Itineraries: Olympic Peninsula
Cross the Hood Canal Bridge and continue on State Highway 104 for a little while. If you turn south onto State Highway 101, the road will follow the Hood Canal for many scenic miles. On a clear day, stop off at Mount Walker. It’s an easy drive up to the two look-outs – the western one looking into the heart of the Olympic peaks and the eastern one opening to a panorama of the entire Puget Sound area. Continue south from Mt. Walker to the town of Hoodsport for a tour of the winery and a bite to eat. You can continue to loop around the southern end of the Hood Canal, where the road follows the water again to the town of Belfair. Take a few minutes to visit the Theler Wetlands and walk the quarter-mile-long board walk over the marsh to the edge of the Canal.
Over the Hood Canal Bridge and about a half hour away in the other direction is Port Townsend, a town which flaunts its very Victorian flavor. Galleries, antique shops and restaurants abound. Passed over for the state capital and thereby suffering an economic disaster, the turn-of-the-century seaport was effectively frozen in time. It is now alive and vibrant and home to many artists and crafts people, especially those in love with wooden boats. The Wooden Boat Foundation hosts a festival every year. Several other festivals beckon, such as the quirky Kinetic Sculpture Race in which human-powered vehicles transport themselves across the bay, up and down hilly roads and through a formidable bog. Year-round, Port Townsend offers interesting shops, lots of antiques, great views and great restaurants.
Sequim, Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge
If you don’t mind a longer trip (about two hours each way), you can take in Sequim and Port Angeles and still get back to Bainbridge in a day.
Sequim lies in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains, and was actually the first community in the state to install crop irrigation. This special climate makes Sequim a perfect place to grow lavender, and the output is beginning to rival that of southern France. Each summer there is a lavish lavender festival, where you can find lavender in everything from bath salts to ice cream to mustard! But you can also visit the lavender farms all year long. Hike out along Dungeness Spit to the lighthouse and see the bird and marine life in the wildlife refuge.
Port Angeles is just down the road. At the waterfront you will find a ferry can take you to Victoria in Canada, and a number of shops and restaurants. Port Angeles also hosts several festivals each year. A drive along Ediz Hook, the sandbar that encircles the harbor, offers great views of the town and the Olympic Mountains beyond. Cyclists will be interested in the new Olympic Discovery Trail that connects Sequim and Port Angeles.
At the southern edge of town is the road up to Hurricane Ridge. This is one of the most popular attractions in Olympic National Park. Stop at the visitor center along the way for information, maps, souvenir, etc. The view from Hurricane Ridge on a clear day is nothing short of spectacular. Deer wander through the parking lots, mountain goats can be spotted on nearby peaks. There are a number of hikes and more serious trails. In winter, it’s a popular place for cross-country skiing – but the road is sometimes closed due to excessive snowfall. The park web site posts alerts.