We’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years and one of the things we quickly learned is that there are certain things about this area that make it especially alluring to residents and tourists alike. The Pacific Northwest is nature’s playground.
This list contains ten unique things to do in the Pacific Northwest. It will take you from coast to city and mountains to forests — and along the way you’ll learn why so many people have chosen to live in this veritable paradise.
A favorite thing to do in the Pacific Northwest, especially on a sunny Saturday afternoon, is shell fishing. There are dozens of great beaches across the Puget Sound and Washington and Oregon coasts where shell fishing is not only abundant, but practically a way of life for the locals. Plus, it’s easy for newbies to learn how. You can easily find oysters, clams of all kinds including razor, longneck and butter, and the elusive Pacific Northwest geoduck.
Yes, crabs are technically a shellfish, but crabbing goes in its own category of unique things to do in thePacific Northwest. A cherished hobby of many locals, crabbing for the Dungeness and Red Rock crabs is actually quite easy and inexpensive. A special crab license is required, as well as a large bucket, a crab ring or trap and bait. We use a simple crab ring that can be bought or rented at any local tackle store or online. Crabs go crazy for fresh or even slightly smelly raw chicken, so buy a pack of drumsticks to use as bait. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a couple, but half the fun is pulling up the ring and wrestling with the baby crabs that you have to send back to the bottom.
Pike Place Market
Shopping at Pike Place Market in Seattle is a truly unique Pacific Northwest experience. The market was opened in 1907 as a place for farmers to bring their fresh produce to their customers, and is the oldest continually operated public market in the United States. It is located directly along the waterfront in downtown Seattle, overlooking Elliot Bay with stunning views. Inside, you’ll find more than just fresh produce. You’ll also find antiques, tea and spice shops, specialty food purveyors, comic book dealers, collectibles and even a brewery. And who can forget the flying fish at the Pike Place Fish Market, where employees often throw enormous salmon across the room to each other while hordes of onlookers watch with excitement.
Skagit Tulip Festival
Held every year in April in the Skagit Valley in Washington State, the Skagit Tulip Festival showcases more than a dozen fields of tulips that are grown throughout the region. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the area to see the millions of tulips bloom. The fields of tulips are scattered throughout the valley and are best seen on a driving tour. It’s really a sight to see when the intense color coats the valley in red, yellow and purple.
Visiting a Rainforest
Few people know that there is a real rainforest in Washington State — the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. It is touted as one of the finest remaining examples of a temperate rain forest in the United States. And are dozens of things to do there, from hiking and biking to wildlife watching, camping and picnicking. There is a dedicated campground with 88 sites located right along the river. Check out the visitor center for information on hikes in the area, like the 17.3 mile Hoh river trail.
The San Juan archipelago, off Washington’s north coast, consists of over 172 named islands. The biggest four — San Juan, Orcas, Lopez and Shaw — are connected to the mainland by ferry, giving visitors easy access to all the islands have to offer. For an outdoor enthusiast, the islands are a practically undiscovered paradise or hiking, biking, kayaking and nature watching. In the summer, the ferry’s are packed to the gills with people who know that the most beautiful place to be on a sunny weekend in the Pacific Northwest is theSan Juan islands. Each island has its own unique charm, but all are packed with fun things to do and see, plus some highly rated restaurants and luxury accommodations. Even just a simple drive around the island is a wonderful way to spend a day.
Riding A Ferry
Even the locals agree that riding a ferry in the Puget Sound is one of the top attractions in the Pacific Northwest. Whenever friends and family are in town, we go on a ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge (35 min) or Bremerton (1 hr), just for the fun of it. You’ll catch an impressive view of the Seattle skyline from the ferry as you sail away, then enjoy the crisp sea air as you coast past sailboats and cruise ships, all backed by the snow-capped Cascade mountain range looming in the background. Often, on nice weather days, you can even see Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker from the deck. Both Bainbridge and Bremerton have fun activities to enjoy once you arrive, or you can just get back on the ferry for the return trip.
The Cascade Range stretches from British Columbia, Canada, down into Oregon and contains some of the largest peaks in the Pacific Northwest. Washington is one of only 4 states that have peaks reaching above 14,000 ft — that’s Rainier, only 100 miles outside of Seattle and often seen from hundreds of miles around on a clear day. There’s Hood, St. Helens, Baker, Adams and a handful of lesser-known peaks. If you thought that hiking and skiing were the only activities to enjoy on these mountains, you’d be wrong.
The Northwest offers a plethora of edible berries, especially blackberries, in the late summer and fall. They grow pretty much everywhere you look — along roadsides, in parks, all along the waterfront, in backyards. Some of the best berry hunting is found along hiking trails, far removed from city pollution and pesticide spraying. You can find blackberries, for sure, but all salmonberries, blueberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries and others. Take a berry guidebook along with you to be sure you’re picking edible varieties, and be prepared to return with a couple dozen pounds of delicious, ripe berries.
Flying A Seaplane
Seaplanes are the best way to see the beautiful Pacific Northwest, if not the most expensive. Seaplanes are used throughout the area by locals as an easy and quick way to get around the islands, but the opportunity certainly exists for tourists to hitch a ride on a seaplane flying around Seattle and the nearby area. The journey extends up to 30 miles and lasts about 15 minutes. Planes land on South Lake Union, one of the area’s experiencing incredible growth in Seattle. You’ll see things like the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, the islands that stretch up to Canada, many of the top peaks in Washington, and all of downtown Seattle from far above.
Do you have a favorite activity you like to do in the Pacific Northwest? We love hanging out in Seattle and there are dozens of fun things to do there. What are your favorite things to do?