What are your best NW travel destinations?
March 8, 2012 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Can you help us find some some new one and two-night getaway locations in the Pacific Northwest?

My girlfriend and I enjoy taking short (one to two-night stay) vacations, usually incorporating one of the weekend days (think Su-Tues or Th-Sat). We like these small vacations as they usually work well with our schedules, don't require use of vacation time, and they are often an inexpensive way to recharge a bit and get out of town to do and see something new. We are based in the Seattle area, and we are not opposed to driving 200-300 miles to seek out new places. We are looking for some new destination ideas that maybe we've missed or haven't previously considered.

What we tend to look for:
- smaller towns/areas ("quaint")
- quiet and slower pace
- friendly people
- value
- affordable accomodations (we tend to go to places off-season)
- good mix of activities to see/do and places to eat/drink
- can drive there (no special transportation needed; not a must but preferable)

What we like to do:
- relax!
- explore natural/local scenery and attractions, historical areas
- try local foods, beers/wines, coffee, etc.
- sample local nightlife (restaurants, pubs, shows, etc.)
- shop/browse
- geocache

Here's where we've previously been:
- Portland (primarily the metro area)
- Oregon Coast (Newport, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Astoria, etc.)
- Chelan/Leavenworth/Wenatchee
- Vancouver BC
- Bellingham
- Spokane
- Ocean Shores (and that general area of the WA coast)
- Some areas of the WA Peninsula (Port Townsend, Sequim)
- Central WA (Ellensburg, Yakima)

That list is not exhaustive, but some of those places tend to be our "go to" areas when we can't think of somewhere else to go. Certainly we haven't fully explored each and every one of those larger (i.e. Portland, Vancouver) areas, but we'd like to branch out!

Given the mileage we're talking about, we'd probably prefer to stick to the states of WA and OR unless something really stands out.

We are not big outdoorists in the sense that we don't hike, bike, climb, boat, etc. so we're basically foot and car-bound when it comes to activities. We certainly appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, however, and we love walking and getting out.

Some places we are considering:
- Bend, OR
- Whistler (it's a bit of a stretch though for many reasons)
- Coeur d' Alene (been before but not off-season)

Do you have any ideas for new places we should visit? We'd LOVE to hear your destination ideas around the Pacific Northwest! Thanks very much!
posted by karizma to Travel & Transportation around Pacific, MO (21 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Orcas island!
posted by tristeza at 11:40 AM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Victoria, BC is not a small town, but it meets all of your other criteria.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:45 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

What? You haven't been to Victoria, BC yet? Walkable downtown with lots to do, great food culture, Canada's largest used bookstore, Canada's most beautiful independent bookstore, two whole city blocks devoted to comic books and other cool stuff, Canada's oldest Chinatown, a beautiful Old Town, close to hiking, a giant, beautiful civic park, another long park on the south side of town running along the ocean for several kilometers, touristy things like a museum and tours of heritage sites, some shopping, a great local arts scene, a great local music scene, plenty of festivals throughout the year... Victoria!!!
posted by KokuRyu at 11:47 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Point no Point, about a half hour outside of Victoria, BC, is a great spot to unwind.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:01 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

We also loved Victoria (we took the seaplane from Seattle and it was the best).

Another time, we took a trip around the sound, which included a couple days in the rain forest (we stayed at the Lake Quinalt Lodge). On that trip, we also went to the San Juan islands and had a nice afternoon in Friday Harbor.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:16 PM on March 8, 2012

Victoria is great, but my recommendation is the dangerously underrated city of BOISE. It's cheap to stay (check Hotwire), food is fantastic, scenery is beautiful, lots of outdoor recreation if that's interesting to you. And it's just really fun. Victoria is almost as far away as Idaho when you add up all the boats (unless you go the expensive fast ferry route).
posted by zvs at 12:18 PM on March 8, 2012

(Although it's tough for 3 days. Better for 5.)
posted by zvs at 12:18 PM on March 8, 2012

Oh, and I missed your "not outdoorsy" comment, although it's a cool place for low-impact stuff too. You can walk out from downtown and see grazing elk.
posted by zvs at 12:19 PM on March 8, 2012

From Victoria, you can take a 35 minute ferry to Salt Springs Island--one of the gulf islands in BC. Salt Springs Island has amazing hiking and feels far, far away though it is actually pretty accessible from Western Washington (one hour ferry from Port Angeles, 35 minute ferry from Victoria--maybe have a night in Victoria for drinks and dinner?)

Salt Spring Island has a well-known hostel--Salt Spring Forest Retreat--that has gypsy caravan wagons for rooms and walks to the beach, with a short drive to the charming island town. We've done the Victoria/Salt Springs mini getaway (while living in Port Angeles) and really enjoyed it.
posted by rumposinc at 12:21 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is driving + a ferry ride okay? Because Orcas Island is one of my favorite places in the world. Rent a cabin with an outdoor hot tub, view of the water, and fire pit and spend most of your days just taking in the view, cooking tasty things over a fire, and soaking. I can even give you a recommendation of a specific cabin that meets all of those criteria. There's a main street with some great restaurants, bars and local shopping if you don't want to hole up in the cabin the whole time. If you're feeling lucky you can even hire a guy with a boat to take you out fishing for salmon or crabs or halibut.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:49 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I tend to think that if you're going to travel to Saltspring Island, you may as well go to one of the San Juans first, such as Orcas. Travelling all the way to Saltspring is not the most efficient use of your time, if you want to find out what the San Juan/Gulf Islands are all about.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:15 PM on March 8, 2012

If you were going to consider Coeur d'Alene, you should just head a bit farther north and go to Sandpoint Idaho! Think CDA but lots prettier and with more to do. I went there with a few girlfriends two years ago, and will likely go back soon with my significant other; lots of cute shops, galleries, very walkable, lots of wine tastings! We stayed in the Best Western (with a lakefront balcony) for $99 a night in early May, but I'm sure there are fancier/cuter/quainter lodgings if you'd prefer.

Oh! And how about Walla Walla? I haven't been myself but have heard good things about it.
posted by stellaluna at 1:21 PM on March 8, 2012

Doe Bay on Orcas Island.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:23 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Manitou Lodge between Forks and La Push.
posted by adamvasco at 1:37 PM on March 8, 2012

Port Townsend or Nearby Port Ludlow. Orcas Island is great, as is Lopez Island.

I'm gonna recommend La Conner, Washington, on the Swinomish Slough, not far from Whidbey island.

Drive over to the park at the north end of Whidbey Island and enjoy the views of Deception Pass from above and below. It's spectacular. And if you're lucky, the local Naval Air Station will throw in an air show.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:46 PM on March 8, 2012

Yachats, OR. You've been to lots of the Oregon coast, but I am recommending it on the off-chance you've passed it by. Arthur Frommer included it in his 10 favorite travel destinations recently, and it certainly qualifies as quaint. In addition to hotels/motels, there are a number of people who rent out vacation properties. The "downtown" area is tiny as can be and fun to just wander around. And there is a path that goes from town along the ocean to enjoy the beauty of the coast. For food, you must go to Luna Sea for freshly caught fish. Additionally, there is a wine retailer that has tastings of local beer and wine on many weekends.
posted by dormouse at 2:04 PM on March 8, 2012

- Some areas of the WA Peninsula (Port Townsend, Sequim)

Ooh, do expand your OlyPen wanderings further West and South. The most NorthWest point in the US also happens to be the most beautiful place in the world to me, Cape Flattery on the Makah Indian reservation. I also lurve Kalaloch out on the Western coast. Stay in a cozy little log cabin with your own wood stove, facing the water, and explore the beaches and rainforest during the day. Since you say you like off-peak-season, you could go out during the winter to storm watch.

Or go south on the eastern side of the OlyPen and experience some of the under-appreciated areas like Brinnon. You may find yourself driving through a herd of elk or with coyotes running along side your car (both have happened to me in this general area). There's lots of good hiking in that area (Murhut Falls, Ranger Hole, The Staircase), gorgeous mossy trees, clam and oyster digging (right now is the season!), and quaint and friendly local hangouts like The Halfway House diner and The Geoduck bar/grill.

I have a very specific suggestion for a place to stay if you care to visit Brinnon, memail me if interested.
posted by parrot_person at 4:52 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

P.S. You can enjoy the trails I mentioned without being much of a hiker. There are a lot of nice walks and drives to be had in the Brinnon area, and Cape Flattery has a series of boardwalks most of the way out to the cliffs, pretty easy walking for most people.
posted by parrot_person at 4:59 PM on March 8, 2012

I was coming in to suggest Point No Point (just outside of Sooke, where I grew up. Yay hometown!!), but I see that Blazecock Pileon beat me to it. Foiled again!

In that case, I'll just add that there is excellent geocaching all over southern Vancouver Island, especially out towards Sooke and the Western Communities. My Dad is a pretty hardcore geocacher (that sounds like an oxymoron....but isn't!), and there are some incredibly well done caches for all intensity levels all over the south island. Mefimail me if you end up deciding to head out that way and I'll send you some of his (and my) faves.

Not much to do/see in Sooke proper (though for natural beauty the coastline can't be beat), but Victoria is only about 40minutes away, and has all sorts of time-passing activities and the usual amenities of civilization.

Continuing on your island adventure, Tofino is also great, though a little too touristy for my liking. I'd recommend that if you're considering Tofino, but want a less overpriced and overrun locale with all the stunning natural beauty of Tofino, you should head 30 minutes down the road to Ucluelet. Loads of B&B's there to choose from, and a town filled with the nicest people you will ever meet.

This last suggestion is probably too far away to be feasible for a weekend or 3-day trip, but I can't leave it out because it is one of my favourite places on the planet: Strathcona Park Lodge is located halfway between Campbell River and Gold River and is just incredible. I can't think of a better place to run away from the world for a few days.

As you can see by this mammoth post, I'm incredibly homesick for Vancouver Island right now. (Stupid, ugly, Toronto just isn't cutting it right now....) I could go on and on and on about more incredible places on my incredible island, but I trust that no one wants to hear me blather.....
posted by Dorinda at 8:19 PM on March 8, 2012

Depending on your interests, a trip to the various places in Washington where Twin Peaks was filmed might be fun.
posted by ripley_ at 8:32 PM on March 8, 2012

Eugene, Oregon. I've had two recent brief stays and have loved every minute there. Great food and beer, very friendly people, no shortage of things to do, lots of walking options... Sad to say it took me 15 years of being in Portland to finally make it to Eugene!
posted by TomSophieIvy at 8:35 PM on March 8, 2012

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