9 Seattle Day Trips You Won’t Want to Miss

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Seattle is well-known for places like Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. While Seattle has plenty of fun activities to keep you busy for weeks, taking a few Seattle day trips allows you to experience more of the beautiful state of Washington. 

These day trips are not to be missed whether you’re on a short vacation or in Seattle for a few weeks on business. One of the best parts about Seattle is that it has many different landscapes to experience, including the ocean and mountains. 

The best day trips around Seattle allow you to get out of the city for a few hours and see the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. 

pike place market sign, red neon sign, one day trip from seattle

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9 Top Day Trips from Seattle 

Seattle is one of the most visited cities in the Pacific Northwest. It’s home to many attractions like Puget Sound and the Museum of Pop Culture. Seattle is also famous for having a huge coffee culture. 

Most people spend about 5-7 days exploring the capital of Washington. You can also add on a couple of days to try one of these great road trips from Seattle. 

1. Olympic National Park 

If you only have time for one weekend trip from Seattle, definitely choose Olympic National Park. The snow-capped mountains make for a beautiful backdrop, whether you are hiking, camping, or just taking photos of the breathtaking scenery. 

Here are the best things to do in Olympic National Park:

  • Camp at Ozette Lake. There are also some amazing water activities to do here, including kayaking, whale watching, fishing, and canoeing. 
  • Visit Port Angeles. This is a small town inside the park where you can visit the Feiro Marine Life Center or get a cold treat at Welley’s Ice Cream Truck
  • Go hiking. There are many trails throughout the park, but one of the best ones is Marymere Falls. It has a small incline but is a pretty easy level hike. It ends with views of the magnificent waterfall. 
  • Go biking on the Olympic Discovery Trail. This 135-mile trail takes you through some of the best parts of the park. One-third of the trail is paved, making it easier for less experienced bikers. 
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Getting to Olympic National Park

There are a couple different options when it comes to Olympic National Park. Many people book tours or rent a car as these are generally the easiest ways to get there.

There is also the option of taking a ferry if you are going to Port Angeles or Port Townsend. The best ferry companies include Bainbridge Island Ferry and Kingston Fast Ferry.

2. Mount Rainier National Park 

Mount Rainer is one of the most popular weekend getaways from Seattle. While you can experience the park in one day, it’s worth staying overnight if you can. Mount Rainer is the tallest mountain in the Pacific Northwest at over 14,000 feet. 

The best activity in Mount Rainer National Park is hiking. Here are some of the best trails to check out:

  • Skyline Trail: 5.5-mile trail ending with an up-close view of the mountains. In the summer, you’ll see beautiful fields of wildflowers. It’s a pretty easy hike, so it’s perfect for inexperienced hikers and young children. 
  • Burroughs Mountain Trail: It is best to hike this trail on a clear day so you get beautiful views of Mount Rainer. The trail has three different burroughs. The first one is a 2.5-mile hike, and the second one is one mile. Both are moderately difficult. To get to the third burrough, you hike another mile with pretty tough elevation gain. 
  • Silver Falls Loop: This three-mile loop trail ends at Silver Falls. The trail is flat, so it’s a great trail for the kids. You also walk along the Ohanapecosh River the entire way. 

The park also has several different campgrounds that are perfect for spending the night after a long day hiking. A Mount Rainer day trip from Seattle is perfect for those looking for some fresh mountain air!

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Getting to Mount Rainer National Park

The best way to get to Mount Rainer National Park is by driving. Renting a car makes the journey quick and easy.

You can also take a Shuttle bus which departs from the Seattle airport.

There is also the option of taking a tour if you prefer to visit the park in a more organized way.

3. Leavenworth 

About two hours from Seattle, you’ll find this quiet mountain town. The mountains can be seen clearly everywhere in the town, offering a beautiful backdrop. Leavenworth is also unique because the buildings resemble architecture from Bavaria, Germany. 

The town also has traditional Bavarian festivals almost every month of the year, including Kinderfest in July and Maifest in May. The festivals are the main reason people come to this little town. 

There are several other things to do in Leavenworth:

  • Explore Icicle Creek: This road is 20 miles long and has some of the best views of the mountains. There are also a few scenic pullouts to park the car and get amazing photos. 
  • Go white water rafting: Leavenworth is home to the Wenatchee River, one of the best places to go white water rafting in the US. If there has been a lot of rainfall, you can experience Class III rapids. Even with the tough rapids, you don’t need any prior rafting experience. 
  • Have a spa day: Leavenworth has several amazing spas. Head to Alpine Spa for Swedish massages, mud baths, and facials. Aspen Leaf Day Spa has jade body wraps and many other jade treatments. 
bavarian buildings in leavenworth, weekend getaways from seattle

Getting to Leavenworth

The best way to get to Leavenworth is to rent a car and drive. The drive takes about two hours.

Amtrak also operates on train a day from Seattle to Leavenworth. Since the train only arrives and departs once a day though, you will have to be really mindful of your time.

4. The San Juan Islands 

The San Juan Islands are a cluster of small islands north of Puget Sound. While there are over 170 islands to visit, only four are major tourist destinations. San Juan Island is the most popular island and has the most things to do. 

  • Visit the Lime Kiln Lighthouse. This is one of the best places on the island where you can see whales jumping through the water close to the shore. 
  • Do a kayaking tour. The best way to see the islands is from the water. You can either bring your own kayak or book a tour with a guide to help show you around. 
  • Shop at Friday Harbor. There are many cute little shops here, including a bookstore called Serendipity Books and an amazing chocolate shop called Friday Harbor Chocolates. You can also buy local fruits and vegetables at King’s Market. 
  • See a beautiful Lavender Farm. Pelindaba Lavender Farm is 25 acres of different varieties of lavender. There’s also a shop on the farm where you can buy different kinds of lavender products, including essential oils, lavender ice cream, and lavender lemonade. 
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Getting to the San Juan Islands

To get the San Juan Islands, you have two main options. You can either take a ferry or you can take commercial flight with Kenmore Air Express.

There are also smaller seaplane flight options but these are pretty expensive.

5. North Cascades National Park 

Want to add another national park to your day trips from Seattle bucket list? North Cascades National Park is a great choice. There are endless things to do here, and it has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Washington. 

  • Hike the Sterling Munro Trail. While the park has many trails, this is the best one. It has the best view of the Picket Range. It’s a short hike with great views of the mountain, perfect for those who want to see the range without actually hiking in the mountains. 
  • See Diablo Lake Visa Point. This lake has an interesting appearance because of the glacier water grinding against the rock, giving the lake below a green color. You can get here on Highway 20. There are places to park the car and wander around to see the stunning lake below. 
  • Do some more hiking on the most popular trails, including Cedars Nature Walk, Ladder Creek Falls, and Thunder Knob. 
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Getting to North Cascades National Park

The only good option for getting to North Cascades National Park is by renting a car and driving. There are very limited public transportation options, and they take 5 hours or more. By driving, the journey is only about 2 hours.

6. Tacoma 

Tacoma is just 30 miles south of Seattle. There are many museums and a cute downtown area to explore. 

  • LeMay America’s Car Museum: This museum has over 250 cars on display. They also have rotating exhibits of world-class automobile collections. If you’re a vintage car fan, visit this museum in Tacoma. 
  • Museum of Glass: Check out stunning glass sculptures by Tacoma native Dale Chihuly. There’s also a glass bridge you can walk to to the Washington State History Museum. 
  • Tacoma Art Museum: If you’re interested in local art, this museum always has pieces and exhibits from regional artists. 

Getting to Tacoma

The fastest and best way to get to Tacoma from Seattle is by driving. The drive only takes about 30-45 minutes, depending on traffic.

7. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 

For another day trip from Seattle, head to British Columbia’s prettiest city. You can take a high-speed ferry from Seattle and get to Victoria in just under three hours. Victoria is on Vancouver Island and has tons of things to see and do. 

If you want to make this a day trip, you’ll need to leave early in the morning and come back in the evening. Or you can spend a night there and explore more of Canada. 

  • Go to Butchart Gardens. This is the top tourist destination in the city. It has many different flowers and gardens, including Japanese and Italian gardens. The award-winning rose garden is the best part. 
  • Go paddle boarding. A SUP tour is a great way to explore Victoria without being surrounded by tourists. You can also get your own SUP and go around by yourself. The most popular places are Gonzales Bay and Willows Beach. 
  • Tour the Royal BC Museum. This is a must when visiting Victoria. It has been open since 1886 and currently has more than 7 million objects on display showcasing history worldwide. There is also a replica of the HMS Discovery ship. 
  • See the stunning parliament buildings. Victoria has some iconic parliament buildings that people usually love to photograph. There’s also a giant statue of Queen Victoria on the front lawn. If the day is sunny, many people will be relaxing on the lawn. 
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Getting to Victoria

Most people take a ferry when traveling to Victoria because it’s fast and very cost-effective.

8. Snoqualmie Pass and Falls

Just about an hour from Seattle, you’ll find the Snoqualmie Valley, home to the Snoqualmie Pass and Falls. The pass goes through the Cascades mountains, making it a beautiful drive.

During the summer and warmer months, many people come here for hiking since there are many trails in the area, all with beautiful views of Washington’s best outdoor scenery.

Many people also come to Snoqualmine during the winter because of the ski resorts and slopes.

Getting to Snoqualmie

I recommend renting a car to get to Snosqualmie, as it’s only about a 30-minute drive. Having a car also allows you to get around the area easier including going to the different hiking trails and ski resorts.

9. Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island is one of the best Seattle day trips, especially if you love eating and shopping.

Here are the best things to do on Bainbridge Island:

  • Eat fish and chips. The island is known for having some of the best fish and ships in the US. Proper Fish is one of the best places to eat, but there are many other options.
  • Shop in the downtown area. Downtown Brainbridge is small but has plenty of places to explore, including local bookstores, a Farmer’s Market, and small boutique clothing shops.
  • Eat ice cream on the beach. Many ice cream places are on the island as you get close to the beachfront and pier. You can even get it to go and then walk along the beach while eating it.

Getting to Bainbridge Island

Most people get to Bainbridge Island from Seattle by ferrying from the Seattle Ferry Terminal. You can also bring a car onto the ferry, but Bainbridge Island is pretty walkable.

Top Things to Do in Seattle

Once you’re done taking some awesome day trips, here are the best things to do in Seattle:

  • Go to Pike’s Place Market. This nine-acre market has almost anything you could imagine, from seafood vendors to souvenir shops to local craft shops. Doing some shopping here is a must while in Seattle. 
  • Head to Puget Sound. Whale watching at Puget Sound is one of the top activities in Seattle. You’re more likely to spot whales, including orcas and humpback whales, in June through September. 
  • Tour the international district. This part of Seattle is home to Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian immigrants. They have a great Asian market called Uwajimaya Market, where you can find all your favorite East Asian treats. 
  • Go to a festival or two. Seattle hosts many different festivals on the summer weekends. Check out the Seattle International Film Festival in April or the Bite of Seattle food festival in July. 
  • Explore downtown Seattle. Aim to spend at least half a day in downtown Seattle going into the different coffee and boutique shops. There are also a few art galleries to check out. 
seattle space needle, seattle skyline at sunset

How to Get to Seattle 

Seattle has a large international airport (SEA) serving over 30 airlines. You can find daily domestic and international flights to Seattle-Tacoma airport. For day trips, you should consider renting a car. 

Seattle has an extensive public transit system, including buses and a monorail. They only service Seattle and the surrounding suburbs, so having a rental car is ideal. 

When to Visit Seattle 

The best time to visit Seattle is in September and October. This allows you to avoid the summer crowds and high hotel prices. These months are also perfect for visiting all the national parks close to Seattle since the weather is not as hot and there are fewer tourists. 

September and October also see very little rainfall, and it’s still warm enough to do outdoor activities. 

Don’t Miss These Fantastic Seattle Day Trips!

Ready to take a few Seattle day trips? I hope this guide helped you find all the amazing places to visit around Seattle. From national parks to cute little Washington towns, there are endless choices for day trips around Seattle. 

If you have more time in Washington, you can also camp in the national parks and do more hiking. For a full-day trip, you can take a high-speed ferry to Victoria, British Columbia, and see some of the most popular attractions in Canada. 

Are you planning a trip to Seattle and want to take some day trips? Which ones are on your bucket list?

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