We’re in northern Minnesota, enjoying the fall color on lovely Lake Vermillion (my ‘hometown’) but have been thinking fondly of our swing through Oregon and Washington in August. While we fell in love with the Oregon coast, we also thought Washington was amazing. We spent just about two weeks on the Olympic Peninsula, here’s our outline of where we stayed and what we did!
A quick note for newbies! My husband and I live full time with our basset hound in our 2004 Honda Odyssey Minivan that we converted into a campervan. Check out the conversion here!
Two Weeks on the Olympic Peninsula
I’ve plotted out where we stayed (purple icons) and fun things we did (orange icons) in the map below. If you would like more information, click the little white icon with the arrow in the upper left corner to open the legend or click the icon with the four ‘corners’ in the upper right corner to open the map in a new tab. You can also zoom, pan, etc., right on this page!
P.S. – if the map’s not showing, try hitting refresh!
Our First Stop — Ocean Shores, Washington
Our first long-term stay in Washington was on the coast about two hours north of Astoria, Oregon, which is right on the border between Washington and Oregon. We were accustomed to the more open road with lots of ocean views in Oregon. Washington, while very pretty, seemed a little more rural and the 101 runs inland quite a bit once you cross into the state.
Where we stayed in Ocean Shores, Washington
Our first ‘official’ stop was at the Quinault Casino in Ocean Shores, Washington (purple icon #1). We’d started staying at casinos while we were still in Oregon. Jeff and I are not really gamblers, but many casinos offer super-low cost overnight parking for RVers. The policy can be a bit hit or miss for those of us in vans (the distinction being if the rig has self-contained loo facilities). We’d had good luck… until the Quinault casino.
Initially we were pleased with the casino. The RV lot was pretty far away from the casino, but I kind of like that — easy to get in 10,000 steps a day if a round-trip bathroom trip takes 2,000 steps!! This was one of the nicest lots in our opinion — it was gravel, but it didn’t have the infernal floodlights that most casino lots have. The casino is on the beach and while there wasn’t a beach view, we could hear the waves roaring at night, which we love!
Plus the casino itself was really nice for non-gambling visitors. Here’s a rundown…
- Cost to stay – $5 a night Sunday – Thursday, $15 a night Friday and Saturday
- Restaurants – One dine in, one buffet, and a really nice lounge area near the hotel registration desk. It was part lobby, but there was a coffee counter too with a barista, good coffee and really, really good pastries! Plus the furniture was super comfy (big leather sofas) and there was a fireplace. And electrical outlets! There was also a couple bars and counter with quick-to-make food (burgers, sandwiches).
- Electricity, Wifi, and cell phone/data service – Good wifi in the lobby/coffee area with electrical outlets. The cell phone service was fine, but Verizon LTE was so-so in our van. It was enough to work and watch Netflix, although with a lot of buffering.
- Other fun stuff – for the month of August, there was live music every night in the full bar, which is fun if you like that kind of thing. We didn’t check it out. The dine-in-restaurant had a decent menu, but we didn’t eat there either! One offering we loved was that for $20 we could buy a 24 hour pass usable for both of us to the hot tub, swimming pool, and showers. Score!
- The beach and the buildings – the beach was just down a short path and pretty. There were cars driving right on the sand which was kind of fun. The casino was nice inside and didn’t smell too much like smoke, which is a relief for getting some work done.
- Free stuff – free coffee, no free water
What we did in Ocean Shores, Washington
We only stayed at Quinault a few days. We’d been planning to stay much longer to explore the west side of Olympic National Park with that as our base, but on our third day there a security guard abruptly kicked us out because we were a van, not an RV. It was disappointing because the setup was pretty great, and just a few hours before we were booted we’d been visited by the security folks who hadn’t said anything! While staying there we went out for dinner in Ocean Shores, which didn’t have a ton of options, and we explored up the coast a bit which was very pretty.
Once we headed out from Quinault we stopped by Lake Quinault (orange icon #1) which was gorgeous. It was very smoky when we were there, though, so we couldn’t even see all the way across the lake. We also stopped by Ruby Beach (orange icon #2) and drove through Forks (orange icon #3) which is the setting for the Twilight novels. I’d been looking forward to visiting Forks and La Push, just because of the fun movie tie-in, but we realized once we were in Washington that most of the movies were actually filmed in Oregon!
Ruby Beach was so worth the stop! It’s full of full tree trunk driftwood and the cool rocks right out in the ocean, there were probably tidepools as well, but we didn’t pick our way to them. The beach is dog friendly, which was nice to bring Peppermint (because what could be better than having a wet, sandy basset hound sitting on your bed?) and was really lovely. The hike from the lot to the beach is short — I think a quarter mile or so, but it’s a right down a hill, so a bit of an effort, although on a nice, smooth path.
Our Second Stop — Port Angeles, Washington
We weren’t sure where to head to once we were booted from the casino, it was the middle of a workday, so we just headed in the direction of our next planned stop, Port Angeles. Twilight fans will also remember Port Angeles as the town where Edward takes Bella out for Italian food and the girls shop for prom dresses.
Again, the movie Port Angeles bears no resemblance to the real Port Angeles.
Where we stayed in Port Angeles, Washington
After staying in Oregon, where most municipalities ban overnight parking, we were pleased that the Washington Walmarts were open for RVers and Vanlifers. In fact, they were so open, that we felt a little sketchy a few times, but overall it was fine. The Port Angeles Walmart (purple icon #2) is a 24-hour one, which is nice for late night loo trips. And the lot had some nice landscaping, which allowed for a bit of privacy. When we park for the night at Walmart, Jeff graciously parks in a way so that my side is on the ‘tree and bush side’ and he’s on the outside. Then I can slither in and out of the van and not worry about showing anything off! The Port Angeles Walmart also has one of those cute Washington tiny drive through coffee places right next door, which was nice for a few early morning meetings where I ended up just walking in circles in the parking lot in order to let Jeff sleep in a bit (the rest of my team is on the East Coast, so I had a lot of 7 a.m. meetings while out there!)
What we did in Port Angeles, Washington
Port Angeles is the ‘gateway to Olympic National Park’, so close to lots of great places to visit!
Cape Flattery (orange icon #4) is the most northwest point in the continental in the United States. The drive from Port Angeles to Cape Flattery is amazing, right along the coast with ocean views. Once we arrived, there was a hiking trail that’s around 1.5 miles round-trip and mostly boardwalk, so even though there’s a lot of uphill/downhill action, it’s not too bad. The views at the end are amazing and one of my favorite stops in the last six months.
We also explored the Olympic National Park a bit. We drove up to Sol Duc Hot Springs (orange icon #5) one day — the springs are super fun. It was $15 for each of us to soak, and the springs are the ‘built up’ kind where the water is coming out of the ground but the pools are cement. The water at Sol Duc is fairly hot (104 degrees or so), super full of minerals so feels slippery, and smells like sulphur. There was also a freshwater pool with much colder water that we weren’t brave enough to try. It was busy, but really beautiful to sit and soak surrounded by those giant pine trees!
On the way from Port Angeles to Sol Duc we passed Lake Crescent (orange icon #6), which is lovely as well – a long, narrow lake that winds through the mountains for over 10 miles. Most of the drive we were right next to the lake and loved it! After soaking in the hot springs we stopped to hike the Ancient Groves trail (orange icon #7) which is otherworldly. The trail is a short loop — less than a mile — but it winds through a grove of giant Hemlocks and Spruce and everything is covered with moss.
Another day we headed up to check out Hurricane Ridge (orange icon #8). We learned an accidental lesson on this visit — when heading out to the national parks that require the pass, leave early in the morning! On the day we went up to Hurricane Ridge, we just happened to be up and head out early and when we got to the pay station there were less than 10 cars ahead of us and we only had to wait for 15 minutes or so to get in. On the way out, the line of cars stretched for miles! Hurricane Ridge was breathtaking as well — a drive through the mountains to the visitor center where there are amazing views and some great trails — some of them paved!
The final Port Angeles ‘stop’ for us was a trip back down the coast to the Hoh Rainforest (orange icon #9).
I was super excited to drag Jeff out on this hike (not that he needed dragging). I’d visited Seattle 25 years ago to visit a friend in college and remembered the rainforest as a magical place, which is still is. Again the line of cars out on the way home stretched for miles, so if you’re planning a trip in to hike, leave early in the morning to beat the lines.
Our Third Stop — Sequim, Washington
Sequim (pronounced ‘skwimm’) has interesting weather for the Olympic Peninsula. Because of how the coast and mountains are situated, the area around Sequim is much more sunny and dry than the rest of the Peninsula. There were a couple clear sunny mornings where the view of the surrounding mountains was amazing!
Where we stayed in Sequim, Washington
We spent the last week or so of our Washington stay in and around Sequim at the Sequim Walmart (purple icon #3) as well as the nearby 7 Cedars Casino (purple icon #4).
I preferred the Sequim Walmart over the Port Angeles one, although Jeff felt the exact opposite. There was a Starbucks nearby — a 10-minute walk — so I had a source for my morning meeting coffee fix. LIke the Port Angeles one, the Sequim Walmart is 24 hour, so good for those late-night trips.
The 7 Cedars Casino is just outside of Sequim and had a few super nice touches, although we didn’t stay there much due to the poor cell service. Here’s a rundown.
- Cost to stay – Free for 3 nights, you just need to register at guest services
- Restaurants – One dine in that was new and pretty good with a farm to table vibe. There was also a more casual place with pizza, sandwiches and the like.
- Electricity, Wifi, and cell phone/data service – The wifi was fine in the casino, but there were NO places where I could sit AND charge my laptop, which made it a bit of a shuffle to work. I ended up finding a place where I could sit in a comfy armchair with my lap desk and plug in my other laptop across the lobby where I could watch it to make sure it was safe. Conversely, there was zero cell data or phone service where we were parking, so… that’s tough for us.
- The setting and the building – the casino lot was really, really pretty, right at the foot of a mountain with amazing landscaping. There was an outdoor patio area that was super pretty with a little footbridge over a little stream. The casino itself was just a regular casino, although the new restaurant was really nice. The inside was really on the smokey side, which made it unpleasant to work in.
- Free (and funky) stuff – no complimentary coffee OR water, which was a bummer. On the flip side, the casino had free electricity in all the parking lot lights and a couple additional places to plug in along the edge of the lot. One thing that was super annoying for me was that security didn’t allow me to have a backpack. At all. So, since I had to work inside (because no cell service outside) I had to carry in my laptop, notebook, planner, cords, etc. in my arms like a crazy person. I know that casinos aren’t optimized for digital nomads, but… super annoying.
What we did in Sequim, Washington
We hung around Sequim for about a week, and though there isn’t as much in the way of national parks, we really enjoyed the county parks around town!
Just a few miles from town is the Dungeness Spit, a 6 (or so) mile long strip of sand with a lighthouse in Dungeness Bay (orange icon #10). On the way to where the spit hiking trail is, there is a campground and some picnic areas on 100-foot high bluffs overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fucu with Canada just across the way. We had a picnic dinner there a few times. We also checked out the Railroad Bridge Park (orange icon #11) which is right in town with a great, paved walking/biking trail (the Olympic Discovery Trail). We also went hiking (and got lost) at Robin Hill Farm County Park (orange icon #12) which is a experimental farm with a ton of trails in an amazing forest. We love county parks!
We also checked out Port Townsend (orange icon #13) which is an adorable, super historic town way up on the tippy top of the Peninsula and a 30 minute drive from Sequim. There’s a ton of great restaurants, the cutest yarn shop I’ve ever visited, and a PIRATE SHOP where I got an adorable, floaty skirt with tie-up bustling. We visited an excellent used bookshop, had one of the best pizzas ever, and Peppermint got about 1,000 tummy rubs from her adoring public. Definitely plan on a stop in Port Townsend if you’re passing through!
One more stop on the way out in Snoqualmie National Forest
One last stop! When we headed east, we skipped the ferry for scheduling reasons, so drove the long way around through Tacoma and then out on highway 2. The scenery was amazing, making us think that we’d made a bad call in skipping Cascade National Park, but about 3.5 hours into our trip we stopped to stretch our legs at the absolutely amazing Deception Falls trail in Stevens Pass (orange icon #14). You can see the falls from the highway, but there’s also a 1/2 mile hiking loop that has some of the most amazing scenery we’d seen during our stay in Washington — giant trees, waterfalls, rocks, and crystal clear water. It was a total fluke that we stopped, but we’re so glad we did. Like Port Townsend, this is a must-stop if you’re nearby!
So that was our few weeks in the Olympic Peninsula! We’d originally thought we’d spend a bit of time in the Cascade National Park and to visit some of the places that are featured in Twin Peaks, one of my favorite shows — Snoqualmie Falls, North Bend, and Fall City. But when the beginning of September rolled around, Jeff in particular was jonesing for some of my mom’s midwest cooking, so we headed straight back to Minnesota. I’m looking forward to looping back around!
Have you spent any time in Washington? What are some must-visit spots?
Thanks, a great account of the trip. Visited some parts of what you describe here during my California-Seattle-California trip along Hwy 1 and 101 in July 2018. In a converted Honda Odyssey. A day does not go by that I don’t think of it.