The highlights of this Washington state driving itinerary include cute small towns like La Conner & Anacortes and the larger town of Bellingham. On this road trip you will be surrounded by evergreen forests that are draped in moss and see some glorious sunsets over emerald bays. You can spend your time relaxing in cozy coffee shops, drinking organic beer, hiking in the evergreen forests or fishing. It’s up to you!
Western Washington Driving Itinerary & Map
This road trip begins in Seattle and heads north mostly winding along the coastline of the Puget Sound before heading east into the mountains. When you’ve reached the end of your trip you can easily get back on the I-5 and shoot back down to Seattle.
You could easily cover this road trip in two days and be able to see all of the highlights but if you enjoy being outdoors add on an additional day/night as there a plenty of outdoor activities in the area such as hiking, kayaking and fishing. If you would like to see more of the Washington coast see this Olympic Peninsula Driving Itinerary to add onto your road trip.
Here is a sample itinerary:
Day 1: Visit La Connor, Whidbey Island & Chuckanut Drive - Stay in Bellingham
Day 2: Explore Bellingham and drive to Silver Lake - Stay in the Mt Baker area
We recommend getting yourself a Pacific Northwest travel guide to make sure your trip goes smoothly. They are helpful in deciding where to eat and finding local attractions in the area.
Best Times To Visit Western Washington
The best time to visit this part of Washington is in the summer. Between July and early October there is very little chance of rain and the sun doesn’t set until very late which means you have plenty of time to get between destinations and more time spent outside.
Autumn is surprisingly very beautiful here and the northwest does experience tree’s with changing colors. Winter is cold and wet but this does not stop the locals from getting outside and being active. The coastal area’s do not experience snowy weather often however you can expect snow in the Mount Baker area.
Seattle to Whidbey Island - 80 Miles
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.
La Connor is an old mill town with an easily walkable downtown area and lovely water views. Many of the shops and homes here were built in the 1890's and are still near perfect condition. The town is best known for the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival that takes place in April which draws thousands of people, however, La Connor is a nice destination at any time of the year for a day trip.
The town has a thriving art scene and you should spend an hour perusing through the interesting art galleries and stores that display the 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. There are quite a few dining options available here including a brewery. If you enjoy bakeries, we recommend stopping by the Calico Cupboard to grab one of their Mt Baker sized cinnamon rolls for the road which come in different flavors like maple-bacon and apple-filled.
Deception State Park
Leaving La Conner head north on Reservation road until you reach route 20 and follow the signs to Deception Pass State Park. This state park is most notable for the Deception Pass Bridge which is a National Scenic Monument and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This arched steel structure that spans Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands is probably one of the most photographed places in Washington State. Visitor’s may park theirs car on either side of the bridge and walk across to take in views of the Pacific shoreline and turbulent waters below.
Anacortes is the perfect place to organize a whale watching tour because the town serves as home port to one of the world’s largest whale watching fleets. The tours operate daily and not only will you possibly encounter whales and orca’s, but seals, porpoises, sea lions too along with beautiful scenery of the gorgeous Puget Sound. Other things to do here include shopping antique stores or watch big boats being built at the far end of town.
Whidbey Island to Bellingham - 40 Miles
Instead of taking the I-5 to Bellingham, we recommend driving along Chuckanut Drive which follows the coastline of the Puget Sound.
Chuckanut drive is one of our favorite roads because of the surrounding emerald forests that are typical of Western Washington and the magical views over Samish Bay. There are a handful of pull-overs and view points you can stop at to take in the scenery on your way into Bellingham. If you can time it to see it at sunset you will not be disappointed.
Taylor Shellfish Farm
If you love oysters then you MUST stop in at Taylor Shellfish Farm located at Bow. The oysters here taste AMAZING! The oysters are farmed right here so you really can’t get fresher than that!! The medium-sized oysters seem jumbo sized and you may even buy the oysters 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 lend shucking knives and give you a demonstration on how to shuck oysters if you haven't done it before. The farm is located right in the bay so the view from the picnic tables make the whole experience even better.
Larrabee State Park
Continue on Chuckanut drive until you reach Larrabee State Park. Larrabee State Park is situated on the seaward side of Chuckanut Mountain and is best known for it’s postcard views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. The park boasts 8,100 feet of saltwater shoreline with calm bays perfect for kayaking on. Although the shore is the main drawcard here, there are miles of hiking and biking trails too plus two freshwater lakes that provide excellent trout fishing.
If you’re looking for a hike with good views of the bay, we recommend the Fragrance Lake trail which is 4.5 miles and rated as moderate. You can reach the view point at only 0.9 miles in and then turn back or continue on another 2 miles up to Fragrance Lake and then visit this waterfall on the return trip.
CAMPING AT LARRABEE STATE PARK
Larrabee State Park Campground is one of our favorites in the Pacific Northwest due to it’s proximity to a pretty beach on Samish Bay. There are trails that will take less than five minutes to lead you from the campground to the waters edge. Perfect on warm nights when you can take a bottle of wine and have a picnic under the moonlight. Site’s have picnic tables and fire pits and the bathrooms have hot showers. The only downside to this campground is the train that goes by quite regularly which can be very noisy.
Bellingham is a laid back college town filled with Washington small town charm. The Fairhaven area was founded in the late 1880's and has well-preserved original architecture, nice restaurants and boutique stores. Boulevard Park near downtown is really nice to stroll in the summer and has beautiful sunsets. There is a local coffee store called The Woods in Boulevard Park that you can see pretty views of Bellingham Bay from inside (perfect in the winter when they have the fireplace on).
In downtown Bellingham you can try some of the local food or visit a brewery. In summer, the downtown area holds 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 living here.
LODGING IN BELLINGHAM
Accommodation options in Bellingham are plentiful! There are numerous cheap motels and much more luxurious hotels with only a mid-range price tag. See below for our top picks that come with water views.
Bellingham to Silver Lake - 32 Miles
Get yourself onto the Mt Baker Highway (WA542) and head east towards Maple Falls. We love this highway because it is such a magical drive with moss draped forests that line the road all the way to the end. To get to Silver Lake take a left turn on Silver Lake Road and drive for about 10 minutes until you reach the park.
Silver Lake State Park is great for some short hikes and sun bathing in the summer. Other things to do here include trout fishing or you can rent canoe’s and kayaks and spend some time on this emerald colored lake. If you would like to stay here, the park offers camping with hot showers available and primitive cabins for a small fee. You could stay here and day trip to your next destination or look for lodging closer to the Mt Baker area in Glacier.
Maple Falls to Mt Baker - 30 Miles
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 where you can find really good gourmet pizza at the Chair 9 Woodstone Pizza & Bar. We highly recommend the Mt Ruth which is a salmon pizza with basil pesto and artichoke.
Mount Baker is an impressive snow capped volcano with a massive icy dome which can be seen all the way in Vancouver. It is our favorite area in Washington for hiking and back country camping so you might want to spend a few days out here if your itinerary allows. You can see below for some of our favorite hiking trails. If hiking is not your jam, the drive up to Artist’s Point is incredible and still worth the drive. The views of the surrounding peaks are spectacular and there is a Visitor’s Center up top you can visit and learn about the geology and wildlife found here. In the winter, Mt Baker becomes a winter playground for skiier’s and snowboarder’s. The resort happens to hold the world record for most snow and has a much more relaxed vibe as it isn’t as heavily visited as other mountain resorts found in the pacific-northwest.
VACATION HOMES & CABINS
There are some cozy cabins in the Mt Baker Rim Community Club area and in the town of Glacier. Depending on the time of year when you visit, camping might not be such a pleasant experience and renting a cabin or vacation home might be a better option. The first time we came to explore this area was in June and it was still very wet and rainy. Camping was not fun at all and we opted to find lodging instead. It was the best move because we found a cute log cabin with a hot tub which turned our miserable camping trip into a perfect one.
Planning your Washington road trip:
If you’re not a Washingtonian, you are going to need to fly into Seattle for this road trip. See some of these articles to help plan your trip -
How to Get the Best Deals on Flights
Seattle Airport Guide
How to Spend One Day in Seattle
How to Plan a U.S. Road Trip
Road Trip Essentials