This was a post originally created by PNW Judy, in June, 2006, but moved here to accomplish a management goal and request from a former member.
Welcome to my neck of the woods!
I'm glad you're thrilled to be visiting Olympic National Park's rainforest. It is truly gorgeous. I live just south of there. My locale is considered the "southern gateway" to the rainforest. I'd love to help you plan your trip or even meet ya for coffee/lunch as you're coming through. It's always fun to meet a fellow lover of the open road!
* how are you planning on getting from Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula. There are several options. Driving, of course. But then there are also several different ferry routes. Each has its high points. If you want some help sorting this out, let me know.
* Port Townsend is an architectural gem with many Victorian homes/buildings. Lots of interesting shops as well. And you can sea kayak in Puget Sound from there. I think they have rather short 1- and 2-hour trips. It would be a good place to experience that if you've never done it. I can't remember the name of the place we used, but it's right downtown and I'm sure any local guidebook will point you to it.
* I might be wrong but Bandy's Troll Haven was closed the last time I tried to stop there about 18 months ago.
* You might want to add a stop at The Dungeness Spit between Sequim and Port Angeles. It's a wonderful, maritime nature preserve with a great hike where you will see abundant sea life.
* South of Lake Crescent is an awesome drive into Olympic National Park taking you to Solduc Falls and the Solduc Hot Springs. While the hot springs have been commercialized, it's still a neat spot to spend a night and soak to rest your weary bones.
* The Hoh Rainforest's Hall of Mosses is a definite must-see!
* Between the Hoh and Lake Quinault, you'll be driving along a magnificent stretch of coastline in the Kalaloch area. Stop and enjoy the beaches here. If you're driving north-to-south, the first beach approach you'll come to is Ruby Beach. One of my favorites. Fantastic, rugged beach with great tidepools. You'll see beautiful beaches in Oregon but, for the most part, you won't see anything as rugged as this. Awesome place.
* Lake Quinault: The north shore is in the national park while the south shore is in the national forest. They both have a bit different flavor. On the north shore is a lovely, short interpretive walk you would enjoy that has mosses similar to the Hall of Mosses, huge, almost prehistoric ferns, etc. The southshore forests are not quite as mossy/ferny but have amazing trees. And the drive around the lake is quite enjoyable as well. I think it takes about an hour (not including any stops you make). I've never done it without stopping a lot so I'm not real clear on the timeframe.
* I love the Tokeland Hotel. Great food and old-fashioned atmosphere. North of Tokeland is the little fishing village of Westport. It's definitely worth a stop. And enjoy the beaches in Tokeland. They are among the best. One of my favorite beaches is about 1 mile north of Tokeland. You'll see it as the road runs right past it. A great place for a walk on the beach and a picnic.
* If you can make time for it, visit the Long Beach Peninsula (between the Tokeland/Astoria stretch). Another beautiful spot and some fun, funky beach towns. Ilwaco is a great fishing village. And Fort Columbia is there with a great Lewis & Clark Museum on the Washington side of the Columbia River and the location where Lewis & Clark first viewed the Pacific Ocean.
* The bridge from Washington to Astoria, OR, is really cool. Enjoy the drive.
* Astoria has a nice maritime museum.
* West of Astoria is Fort Clatsop, the location where Lewis & Clark wintered. Very cool but, unfortunately, the fort burned down last year. It is in the process of being re-built. It should be better than the previous fort (a re-creation) because further research should make the new one even more authentic. It don't know if it will be done in time for your trip but they still have a very nice museum that's worth a visit.
* Cannon Beach, OR. A beautiful town and beach. A lot of hang-gliding is done there from the hill high above the beach. It's fun to watch them glide down to the beach.
* Tillamook, OR. No trip is complete without a stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory to watch the cheese-making process and indulge in their yummy ice cream. And give the cheese a try, too.
* Depoe Bay, OR. One of my favorite Oregon coast stops. It's "The Smallest Harbor in the World" and cute as a button. It's also a great place to take a trip out onto the ocean in a boat. Since there's no bar to cross, it's a place where the trips can be just a short 1-2 hour adventure instead of half a day like most places. This also makes the trips relatively inexpensive. Spring and fall are good for whale-watching so you will have missed that timeframe but sometimes some whales are late in the season so it's not impossible to spy one.
* Newport, OR, has a fantastic aquarium that you might want to schedule a stop at.
* Bandon, OR, and Brookings, OR....just two, very cute, little coastal communities.
WRT the Lake Quinault Lodge. If you snag a room in the original section, you're in for a treat. It's really quite cozy. Not large and impersonal at all. At least that hasn't been our experience. The Rain Forest Resort Village is quite nice as well. But I think the most serene, quiet, and cozy place is The Lake Quinault Resort. And since it's on the north side, you'll get more sun later in the evening. Even if you don't stay at the Lake Quinault Lodge itself, you should visit it. It's right next door to the ranger station there anyway so, if you stop for information, you'll be right there. It's really a beautiful place and worth looking around at.
Yeah, plan for rain. We don't typically get into our dry season until July 5. I'm not joking....rain on the 4th isn't unusual and then it will dry up, the sun will come out, and we'll have beautiful weather up until mid-October to early-November.
Hope these ideas help a bit!