Is there a Big Sur of Washington State?
October 8, 2014 4:29 AM   Subscribe

I'll soon be visiting Seattle for the first time, and I'd like to spend a couple of nights outside the city. I'm looking for must-see scenic, rural areas that are within a few hours' drive at most. As a frame of reference, my favorite area of California and possibly the U.S. is Big Sur. What areas of Washington should I consider?

Currently considering Whidbey Island. Not planning to hike or participate in any formal outdoor activities, but primarily looking for a pretty, isolated place to unwind and stare at nature.
posted by iamisaid to Travel & Transportation around Washington (17 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Head up to Anacortes and take the ferry to Friday Harbor, then make your way to the west side of the island to Lime Kiln Park.
posted by Poldo at 4:48 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Big Sur of Washington is probably the beaches and rain forest on the west side of the peninsula in Olympic National Park. You drive north from Seattle to Edmonds, take the ferry to Kingston and then drive around. It's not too long of a drive, but may be beyond your definition of a "few" hours. It's the off season so it should be relatively easy to find a place to stay in Forks or Port Angeles or one of the National Park lodges. It has been unseasonably warn and sunny so far this October, but unfortunately there's a good probability that it will be rainy the entire time you're there.
posted by sevenless at 6:10 AM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Ruby Beach is about 3.5 hours away, and is one of my favorite places, in a similar way to Big Sur.
posted by Nothing at 6:12 AM on October 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also the area around Crescent Lake.
posted by Nothing at 6:12 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Orcas Island.
posted by matildaben at 6:59 AM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ruby Beach and environs are fantastic. The west side of San Juan Island (Friday Harbor) is fantastic, and I'm sure Orcas is great too, but I haven't been. This time of year and later they'll both be pretty deserted unless it's a weekend and the weather is fantastic. They're both a minimum of three hours away from Seattle if you have optimal conditions and you move quickly. They're all totally worth the trip. The question then is how isolated you want to be. Orcas and San Juan are relatively small neighboring islands with enough permanent population that you can get back to town pretty quick and get a nice dinner and stay at a nice hotel. Ruby Beach and environs are totally desolate for miles, although there is a small hotel a bit south with a competent seeming restaurant, and Forks isn't too far away. But I don't have anything good to say about Forks so far.

With a week off coming shortly I will go to one or the other area, if not both.
posted by wotsac at 7:08 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Quinault Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula is what you're looking for.
posted by mmiddle at 7:42 AM on October 8, 2014

Try La Push.
posted by oxisos at 8:02 AM on October 8, 2014

Whidbey is not the coast. It's hours from anything similar to Big Sur.

I live on the Olympic Peninsula and I agree, Ruby Beach is probably the closest thing. I highly recommend spending a couple of nights at Oceanside Resort at La Push.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:32 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Any of the San Juan Islands, including Orcas. Here's a photo I took on the ferry as I was leaving Orcas a couple years ago.

If you're going from Seattle, drive north to Whidbey Island (you'll take a ferry from the mainland to Whidbey). Then drive up the entire length of the island to Deception Pass. That is where you will definitely find the Big Sur of Washington. Continue past Deception to Anacortas and then take the ferry to any of the islands.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:36 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding (or maybe fourthing by now) La Push. Also Kalaloch/Ruby Beach. The ocean is definitely a good thing to stare at in terms of beautiful nature.

Whidbey, while it has many beautiful things (I live on Whidbey), is not up there with La Push or Kalaloch.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 11:27 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Closer to Seattle than the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula, the hike from the Sol Duc hot springs through the big-tree forest and up into the alpine meadows above is stunning.
posted by benbenson at 12:32 PM on October 8, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. Would Anacortes be a better home base than Whidbey for day-trips to some of the other destinations mentioned here? It looks like it's about a 1.5 hour drive from Seattle.
posted by iamisaid at 2:28 PM on October 8, 2014

The places described here really won't all work from one base. Anacortes wouldn't really be the best choice for any of them. If you'd like to go to the San Juans, stay out there. If you want to see the coast, then stay out there. If you'd like to stay on Whidbey, Langley is a good choice.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:42 PM on October 8, 2014

Day trips to the San Juans (or, maybe a San Juan, just pick one) or Whidbey Island are certainly doable from Anacortes. Get an early start since the days are getting shorter.

I'd also say that Whidbey Island and the San Juans are very nice and you won't be disappointed, but for my time and money if you have to choose they aren't the coast (Ruby Beach, 2nd Beach, Hoh rain forest, etc.) by a fair bit.
posted by sevenless at 4:03 PM on October 8, 2014

It's about a 1.5 hour north to Chuckanut Drive. And hey! As I was looking up photos, I learned that it's called "Washington's Big Sur!" Nearby Fairhaven is a nice place to walk about and pick up lunch.
posted by MrBobinski at 5:43 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I travel the area quite often and I heartily recommend the area near LaPush, Forks, Kalaloch. Do inquire with Kalaloch Lodge re their seasonal specials. They are now in the post-Labour Day low season, and the prices for the lodging have dropped significantly.

THAT is a good home base to be traveling from - your cabin will be on a little cliff overlooking a beautiful miles-long beach, and the nearby beaches - LaPush's 1st, 2nd, 3rd beach, Mora beach, Ruby beach, beautiful South beach and the low tide treasures (tide pools, starfish) at 4th beach will only be a hop-skip away. Tired of the surf? Then go visit Hoh national forest, another gem with moss-covered branches and millenary trees rising far up into the sky. Don't miss the sunsets at Kalaloch they are spectacular.

Anacortes, on the other hand... too far away from the Pacific. Sure Whitby is pretty, and so is Lummi Island (check out the restaurant there, if you are so inclined to visit Lummi, for an absolutely amazing 5-star experience) but these locations are inside Puget Sound. Go to the Pacific for your Big Sur-like experience.

Enjoy the big waves, the long tides, the treasures in the tidepools. And if Kalaloch is full, then also look at Lake Quinault Lodge, a historic lodge only 45 mins South of Kalaloch, which was once a hunting lodge used by Presidents. Spectacular architecture, worth the detour.
posted by seawallrunner at 5:48 PM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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