The Best Road Trips is a weekly summer series highlighting our favorite getaways from major cities all over the United States.
Seattle may be known as the home of grunge rock, Starbucks coffee, and grey skies, but that doesn’t mean its residents are grim. In fact, the city has one of the lowest crime rates in the entire country; and has both beautiful scenery and a bangin’ nightlife scene. But should locals (or visitors!) need a day off the java or a weekend without rain, there are plenty of nearby places to check out. The best part — each of these three trips takes less than three hours to drive, meaning if you only have one day to spend outside of Seattle, you can do it up right. So pack your bags, slather on some SPF (hey, you can burnt when there are clouds!) and hop in the whip — we’ve got some miles to cover.
Road Trip #1: Seattle to San Juan Islands, WA
- Total Driving Time: 2 hours, 46 minutes
- Distance Covered: 104 miles
- Take This Trip If: You’re looking for an island escape that doesn’t require a transcontinental flight.
The San Juan Islands offer Seattlites a quick break from city life.
The Outlook Inn offers amazing views from its perch on Orca Island.
The Bird Rock Hotel is within walking distance of the ferry landing.
The San Juan Islands (a collection of around 800; 600 of the isles are unnamed) are a popular summer getaway for Washingtonians, and have a relaxed, back-to-nature vibe; expect farmlands, evergreen forests, nature trails, whale-watching, and mom-and-pop shops. Popular activities include hiking, wildlife spotting (whale-watching in particular is common, and the Shark Reef trail on Lopez Island leads to a harbor seal hangout), sailing, and kayaking. For those days when it does rain, the islands have several wineries, farms, and museums. Although properties are more intimate than luxurious, the Outlook Inn is a romantic boutique that boasts killer views of Eastsound from almost anywhere you can stand. Service is incredibly personalized, and perks like free Wi-Fi and fresh food from an on-site cafe make this hotel a choice pick. Those with slimmer budgets should check out the Bird Rock Hotel, a charming, 15-room no-frills B&B. The hotel’s central location, though, is definitely the highlight — just a block from the ferry landing, and within walking distance to plenty of shopping and dining in downtown Friday Harbor.
- Top Driving Tip: In peak season (summer), the ferries fill up fast — so you’ll need to arrive early in order to ensure you get on board, as the lines can take hours to get through. You can find the latest ferry schedule here.
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