Seattle is a city truly blessed in natural attractions. Downtown overlooks the Puget Sound, with views that run the gamut of the best of nature – beautiful trees, lakes, islands, and snow capped mountain ranges. There is so much to explore within the city itself, but I believe the true wealth of this city, is in the landscapes and small communities you can easily escape to on a day trip from Seattle. Seattle, at the heart of Washington State, has something for everyone. This carefully curated list of the 22 best day trips from Seattle will take you on abundant adventures, have you basking in epic scenery, and exploring charming towns. Did I mention boutique shopping, and delicious dining?!
The accessibility of these incredible day trips is what really makes them. Within an hour or twos drive (or ferry ride), you can leave the city behind, and escape to complete wilderness, nature truly at its best. I spent two summers in Seattle, simply exploring. So you get to benefit from all of my adventures – here’s the best of the best. This is a great list for tourists and locals alike. Locals – get out and enjoy what’s in your backyard. It’s simply incredible!
All of the distances mentioned below are calculated from downtown Seattle. While most of these are road trips, there are a few that also via ferry, for part or all of the journey.
If you’re coming from out of town, renting a car will offer you the most flexibility to explore. If you’re only in town for a short time, or are not comfortable driving, then are some tour options below also.
Distance from Seattle: 47 mi
If you’re short on time, or not up to a real hiking adventure, Snoqualmie Falls is the perfect day trip to get you out the city quickly, and immersed in the stunning Seattle bush, with little effort. Snoqualmie Falls is less than an hours drive from downtown Seattle, and the upper viewing deck is a short walk from the carpark. If you want to extend yourself, you can do a short hike down to the base of the falls. I highly recommend it – it’s a great and very pretty walk, and viewing the falls from below gives you a completely different perspective.
If you’ve got time, there’s so MUCH MORE to do around the Falls, to extend your trip into a real day trip.
Deception Pass & Whidbey Island
Distance from Seattle: 83 mi
Deception Pass is the destination, but Whidbey Island is the route!
Deception Pass State Park is a hugely popular destination for PNW tourists and locals alike, and I think the experience of visiting the park is improved by driving there via Whidbey Island. Whidbey Island sits in the Puget Sound, and is home to an eclectic mix of people. Touring the island It really feels as if you’ve stepped back in time. Choose where you want to stop and explore, then continue on to the beautiful park that is Deception Pass.
For all the details on how to get there, and the best things to see and do, read this article: A Day Trip Guide to Deception Pass Park.
Distance from Seattle: 118 miles
Before moving to Seattle, I met a ‘local’ in New Zealand and asked her what her top list of things to do in Seattle were. Leavenworth was number 1.
If overseas travel is not possible or comfortable for you right now, a trip to Leavenworth could be just your ticket. It’s an alpine village, modeled on Bavaria.
Wander the Bavarian architecture, then take a break and eat and drink your way through German foods, to complete the Bavarian experience. It’s all quite surreal.
Depending on when you visit, you can also be immersed into a Bavarian cultural experience or festival. In my opinion, there is none better than Christkindlmarkt. Winter and Christmas is a simply magical time to visit Leavenworth. (But even if you can’t make it then, there’s still an incredible Christmas shop, that will bring on all the feels the instant you enter it (Kris Kringl).)
But wait – there’s more. As beautiful as Leavenworth is, it’s the journey getting there that is as much as a destination. It’s simply stunning.
If you can’t drive yourself there, then consider this tour.
Distance from Seattle: 21 mi (plus a ferry ride)
Poulsbo is another super quaint harbour town, that narrowly missed being part of my Top 5 Small Towns in Washington round-up.
In the 1880’s, a community of Norwegians settled in Poulsbo, because Liberty Bay, with views of the snow capped Olympic Mountains to the west reminded them of home and the fjords of Norway. That’s how beautiful Poulsbo is!
Proud of its Norwegian heritage, there’s a definite Norwegian theme evident as you wander the bespoke shops, galleries and eateries. One of the most famous in town is Sluys Bakery, where you’ll be able to purchase the infamous Poulsbo Bread (inspired by a Bible passage), alongside traditional Norwegian specialties such as Cardamom Bread, Pepparkakor and Fattigmand. PS. They have good donuts too! If food is your thing, you’ll not want to miss Boehms Chocolates!
After you’ve wandered the shops, and eaten to your hearts content, how about visiting the Maritime Museum, to learn more about how the sea has played an integral part in this areas history.
Distance from Seattle: Three hour ferry or 45 minute float plane
Isn’t it incredible to think that you can easily escape into Canada, for just a day trip? And not just Canada, but probably one of Canada’s prettiest cities, that’s actually very English like.
And best of all, getting there is an incredibly beautiful part of your experience. You can travel by ferry or float plane, or make it the best of both worlds, and use the ferry one way, and the float plane the other.
Victoria is a very walkable city, with some key attractions. For all the details on how to make your best day trip plan check out Seattle to Victoria B.C. | your guide to the ultimate weekend getaway.
Mt Rainier National Park
Distance from Seattle: 86 mi
Mt Rainier is an absolute Seattle icon, and whether or not you can view ‘her’ today is a constant source of Seattle’ites’ conversation!
She sits proudly in Mount Rainier National Park, the tallest peak in the Pacific Northwest, at more than 14,000 feet. Mt Rainier National Park is a 369 square mile reserve, that is simply chokka full of incredible trails, vistas, meadows, waterfalls and glaciers. It is truly awe inspiring country, and I loved every second of each and every one of the hikes we did in the park.
For an easy day trip, I’d highly recommend the Naches Peak trail, as one that delivers incredible scenery, but is doable and accessible for most. There are a great range of other easy hikes that can be done from Paradise, which is also home to the Park’s main Visitor Centre.
North Cascades National Park
Distance from Seattle: 110 mi
If natural beauty is your thing, then a day trip to the North Cascades National Park has to be at the top of your list. The North Cascades Range are a rugged mountain range that traverse the border of British Columbia (Canada) and Washington State. There is much to see and do in this area, but a perfect day trip option would be to visit the breathtaking blue waters of both Ross and Diablo Lakes. There are perfect small day hikes around these areas, or simply head to one of the lookout areas with a picnic, and spend time just absorbing all you see in front of you.
If you have time to make a weekend of it, drive a little further to Winthrop
These are all ‘summer’ activities off Highway 20, which is closed in the depths of winter.
Olympic National Park
Distance from Seattle: 100 mi incl. ferry (to Hurricane Ridge)
Doing the Olympic National Park as a day trip from Seattle is really not doing it justice, but when you don’t have a huge amount of time, sometimes that’s just how it is.
It’s going to be a long day, but if you make the most of Seattle’s ferries, you’ll be able to shorten the driving.
Olympic National Park is probably most famous for its rainforests and beautiful beaches, but as a kiwi, I’ve grown up in these landscapes, and that wasn’t what appealed to me. I had seen a friend’s photos from Hurricane Ridge, and that was what top of my list.
It didn’t disappoint! After a short but steep 1.7 mi hike to the Ridge, we were rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views that literally spanned from the US to Canada! In one direction we were looking over the Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands, and up to Vancouver Island. Behind us was layers and layers of the Olympic Mountains.
If you have time, there are some other short hikes you can do around here, and/or head to Port Townsend to explore the area a little more.
If you’re not self-driving, consider this day tour to Olympic National Park.
Skagit Valley & La Connor
Distance from Seattle: 68 mi
Mention Skagit Valley to a Seattle local, and it’s probably tulips that come first to mind. In April each year, millions of tulips burst into bloom, and mark the beginning of the The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.
Not as famous as the tulips, but still simply stunning and worth a day trip, are the daffodil fields, which bloom in March. Both festivals are driving tours, so you really get to see the best of all of this beautiful countryside.
In season, there’s also the opportunity for u-pick apples, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries from local farms.
When you’ve had enough of driving, head into La Connor to experience another one of Washington’s most charming towns. And if you’re not tripping up this way when these flowers are blooming, it’s still a place worth visiting. For the crafty girls, there’s the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum. For those who love the sea, you can wander the fishing village, or head out for an adventure on the water. And of course, there’s plenty of delicious places to eat and drink in La Connor.
San Juan Island
Distance from Seattle: Drive to Anacortes 81 mi, then ferry.
A day trip is a great way to get a little taste of the San Juan Islands. Three of the 172 islands are serviced by ferries, with San Juan Island being the largest. The ferry ride is truly an experience that is part of the journey, and you’ll often see whales en route.
You’ll arrive into Friday Harbor, a busy harbor town where you could quite easily find a spot on the waterfront and just people watch. If you want to be a little more adventurous, head out on a whale watching tour, or pick a couple of options on the Scenic Byway and explore by car, moped or bus. Trust me, whatever you choose, you’ll have a fabulous day escaping the reality of big city life.
Distance from Seattle: 35 minute ferry ride
A short ferry ride from downtown Seattle, and you’re transported to the upmarket rustic charm of island life. This is a small island with a big heart, encapsulated in a place of gorgeous natural beauty.
From the ferry, you can walk to the main township of Winslow – and easily spend the day here enjoying the boutique shops, the new Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, or the tasting facilities from three of the wineries on the island.
If you want to be a little more adventurous, you have options to get out on the water, hire a bike, or jump on the Bi-Ride (the islands local bus – just $2). If you don’t have a car, jump on the bus, and make the Blodel Reserve a priority. It’s in the most incredible setting, and is just beautiful.
Read more ideas here for your Bainbridge Island day trip.
Mt St. Helens
Distance from Seattle: 98 miles
Are you thinking, I know that name?? You probably do! In 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted – it was the deadliest and most devastating volcanic event in US history. 57 seven people lost their lives, and much of the surrounding area was severely impacted in one way or another. Even the elevation of Mt St Helens reduced dramatically, as an earthquake triggered a debris avalanche.
Although it’s thought further eruptions are probable, Mt St Helens is still a popular hiking destination. Personally, I think visiting the Visitor Centre is a much wiser option. Although it’s 30 miles away from the mountain, it offers a fabulous view of the Western slope of the mountain. There’s a fascinating video to watch in the theatre, and a ton of displays to educate you on the area before, during and after the eruption. It all makes sobering watching, but is an important part of America’s history.
Note: at the time of writing the visitor centre is closed – if you’re intending to visit please check.
If you want to get closer to the mountain, the Johnstone Ridge Observatory is another option.
Here’s a day tour option if you’d like to join a group tour.
Distance from Seattle: 90 mi
Bellingham is a university city (Western Washington) that is just 21 miles south of the Canadian border (Vancouver). It’s the gateway to both the Mt Baker ski area (east), and Chuckanut Drive (south). So it’s a city that is often just driven through en route to your actual destination.
BUT – it is actually a fabulous destination in its own right. We made a day trip to Bellingham to explore Whatcom Falls Park. It is an absolutely stunning park (241 acre), that offers easy trails and fabulous views – all with little effort. What’s not to love right!
There are lots of other options for getting outdoors, and when you’ve spent enough time exploring the great outdoors, you can head into town to make the most of the cities emerging craft beer industry. Couple this with a great music scene, and you’ve got the makings of a great day and evening.
If you happen to be in town on the 1st or 3rd Saturday of the month, it’d be remiss of me not to let you know to head to the Dockside Market, where you can literally pick up the catch of the day from local fisherman. Nom nom, nothing beats fish that fresh!
Distance from Seattle: 11 mi
The beautiful city of Bellevue sits east of Lake Washington, and makes for an easy day trip from Seattle. There’s lots of ways you can spend a day in Bellevue. The Bellevue Art Museum is the city’s biggest attraction – it hosts a huge range of events, big and small, to engage everyone in the family.
The Bellevue Botanical Gardens are a beautiful way to spend an hour, or for something a little different, wander the wooden boardwalks at the Mercer Slough Nature Park – a 320 acre wetland. Or head for a swim at the Newcastle Beach Park.
Although these are all great reasons to visit Bellevue, it is Bellevue Square that brings me back on a fairly consistent basis (eek!). It is one of my favorite places to shop in Seattle. With over 200 stores, and a range of eateries, it’s a great place to go if you just want it all in one spot. And if you’ve had enough of being inside, you can extend your shopping to the downtown shopping district. If like me, you love dessert, I highly recommend FogRose Atelier – either for afternoon (make sure you book), or stop in for cocktails and dessert!
Distance from Seattle: 44 mi
Gig Harbor is one of the quaintest little seaside towns you could wish to visit, and just narrowly missed entry into my Top 5 Most Charming Small Towns in Washington.
Driving to Gig Harbor you’ll have to head over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge – which has a very interesting history! (look it up!)
If you love boutique shops, and bespoke eateries, you’ll love the little township of Gig Harbor. It’s a beautiful place to wander. It’s even better if you love the water – you can rent a kayak and head out and enjoy it, or simply grab a take out coffee and go and watch others enjoying it.
If you have a taste for something stronger, try the Espresso Martini at HDC instead of your regular coffee!! Visit Heritage Distilling Co (HDC) – their waterfront spot contains a distillery, tasting room and retail space. They have great ‘flight’ options for their liqueurs, and a delicious cocktail menu (just saying!).
Distance from Seattle: 21 miles
Who knew that Seattle had its own wine growing region right?! I’m not sure why it’s not widely known, as Woodinville is home to over 130 wineries! Personally, I’m not a huge wine drinker, but I still get a lot of joy out of visiting wineries. The countryside and climate that suits grape growing is usually pretty gorgeous, and the wineries themselves are often housed in architectural or unique buildings. Woodinville fits this typecast well!
Find a sober driver, then head to Woodinville to start exploring. You may choose wineries based on the types of wines they specialise in, or just from how they look. One of the oldest and largest in the area is Chateau Ste. Michele – alongside their winery business, they run a range of different ‘experiences’, and host large events.
If you’ve had enough wine, head to Woodinville Whisky Co for a change of taste. Then finish off your day with an ice cream from the new Swanky Scoop.
Everett incl. Boeing Factory
Distance from Seattle: 30 mi
Everett is world renowned as the home of the Boeing Factory. Or perhaps that’s Seattle. But one of the Boeing Factories does just happen to be in Everett.
Whether or not you’re into planes, touring the factory is definitely a unique Seattle experience. This assembly facility (Boeing has two in Seattle, and several around the States), is the largest building by volume in the WORLD! The scale of things is difficult to grasp until you are actually in there and see it. And learning how they build a jumbo jet is truly fascinating. This is a day trip for locals and international tourists alike.
But if you’re making the effort to head to Everett, and have time before or after your tour, there’s more to see in Everett than just Boeing.
You could check out Everett’s secret beach – Jetty Island. The Port of Everett is another great option to wander – you’ll be surprised at how much there is to see as you wander the largest public marina on the West Coast.
Apparently, the Funko Headquarters Retail Store in Everett is another international attraction, but that’s probably for a younger generation than I fit!
Distance from Seattle: 75 mi
Chuckanut Drive is infamous in Seattle, yet I talked to so many locals who hadn’t actually driven it!
It’s a 21 mile route that travels from just south of Bellingham to Burlington. It’s Washington’s original scenic byway.
In places the road is narrow and twisty, but the views are fantastic, and there are plenty of places to pull off the road, so you can really take in all you’re seeing.
There are a couple of key stops on the drive – the first being Larrabee State Park. The park is on the seaward side of Chuckanut Mountain, and offers postcard views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. If you want to make a weekend of it, you can camp here – there’s great boating, fishing, or quiet little beaches to enjoy.
The other stop is The Oyster Bar, a seafood restaurant that lucked in for location! This is your place for a truly special meal with incredible views. For a night to remember, book yourself in for a sunset dinner.
Depending on which way you drive, if you have time, the wee town of Fairhaven (near Bellingham) is another great place to explore. It’s known for its Victorian-era red-brick architecture – which adds so much character to your shopping experience.
You could head back on the I-5 to drive home, but personally, I recommend doubling back – you’ll see different things on the route going the other way. It’s too beautiful to not!
Distance from Seattle: 185 mi
Winthrop is another one of those little towns, where the journey to get there is so much a part of the actual experience. The most scenice route is via Highway 20, beyond Diablo and Ross Lakes. It’s not a trip you can make in winter as that part of the Highway will be closed, so make sure you plan this ahead in season.
And I will confess that this is probably more of an overnighter than a day trip – it’s doable as a day trip, but far too beautiful a journey to let it blur by.
Arriving into Winthrop you’ll wonder if you’ve stepped back in time. To the 1850’s! This is a wild west town, so grab your boots and your Stetson before you head out the door!
This tiny little town with a population of just 500 punches well above its weight. Start your day with coffee at the Rocking Horse Bakery. Wander around the local shops, then head down by the river for the best views. Later in the day, plan for a meal at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery, and then head through the swinging saloon bars at Three Fingered Jack’s Saloon, rumuored to be the oldest legal saloon in WA.
There’s so much to do in town, I haven’t even started on the incredible outdoor activities there are around the area. Winthrop sits in the Okanogan National Forest – get out there and enjoy it!
Distance from Seattle: 28 mi including ferry ride
Port Gamble is a historic old lumber town, that sits on the shores of the Kitsap Peninsula. It’s a fabulous place for a day trip, if you like exploring quaint and pretty environments. In fact, it was Port Gamble that started my love of dahlias. In front of the information centre is the most beautiful dahlia garden, filled with a myriad of varieties. I was in awe checking out the perfection in each flower.
This is not the only place you’ll see Dahlias in town, you’ll also be able to purchase them at the Dahlia cart. As you wander the town, I’m sure you’ll love the beautiful old wooden homes, the antique shops and the interesting treasure you might just find in the old fashioned general store. We loved eating at Butcher & Baker – a beautiful farmhouse restaurant, butchery and bakery. Make sure you check it out!
Of course, there are lots of options to get out on the water if you so desire. For something a little different, it’s a quick detour to drive over the Hood Canal Bridge. The Hood Canal Bridge is over a mile long, and is in fact the third longest floating bridge in the world. In the centre it has a retractable pontoon, that opens to a 600 ft clearance for marine traffic. Drive across the bridge and you’re on the Olympic Peninsula. If you do decide to do this, just make sure you’re not in a hurry, because if the bridge does ‘open’ for boats, it can be closed to cars for up to 45 minutes.
Distance from Seattle: 33 miles
Tacoma is a large port city that sits south of Seattle. It’s had an interesting history, but today is revitalised and is a great place to head to for a day trip. Downtown is home to a lively theatre district, alongside a couple of great Museums (Museum of Glass & The Washington State History Musuem ). For car enthusiasts, you’ll love the America’s Car Museum. It really is a city you can expand your mind in.
If you need some fresh air after all that history, head to Point Defiance Park There’s so much to do here. Head off on a trail, visit the beautiful gardens, or go to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. And if you’re not museum’d out, there’s also the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum.
Whew – it’s going to be a big day in Tacoma!
Distance from Seattle: 30 mi
Renowned for its collection of antique shops, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Snohomish is an easy and fabulous day trip from Seattle.
The Downtown Historic District is a charming place to wander – which is why it was included in my Top 5 Most Charming Small Towns in Washington. Alongside the antique shops, are bespoke boutiques, craft shops and plenty of great options for food and drinks. The town plays hosts to many different festivals throughout the year – so check out their calendar of events.
It’s also the beginning of the Centennial Trail – a 30 mile long paved multi-use trail that goes north to Skagit County. We made a great day of it riding the trail, eating fresh blackberries all along the way, reveling in the different landscapes and areas we passed.
Distance from Seattle: 18 mi
Edmonds is possibly best known as the ferry gateway to Kingston and the Kitsap Peninsula. It serves this route well, but is a really pretty city in its own right, and definitely worth a day trip from Seattle.
One of the biggest days in the Edmonds’ calendar is the Edmonds Art Festival, held over three days over Father’s Day weekend in June. It’s huge (over 75,000 visitors), and I can attest that it’s a great event. I’ve also attended the Taste of Edmonds Food Festival in August – if you love food, it’s another fab day out.
The downtown Edmonds area is another cute town to wander, with some gorgeous shops and buildings. Continue wandering to the waterfront area, where you’ll likely see scuba divers entering the water heading to the Edmonds Underwater Park. (If you’re a diver, you may want to join them!) The Underwater Park is a marine conservation area and bird sanctuary, established in 1970. Apparently it’s pretty beautiful under there!
So – now all you have to do is start working your way through this list! What kind of activity and or landscape do you like best? Will you be heading to the most charming towns like Winthrop and Snohomish, heading to Tacoma for a culture fix, or to Mt Rainier for its incredible mountain landscape and hikes? Wherever you go, I’d love you to pop back here and let us know how you enjoyed it.