Whether you’re a looking to explore urban or natural landscapes, Seattle well worth a visit. The city’s most famous attraction is undoubtedly Pike Place Market – the city’s original farmer’s market. Aviation enthusiasts can take a tour of the Boeing factory, which is located in the nearby city of Everett. The city is also a great base from which to visit the two nearby National Parks of Mount Rainier and Olympic (p168), and you also can join a whale-watching cruise on the breathtaking Puget Sound during the summer months.
Like its Canadian neighbour Vancouver, Seattle is a major gateway to the epic landscapes of the Pacific coastline of British Colombia and Alaska. During the late spring, summer and early autumn months cruise ships of varying sizes depart from the Seattle Cruise Terminal or the Bell Street Cruise Terminal for the major cruise ports of Alaska, often with a stop along the coast of Vancouver Island. You can easily combine an Alaskan cruise with a US self-drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco and beyond.
With its setting on the Pacific Ocean, just under a two-hour drive from the border with Canada and three hours from the beautiful city of Vancouver (p30), it’s easy to combine a stay in Seattle with a Canadian itinerary. You can even travel across the border on board the world-famous Rocky Mountaineer. The Coastal Passage takes you along the coast of the Puget Sound towards Vancouver and connects with the three routes which continue on towards the Rocky Mountains.
Situated on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula at the most north-western point in the contiguous United States, the beautiful Olympic National Park is just a few hours from the metropolis of Seattle. Rising from sea level to an elevation of 2432 metres and covering an area of 1441 square miles, the park consists of a weathered, yet striking coastline, sparkling lakes and the alpine landscapes of the Olympic Mountain Range.
Centred on the 4392-metre active stratovolcano Mount Rainier, this breathtaking National Park is also home to vast forests and charming alpine meadows which are criss-crossed by hiking trails. The park is home to the snowiest place in the United States – Paradise Valley – and there can be snow on the ground until July. The mountain is the most prominent peak in the lower 48 states with an altitude change of 4026 metres; it dominates the skyline for miles around.