Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

July 7-10, 2022

It was time to for the last US state that we would visit on this trip, Washington. It would bring our tally of states we have visited in the last three months to 16: Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington.

Before heading to Seattle, we decided to drive around the Olympic Peninsula known for the diversity of its distinct ecosystems – rugged pacific coastline, massive glacier-clad peaks and a temperate rainforest.

Aberdeen – Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula

Aberdeen is not just the first town you reach as you cross The Chehalis River Bridge onto the Olympic Peninsula, it is the town where Kurt Cobain grew up. A long way to make a pilgrimage to (though I am sure that some people do) but since we were going to drive through it we wanted to make a slight detour from our route to visit the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park. The park in a residential area and as you approach it there is nothing to indicate that you are about to reach a site of historical significance. There was no one else around when we visited except for a couple of residents going about their business. A stark contrast to our visit to Graceland a couple of months earlier. No doubt, on occasion, they must have tour buses parking up and disrupting their lives but not on the day we were there. It was nice to walk around the small park which was quiet and peaceful and think that Kurt Cobain had spent time there and perhaps composed some of Nirvana’s songs under the bridge. The lyrics of the Nirvana song Something in the Way are about the bridge (the Young Street Bridge).


As we drove onto the peninsula the scenery became greener and lusher. At some point we would explore but not today. It was raining so we headed straight to our destination for the night, Forks. Perhaps it was not surprising it was raining, as Forks has the honour of being the rainiest town in the contiguous United States. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty miserable for our entire visit to the Olympic Peninsula which did mean that we didn’t have the optimum experience. Magnificent views were often obscured by rain and cloud and it was just wet and damp. It was still good but with better weather, it would be stunning.

On our arrival in Forks we stopped at the Visitor Information Center. It was an interesting mix with information about the peninsula focussing on all the walks and outdoor activities you can do to explore the area alongside memorabilia relating to the Twilight Saga series of vampire films. Whilst the Twilight Saga is set in Forks and the book contains real locations, none of the movies were set in Forks but why let that spoil an opportunity to promote tourism in the town!

We stayed at the perfectly acceptable two star Dew Drop Inn. Accommodation prices had been rising as we headed north, but they sky rocketed when we reached the Olympic Peninsula where there is limited accommodation and we visited during peak season. A night in a 1 or 2 star motel went up from £50 in Wisconsin at the end of April to £230 for the Dew Drop Inn on 7 July. We walked around the town and then had dinner at Blakelee’s Bar and Grill which had standard pub fare which was no bad thing. Breakfast in the morning was homely fare at The In Place.

Despite the rain, we spent the next day exploring the Olympic National Forest walking around the beautiful forests, lakes and waterfalls. We walked the Moments in Time Trail by the shore of Lake Crescent and the Madison Falls Trail to see the Madison Falls, a 60 foot waterfall near the Elwha River.

In the late afternoon we drove the long windy road up to the Hurricane Ridge, a mountainous area within the park. At the lower elevations there were fantastic views of the forests and mountains stretching miles into the distance all the way to the sea. However, as the road climbed up the mountain the mist descended and by the time we reached the top it felt like we were standing in a cloud! We had a cup of tea and headed back down the mountain to Port Angeles. We did see some deer by the road and up on the mountain top as well as our first sighting of a chipmunk.

Port Angeles

We stayed the night in Port Angeles in at the Royal Victorian Motel (another over priced underwhelming place). After a nice potter around the harbour, we had dinner at the Spruce and then visited the rather nice taproom, Angeles Brewing Supplies and Taproom which had some interesting and tasty ciders and helpful and friendly staff. We finished the evening with a bit of live music, Sound Advice, at the New Moon Craft Tavern. It had been a while since we had visited a sculpture park so before leaving Port Angeles we visited the Port Angeles Fine Art Center which hosts Webster’s Woods Sculpture Park in its gardens. The centre was closed when we visited but we were able to wander around discovering interesting sculptures hidden around the grounds.

Port Townsend

That afternoon, we reached Port Townsend; a tranquil and beautiful spot. It’s a small city with lots of Victorian buildings and character overlooking a bay and with a lovely harbour. We stayed in the Palace Hotel, which was built in 1889 and was, at various times, a billiard parlour, a saloon, the newspaper office and is most well known for being a hotel and brothel (from 1925-1933). It was nicknamed the ‘Palace of Sweets’. Today a number of the hotel rooms are named after the girls that worked in the brothel. Our room was Miss Pearl and the decor in the room was faithful to a bygone age. The hotel is also rumoured to be the home of 10 (yes 10) ghosts whose sightings are recorded in the hotel’s ‘Ghost Book’.

Finnriver Cidery

Hmm, now which is my favourite cider?

Richard had been taking his job of tasting American ciders quite seriously over the past few months so it was a real treat to visit Finnriver Cidery. It is set in a lovely spot with a large outdoor bar overlooking the orchards and fields. Jo volunteered to drive to the cidery which was a few miles out of Port Townsend. That meant that Richard could focus on the serious job of tasting a range of ciders. There was also live music with the Pacific Northwest band, The Lion of Judah, getting people up and dancing with their fusion of calypso, roots and reggae.

That evening, we headed back to Port Townsend and decided to have dinner at Sirens Pub.

Perfect spot at the Sirens Pub to relax with a sundowner and admire the view

We had a great evening – a beautiful view, good food and a swinging, energy fuelled performance from rockabilly band, The Shivering Denizens. We got talking to a few locals and the staff and the manager was kind enough to present us with two of their rather awesome branded pint glasses to take with us. Port Townsend – highly recommended.

The Shivering Denizens giving a high energy performance at Sirens Pub

The next day, we left Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula and drove to Seattle. We planned to take the ferry over to Seattle which would have saved us a long drive but the queues were so long that we soon bailed out of the queue and drove to Seattle via Tacoma instead. That did mean we got to drive over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, a pair of twin suspension bridges. The original bridge (also known as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge but affectionately referred to as ‘Galloping Gertie’) was opened in 1940 and became famous when it collapsed a mere four months after opening, possibly due to aeroelastic flutter (self-oscillation leading to structural failure). It is remembered as one of the most dramatic failure’s in bridge engineering history. A new bridge opened in 1950 but, as an advisory measure, in 2007 an additional bridge was built and now the 1950 bridge carries westbound traffic and the 2007 bridge carries eastbound traffic. We went eastbound so only crossed the newer bridge. After driving south around Tacoma, we headed north again and on to Seattle.

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