Washington, the most northwesterly of the contiguous United States, is blessed with numerous natural areas that draw tremendous numbers of tourists to the area. Its signature city, Seattle, is a major destination. Often linked with Washington is the state of Oregon, which has similar topography and climate. Here are my choices for the best places to see and visit in these interesting states of the Pacific Northwest.
1. Seattle, Washington – A major gateway into the US, this cosmopolitan city boasts moderate winter weather despite its northern position. It is an important port city and provides a suitable base of operations for an exploration of the entire region.
2. Olympic National Park, Washington – One of America’s most diverse national parks, Olympic offers mountains, beaches and temperate rain forests, all within an easy drive.
3. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington – This dramatic dormant volcano is covered with glaciers. Its proximity to Seattle makes it an ideal excursion from the hustle and bustle of city life.
4. Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington – Since its eruption in 1980, Mount St Helens has fascinated scientists and tourists alike. The devastation and subsequent recovery has been documented and is dramatically visible even to the untrained eye.
5. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon – It’s color has been described as the "most beautiful blue in the world." This extremely deep lake in the crater of an extinct volcano attracts visitors from all over the world. Ride the Rim Drive stopping at the numerous viewpoints for different perspectives on the glorious lake.
6. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon – The drive (Scenic Route 30) along the river is spectacular and deserves an entire day since there are some activities and sights along the way. One of the most impressive is Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s highest waterfall.
7. Portland, Oregon – This intriguing city feels like returning to the 1960’s and 70’s, since so many throwbacks to the Hippie generation seem to have settled here. Stroll the "Old Town" and "Skidmore" to see what I mean. Be sure to venture east to Washington Park, the city’s showpiece, with its Rose Test and Japanese Gardens.
8. Oregon Coast – Drive along Route 101 which skirts the coasts for much of the length of the state. Marvel at the sea stacks, beaches, sand dunes, and adorable towns like Newport. Venture inland into Oregon’s wine country if the spirit moves you.
9. North Cascades National Park, Washington – This wilderness park is great for hiking and camping. However, be aware that roads in the park are closed for much of the year because of snowfall.
10. San Juan Islands, Washington – These islands along the border between Canada and the USA are a popular excursion from Seattle and also from Vancouver, British Columbia. Whale-watching is perhaps the most exciting activity.
Other sights considered:
Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area, Oregon
Boeing Corporation, Everett, Washington
Willamette Valley, Oregon