PNW Weekender: 3 Awesome Summer Day Trips

mount erie, anacortes wa | kaleandcompass

We’ve been going on a lot of day trips this summer, logging a lot of miles in our little black VW golf ✌🏼 and seeing all the sights. I just love the freedom of hopping in the car early in the morning and hitting the road.

Before Nick and I lived in Seattle, we didn’t own a car. We lived in Boston and San Francisco, so parking was always such a headache and it never made sense to own a car. Once we moved to Seattle, our apartment came with a parking spot. It was about six months living here with that empty spot before we caved and purchased our first vehicle and I can’t remember what our lives were like without it!

Three great day trips we’ve done this summer:

Port Townsend, WA

Port Townsend, WA is a beautiful and beachy seaside town with amazing views of the Olympic mountain range. It’s one of the only remaining towns in the U.S. with classic Victorian architecture still intact. It’s on the Olympic Peninsula and about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Seattle. You can take a ferry to get there, from Edmonds, or you can drive the long way around, south of Seattle and past Olympia, WA.

The farmers market (Saturday’s from 9am-2pm) had beautiful produce and great weekend vibes. It was super hot when we were there in June, and I’d love to see this place during the rainy season.

The downtown is really cute and quaint, especially because of the architecture, and made for a really nice lazy Saturday stroll up and down the street window-shopping.

We had some great pizza at Hillbottom Pie (the pepperoni was delicious and rich!) and cooled off with some drinks at an underground bar called Cellar Door. Try the switchel if you go there! I loved this bar right off the bat because of its reference to Donnie Darko.

Their food co-op is also amazing! They had more package-free products than I’ve ever seen — including laundry detergent, liquid dish soaps and detergents, sooo many oils and vinegars and tahini in bulk, too! Love, love, love.

The drive home — we took the long way back sans ferry — yielded the most beautiful sunset views of Rainier I’ve ever seen, and it made me fall in love with this state all over again.

Anacortes, WA & Mount Erie

We wanted to hike the trail up to the top of Mount Erie, just outside Anacortes, but the directions were a bit confusing and we ended up hiking a slightly different trail near the mountain. The trail was called Sugarloaf trail, though when we got to the trailhead we quickly realized these trails went by numbers instead of names. Easy enough though, Nick took a photo of the large map at the TH and off we went on our way.

I highly recommend taking a photo of this map because the trails do weave in and out of each other both ways. We took trail 215 up most of the way, then crossed over onto trail 238 up to the lookout. This route wasn’t so steep or difficult.

We had snacks and enjoyed an overcast view of the San Juan islands and the side of Mount Erie while we ate.

On the way back down, we walked trails 238 to 226 to 225 and then finally back to 215. The hike took a couple hours, and we logged about 2-3 miles.

After we finished up that hike, we got back in the car and drove 🙂 to the top of Mount Erie. There was adequate parking for half a dozen cars at the very top. At that point in the day, the sun had broken through the clouds and we got some beautiful views of the surrounding farmlands, Heart Lake and the San Juan islands. It’s a lovely little mountain and not too busy either — especially for a Sunday!

We ate some well-deserved fish and chips and shared a small flight of beer at Rock Fish Grill and Anacortes Brewery (my kind of one-stop-shop!). Afterwards, we kicked around Anacortes for a bit before heading back home. Anacortes is another sleepy and beautiful town that was fun to explore. The ferries to the San Juan islands leave from Anacortes, making it a great destination for locals and tourists alike. It was very quiet when we stopped by on a Sunday afternoon.

Bellingham, WA, Sudden Valley & Stimpson Nature Reserve

I really love Bellingham and if I wasn’t living in Seattle, I’d definitely want to live here. It’s a smaller town feel compared to Seattle and they’ve got a very relaxed atmosphere. Bellingham is called “the city of subdued excitement” and it’s a spot-on description.

Since it’s only an hour and a half drive north of Seattle, straight up I-5, it’s a perfect destination for a day-trip. Before heading into town, we stopped at a nearby trail that borders the Sudden Valley neighborhood of Bellingham.

Stimpson Nature Reserve was another great trail without too much foot traffic. It’s just under three miles round trip and almost the entire loop is covered by dense trees.

While I love hiking up to great views of mountain and ocean vistas, there is something truly calming about meandering along a cool tree-covered trail. It puts me at ease, it makes me feel at home. This makes perfect sense, now that I’ve read Michael Finkel’s book The Stranger in the Woods. (More on that in an upcoming post!)

After our hike in the nature reserve, we shared a delicious burger and fries at Brandywine Kitchen in downtown Bellingham. I also did some brief grocery shopping at their local co-op, which was voted Bellingham’s best grocery story. I can attest to that — it was amazing!

In review:

Looking to travel north of Seattle for a quick day trip? Anacortes gets you pretty darn close to the San Juan islands and it’s got an island-feel without actually being an island. Bellingham is a great little town if you’re looking for a smaller version of Seattle with great beer and food.

If you want to check out the Olympic Peninsula, west of Seattle, take the ferry to Port Townsend. But take the long way home, especially if the sun is setting on a clear summer night — you’ll get awesome views of Mt Rainier.

All three towns have great co-ops where you can get so many awesome package-free and bulk items. Anacortes doesn’t have as big of a bulk section as Port Townsend and Bellingham.

What’s your favorite day trip destination outside of Seattle? I’d love to know!

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PNW Weekender: 3 Awesome Summer Day Trips