

Official site: https://www.nps.gov/noca/index.htm

9. Victoria, British Columbia

Empress Hotel on Victoria's Inner Harbour
Empress Hotel on Victoria's Inner Harbour

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and one of the most beautiful cities in Canada. This beautiful urban landscape is on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, accessible from Seattle with a two-hour-and-45-minute ferry ride on the Victoria Clipper. This scenic boat ride is part of the visiting experience itself, with rides offered every day of the year.

It can feel a tad overwhelming knowing what to do upon landing in Victoria. The Clipper drops passengers off in the busy downtown Inner Harbour, where the distinct vibe of the city stands out, especially on sunny days. The architecture is mixed in Victoria with English influence, and the city gives off the immediate impression of European travels.

A few popular things to do on a weekend visit include visiting the Royal BC Museum, strolling through Beacon Hill Park, and touring the impressive Craigdarroch Castle. And The Butchart Gardens are a bit of a drive from the downtown area, but are well worth the travel. This lovely landscaped space offers new flowers and attractions to appreciate throughout the year.

10. Yakima

 Yakima landscape
Yakima landscape

Yakima is southeast of Seattle and home to fertile soil and agricultural splendor. It's an easy two-hour drive and often a quick fix for a warm weekend getaway. The Yakima Greenway and Cowiche Canyon are fun places to visit and offer a great way to appreciate the sunnier weather, and the Yakima Area Arboretum provides a great picnic spot for a relaxing afternoon.

Agricultural tours and tastings are popular in Yakima, and no visit is complete without a stop at a roadside fruit stand. For a reliable place to stay, Oxford Suites Yakima has friendly staff and an evening reception.

11. Portland

Pittock Mansion
Pittock Mansion | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Portland is the largest city in Oregon and provides an urban vibe distinctly different than Seattle. This City of Roses is less than a three-hour drive from Seattle, on the other side of the Columbia River Gorge. This amazing river gorge is worth a visit itself and is home to a long list of stunning waterfalls.

A few iconic places to visit in Portland are the Portland Art Museum, Pittock Mansion, and Powell's City of Books. And visitors often inundate other places like Washington Park, including the International Rose Test Garden and Hoyt Arboretum.

The city of Portland never sleeps, and great restaurants, shops, and unique coffee houses are found within each distinctive neighborhood of the city. Several accommodations within and surrounding the city cater to all types of travel.

Accommodation: Top-Rated Places to Stay in Portland, Oregon

12. Bainbridge Island

View of Seattle from Bainbridge Island
View of Seattle from Bainbridge Island

Across Puget Sound from Seattle and accessible by ferry, Bainbridge Island features forest trails, cultural celebrations, and 360-degree postcard views. Popular places to go on Bainbridge Island include the Bloedel Reserve with manicured gardens and interpretive trails.

The Tillicum Village is another popular place to visit. By signing up for a Tillicum experience, visitors are provided with a cultural feast and celebration, and pre-arranged transportation back and forth from Seattle. For hiking and camping on Bainbridge, Manchester State Park is a popular option for day trips and weekend visits.

13. Vancouver, Washington

Salmon Run Bell Tower @ Esther Short Park
Salmon Run Bell Tower @ Esther Short Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Bordering the Columbia River in southern Washington, Vancouver provides a small-town feel with significant history lining the streets. The city is home to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and much of the footprint of this early 19th-century fur trading post remains today.

Downtown Vancouver is filled with life, especially at Esther Short Park, where farmers markets take place each week. Heathman Lodge is a popular basecamp for exploring Vancouver, and it also offers an affordable place to stay to explore Portland across the Columbia River.

14. Ellensburg

Ellensburg
Ellensburg

Filled with local restaurants, shops, and an abundance of city parks, Ellensburg provides a small-town getaway from the busy city streets of Seattle. The academic institutions of Central Washington University add a certain collegiate culture to downtown Ellensburg, and an abundance of public art adds even more scenic appeal to the city.

Getting outside is easy in Ellensburg, especially at places like Irene Rinehart Park, featuring a boat launch and swimming access. For those interested in the history of the region, the Kittitas County Historical Museum offers free admission throughout the week.

15. Vashon Island

Ferry departing for Vashon from Point Defiance
Ferry departing for Vashon from Point Defiance | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Vashon offers an easy island escape from Seattle with a 20-minute ferry ride. This quiet island is one of the largest in Puget Sound, and is actually two islands, and includes Maury Island, connected by an artificial land bridge. And while it's only a short trip away, the pace and overall vibe of the island make you feel miles away compared to the city.

Most Vashon visitors from Seattle board the ferry from the Fauntleroy neighborhood in southwest Seattle. This ferry ride takes 20 minutes and drops off on the north side of Vashon. The other option is a ferry ride from Point Defiance in Tacoma, which arrives on the south end of the island.

Ways to enjoy the island life on Vashon include farmers markets, wooded hiking trails, and coastline adventures. A tourist center on the island is the town of Vashon, where several local stores and restaurants entice the wandering eye. For a special excursion on Vashon Island, head to Point Robinson Lighthouse on the eastern tip of Maury Island.

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imageMore to Explore from Seattle: Alongside some great weekend getaways surrounding the city, the best hiking trails and campgrounds near Seattle deliver on even more to do at the end of the week. For some sand under your toes and water to swim in, the top-rated beaches in the Seattle area invite afternoon picnics and impromptu volleyball games.

imageOutdoor Attractions in Washington: The top-rated hiking trails in Washington explore many different environments, as do the best state and national parks. For extra fun explorations, check out the state's top-rated hot springs. Come wintertime, the best ski resorts in Washington deliver, with immense skiable terrain and an abundance of snow.

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