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Quaint small pac NW/Vancouver area seaside trip ideas

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Jul 13th, 2018, 09:11 AM
  #1
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Quaint small pac NW/Vancouver area seaside trip ideas

hi! My husband and I are planning to fly up to the pacific NW in late August for 7 days or so. Iím pregnant so we wonít want to do a ton of walking, of course some walking is good.
looking to spend some time in a cute seaside village or island (maybe two or three places depending if we will have a car)that is walkable and has GREAT restaurants. Basically just want to relax by the sea and get out of Arizona heat! Went last year to Montreal/Quebec and Vermont and loved all the villages on that side of Canada. Open to anywhere along Oregon, Washington and up to Canada options. Would probably fly Alaska air to Seattle. For reference on what kind of experience we are after, we spend a lot of time in Cayucos, Morro Bay and Encinitas in California. These towns suit our personalities well. But we want to see a new area rather than return to places we know and love.
will we need to rent a car? Or is it best to just take public transit and ferries? Can you take car on ferries?

thank you for any and all suggestions!!
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Jul 13th, 2018, 09:41 AM
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Well, a couple of items for clarification.

The word "seaside" means different things up here, depending on where you are. The reason is that most "seaside" destinations in Washington and British Columbia are on inland waters, called Puget Sound, the Gulf of Georgia, or, generally, the Salish Sea. For the Morro Bay sort of experience, i.e. on the Pacific with waves and all that, there are few places in WA or BC where that applies, and none of them are especially quaint or picturesque. On the Oregon Pacific coast there are a couple, with Cannon Beach on the northern part of the coast, and Bandon on the southern part, coming closest to that sort of model, with Yachats ("ya-hots") between them, but much smaller and less developed. All are a fairly lengthy drive from major airports, with Cannon Beach being the closest at around two hours' drive from Portland.

In the Washington/BC area, however, counting the various parts of the Salish Sea, there are numerous places that would probably fit your description, although none of them will have big waves crashing on rocks - those waves are broken up by intervening islands or peninsulas.

Here are some places I would google, just for a start:

Near Seattle: Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, Gig Harbor, the towns of Coupeville and Langley on Whidbey Island, Port Townsend and La Conner. All are reachable on land or on land/car ferry routes, and are all within around three hours from Seattle.

San Juan Islands: Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, Orcas and Lopez Islands. These are reached by car ferry from Anacortes, accessed by road from Seattle in around 90 minutes. Figure 4-5 hours travel time from Seattle airport.

Northern Puget Sound: Fairhaven (Bellingham) and Lummi Island - both a couple of hours from Seattle.

Vancouver Island: Victoria, Sooke. These are within 30 - 60 minutes from Victoria's airport, or accessible by ferry from the lower BC mainland, from the Anacortes (extension of the Friday Harbor ferry) or from Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. Allow 4-6 hours travel time minimum from Seattle airport, an hour less from Vancouver airport. There's also a passenger ferry from Seattle (Victoria Clipper) and float planes from both Seattle and Vancouver downtown areas.

Canadian Gulf Islands: These are the Canadian version of the San Juans, except somewhat larger and somewhat more diverse. Look at Salt Spring and Pender Islands. These are reached by ferry from the lower BC mainland or from Vancouver Island. Figure 3 - 4 hours from Vancouver airport.

Lower BC mainland: Vancouver is certainly not a small village, but it has some splendid coastal areas, and a couple of the suburbs might do the trick.

BC Sunshine Coast: This is an area not well known to Americans (and surprisingly not to many non-BC resident Canadians) but it's a real gem. This is an area on the BC coast that's not accessible by road from Vancouver. Instead, one takes a scenic ferry from Horseshoe Bay (30 min. north of downtown Vancouver) to Langdale on the Sunshine coast; from there the road extends north through a series of very pleasant towns, superb landscape, and with a surprising number of beaches - a couple of which are actually swimmable - until it ends at the edge of the BC coastal wilderness. Look at Gibsons and Sechelt among other locations. https://sunshinecoastcanada.com/

Long list, start googling.

Edited to add: I'm also going to throw out a curve ball, just because you'll be quite late in booking space in many accommodations in these communities - it's the peak season and the choices are limited in the first place.

What if you looked for a last-minute fare on an Alaska cruise out of Vancouver? They're all for seven nights, you unpack once, the scenery comes to you, there's no fussing with cooking or with logistics, you can be as active or as casual as you want, there's room service, shore excursions that you can join or skip, and you'll see plenty of picturesque places, like Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, and of course, you'll also see glaciers, whales, snow-topped mountains, and rain forests. Quite often the cruises can be cheaper on a per-person-per-day basis than a land vacation, when you count car rental, hotel and restaurant charges, etc. Look for "Inside Passage" round-trip cruises out of Vancouver in the first place (more scenic route) and out of Seattle in the second place. Just a thought, anyway.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jul 13th, 2018 at 09:48 AM.
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Jul 13th, 2018, 11:58 AM
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You will definitely need a rental car to do what you describe in the PNW.
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Jul 13th, 2018, 01:59 PM
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Thank you so much for your detailed reply!! Yea I wasnít hoping for big waves or swimming, more just pretty coastal. Whatever type of coastal exists up there is fine with me! I just want more quaint picturesque relaxing atmosphere that we can fly to within a few hours from Tucson. Something cooler than here and with, well, water to look at! And good seafood to eat

i will google all these places you mentioned and see if we can get a little trip together. The cruise isnít a bad idea either but Iím such a foodie Iíd love to check out local restaurants in these towns. Vancouver isnít a bad idea but VERY expensive lodging Iíve noticed!

Wr could always just keep it easy go to California like we always do but I thought it would be nice to see something new, especially before the baby comes
thanks again!

of for
Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
Well, a couple of items for clarification.

The word "seaside" means different things up here, depending on where you are. The reason is that most "seaside" destinations in Washington and British Columbia are on inland waters, called Puget Sound, the Gulf of Georgia, or, generally, the Salish Sea. For the Morro Bay sort of experience, i.e. on the Pacific with waves and all that, there are few places in WA or BC where that applies, and none of them are especially quaint or picturesque. On the Oregon Pacific coast there are a couple, with Cannon Beach on the northern part of the coast, and Bandon on the southern part, coming closest to that sort of model, with Yachats ("ya-hots") between them, but much smaller and less developed. All are a fairly lengthy drive from major airports, with Cannon Beach being the closest at around two hours' drive from Portland.

In the Washington/BC area, however, counting the various parts of the Salish Sea, there are numerous places that would probably fit your description, although none of them will have big waves crashing on rocks - those waves are broken up by intervening islands or peninsulas.

Here are some places I would google, just for a start:

Near Seattle: Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, Gig Harbor, the towns of Coupeville and Langley on Whidbey Island, Port Townsend and La Conner. All are reachable on land or on land/car ferry routes, and are all within around three hours from Seattle.

San Juan Islands: Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, Orcas and Lopez Islands. These are reached by car ferry from Anacortes, accessed by road from Seattle in around 90 minutes. Figure 4-5 hours travel time from Seattle airport.

Northern Puget Sound: Fairhaven (Bellingham) and Lummi Island - both a couple of hours from Seattle.

Vancouver Island: Victoria, Sooke. These are within 30 - 60 minutes from Victoria's airport, or accessible by ferry from the lower BC mainland, from the Anacortes (extension of the Friday Harbor ferry) or from Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. Allow 4-6 hours travel time minimum from Seattle airport, an hour less from Vancouver airport. There's also a passenger ferry from Seattle (Victoria Clipper) and float planes from both Seattle and Vancouver downtown areas.

Canadian Gulf Islands: These are the Canadian version of the San Juans, except somewhat larger and somewhat more diverse. Look at Salt Spring and Pender Islands. These are reached by ferry from the lower BC mainland or from Vancouver Island. Figure 3 - 4 hours from Vancouver airport.

Lower BC mainland: Vancouver is certainly not a small village, but it has some splendid coastal areas, and a couple of the suburbs might do the trick.

BC Sunshine Coast: This is an area not well known to Americans (and surprisingly not to many non-BC resident Canadians) but it's a real gem. This is an area on the BC coast that's not accessible by road from Vancouver. Instead, one takes a scenic ferry from Horseshoe Bay (30 min. north of downtown Vancouver) to Langdale on the Sunshine coast; from there the road extends north through a series of very pleasant towns, superb landscape, and with a surprising number of beaches - a couple of which are actually swimmable - until it ends at the edge of the BC coastal wilderness. Look at Gibsons and Sechelt among other locations. https://sunshinecoastcanada.com/

Long list, start googling.

Edited to add: I'm also going to throw out a curve ball, just because you'll be quite late in booking space in many accommodations in these communities - it's the peak season and the choices are limited in the first place.

What if you looked for a last-minute fare on an Alaska cruise out of Vancouver? They're all for seven nights, you unpack once, the scenery comes to you, there's no fussing with cooking or with logistics, you can be as active or as casual as you want, there's room service, shore excursions that you can join or skip, and you'll see plenty of picturesque places, like Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, and of course, you'll also see glaciers, whales, snow-topped mountains, and rain forests. Quite often the cruises can be cheaper on a per-person-per-day basis than a land vacation, when you count car rental, hotel and restaurant charges, etc. Look for "Inside Passage" round-trip cruises out of Vancouver in the first place (more scenic route) and out of Seattle in the second place. Just a thought, anyway.
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Jul 13th, 2018, 02:51 PM
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I don't want to oversell the cruise idea, but I'll just say that you're not going to have all that many dining options in the small towns either. They're just not big enough.

The big ships have a surprisingly wide range of choices, including "specialty" restaurants which offer pretty decent food. You could also supplement the choices for various meals at ports of call. There are some excellent places in Juneau for example.

If you could get to Seattle or Vancouver a day or two before sailing, or stay a day or two after getting back, you could also go nuts locally.

I know that many people don't like the image of a cruise, but one night standing on a balcony looking out at the dark forest while the water hisses by, well, they change their minds.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jul 13th, 2018 at 02:57 PM.
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Jul 13th, 2018, 08:31 PM
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Lauren
See my reply on the BC forum. Info you will need before finishing planning IMO.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 08:14 AM
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Yes you can take a car on (most) ferries.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 09:18 AM
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Port Townsend, Washington on rhe Olympic Peninsula would be a good place considering your criteria.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 05:05 PM
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Thanks Gardyloo! Cruise looks amazing and we will certainly do it once we have the baby/kid in tow. As for the googling all the places you mentioned, Whidbey island looks cute. Orcas Island looks awesome and has some lovely lodging options! Would it be doable to fly to Seattle and spend a couple nights there, then see Victoria and Orcas? Or is that too much in a week? Would it also be a shame to miss seeing Vancouver? We donít want to be doing too much running about since Iíll be about 24 weeks pregnant by then but also so many things look so lovely I donít want to skip too much! Seems like quite a trek to get around the area, having to get on and off ferries and such. On a side note, our other contender for this trip was New England- Portland, Maine and other small towns, all which we could simply do by car. Weíve never been to either region. Another option is Quebec region which I went to last fall and fell in love with that area of Canada, but husband didnít go. Have you been to these areas? Would you say Pacific Northwest would be our best option for this type of trip considering our interests, time of year, etc? Thank you!





QUOTE=Gardyloo;16761667]I don't want to oversell the cruise idea, but I'll just say that you're not going to have all that many dining options in the small towns either. They're just not big enough.

The big ships have a surprisingly wide range of choices, including "specialty" restaurants which offer pretty decent food. You could also supplement the choices for various meals at ports of call. There are some excellent places in Juneau for example.

Thanks Gardo


If you could get to Seattle or Vancouver a day or two before sailing, or stay a day or two after getting back, you could also go nuts locally.

I know that many people don't like the image of a cruise, but one night standing on a balcony looking out at the dark forest while the water hisses by, well, they change their minds.[/QUOTE]
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Jul 15th, 2018, 10:42 PM
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You got some great advice already.

In Oregon, I would throw in the idea of Astoria, which faces the mouth of the Columbia. We had a great meal there last fall and there were several other restaurants that looked excellent. I've eaten lunch by here, a really great hotel. You can watch the ships go by from your window: https://www.cannerypierhotel.com/
Cannon Beach and Astoria are quite near each other, so really you could stay in either. Consider a trip over the bridge into SW Washington (Long Beach Peninsula). If you are an oyster fan, Willapa Bay is in that area and is known for its oysters.

Oregon would be a simpler trip than the ferry to Victoria, or Portland, Maine. Fly to PDX, which is about a 2.5 hour flight direct from Phoenix (as opposed to 5 hours direct to Boston, or with connections, a full day of travel). Also, the drive from Portland OR to Cannon Beach is more like 1.5 hours unless you get really unlucky on traffic. Allow for a day or two in Portland before you fly home, if you like great restaurants.

On the other hand, you could make the island trip simpler. You could fly to Vancouver, and go to Victoria and potentially another island directly, without ever going to Washington State. The ferry ride over to Swartz Bay is really nice. Similarly, a round trip flight to Seattle and visit the San Juans for 4 days, ending in Seattle (also a great food town).
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Jul 16th, 2018, 05:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Lauren1979 View Post
Thanks Gardyloo! Cruise looks amazing and we will certainly do it once we have the baby/kid in tow. As for the googling all the places you mentioned, Whidbey island looks cute. Orcas Island looks awesome and has some lovely lodging options! Would it be doable to fly to Seattle and spend a couple nights there, then see Victoria and Orcas? Or is that too much in a week? Would it also be a shame to miss seeing Vancouver? We don’t want to be doing too much running about since I’ll be about 24 weeks pregnant by then but also so many things look so lovely I don’t want to skip too much! Seems like quite a trek to get around the area, having to get on and off ferries and such. On a side note, our other contender for this trip was New England- Portland, Maine and other small towns, all which we could simply do by car. We’ve never been to either region. Another option is Quebec region which I went to last fall and fell in love with that area of Canada, but husband didn’t go. Have you been to these areas? Would you say Pacific Northwest would be our best option for this type of trip considering our interests, time of year, etc? Thank you!
Sure, the San Juans - Victoria option would be doable, in fact, pretty easy. You're going to have to understand the ferry systems, in particular the Washington State system - WSDOT - Ferries - and if you want to include Vancouver, the BC one - https://www.bcferries.com/ .

Here's a possible route map that just includes the San Juans and Victoria - https://goo.gl/maps/nB6nRdkxywS2 In this instance you'd drive to the Anacortes ferry terminal (around 2 hours) and take a ferry to Orcas Island. When it's time to go to Victoria, you'd take an inter-island ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, then connect to the one daily ferry that goes from there to Sidney BC, around a 40 min. drive from downtown Victoria. You'd return the same way. The biggest hassle here is getting from Orcas to Friday Harbor in time to pick up the Sidney ferry; this would involve an early departure from Orcas, which might be inconvenient. In order to make this trip easier, you might look for accommodations on San Juan Island instead of Orcas; there are lots of options there too, and in my opinion San Juan has more to see and do. (Google whale watching from Lime Kiln State Park.) There are also whale watching excursions that depart from Friday Harbor (as well as some from downtown Victoria.)

If you wanted to include Whidbey Island in this plan, it's easy. Instead of driving to Anacortes you'd drive to Mukilteo, a cute waterfront town around 30 minutes north of Seattle, and take the ferry over to Whidbey from there. In fact, if you want to save money over pricey Seattle hotels and spend the first night in Mukilteo, the very nice Silver Cloud hotel in Mukilteo sits right over the water and is walkable from a good seafood restaurant, a VERY good brewpub, Mukilteo's very charming lighthouse, and a big beach covered in driftwood where you can watch the sun set behind the Olympics. The next morning, the ferry is right there. Here's a picture of the Mukilteo lighthouse.



Here's a map showing the "Whidbey option." https://goo.gl/maps/aoiq7GhDcS12

You could return via Vancouver by taking the BC ferry from Swartz Bay (very close to the Sidney terminal for WA ferries) to Tsawwassen (pronounce at your own risk) on the lower BC mainland, roughly a 45 minute drive from downtown Vancouver. This ferry trip, like the one through the San Juans, is very beautiful. You'd visit Vancouver then return to Seattle via I-5, around a 3 - 4 hour trip depending on traffic and border delays. Map (using the non-Whidbey option as you'd probably want to expedite your time if you want to spend any time in Vancouver.) https://goo.gl/maps/jHyrfXRyovj

Olympic National Park option: A final option would be to skip Vancouver but spend a day visiting part of Olympic National Park, particularly the Hurricane Ridge area near the town of Port Angeles. You could use the Coho ferry (private) - https://www.cohoferry.com/ - which runs between downtown Victoria and Port Angeles, then you could return to Seattle via a couple of very cute towns en route, Port Gamble, and Poulsbo, then finally on the ferry from Bainbridge Island to downtown Seattle. Map - https://goo.gl/maps/FWcXPY7d9wA2

Google these places.

In a week I'd probably be inclined to pass on both the Vancouver and Olympic NP options, and spend more time enjoying Whidbey, the San Juans and Victoria. Something like one night in Mukilteo, two or three in the San Juans (I'd pick San Juan over Orcas), two in Victoria, and a last night near Seattle, but you can scramble that as you see fit. I can't emphasize strongly enough that ferry reservations are a must for travel to and from Canada, and that accommodation needs to be booked TODAY.

Meant to add, the New England option is also a good one; I'm particularly fond of Portsmouth NH and coastal Maine, and yes, you could do an easy all-driving loop from Boston. However in late August you're still going to be in pretty crowded conditions as both US and Canadian families try to squeeze in some last days of vacation before school starts. (Of course this applies in the PNW too but there's more area to spread out the population.) I'd be inclined to postpone that trip (and the one to Quebec) until the autumn, when the fall color can be terrific at the same time it's still pretty warm/hot in the desert SW. Just my view.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jul 16th, 2018 at 06:06 AM.
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