I’m thrilled to be writing my first blog post for Vacations by Dori!
I decided to become a travel advisor to share my passion for travel and trip planning with friends, family, and hopefully many new clients! I want this blog to be a place where I can share with you destinations that I love and things I have learned from planning hundreds of personal trips.
So to jump right in, this first blog is going to focus on one of my favorites – the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
I first visited this magical place just last summer in July 2021. After my sister’s wedding in Portland, we drove up to spend a couple of nights in the Olympic Peninsula before flying out of Seattle for a 10-day trip to Alaska. As a national park enthusiast, my main draw was to Olympic National Park. However, I couldn’t resist making a quick stop in Forks and La Push for some Twilight nostalgia. As my teenage daughter’s shirt says, “Team Edward (unless Jacob is shirtless)”.
As I began researching the area around the national park, I started to notice that there were several lavender farms that popped up on the map. Apparently, Sequim, Washington is the “Lavender Capital of North America”. Visions of fragrant, never-ending fields of purple flowers popped into my head, and Sequim was quickly added to the must-see list. I also knew that we wanted to take a ferry across Puget Sound to see the Seattle skyline on our way to the airport.
Not wanting to overload the trip, I used this as a basic outline of what we wanted to see in our short two-day time frame. I decided to book a chain hotel in Sequim for the first night, and the Log Cabin Resort inside Olympic National Park for the second night.
It was a late Sunday afternoon when we started making the drive up to Sequim from Portland. The sun was shining, and it was a pleasant, uneventful drive up I-5 to Olympia. I love a good road trip, and I was happy to leave the interstate for the small two-lane 101 that would take us up the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula to Sequim. As we started driving through the towering evergreens, peeks of the water from Hood Canal could be seen between the tree breaks. I don’t really know what I thought the Olympic Peninsula was going to look like. Sure, I had done my research. I knew there would be mountains in the national park. I knew the Pacific Ocean was to the west, and I was looking forward to seeing those purple lavender fields. I was not expecting the beauty of the drive around the 101.
The quaint little towns with mom-and-pop restaurants, the little wooden houses perched on the narrow bank between the road and the water, the fog rolling off the Olympic Mountains when the road dipped inland. It was all breathtaking. I remember feeling relaxed and curious about this new place. I even said out loud “I could live here” as we came around one particularly scenic town with people out and about enjoying the local ice cream shop.
By the time we made our way up the 101 to Sequim, it was late evening and the sun had already set behind the Olympic Mountains. Our stay at the Quality Inn & Suites at Olympic National Park was clean, friendly, and in a good location to explore the lavender farm the next morning. No frills, but a pleasant place to rest after the drive.
We started our day the next morning early. We had a lot to see, and the lavender farm opened at 9:00. After a modest breakfast at the hotel, we drove the short distance to B&B Lavender Farm. The farm was absolutely delightful with long rows of different types of lavender set to the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains. The farm offers free information tours including a trip to the barn where you can see the lavender hanging from the ceiling to dry. The smell is heavenly. There is also a gift shop where you can buy handmade gifts. We fell in love with the lip lube and Shoo Fly bug spray. We also sampled the lavender lemonade, which was very refreshing after our tour. I would highly recommend a stop at B&B. It was a lovely, informative, fragrant beginning to our day.
After leaving the farm, we drove to the entrance of Olympic National Park in Port Angeles. Our main goal in the park was to drive to the top of Hurricane Ridge. As we began to climb up the mountain, we could see mounds of fog hovering over the Strait of Juan de Fuca that separates Washington from Vancouver Island Canada. Our climb up to Hurricane Ridge took us about 45 minutes from the park entrance, and the views from the top were well worth the drive. Snow covered peaks in the middle of summer, deer nonchalantly grazing along the hillside, and hikers precariously following the trail along the spine of the ridge all centered around a visitor center with a great display showcasing the diversity of Olympic National Park. There is also a cozy gift shop and snack bar downstairs where I picked up my required national park fridge magnet.
As we began our descent back to Port Angeles, the fog had cleared over the strait, and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Vancouver Island. It was time for lunch, so we found an adorable little drive-thru only restaurant named Frugals advertising lavender milkshakes. Yum! The wait through the dual drive-thru was well worth it, and not only were the lavender shakes delicious, but the food was pretty tasty as well. They have a wide variety of handhelds from burgers to halibut sandwiches.
Our next stop was the Twilight famous town of Forks. It was a bit of a drive, but the scenery traveling around Lake Crescent was remarkable. Forks is a small town with a few gift shops with Twilight souvenirs and a very helpful Chamber of Commerce stocked with maps and recommendations for must see attractions in the area including Twilight sites. There is also a replica of the old Chevy truck driven by Bella in the movies. If you are not a Twilight fan, Forks probably is not going to be a must see. However, La Push is.
About 30 minutes west of Forks, La Push is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation. You drive past the Tribal Council to a small parking area adjacent to First Beach. The beach itself has enchanting views of sea stacks and an unimaginable amount of driftwood. Seriously, there is so much driftwood. It makes for a whimsical maze to climb through to get down to the waterfront. The kids enjoyed skipping rocks in the water, and we saw what I believe was a sea lion bobbing up and down not far from shore. Pacific Northwest beaches are not known for sunbathing, and this one was no exception. It was a little windy and the skies were overcast, but it was a beautiful place to spend some time walking around and enjoying the views. We did not stay in the area, but there is a Quileute Oceanside Resort that will be in the plans for the next trip. We definitely plan to return to explore Rialto Beach, which requires a little more effort on foot to visit, but supposedly rewards you with excellent tidal pool viewing.
It was time to head back to Crescent Lake and to Log Cabin Resort for the night. The resort is tucked into the northern shore of the lake on a narrow road shadowed by giant pines. The resort is rustic like most national park lodging. We reserved an a-frame chalet room that was lake front with mountain views in the distance. You can bring your own kayaks and canoes, or there are rentals at the resort. We arrived too late for rentals, but the kids again enjoyed skipping rocks on the edge of the lake steps from the door to our room. The room itself had a very comfortable queen bed and futon downstairs and another queen loft upstairs. We had a kitchenette and a large bathroom. There was also a picnic table on the backside of the room facing the lake. It was very comfortable and roomy for the four of us. In the hotel lobby there is a reasonably priced restaurant and a nostalgic soda fountain with sweet treats for dessert. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.
We started early again to make our way to Bainbridge Island to catch the 10:15 ferry to Seattle. The drive back across the 101 to the Hood Canal Floating Bridge was quick and easy. I was a little daunted by the name “floating bridge”, but it was a breeze to drive over and had great views of the canal and out to the sound. The ferry was easy to find, and the loading was quick and efficient. Due to covid, it was not encouraged to leave your car to visit the observation deck. However we were lucky and had an outside row parking spot with open air views. The ferry across Puget Sound took about 35 minutes, and the views of the skyline as we neared the city did not disappoint.
After exiting the ferry, we drove through Pike Place Market and around the Space Needle. This was my first time in Seattle, and I was surprised by the hilly terrain downtown. Obviously, Seattle is worth a trip on its own, but we did have a flight to catch to Alaska that limited our time that we could spend in the city. We made our way to the airport and ended our mini vacation to the Olympic Peninsula with great memories and a list of things to see on a return trip.
Alaska was amazing. Everything I thought it would be and more, but after we returned, I found myself continuing to think about the Olympic Peninsula. That drive up the 101, the rows and rows of lavender, the rolling fog playing peek-a-boo with Canada, an entire rainforest that we didn’t even get a chance to see. It was begging me to come back for more.
I returned for another quick trip in December 2021 on the way to see my family in Oregon for Christmas. I had continued to research the area and was intrigued by the “blue hole” rain shadow that creates the mild, sunny weather in the northern part of the peninsula. It was a dreary, rainy day on the I-5 in Olympia, but as I exited onto the 101 the rain slowly began to recede. By the time we made it up to Sequim, the sun was shining, and it was a very mild 60 degrees in late December. I was again overcome with the beauty of the water and giant evergreen trees that looked the same in winter as they did in summer.
This time I went to Port Townsend, a small port town with distant views of the Cascade Mountain Range. I was delighted by the sunny weather and could literally see that we were indeed in the “blue hole” with rain clouds surrounding us in the distance. The town has a multitude of boutique stores and cafes to explore, and the Fort Worden Historical State Park with a charming lighthouse and beach front campground. The views across the sound to Whidbey Island almost remind me of being in the Caribbean where you can see multiple lush, green islands across the water. These islands, however, are covered with pines instead of palms.
Again, my trip was too short, and I found myself reluctantly having to leave and drive back to I-5, where the rain and clouds once again greeted me on cue. The weather, the scenery, the people, the lavender all combine to create a truly magical place. I continue to research the area and have plans to return for a longer, more permanent stay that will include the rain forest, the hot springs, and coastal tidal pools. People often speak of their spirit animals. The Olympic Peninsula is my spirit location. It calls to me, and I can’t wait to answer the call again.
I would love to help you plan your own trip to the Olympic Peninsula, or another location that calls to you. Please email, call, or fill out the contact form to start planning your trip.