When you’re itching to go somewhere but don’t want to venture too far outside the city, here are some cool spots that offer an opportunity for exploration without straying off the beaten path. Just outside Seattle, these interesting destinations offer great photo opportunities and a chance to discover something new.
Deception Pass and Fort Casey
Located on Whidbey Island, you can drive up and around to Deception Pass and Fort Casey, or take the car ferry. We like to do a loop, going up and around via Deception Pass on the way there, and then coming back by ferry. The whole trip around takes just under 4 hours.
Fort Casey was established before 1900 and decommissioned after World War I. It’s a fascinating bit of history worth exploring and can have an eerie vibe on an overcast day. It has sweeping views of the water, a lighthouse, cannons, plus a few spooky-cool interior areas that photographers may enjoy (don’t forget your tripod for the darker areas).
Deception Point is home to the impressive Deception Pass Bridge and has a beautiful overlook. You can incorporate both into a scenic drive around Whidbey Island, or if you like taking pictures you might find that Fort Casey and Deception Pass become the main focus of your trip.
Olympic National Park
How do you feel about the outdoors? What about taking pictures of verdant rainforests? What? You didn’t know we have a rainforest right here in Seattle?
Okay, I’ll try not to judge you too harshly. Just promise me that you’ll put on your hiking shoes and make your way out to one of Washington state’s greatest natural wonders. The drive is just over 2 hours, so wake up a bit early, grab your snacks, water, and hiking poles, and prepare for a day of exploration.
Not only does Olympic National Park have a beautiful temperate rainforest and network of hiking trails, but it also has a hike-able coastline and—get this—glaciated mountains and hot springs. Pretty cool, right?
At over 922,000 acres, you won’t be able to explore the whole thing in a day, but you will still get a chance to appreciate its natural beauty. For those who to extend their trip and spend some time under the trees and stars, Olympic National Park also offers campgrounds.
St. Edward State Park (+ optionally Juanita Beach and Juanita Bay)
Grab your bike, drive, or hop on a bus to Kirkland, where you’ll find this hidden gem of a park. Though it’s much smaller than Olympic National Park, it’s only 30 minutes away from downtown and offers a chance to surround yourself in woodsy goodness without straying too far outside the city.
Home to picnic areas, a playground, and a mostly-abandoned Catholic seminary, you’ll also find trails that lead you down near the only part of Lake Washington shoreline that’s still undeveloped. Some trails are for hiking only, but there are some for mountain biking, too. None of the hiking trails are particularly difficult, but they’re a great way to quickly immerse yourself in nature.
When you’re done, head over to Juanita Village for a super-delicious cup of coffee at locally-owned Urban Coffee Lounge. Since you’re already there, consider walking over to Juanita Beach Park, about 5 minutes away. Renovated in 2011, it now features nicer walking paths, in addition to the pre-existing boardwalk extending out over the water.
You haven’t finished your coffee yet, right? Wander a bit farther to the Old Market Street trail and you’ll be in Juanita Bay Park. Depending on the time of year, you might just spot some herons or beavers in the reeds along the boardwalk. Who knew we had all this natural beauty right in the city?
Sometimes it’s worth hitting pause on plans for grandiose adventures and instead just hitting the beach. Grab your beach blanket and jacket (it is the Pacific Northwest, after all), and head 30 minutes north of Seattle to Richmond Beach (it’s not bad by bus or bike, either). Unlike many of the beaches in the Seattle area, this one even has some real sand as opposed to just being rocks (what a luxury!)
On your way, stop at the Richmond Beach Coffee Company to grab a drink before hitting the sand. (Coffee not your thing? They’ve got crepes, smoothies, and bubble tea, too.) How crowded the beach is will be highly dependent on the weather. If the sand is looking too packed, there are a few scenic overlook points and benches before you head down to the beach area if you don’t feel like being directly on the water.
Before you leave for the day, consider driving or wandering around the surrounding streets to take a peek at the nearby beautiful, grandiose houses; they’ve got some truly enviable water views.
Those are some of my favorite interesting sights to explore in Seattle. What did I miss? What are your favorites?
(Psst… Want to continue wandering? Wanderu has featured me as one of their favorite travel and lifestyle bloggers in their post on Seattle Day Trips!)