The highlights of this driving itinerary include cute small towns such as La Conner, Anacortes, Birch Bay and the larger town of Bellingham. On this road trip you will be surrounded by lush evergreen forests that are draped in moss and see some glorious sunsets over emerald bays. Spend time relaxing in cozy coffee shops, drink organic beer, hike in the forests, or go fishing. You should spend 3 nights and 4 days on this road trip but add some extra nights if you enjoy camping and hiking. Combine this road trip with the Olympic Peninsula Driving Itinerary to see more of Washington.
Seattle to Anacortes
80 miles / 1.5 hours
Starting in Seattle make your way north on the I-5 and take the 534 west until you get to the cute town of La Conner. Many of the shops and homes here were built in the 1890's and are still in near perfect condition. Take an hour to perouse through the interesting stores that consist of some great art work and unique craftsmanship. Then take a stroll along the newly built boardwalk that runs from Morris street to Commercial street which offers views of the river and boat docks. We stopped by Calico Cupboard which we had read sold cinnamon rolls the size of Mt Baker and were super delicious. The size of the cinnamon rolls did not disappoint and they had great flavors to choose from such as maple bacon and apple filled, however they barely had any topping on or in them as stated so in our opinion wasn't worth almost $5 each.
Leaving La Conner head north on Reservation road until you reach route 20 and follow signs to Deception Pass State Park. The view from the bridge is pretty cool so make sure you get out of the car and go for a walk across the pedestrian path.
Afterwards head to Anacortes either the way you came on route 20 or take Marine drive which wraps around the island. Anacortes has some nice old buildings to see and a lot of antique stores to spend time in. You can even watch big boats being built at the end of town.
Anacortes to Larrabee State Park
30 miles / 45 minutes
Chuckanut drive is one of our favorite roads because of the surrounding lush emerald forests that are typical of Western Washington and the magical view over Samish Bay. If you love oysters then you MUST stop in at Taylor Shellfish Farm located at Bow. The oysters here are amazing!! The medium-sized oysters seem jumbo sized and are even sold individually if you don't feel like buying by the dozen. They have a few variety's on offer such as Pacific, Shigoku and Kumamoto. The staff will even lend shucking knives and give you a demonstration on how to shuck oysters if you haven't done it before. The farm is right in the bay so the view from the picnic tables make the whole experience even better and there are coal BBQ grills if you feel like grilling up oyster Kilpatrick. We went prepared with wine, bread and cheese.
About a mile after Taylor Shellfish Farm you will come to a scenic lookout which has the best sunset views over the bay. Continue on Chuckanut drive until you reach Larrabee State Park which has great camp sites with fire pits and clean bathroom facilities. The camping area is located near a pretty beach with many nearby hiking trails.
Larrabee State Park to Bellingham
8.5 miles / 30 minutes
Bellingham is a beautiful laid back college town which is a lot bigger than what it seems. There is the Fairhaven area which was founded in the late 1880's and has some great preserved original architecture. Fairhaven has some nice restaurants and a nice park (Boulevard Park) by the water with a great coffee store (The Woods). In the summer time they hold free outdoor movies on the green. Downtown Bellingham has some great shops, a few breweries and a museum. Downtown in the summer, the place comes alive with weekly outdoor music festivals and market stalls.
On the edge of town you will find strip malls catering for the bargain hunting Canadians. We loved this town so much the first time round that we ended up coming back to spend 5 months. We recommend staying at the Best Western hotel which is very close to the downtown area, the rooms are upscale and there is an indoor pool, hot tub... and a great bar!
Bellingham to Birch Bay
20 miles / 30 minutes
Head north on I-5 and take the exit for Birch Bay road. This little seaside town has some cute waterfront accommodation and there is also a campsite at the state park located across from the bay. This is a great place to unwind, go fishing or clamming. There is a great little bar/restaurant right on the waterfront (literally) with a great atmosphere and is a fun place to spend a Sunday watching the football.
Birch Bay to Maple Falls
40 miles / 1 hour
Get yourself on to the Mt Baker highway and head east. This is a magical drive with moss draped forests that line the road all the way to the end. Turn left on Silver Lake Road until you get to Silver Lake Park. This park is great for some short hikes and sun bathing in the summer. You can also hire canoes or go fishing for trout. There is a campground here with showers along with basic cabins that overlook the lake.
Maple Falls to Mt Baker Ski Area
30 miles / 1 hour
Mount Baker is an impressive snow capped volcano with a massive icy dome which can be seen all the way in Vancouver. This area holds the world record for snow. It is one of the best places for hiking and back country camping so you might want to spend a few days out here. Some amazing hikes include Chain Lakes Loop, Ptarmigan Ridge and Lake Ann Trail. It is also great for skiing/snowboarding/ cross country skiing and not as heavily visited as some other mountain resorts.
To get here from Silver Lake, get back on Mt Baker Highway and head east. You will pass through the very small town of Glacier which serves up some awesome pizza at the Chair 9 Woodstone Pizza & Bar. We highly recommend the Mt Ruth which is a salmon pizza with basil pesto and artichoke.
There are two great campgrounds, Silver Fir and Doug Fir Campgrounds, both by the Nooksack river which are beautiful and have fire pits for toasting marshmallows.
If camping is not your thing, there are some cozy cabins in the Mt Baker Rim Community Club. We stayed in the cutest faux log cabin, and let me tell you... ever since that stay I often dream about owning a cabin just like it (review coming soon). We found it through HomeAway who I think have really good rates for vacation homes (great for those of us on a budget). We love camping but unless you visit Washington in summer, camping can end up a wet and cold experience.
Spend your time in this area hiking, fishing, skiing or just cozying up by a nice, warm fire. When your time is up, you can easily get back on the I-5 and shoot back down to Seattle.
Start Planning Your Trip!
Have you booked your accommodation yet? If not then take a look at bookings.com who have a huge selection of hotels, bed & breakfasts, lodges, hostels and even campgrounds. They have daily deals and discounts so its a good idea to keep an eye on rates. The best thing about this website is there is no booking fee and no charge for cancellations.
A good alternative to traditional accommodation is Airbnb. This site connects you with homeowners who rent out their homes/cabins/apartments for a fraction of what it would cost for a hotel room. What we like about Airbnb is you get the chance to stay in local or non-touristy parts of wherever you are going. And if your new to Airbnb you can get $35 off your first nights stay!
We prefer Avis for car hire. You save big time if you book online even if its only a day in advance. Click here to see their rates.
See more Washington Driving Itineraries
By Arial Evans
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Two Aussies road-tripping across the USA. Our goal is to discover America's wild places and vibrant cities... and make the most of every moment. Read more