With scenic roads running along the waterfront and the Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks close by, Seattle’s surrounding landscapes and nearby towns offer exciting destinations. Seattle is sandwiched between the Puget Sound waterway and Lake Washington but you can easily take day trips out of the city via Interstate 5 that transports you quickly to the north and south, or you can even take a ferry over the Puget Sound towards Olympic National Park. Whether you’re looking for a waterfront getaway or serene mountain vistas, the five best small towns near Seattle provide excellent day trip destinations or vacation spots.
1. La Conner
With its wooden waterfront boardwalk, creative community and fresh seafood, La Conner is bursting with Pacific Northwestern charm. Due to its artistic heritage, the town houses the Museum of Northwest Art. The museum puts on a diverse range of contemporary exhibitions and its collection features many works by leading Pacific Northwest landscape painter John Cole. The town also has its own miniature Golden Gate Bridge, the Rainbow Bridge, crossing the picturesque Swinomish Channel. It takes just over an hour to drive the 67 miles to La Conner if you take I-5 north.
2. Port Townsend
If you want to head out into the impressive Olympic Peninsula, set your GPS for Port Townsend on the most northwestern tip. This historic Victorian seaport town is nestled between the Olympic Mountains and Port Townsend Bay giving visitors extraordinary panoramas and access to outdoor activities such as sailing and whale watching. The town is also a cultural hotspot with an annual film festival, a vibrant visual arts scene, and regular music festivals.
For a longer trip, Forks is a great gateway town that was made famous for its appearance in the Twilight movies. If you are doing the US Highway 101 scenic drive around the perimeter of Olympia National Park it’s a fantastic stop-off point. The area around Forks is a hot spot for fishing thanks to its number of rivers and the large King Salmon population. The nearby national park provides an endless variety of stunning trails through a diverse ecosystem and terrain, with the Hoh Rainforest being particularly beautiful and atmospheric.
For a taste of Washington’s Old West past, take a trip to Winthrop. The route will take you past the North Cascades National Park on a scenic drive through Washington’s farm fields and meadows. The nearby Cascades and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest offer a variety of outdoor activities including river rafting, skiing, hiking trails, and horseback riding. Though it’s the great outdoors that pull in the visitors, Winthrop also hosts a popular Rhythm and Blues Music Festival.
Snohomish is known for its many antique stores that line the streets of the historic downtown. The town’s many historical buildings date from the 1800s and have been well-preserved and renovated, turning the district into a tourist hotspot. If you are looking for design inspiration, the historic district includes Queen Anne Victorian, Beaux Arts, Gothic Revival, and Italianate styles.