Road Trip ~ Western Washington: Port Townsend, Whidbey Island, Orcas Island, Bellingham, Mt Baker, North Cascades National Park

I started my journey on the Olympic Peninsula at Port Townsend. It’s a cute waterfront town to explore with marvelous Victorian architecture, interesting local shops and good restaurants.

From Port Townsend, I took the ferry to Whidbey Island. There are several small towns to explore, my favorite being Langley, on the south eastern part of the island. Here, you will find neat local shops, including Moonraker bookstore (well worth your visit) and a great restaurant (The Braeburn) which is perfect for breakfast or lunch.

Drive north on the island to Deception Pass State Park on your way to Anacortes and the ferry to Orcas Island. I’ve stayed on Whidbey Island and also use it as a connection between the two ferries. If you have the time, it is definitely worth a visit or at least a luncheon stop.

Passing beautiful Deception Pass, take Rosario Road and Marine Drive (west side of Fidalgo Island) rather than Highway 20. Either route takes you to Anacortes, with the local roads being far more scenic.  

If you have time, explore Anacortes, enjoy lunch before boarding your ferry to Orcas Island. I’ve done this trip several times and depending on my schedule, I usually drive thru Whidbey Island as a connection between the two ferries and have a late lunch on Orcas Island.

Orcas is a magical place, a beautiful island any time of the year. From the moment you step on the ferry bound for the San Juan’s, consider yourself on “island time.” I’ve stayed several times at Rosario Resort and recommend it. There are beautiful grounds to walk about, a good restaurant on site and it’s only a few miles drive from the town of Eastsound. If you are lucky, you will see deer on the property as you explore the area. 

On this trip, I took a whale watching cruise (great fun and I’ll do it again) plus taking the ferry to nearby Friday Harbor. I parked near the ferry terminal on Orcas Island and was a walk-on passenger. The town of Friday Harbor is at the ferry terminal so no need for a car as you explore this picturesque town. Be sure to check out The Whale Museum.

Orcas is the largest of the San Juan Islands and it’s enjoyable to drive about and explore the island. Drive to the top of Mount Constitution in Moran State Park for a gorgeous view, stop at local pottery places, investigate winding roads and breathe in its beauty and serenity.  

Leaving Orcas, I took the ferry to Anacortes, walked about the Marina and then headed north via beautiful Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham.

On this trip, I used Bellingham as a base for exploring not only Bellingham but also the gorgeous Mt. Baker and North Cascades National Park areas. One rainy morning I drove to Lynden, a nearby Dutch town (terrific bakeries).

Favorite restaurants include:

When planning road trips, always be flexible. You may want to stay in a favorite place longer or completely change your itinerary as you meander along. Weather may also cause you to change plans and improvise. That is the joy and fun of a road trip.

Savor your journeys … past, present and future … real or imagined…. near or far …

Links to additional photos:

Photos ~ Orcas Island, Washington ~ Whale Watching

Photos ~ Whidbey Island, Washington

Photos ~ Mt Baker, North Cascades, WA

Photos ~ Chuckanut Drive, western WA

Photos ~ Anacortes Marina & Deception Pass, WA

Photos ~ North Cascades National Park, WA

Photos ~ Orcas Island, San Juans, Washington

Photos ~ Bellingham Park & Bellingham, western Washington

Recap ~ Road Trip Western Washington ~ Mt Rushmore

  • Interstate 90 from Western Washington to Rapid City, South Dakota
    • East bound, stop in Missoula and Billings
    • West bound, stop in Billings, Missoula, Coeur d’Alene
    • Total road trip mileage: 2,713 miles
  • Mountain passes on I-90 include
    • Snoqualmie Pass, Washington, Cascade Range, 3,105 feet
    • Fourth of July Summit, Idaho, Coeur d’Alene Mountains, 3,173 feet
    • Lookout Pass, Idaho-Montana border, Bitterroot Range, 4,710 feet
    • Homestake Pass, Montana, Continental Divide, 6,375 feet
    • Bozeman Pass, Montana, 5,760 feet
  • Montana is truly “Big Sky” country; gorgeous area; friendly people. Highlights include:
    • Missoula ~ great place to explore (good restaurants, parks & book stores)
    • Billings ~ neat area; Gateway to Yellowstone (have to plan another road-trip)
    • Little Big Horn Battlefield and National Monument ~ a must visit
  • Mt Rushmore and the surrounding area are definitely worth the drive
    • Mt Rushmore ~ spectacular, awe-inspiring
    • The Badlands ~ fascinating and mysterious
    • South Dakota Air & Space Museum ~ a must see museum
  • Coeur d’Alene, Idaho ~ a favorite spot which I love to re-visit
    • Beautiful scenery, good restaurants and my favorite book store
  • I planned to travel prior to Memorial weekend to avoid summer traffic
    • Encountered snow in Wyoming
    • Be flexible with your travel plans
      • Leave time to explore and perhaps re-arrange itinerary
    • Have fun and savor your journeys

 

 

Road Trip: Western Washington to Mt Rushmore ….. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

The Badlands, located 70 miles east of Rapid City, SD are phenomenal, mysterious rock formations.

You can opt to take a bus through the area (check out bus departures from nearby Wall) or do as I did and drive about the Badlands Loop Road with incredible scenic overlooks and trails.

It was cloudy on the day I went, but even still, I observed the marvelous different colors and imagined their distinct beauty in sunlight. Around each curve of the winding loop road there are extraordinary unique vistas. There are numerous places to stop and take in the wonder and majesty of this very distinctive place.

Savor your journeys.

Road Trip: Western Washington to Mt Rushmore ….. Mt Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, South Dakota

Mt Rushmore is awesome! It is an incredible experience to gaze at the magnificent sculptures of four notable United States Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Located approximately 20 miles from Rapid City (where I stayed), it’s a beautiful drive into the Black Hills, past the town of Keystone (elevation 4,331’) to Mt Rushmore. After parking my car, I walked towards the Avenue of Flags, which opened in 1978. The 50 states are represented plus the District of Columbia and territories (total 56) offering a beautiful first impression of Mt. Rushmore.

There are several trails to explore plus the Sculptor’s Studio (unfortunately, closed on the day I visited). Each year, over 3 million people visit this monument. If you have not visited, I recommend that you add it to your “bucket list.” It is well worth the drive.

Savor your journeys.

Road Trip: Western Washington to Mt Rushmore ….. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana

Sixty-five miles east of Billings, heading toward Mt Rushmore, a terrific stop is Little Bighorn Battlefield. Park rangers at the Visitor Center readily answer your questions. The Museum has very informative exhibits and a very good collection of books, including Stephen Ambrose’s “Crazy Horse and Custer”.

Leaving the visitor center, as you walk toward Last Stand Hill and the 7th Cavalry Memorial and then the Indian Memorial, you can feel the history all about you. Gaze about and sense what happened here in June, 1876. Think of what victory and defeat meant. Drive about Battlefield Road, following the map from the visitor center to get an idea of the size of the battlefield, stopping at Memorial Markers.

Savor your journeys.

Fall in the Smoky’s

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited of the National Parks and there is no better time to go than fall to witness the changing colors of the foliage. You can easily spend a week in the surrounding area including Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN and Asheville, NC.

My drive from Charleston to Gatlinburg, mostly via I-40, took about 6 hours. In addition to being the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is the home to over 100 artists and craftsman on an eight mile loop located three miles from downtown. Shops range from an old-fashioned soda fountain to art galleries to candles to a year-round Christmas shop plus shops with marvelous delicacies and music of the area. Stop for lunch at The Wild Plum Tea Room (on the loop and more of a restaurant than a tea room), leaving room for a fabulous dessert (try the bread pudding).

For an exciting overview, take the aerial tramway at Ober Gatlinburg and enjoy browsing the shops, having lunch or dinner at the German Restaurant or continuing further up the mountain on a chairlift. Read more